2022 Nature Challenge Winners

1st place — Dale Westaby (iNat ID: xanthicunderdog) 

Dale had 1,762 observations and 948 species observed! Dale won $50 each — 1st place most observations and 1st place most species observed.
“I had a great time getting out with friends and exploring nature. The challenge motivated me to get out in nature with friends and after I logged in every specie I could readily observe on one property, I then began discovering new public properties to explore in the driftless and I found myself noticing more details of my surroundings and everywhere I went daily, noticing a native flower I have never seen before but hiked the same trail for decades.
“My favorite photograph was the six-lined race runner, mainly because it took me many trips to the same location to find one! I remember seeing lizards in the driftless over a decade ago at a specific location, so I went there on a special mission to photograph them and find out what specie they were with the iNaturalist app. Each time I went I would get skunked and not see the lizards, so I was thinking maybe their range and habitat changed and I was chasing a ghost. I went there one last time for a sunset hike and I almost stepped on one! He was basking in the sand flats and dodged my step. He stayed put just long enough for me to snap a couple photos.
“Even though it didn’t count towards the score my last entry was my son, a human. Humans have the largest influence on the environment and it’s our role to be stewards for the rest of the plants and animals out there.
“What I really enjoyed about DABB and iNaturalist is that it is made for everyone. I just have a cellphone, no fancy cameras nor good at zooming for animals far away or birds in the sky. The app was easy to use and it was fun to learn what specie the animals and plants are. I now feel more versed and can often call out plants and insects by their specie name crossing paths with them while hanging with friends.”

2nd place — Dan Jackson (iNat ID: dejackson2256)

Dan had 951 observations and 466 species observed!
Dan won $25 each — 2nd place most observations and 2nd place most species observed.
“I had fun taking pictures of other insects and really enjoyed the diversity that has been hiding right in front of me!
“I had lots of fun with the DABB 2022 Nature Challenge. Mostly, I used it as an incentive to widen my horizons and try to see and identify more types of species as I was out and about in nature. I am an active birder, and I am also an Odonata, Hymenoptera, and Lepidoptera enthusiast. I spend many hours a year surveying for dragonflies and damselflies around Wisconsin and often get so caught up in that activity that I don’t spend enough time enjoying everything else around me. This project provided a challenge to keep my eyes open and check out the plants, fungi, other insects, and so much more! I also used it as an incentive to try to spend more time identifying species on my land in rural Vernon County. A friend has challenged himself to find 500 species on his land and I am well on the way reaching a similar goal for my land as well.
“As an Odonata enthusiast, dragonflies and damselflies are always a group of species that I am looking for first. On September 26 and 27, I found Black Meadowhawks (Sympetrum danae) on my property for the first time. They represented a new County record for Vernon County and the first records of this species in the southern half of Wisconsin since 2012. I was able to get a nice picture of a female on 9/27/22 that is special to me. It is an iNaturalist record.
“Finding rare species is always exciting. This year, I found my first Rusty-patched Bumblebees (Bombus affinis) with sightings in early August in both La Crosse and Vernon Counties. Since those are federally endangered, those were special moments. I found my first at a garden center in La Crosse when shopping for flowers with my wife. There were lots of Bumble Bees on the Monarda plants and I was really excited to identify 1-2 of them as Bombus affinis! I found another on an Odonata survey at the Genoa Power Plant boat landing a week later. The sighting at the garden center even got my wife excited about Bumble Bees! The second was also special since that sighting will become part of the data for my survey efforts on the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge (I have a special use permit to survey Odonata on the refuge and must submit a report each year).
I found several rare dragonflies and damselflies in the Driftless Area this year. The most memorable single trip occurred on a visit to a new survey location near Sparta in Monroe County. My first visit to that location produced several county records including sightings of very rare Comet Darners (Anax longipes) and Citrine Forktails (Ischnura hastata). The Comet Darners never landed but I did get a flight shot for a voucher and an iNaturalist sighting. I was able to get very nice photos of both a female Citrine Forktail (July 12).
“I had fun taking pictures of other insects and really enjoyed the diversity that has been hiding right in front of me! Some of those are spectacular such as the Brown Wasp Mantidfly that I found on my land a few times this summer. I was really happy to get some great pictures of one on July 1, 2022 . My wife did a bit of research on that species, and we discovered that it has an amazing life history in addition to being a spectacular looking insect! (Check out this neat article on the Mantidfly)
“Thanks for providing a great excuse to take a closer look and to learn more about all of nature this year!”

Random drawing — Mary Ellen Prinsen (iNat ID: mprinsen)

Mary Ellen won $100!
“I am new to iNaturalist. After a few years of retirement, I decided to try hiking. My good friend Vicki Miller invited me to try this app and started making observations and posting them. It’s been very enjoyable and I’m learning a great deal.
“My favorite specie photo was a fungus I saw on a tree last June while on a walk on the Grandad Bluff trail. I uploaded the photo on the iNat app and it suggested it was Dryad’s Saddle so I hit “Share” and a short time later an iNat “Identifier” confirmed it was “Research Grade” Dryad’s Saddle which I thought was very cool!
“The iNat app (and DABB Nature Challenge) has encouraged me to continue my hiking and learn new things along the way!”

Congratulations Dale, Dan, and Mary Ellen!

Even though the Nature Challenge is over and fall season is upon us, the 2022 Driftless Area BioBlitz will continue throughout the winter and in to spring, and will end when the next Nature Challenge is launched during Earth Fair on April 30, 2023. So, get out there and continue to bioblitz. You never know what you’ll find!