2020 iNaturalist Big Year in Cook County, Illinois

2019 is in the books, and I was happy to achieve my two main iNaturalist goals for 2019, getting 5000 iNat observations recorded over the year and having 700+ research grade plants observed in Illinois for the year. Can't learn them if you don't see them, right?

So what do I have in mind for 2020?

An iNaturalist Big Year in Cook County, Illinois.

My friend Paul Sweet (@psweet) got me thinking about this idea, he came up with doing it in Lake County in 2020, I thought it would be fun to see how I can do in Cook County while we help one another accomplish our individual county goals.

I wrote earlier today that 2500 species for the county for the year was my MAJOR STRETCH goal, and it will be a stretch indeed. After looking at my numbers, I see I have only recorded 1877 species in Cook County since I have been on iNat in early June, 2016, and of those observations only 1599 are research grade. For 2019, a year when I traveled around Illinois rather a bit to see 700 Illinois plant species, I only saw 1139 species in Cook County, and of them, just short of 80%, 904 of them, made research grade.

(addendum, just searched how many research grade observations were made by all observers on iNat in 2019, and it was only 2488 species... that's a bit of a gut check. Overall, Cook County has 3461 research grade iNaturalist species in its database.)

So I am looking to do a bit more than may be possible.

I am guessing I can get close to 200 bird species photographed. Maybe a 150-200 fungi? Would 500 plant species in Cook County be possible? 600? What do you think @sanguinaria33 and @bouteloua? And insects. That is where the goal will be made, and they are not a strong point for me. Not that I am good at much outside of birds. I will likely need close to 1000. Trevor (@randomrover) can we get 200 moths in Cook County? Butterflies and dragonflies another 100? That leaves a LOT of insects to be found and IDed.

What the hell.

No one ever learned without setting stretch goals. And so what if I fall short. Would getting to 2000, or 1500 species in Cook County be such a failure for an amateur naturalist like me? NOT. AT. ALL.

And think of the places I will get to explore?

Of course, this likely won't get off the ground if I don't get some help from others in my iNat community. Many have shown me and taught me so much in the last few years, but in 2020, I will take any taps on the shoulder telling me about a species I might miss if I don't quick go see it that you all are willing to share. Send all such messages of support. I will take all the help I can get.

Because, in the end this isn't about me. This is about leaving a record of what one person with the help of many others could log in a single year in one very diverse county in northeast Illinois. I think it could be a legacy worth leaving for the future. Or, if nothing else, a hell of a lot of fun.

Posted by skrentnyjeff skrentnyjeff, January 02, 2020 04:58


For those with their pencils and scorecards at home...

I got out late today, January 1st, 2020. Still managed 50 observations of 50 species. I think.

That puts me at 2% of goal, assuming all 50 make research grade. Right now 27 are, 23 are not.

What did I see today? Three mammals, three mosses, three mushrooms, 8 species of birds, two insects, and a lot of plants.

Posted by skrentnyjeff over 2 years ago (Flag)

I love your goal and planning and enthusiasm! I've got a few of my own iNat goals for 2020, as well. For one, I'm hoping for 200 species of Odonata in Texas this year. :-)

I would be really surprised if you can't get 200+ species of moths, especially if you set up a light throughout the year when they are flying.

If you want to go smallish, I'll bet you can find 20+ species of terrestrial snails in the county, and some more aquatics. With good photos I can help on IDs for the terrestrials.

Illinois has 100+ species of Odonata, so getting 75 dragons and damsels also seems reasonable if you are out in a variety of habitats across the full season.

Good luck and happy hunting! I'll be following your progress!

Happy New Year,


Posted by beschwar over 2 years ago (Flag)

Derek has 688 RG plant species in Cook Co. for 2019.

Posted by sanguinaria33 over 2 years ago (Flag)

Didn't know I could look up someone else's RG observations. But why not? Thanks. I have a road map between his observations and yours.

Posted by skrentnyjeff over 2 years ago (Flag)

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