27 Apr 2021

The City Nature Challenge

City nature challenge is a global citizen science project takes place between Friday 30th April and Monday 3rd May 2021. Anyone can get involved by downloading the free iNaturalist app from inaturalist.org or from the Apple App Store or Google Play.

Simply take a photo of any wild plant or animal and upload it to the app where the species-recognition software helps with identification. Any wildlife counts including birds, mammals, insects, trees, flowers, amphibians, reptiles, fungi, moss and lichen.

Birmingham and the Black Country took part for the first time in 2020. More than 16,000 observations were made of over 1,300 species - more than any other European city area! 244 cities took part across the world and Birmingham and the Black Country placed 31st by number of species recorded ahead of all other UK cities that took part.

Dryad's Saddle (Cerioporus squamosus)
Dryad's Saddle fungus (Cerioporus squamosus) seen during last year’s city nature challenge.

City nature challenge is the latest way to record wildlife, but people have been documenting the wildlife in Birmingham and the Black country for more than 180 years. Many of these naturalists gave the things they collected to Birmingham Museums trust and we look after more than 250,000 specimens in the natural science collection. These specimens are a valuable record of the changing wildlife of the region. Observations made during the City Nature Challenge can build on this data and reveal how the wildlife is changing as the climate warms and new species are introduced.

Birmingham’s collection contains specimens found on the same dates as the City Nature Challenge. The oldest were collected by William Ick in 1836. He was taking part in his own version of the nature challenge, a competition to see who could collect the most plants within 10 miles of Birmingham City Centre in one year. Ick’s was the winning entry and consisted of a herbarium containing 310 specimens of dried plants mounted on sheets of paper. He was awarded a medal for his efforts by the grandly titled ‘United Committee of the Birmingham Botanical and Warwickshire Floral Societies’. His herbarium is one of the most important in Birmingham’s collection as it contains a unique record of the plants that grew in the city as it was rapidly growing and industrializing.

Recording wildlife provides valuable information for future generations and everyone taking part in events like the City Nature Challenge is adding to our knowledge of nature in Birmingham and the Black Country.

Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) collected William Ick on the 3rd of May 1836 behind Vahuxhall
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) collected William Ick on the 3rd of May 1836 behind Vauxhall. The bright yellow flowers emerge before the leaves in spring and are common in recently disturbed soil.

Pignuts (Conopodium majus)

Pignuts (Conopodium majus) grows in unimproved meadows and sometimes on banks in open woods.