Citizen Science and Your Yard

Does your yard have plants and trees that attract birds and other pollinators?  Are you noticing Monarch butterflies nectaring on late blooming plants or bees active in nearby public gardens?  If so, consider recording these activities to help researchers.

When you share your observations you are participating in citizen science, a volunteer effort by individuals to report sightings that may help scientists in their research of a particular subject.  It’s an entertaining and meaningful activity, and if you watch closely you should notice intriguing behaviors.  Why is that crab spider posing like a statue on the thistle?  Why are the hummingbirds chasing each other at the feeder?  New questions and curiosities will ultimately enhance your awareness of the natural environment as you seek answers.  There’s a lot happening out there!

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

In late August and early September we begin to see more Monarchs in our gardens and caterpillars consuming milkweed.  Consider reporting your observations with photos to Journey North to help experts understand the dynamics of this year’s Monarch migration.  Include the plants the adults are using to acquire nectar or tree species for evening roosting, the time of your observation, and the weather.

What else are you seeing in your yard and during nature walks?  Many birds are exhibiting southbound migration behaviors now so you may notice an increase in some species that have been absent since early spring.  Watch for insect-loving warblers in your backyard, lingering hummingbirds, and look skyward for other groups of bird species on the move such as Common Nighthawks, American White Pelicans,  Mississippi Kites and mixed flocks of blackbirds streaming en masse to and from their overnight roost sites. Report your bird sightings and upload your photos to eBird, Journey North, or Audubon’s Hummingbirds at Home.

Bee on Thistle

Bee on Thistle

Many other important pollinators are declining due to reasons including widespread pesticide use and habitat loss.  Share bumble bee sightings to bumblebeewatch.org.  Bees can be tricky to ID; check out a guide to help you accurately report what you’re seeing.  Look for them now on native thistle and goldenrods.

The transition from summer to fall affects wildlife behavior and you can easily observe the changes in progress.  It’s an exciting time to venture outside, note what you’re seeing, and get involved in citizen science.  And remember the Lawn and Garden Neighborhood where you can get gardening tips to help you attract wildlife to your home landscape.

(photos courtesy of K. Sain)

Kimberly Sain

As a Public Services Specialist, in addition to Reference work I promote the Travel, Pets, and Lawn & Garden Neighborhoods, coordinate nature-themed programs for adults and families, and serve on the Big Read planning committee. My interests include exploring new travel destinations, National Parks, Alaska, hiking trails in Kansas, Colorado and Arkansas, birding, Sandhill crane migration, Monarch waystations, Kansas native plants, citizen science activities, volunteer work as a certified Kansas Master Naturalist, and reading essays about the natural environment. Peter Matthiessen's Shadow Country is my all-time favorite novel.