Biodiversity Go! (Irish wildflowers)

I briefly played both Ingress and Pokemón Go. I may even have deliberately gone km out of my way just to get new portals once upon a time. Imagine how my eldest son reacted when I told him we were taking a spin out to a totally different part of the county so that I, err, could catalog some different species of plants in my Biodiversity app. Yeah. He was greatly amused. We had a good trip and I got some new plants, I walked several km, what’s not to like?

The biodiversity app is a component in the National Biodiversity data Centre’s Citizen Science Portal. There are a few directed campaigns looking for specific animals or plants sightings – including invasive species – or you can just upload everything you see to be included. There are apps for iPhone and Android or people can submit items through the website.

I am enjoying using the app, though I am somewhat intimidated by the sheer number of plant names it suggests to me as options with no picture to reference. I try my best to match what I see with the proper name after research on the internet, but I’m sure it’s not always right. This can mean saving a lot of photos in my app so that I can ID them later and the iPhone app seems not to like dealing with too many at once.

The sheer number of possible options when I go about looking on online identification sites is kind of mind boggling. I had registered that not all the yellow dandelion-y looking plants were likely all dandelions, but I didn’t realise how many there actually are. It’s cool now seeing all the differences at a casual glance. I was aware of tiny plants growing on fences and in cracks on walls all my life, I could tell Creeping Toadflax from Herb Robert, for example, before I started, but I never really appreciated just how many others there are, and the subtle differences between them. Tiny white flowers are not all the same, it turns out, for starters. I reckon I started with a higher than usual number of plants I knew the name of because my mother is a bit of a plant witch and it turns out even uninterested teens pick up things with enough exposure, but the amount of names I still am missing is staggering.

These are just common by the side of the road plants I got some not very great photos of on a short stretch of road in Tullamore, just by way of example. Nature will out. I called Speedwell ‘Speed’ for years, which must have concerned the occasional casual listener, and I was unaware that there were so may types (ivy leaved, thyme leaved, wall, wood and slender anyone?) I also realised I’ve been lumping a plant called Shining Crane’s-bill in with Herb Robert without paying attention to the now very obvious differences. The number of plants under our noses quietly getting on with things in inhospitable places is fantastic.

I tend to really want to know what it is I am submitting before I do, and it means that without very clear photos or absolute conviction I won’t upload things I possibly could. This has resulted in me being extremely aware of the sound of bumblebees, and the sight of me pacing around trying to get close enough to the many I have seen lately to get a clear photo must be kind of amusing to an onlooker. As a beginner I have pretty much stuck to plants, they helpfully tend to stay still long enough to photograph so I can identify them. But I can already tell I’m going to start poking at insects in a bit. I try to walk a set number of km a week now, I definitely need the exercise, so it’s been great to have a “I’ll just go on a bit here because sometime I see butterflies on that road” prompt to keep going.

I’m not even sure I ever registered these guys existed before now, maybe I did. This one decided to fly off when I tried to get a less post atomic blast photo, but it’s distinctive enough to be able to pin it down as a Green Tiger Beetle – not actually quite so lurid, but distinctively green nonetheless, a consumer of ants, caterpillars and spiders currently living in Lough Boora

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