December 18, 2018

Chicago Milkweed

I have created a map of all of the Chicago Park District parks with all of the georeferenced milkweed observations from inaturalist overlaid. I also found a map of what the now defunct Chicago Department of Environment considered important habitat areas as of 2004. You can check out my map here:

Some of the parks that have "habitat areas" but no milkweed observations yet:
Indian Boundary Park, Portage Park, Riis Park, Marquette Park, Sherman Park and Washington Park. I've checked Riis Park and didn't find any but it's a big park and I may have missed it. I've also had good luck looking in parks that border rail lines which is why you see some observations that appear to track neighborhood boundaries. There seem to be fewer observations overall on the south side so I don't doubt there is a lot more to be found. Feel free to use this map for any purpose especially if it's for pressuring your local park advisory council to put in more native plantings.

Posted on December 18, 2018 06:32 PM by taco2000 taco2000 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

November 25, 2018

IDOT Prairie Inventory Reports

Between 2001 and 2003 IDOT (The Illinois Department of Transportation) conducted a survey of prairie remnants where a rail line and road were within 500 feet of each other. The map files and surveys are available on the "Prairie Inventory" tab here:

If you're traveling through an area I have found that checking out some of these narrow remnants can be well worth a stop. Many of them are much larger in person than they appear from satellite imagery. A few of these are now protected as nature preserves but there are also some with no protection that I know of that I haven't seen marked anywhere else. Check it out!

Posted on November 25, 2018 03:20 PM by taco2000 taco2000 | 2 comments | Leave a comment

October 23, 2018

Captive / Cultivated in Urban Environments

One thing I have never fully understood on this site is the definition of captive / cultivated as it relates to plants in an urban environments.

I live in Chicago. There is a lot of amazing restoration work going on here, but without that work there would be hardly any native plants here at all because of the way the land has been subdivided and the extremely intensive methods most people use to manage their property actually prevents natural succession. A lot has been said about the need for restoration and management in these highly fragmented environments and I help to work on this big project whenever I hear about an opportunity to do so.

Since I live in Chicago most of the places I can go to see native plants and the wildlife that rely on them are still managed significantly because they have to be. A lot of the most active people on this site are site stewards and they're doing incredible work restoring habitats in urban environments.

From what I've gathered, the plants at Lurie garden or say outside of the Notebaart Nature museum are considered 'captive'...because they're in a garden? But it doesn't seem much different to me than the plants at Somme, except that Somme is an actual remnant. It's an older restoration, but without humans clearing the buckthorn, seeding it and burning it, Somme wouldn't be the thriving place it is. I'm certain that butterflies don't care about the difference between an aster seeded in a restoration, one planted in a garden, or one growing on the side of the road. They're all good. But I don't know which if any of those should be considered 'naturally occurring'.

If you look at the map of Rattlesnake Master, the recent restorations at Notebaart and the south pond show up...I know these were planted by people, but they were planted for conservative purposes. At the Lurie the rattlesnake master is spreading like crazy and in fact they cut it back significantly this year but it doesn't show up, I guess because that's a garden and it's mixed in with nativars? I'm not sure. There is certainly more milkweed there than almost any site I've seen in Chicago and that is in inat. I've definitely posted some interesting insects from there but I have resisted posting the swamp milkweeds, blazing stars and prairie smoke because I know they were 'planted' and presumably 'cultivated'. But they're also spreading from their initial planting so maybe it's OK?

I've been planting a fair amount of milkweed around my place, again for conservative purposes, and especially because I want to take pictures of the butterflies that they attract. Since I know I went and got it from a native plant sale then stuck it in the ground and I don't want to screw up the real science going on with the data collected from this site I haven't posted it. But maybe I should? The Urban Monarch Conservation tools actually do seem to be pulling data at least from a map of gardens, they have correctly marked the prairie "garden" near my house as being a dense milkweed planting but have marked my census tract as having none. But I do have milkweed — I planted it!

Curious what some of the curators from the area think about this. I'm sure it has come up before but I'm just unclear on where the line is. @bouteloua @sanguinaria33 @sedge @missgreen @elfaulkner


Posted on October 23, 2018 03:44 PM by taco2000 taco2000 | 1 observation | 1 comment | Leave a comment

October 22, 2018

Geotagging workflow

I wanted to share my basic technique for geotagging a large numbers of photos from an SLR camera that doesn't have GPS built in. I use a Sony Alpha6000 with a 210mm lens for shooting pretty much everything. It is by far the lightest weight camera and lens set I have been able to find that still shoots reasonable photos and can actually capture some birds. I have a great amount of respect for the people out there getting great shots of birds. They don't stay still very often! I'm happy with the camera but it does not have GPS built in. I have been able to cobble together a workflow that allows me to geotag my photos before uploading to iNat.

The basic steps I take are to record a GPS track on my phone using the Strava app (free), import the photos to my iPad, download the GPX track to from Strava to Geotag Photos Tagger ($8.99) via Strava's web interface, tag the photos, then upload them to iNat. The time on your camera needs to match fairly precisely with the time on your iPad but Geotag Photos Tagger will allow you to offset the time if, for example, the timezone is wrong on your camera. It looks like the people who made Geotag Photos Tagger also make an app to record your track but I haven't used it. I still have an old phone I don't plan to update so this technique allows me to take much more clear photos than I could with my phone and Strava doesn't drain the phone battery as fast as some other GPS recorders I have tried. I tend to run out of camera battery first even carrying backup batteries.

I'd like to hear how other people do this.

I'm not sure if iNat already exports to eBird but I'll be looking into that next. I'm not great at identification still, so I like that someone on iNat can confirm my identification.

Have fun!

Posted on October 22, 2018 04:16 PM by taco2000 taco2000 | 3 observations | 1 comment | Leave a comment


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