Thursday, April 30, 2015

Nature's Notebook

Redbud starting to appear
Do you know about Nature’s Notebook?  It’s a program of the National Phenology Network where citizen scientists record details about birds, trees, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, butterflies and moths to help scientists create long-term datasets about changes to populations and timing.  The species the organization is currently tracking are not all inclusive of every species you may see, but it’s a fairly long list. I currently have just under 100 species I’m reporting on, but you can pick as many or as few as you like.

Phenology is the study of when things happen in nature, the seasonal changes that occur every year.  For instance, I know that the leaf fall in my forest is about two weeks later in the year than it was 20 years ago because I keep track of the dates.  Lest you think I’m totally OCD, for years the only television reception I had was a satellite dish that only worked once the leaves fell in the fall.  I knew when to expect to see TV again, and I soon realized it happened a day or two later just about every year.

Tools like e-Bird made it easy to see changes in the arrival and departure dates of bird species I see around my cabin. For Nature’s Notebook, the questions asked about each sighting are more extensive than for those in e-Bird, and the questions vary somewhat with each species. You can submit your sightings online by computer or through an app that’s available for i-Phone and Android users.

The organization has about 50 partnering groups that range from nature centers to student groups and professional organizations. Sponsoring agencies include the National Park Service, The U.S. Geological Service, NASA, NOAA among others.

The only downside I can see is that I haven’t yet figured out if I can enter my data from previous years.  One project I’m participating in is about red oaks.  My observations will note when the first leaf buds appear, the number of them I see, when the first actual leaves appear, when the leaves are full size, when they turn color and when they fall.

Some publications and educator tools are available for free download to help explain particulars and help with botany. They also have tools, some only in a beta version currently, that let you see the arrival of spring, for example, across the U.S.

Anyway, if such things interest you, I invite you to check it out and see if it’s something you would enjoy participating in.


Scott said...

I'm going to check out Nature's Notebook, Carolyn. Thanks for the link. Wood Thrushes arrived (en mass!) yesterday (Friday) and are already setting up territories in our woods. It's great to have them back.

We have lots of redbuds in our preserve, but they were all planted. They do great, but I think they're more likely to be encountered naturally in your neighborhood than in mine.

Have you ever visited Schenks Ferry Wildflower Glen? Certainly you must have. I haven't been there in years (it's a 2-hour drive for me), but it's wonderful.

Carolyn H said...

Scott: Same here with wood thrushes. I heard the first one Thursday and by Friday the birds were all over the place. I love hearing them each morning and night--such a lovely sound. Yes, I've been to Shenk's Ferry but not for several years. My brother was there last weekend, and reported it was crowded with cars from all over the surrounding states.