Residents of Tower Hamlets got together last weekend to observe wildlife as they took part in a citizen-driven science event.
The City Nature Challenge is a mobile app-based competition made in collaboration with the Natural History Museum, University College London and London’s Environmental Educator’s Forums that allows cities to compete worldwide to see who can make the most nature observations.
Those taking part recorded all the species they could find and posted them on the iNaturalist app.
“Nature and Us” is a community cohesion project run by a small committed charity known as The Friends of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park, which aims to bring Tower Hamlets residents together through nature.
Michelle Lindson, Community Development Coordinator, told Eastlondonlines: “You take a picture of what you’re trying to identify and record it. The app helps you identify what it is and there’s a social network where people can verify your records.”
“Once verified, the observation can then be used in science to tell if a species was present or absent in the area,” she added.
The challenge took place across three green spaces in Tower Hamlets: Cemetery Park, Swedenborg Gardens and Shandy Park.
This year, London made a total of 5,267 observations and recorded 961 species, including centipedes, ladybirds, lichens, solitary bees, blackbirds, blue tit bird, crows, gull, honeybees, wild strawberries, edible flowers, soapworts and many more.
This is the second time London was involved in the competition. In 2018, London place 33rd in the rankings, having had 106 participants that made 2,621 observations in the challenge and recorded 737 species.
Last year, San Francisco ranked the highest in observations at 41,737. It is not known who the winner of this year’s challenge is yet.
On Saturday, Nature and Us held a moth trap event at 10am and a guided walk at 11am in the Cemetery Park in Tower Hamlets.
Between 2.30pm and 5pm they had bird watching and minibeast hunts in Swedenborg Gardens.
“We had drop-in stations at two of our parks, where people could look at trees, birds, minibeasts and wildflowers,” Lindson said.
On Sunday they also held similar events in Shandy Park, between 12pm and 3pm.
Although the CNC took place from April 26-29, Nature and Us held events on the 27th and the 28th.
Each pin represents an individual wildlife observation, in each of the parks.
Lindson said they organised free events to encourage members of the public to “help record whatever wildlife they saw.”
She also found it interesting that Kenneth Greenway, the manager of the Cemetery Park, was ranked 2nd for making the highest number of observations for London.
Greenway told ELL his thoughts on the event: “I was really impressed with the public’s response to our event in the Cemetery Park and Shandy Park. It was a great turnout.”
“What was really nice is people engaged with the app really well and enjoyed using it,” he added.
Lindson highlighted that they had a wide variety of people participating in the project, including “families, older people, children, and people in their 20s or 30s.”
Jackie Osborne, a regular volunteer for Nature and Us told ELL: “I think the event brought people together, all to discover and learn about the nature of the local area. Lots of fascinating plants and creatures were found and stories were shared, it was a great weekend for all!”
Nature and Us are hosting a series of upcoming free events throughout May, including bat walks, sound journeys and beeswax workshops.
Dates are available on their website.