Wild in an urban place?


With the City Nature Challenge upon us this week, I thought it would be fun for everyone to share an observation they’ve made of a wild organism (wild as defined by iNat) in a city or other decidedly un-wild place. I think there’s a lot out there once you start looking!

Urban parks totally count, but extra points if it was found somewhere not in a park.

One of my favorites are drain flies, which I can pretty much always count on seeing in my building’s trash room! https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/12700589 Beautiful and ubiquitous in more gnarly, wet areas.

And I have to share one of my favorite urban observations on iNat (not mine): https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/21143794


This guy was trying to cross the road over to my side of the street while I was taking a walk around my work building, but someone in a car kept driving back & forth honking at it, so it ran off in the other direction…


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As noted one of the first pair of Piping Plover chicks to successfully be bred in over 80 years on the Ontario Lake Ontario shoreline (and I think the US side as well) popping up 10 minutes from my house on the beach. Just to be clear, this is not where they bred, that was much further east up the lake, but they showed up here after fledging.

Followed up the very same day by this showing up in an urban park in downtown Toronto.
Which was the first ever sighting in the province, and one of only a handful ever observed in Canada outside the extreme high Arctic.

Not exactly a normal 2 hours of birding in Ontario, in urban or any other type of environment.

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In the middle of the worst of the concrete wastes, about as far as you can get from any open space on the planet, you will find my hated ‘home’ town. and not far from where i grew up, there’s a refinery and a bunch of massive superfund sites, ddt spills, literal bubbling oozing toxic waste dumps, and other such wonderful features. And in one of these fields, somehow, a little low spot formed this incredible vernal marsh over a few years. there is a tiny nature preserve - Madrona Marsh - not terribly far away, but even still, how the native plants found it I have no idea. Many invasives too of course, though on a brownfield (blackfield?) like this maybe that doesn’t even matter. Apparently they even found an endangered plant there.
I iNatted it through the fence several years ago, because i thought it was a strange and neat natural wonder.
but this is Torrance, waste among wastes, deepest ruination of ruined places. So they bulldozed it a couple of years later to build something there. They left a tiny patch for the endangered plant after the city council whined about it extensively, but its survival is pretty unlikely. I will have to go in and peek some time. But you can see the progression on Google Earth photos.

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It’s not a particularly incredible photo or animal or anything, but it was just so incongruous… Coming out of work, I turned a corner and there in the middle of the road, at least 4 streets away from the river was a lone Mallard, wandering forlornly about. Very odd.


Also these guys were pretty cool:
Red Fox sleeping by a canal during the afternoon - https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/19905750
Roe Deer by the motorway - https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/17993914
Goldcrest (just because I love them) - https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/9727485

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Those are some pretty surprising birds y’all have got there :open_mouth: they sure manage to get wherever they please, huh.

For my part I haven’t managed to grab a picture yet - the little featherballs hop around faster than I do - but someday I’ll upload an observation of one of those (most observed here this CNC, with good reason!) Eurasian Tree Sparrows that like to sit around in the mall or weave in and out of the ventilation slats. And that swallow’s nest sticking out of an indoor wall…


Not sure how to copy an observation link using the iPhone app (sorry!), but I posted a stink bug from the airside of KLIA airport. I love the idea of things living in such a sterile, tightly controlled environment (though I guess hitchhiking on passengers clothes is one way invasive species spread…)


I would just like to offer, if I may, a different perspective on the concept of “wild places” and the aims and goals of iNat. “Wild places” are everywhere and nowhere. They are an abstract idealisation of something which in reality a continuum, with nowhere left on earth 100% wild, and virtually nowhere 100% non-wild either. More to the point, there is no non-arbitrary place to draw the line. I suggest that iNat should be more about documenting the biosphere as it actually is, in which case there is nothing at all special or significant about “wild in an urban place”, it is just another somewhat vague description of part of the biosphere. Clearly the interior of the Amazon is more wild that the burbs of LA, but both are of equal relevance to documenting the biosphere. Both are wild to some extent (not just because of wild parties in LA!) So although @tiwane is correct to be encouraging users to look in the less wild places, he is somewhat negating that by trying to maintain a robust distinction between wild and non-wild organisms, downgrading the status of the latter. The linked definition of wild vs. captive/cultivated is a bit cringeworthy and doesn’t provide a robust distinction. For a start, I really don’t think that plants can be said to have intentions! “Likewise, wild / naturalized organisms exist in particular times and places because they intended to do so”. Even “because humans intended it to be then and there” is problematic. What about a case where you buy a packet of seeds and one sticks to you, without your knowledge, and you inadvertently transport it somewhere where it falls off and grows into a plant? The plant isn’t there because anyone intended it to be there, yet I’m really pushed to call it wild! What if a planted tree gets washed away in a flood and keeps growing at a new location? The plant isn’t there because anyone intended it to be there, yet I’m really pushed to call it wild!


That reminds me of an observation I took at the top of 30 Rockefeller Plaza - a Lacewing on the outside of the glass! Animals really do get everywhere! >> https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/8370940

This is a really good point, and a really interesting perspective. It definitely is a continuum, and it’s fascinating seeing the way organisms begin to vary even as you approach a city park. That being said, there’s something amazing about the adaptability of the animals you see in urban environments which fascinates me. Cities are artificial constructs that have been developed only relatively recently, and so the resourcefulness of the animals that have made them their home so quickly is something to behold. For that reason, I think wild animals in an urban environment are often some of my favourite observations!

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Yes, there is so much talk about species going extinct, and some do go extinct, but others are doing just fine (probably better than ever) in and around our cities.

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Thanks for the input, Stephen, but please stay on topic. The original post of this thread defines the topic, and it’s not a place to expound on iNat’s definition of wild and not wild - there are other topics addressing that. We’re trying to keep this forum on-topic as much as possible so that everyone doesn’t have to sift through tangents and side discussions.


Edit: I am editing this post in response to an automatically generated email advising me that the community feels it is offensive, abusive, or a violation of our community guidelines. I’m at a loss to understand how my post could have been any of those things, though I admit that I may not be the best at judging such matters. All I was trying to say, in response to @tiwane 's complaint that I had wandered off topic, was that to my mind I was still on topic, since the iNat definition of wild organism was explicitly invoked in his original post on the thread, the post which defines the topic.


This fox in a parking lot:

Since @tiwane mentioned Clogmia:

I have more, but I’ll control my impulse to share them all!


Wild life in my pantry: after a day of vinegar trapping - seven Drosophila species! Including my tiny backyard garden (there is not much green in this district compared to other parts of Vienna) I recently could find my 20th drosophilid at home: Here they are so far.

Also managed to find several fly species new for the state (and few even new for Austria) just by taking 2-3 steps out of the door :)


Great find and a lovely photo, too!

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Here in Houston, we have a variety of bayous, retention basins, and reservoirs that have led to swamp-related animals adapting to the busy city. In addition to that, we have the Katy Prairie right next door to the west, the Piney Woods to the north, swamps to the South and East, and the ocean along the south (past our swamps).

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks are a common, year-round sight across the entire city:

We also have a heck ton of Yellow-crowned Night-Herons:

And more herons and egrets, this time perching on houses:


Almost all my observations have been taken in the city. We’re lucky to have two major rivers flow through the city. The ‘wild’ part of the rivers is narrow, but long. I’ve seen all sorts of things down there, from red foxes (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/6186214) to migrating birds. What I enjoy best is seeing the same species come back to the same area year after year. Like these wood ducks https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/24517897 , and these song sparrows https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/22775818


Here are so many wonderfully crazy people around (I include myself here), taking photos of ticks crawling over a leg, waiting for a mosquito to start biting to get a better shot, and I also recently saw a photo of a leech on a blood-covered arm.

So I was quite astonished so find that there were no observations of a Human Flea so far. So here you go: Pulex irritans :smiling_imp: What even makes the observation kind of ‘more wild’ are the circumstances of finding it: Not in the bedroom (well, at least not initially - I eventually brought some of them home with me unfortunately) but in front of a burrow in park. Instead of blood, I served alkohol for this one…


Toeing the captive line, but so weird I had to link it: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/19724079

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I had meant to show you this a while ago (you may even know the documents), but they opened my eyes to what was ‘natural’ and what was not.