When a Four-Year-Old Takes Hold of Your Camera

by Carolyn Henderson

On Sunday, November 21, I discovered that four-year-olds have a natural eye for photographing nature. It started on the Saturday evening before when a friend asked me what I was going to do on Sunday, and I said I was going to go “iNating” at Wilson-Ledbetter Park in Cameron. And she said she and her daughter (the 4-year-old), would like to go with me. 

Vivi and the lady beetle.

Around noon on Sunday, we met at the park. Spring (the friend) had printed a nature scavenger hunt for Vivi (the 4-year-old). The idea was to keep Vivi occupied while learning about nature. It didn’t take Vivi long to find everything pictured except two with the help of Spring. A pinecone was not going to be found at Wilson-Ledbetter, because there is no pine tree there. We didn’t see a squirrel either. 

Wilson-Ledbetter Park bridge

She had been interested in me taking pictures of Birds-eye Speedwells, Straggler Daisies, Santa Maria Feverfew, Docks, and a Black Willow sporting yellow fall leaves. She asked me what each one was, and luckily I knew them – so far. This is when she decided to help me take pictures. Spring tried to divert her by offering her cell phone, but Vivi wanted the camera, and I was willing to share. It’s old and I need a new one, anyway. 

These seeds are not delicious.

After a few times reminding her to keep her fingers from in front of the lens, she had it down. She took a particular interest in holes in the ground, anything that had a “V” shape, because she knows that’s the first letter of her name (and the other letters, too), the blue seeds on an Eastern Cedar (which we had to dissuade her from tasting), Carolina Snailseed, Frostweed (which was still blooming), dandelions, and Lady Beetles, which she could also catch.  She had as difficult a time as I do trying to get some little yellow butterflies to be still for a minute. 

Carolina snailseed

All the pictures shown except for her holding the Seven-spotted Lady Beetle were taken by Vivi. She asked me to tell Santa Claus that she wants a camera for Christmas. I quickly sent the message to Santa. ; )

Bioblitz! The First of Many!

This morning, a semi-hardy group of Master Naturalists met at Wilson-Ledbetter Park in Cameron to see if we can actually DO a bioblitz. What’s a bioblitz? It’s when people get together and see how many observations they can make on the iNaturalist citizen science platform in a defined area during a specific time.

Do we look chilly? We are!

Our goal is to have as many observations as possible today, February 22, at the park. That means anyone who observes after our group blitz will also count.

Goofy selfie in which I could not fit everyone in.

Twelve of us came to the event, which is a great turnout! We gave some handouts to the people who were new to iNaturalist, showed folks how to join the project I’d set up the day before, and set off in groups, where experienced and inexperienced people were together. Our instructions were to take as many pictures as possible of the flora and fauna you encountered.

Different groups did their observations differently, with some people uploading photos as they took them and others choosing to take the pictures on their phones then upload them later. We also had a couple of people using cameras, and a couple of spotters/observers. Below are some action shots and a couple of the photos we took. Thanks to Meghan Land and Dorothy Mayer for sharing their photos.

One thing I discovered is that we have some great nature observers in our new class. One found a domestic cat carcass (no photo available, thankfully) and another found some beautiful eggs in a nest by an oak tree (perhaps from the nearby ducks).

Eggs found under a tree. Sparkly finger to show size.

Long-time members shared stories about previous projects our group has done in the park and helped identify some of those pesky forbs that were everywhere. It’s quite a challenge when so little is blooming, and many woody plants have no leaves yet.

We were much warmer in the conference room, with coffee.

After about an hour of photographing, we went back to the warmth of the Hermit Haus and practiced using the iNaturalist app to upload photos. It’s a bit of a learning curve, especially if you have an android phone and all your “experts” have iPhones. But, folks are already adding their observations to the project, and people are out there identifying them.

Here is what we have as of mid afternoon. We will certainly have more later!
Here are all the observations from our bioblitz, as of 3 pm today. The key to the colors is in the image above.

Just a few hours after the bioblitz started, we have over a hundred observations, and half the team has uploaded content. Not bad at all! Check the project page to see how many more observations have been uploaded. They will be trickling in over the next few days.

Where shall we go for our next bioblitz? Will you join us? Our goal is to visit all the parks in the county, so suggestions are welcome! Remember, Tania Homayoun of Nature Trackers, and our state iNaturalist expert, will be joining us April 18 for a special training with both an indoor and an outdoor component. We will let you know which park we’ll be holding that one at!

Want to Learn More?

Read more on using iNaturalist for bioblitzes at this link.