Thu. Dec 7th, 2023
Passing an important iNaturalist milestone: 500,000 observations!

In today’s post, Algonquin Provincial Park Deputy Superintendent David LeGros helps us celebrate a major milestone for community scientists across the province.

For more than five years, Ontario Parks has been encouraging park visitors to submit their nature observations – from plants, animals and fungi – to our community science project on iNaturalist.

Over Thanksgiving weekend, we surpassed 500,000 observations of 10,325 species by 11,688 observers A fantastic feat!

Our visitors really like to send comments.

I take my Tilley hat off to all of you.

The passion of the naturalist

The naturalist is like anyone else: we investigate and search, we obsess about the unusual and daydream about the strange.

Whether you’re a sports fan who collects memorabilia, a music fan who goes to a lot of concerts, or a stamp collector looking for unusual art, we all like to see and find rare things.

lobster mushrooms

Naturalists love finding rare creatures, plants, species or rocks.

There is perhaps nothing more absurd than a bird, blown thousands of miles off course, far from home, only to appear on your local patch!

It creates a sense of wonder and reminds us how small the world can be.

But does this rare sighting really tell us much about our landscape?

trail through the autumn forest

Probably not.

It does not play a functional role in the ecosystem; It is not in its normal habitat and will not breed here.

If he never showed up here again, would it matter?

Not flashy, but important.

What about common species?

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We see them all the time. We know they live and contribute to our landscape, and while they are not rare, they have a lot to teach us about where we are.

visitor taking photos of ferns

I’ve always loved searching what our visitors find because they find really interesting things!

Today I didn’t want to share the rare species, but the 5 most common species reported on iNaturalist from Ontario Parks, what they can teach us and why it is important to continue documenting them.

Let’s count the 5 most common species!

5. Painted turtle – 1,975 reported

painted turtles on log

In my biased opinion, the Painted Turtle is among the most beautiful creatures that inhabit our province.

Visitors have submitted hundreds of observations of this species and it’s easy to see why: they are stunning and spend a lot of time sunning themselves on rocks and logs.

If you approach them quietly, you can take a couple of great photos.

Many observations also documented the nesting behavior of road-crossing turtles. Some observations also showed dead turtles on roads.

Turtles live a long time and have low reproductive success, so losing even a few individuals can send their population into a tailspin.

Knowing where and when turtles cross our roads can help environmentalists mitigate some of these negative impacts.

4. Green Frog – 2,120 sightings reported

green frog

Found in most of the province, green frogs live in almost any wetland, including lakes and rivers.

Campers spend a lot of time near these habitats, so it’s no surprise they’ve submitted so many observations.

Amphibians like green frogs are sensitive to pollution and disease, making them important indicators of healthy environments.

Although they are very common at this time, a decline in their population should be considered a warning sign.

3. Common garter snake – 2,389 sightings reported

garter snake

Snakes are often hard to find because they tend to stay hidden!

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Scientists in our community are amazing to find the common garter snake, which is probably the most abundant snake in the province.

They live in a wide variety of habitats.

Observations came from all over the province. Unfortunately, many of the observations are of dead snakes on roads.

Roads are a major threat to wildlife in Ontario, especially small animals like reptiles and amphibians. please give them a brake!

Many people don’t like snakes very much, but garter snakes are interesting, harmless and charming. Thanks for the help with the recording, snake fans!

2. Monarch butterfly – 2,415 sightings reported

Monarch butterfly on flower.

The universal love of monarchs and their recognizability (as an adult and caterpillar) makes this species doubly easy to find.

Monarchs are famous for their journey from Ontario to Mexico, flying up to 3,000 miles in the fall to reach their destination.

While they may appear common here, their numbers have declined dramatically and they have been designated in Ontario as a species of special concern and internationally as an endangered species.

Their observations can help us determine abundance and habitat and understand the timing of monarch migrations.

1. American toad: 2,570 sightings have been reported

american toad

Finally, we have a well-deserved first place as a toad’s ally for a beloved amphibian. Topping our list is the icon, the legend: the American toad.

I know why this species is the most commonly reported: it occurs everywhere!

From the southernmost point of Ontario hopping under the Carolina forests to the far north, rubbing shoulders with polar bears.

In addition to being locatable and easy to see; Toads are not particularly fast, which means almost anyone can take a photo of this creature. They’re also quite charming (come on, look at that face!).

Keep the reported sightings coming!

Common species play important roles in our landscape and we should be happy that they are common!

Healthy environments can support large numbers of native species. We should aim for them to be common.

Person taking photographs of the vegetation on the tree.

Thank you all for submitting your observations and helping us document biodiversity in Ontario parks!

If you’d like to join, check out iNaturalist or download the app for your mobile device.

What will you find?