Did you participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count?  Do you record your findings on iNaturalist?  Are you doing tasks on one of the many Zooniverse projects in your spare time?  If you are studying nature, collecting data, sharing results and stories, this whole month is designated to honor YOU.  

The concept for Citizen Science Month started a few years ago as a single day of recognition.  Now, with the help of organizations such as the National Library of Medicine, National Geographic, and the NPR program Science Friday, it expanded to cover the entire month.

@SciStarter.org features events that you can join online to recognize your interests.   Examples include:

New York Botanical Garden’s WeDigBio Webinar on  April 9th:

https://nybg-org.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_8D5OZpAvRsSqbKu-VsWymw

Interview: Citizen Science and Tourism in Antarctica with Verena and Allison

https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_ilpgcoAkSseqS3NzCKbPYg

Be an Urban Naturalist with Author Kelly Brenner on April 20th:

https://kcls.bibliocommons.com/events/60592df71eedf02400800678

There are many more options.  I hope to “see” you online at one of these. Let me know about your experiences.

Congratulations for being a Citizen Scientist and thanks for your contributions to improving our understanding of our world. 

This challenge is rated as easy. 

Today, I am getting my first COVID-19 vaccine jab.  (Hurrah, I think.)  Therefore, let’s reflect upon how bats are too frequently considered the villainous vector of this pandemic. 

Small Brown Bat
Small Brown Bat

Perhaps bats do harbor its viral origins.  However, that doesn’t mean they are to blame.  Humans played a role, one way or another, in the spread of this disease.  Bats, on the other hand, play a crucial role within the environment.

There are more than 1300 bat species distributed throughout the world.  Some bats help to control the insect population.  They can consume up to a million insects in one evening.  In my region, they are essential to control the mosquitos.  As bat numbers decline, mosquitos’ numbers increase, and so do the diseases they transmit. 

Avocado Buds
Avocado Buds

Other types of bats aid in pollination and seed dissemination by feeding on nectar or fruit.  Can you imagine living in a world without avocados, bananas, or mangos?  These are among the many plants that they assist.  

For today’s nature challenge, find out what bat species live in your area.  How are they doing?  What support do they need, if any?

In my state, 97% of the bats have been affected by the deadly white-nosed syndrome. Every time I see a bat at dusk, I rejoice.  

We need to stop demonizing bats.  Please. 

This challenge is rated as easy. 

Source:

Bat Background — https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/facts/bats

 

If you live east of the Mississippi River in the United States, and even in some adjacent parts of Canada, particularly where there are nut trees, you have likely seen some very active Eastern gray squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) at this time of year.  

In my neighborhood, which is fairly far north, the breeding period is ongoing.  In most of the country, this period occurs between December and February.  A second breeding period then occurs between May and July.  

Interestingly, the nests used by the squirrels may differ depending on the season.   For the winter/spring season, they often create nests in tree cavities.  These can range in size from 6 inches in diameter to as much as 2 feet!

During the summer season, they will prepare nests in the crook of a branch or group of branches.  These nests are called “dreys.”  They are built from grass, moss, dried leaves, and twigs, and ook larger than what you might expect for a bird’s nest.  Also, note that the nests are usually at least 20 feet off the ground. 

For today’s challenge, see if you can find a squirrel nest. Look for either a drey or a cavity nest. 

Note that squirrels are most active during the 2 hours after sunrise and the 2 hours before sunset.  If you have the patience and the stealth, they might just show you where that nest is. 

Today’s challenge is rated easy for drey spotting and medium for cavity nest identification.

For this week’s nature challenge:

Let’s look up toward the sky.   No matter what the weather is where you live, you have the opportunity to participate in cloud identification.  

The National Weather Service has identified 4 main types of clouds:  Cirro-form (wispy swirls), Cumulo-form (these look like cotton balls), Strato-form (think of broad, layered blankets), and Nimbo-form (rain clouds that can combine all three types).  What can you see right now?

In reality, this is only the beginning of the cloud possibilities.  If you include variations and optical effects, there are more than 40 different observable types.  The Cloud Collector’s Handbook by Gavin Pretor-Pinney is a great cloud reference resource.  It even suggests a point system for different types of clouds so you can have a sense of its rarity relative to other types.  

Now doesn’t that make you want to start a list to capture what you are seeing?

I recently discovered a whole group of folks who enjoy this type of observation.  Check them out at http://www.cloudappreciationsociety.org.

Challenge difficulty is rated as easy unless you get into specific optical effects.

@CloudAppSoc  #clouds