Texas Panhandle Gathering -- iNaturalist is a tool of engagement!

We had it on the books for about a year... I was hoping to see folks from all around gathering together in the Texas Panhandle for our annual spring iNat TX gathering/bioblitz. Alas, a global pandemic is a curve ball that I didn't really expect, and the gathering was a bit more 'socially distant' (hugs were officially outlawed!)... Nonetheless, a good group of naturalists gathered at Matador and Gene Howe Wildlife Management Areas and documented a whole slew of organisms. It really was wonderful -- these things make me tremendously happy.

About 17 folks got together on May 29th at Matador WMA. We literally had 28,000 acres to explore, almost just to ourselves! Several folks got there a bit earlier than I did (I arrived at around 3:30) to do some exploring beforehand. That evening, we did some blacklighting close to headquarters area. Lots of stuff showed up to the lights! We also had around 8 stations, so we could stay a bit apart while we mothed. I got to do a little camping as well (which, I need to do this more often...).
We explored Matador again on May 30th -- most of the exploration was solo. This was a bit different than some of the gatherings of the past where we went out as small groups or so. We gathered again at noon at the campsite for some lunch and conversation.
In the evening, we cooked up some hot dogs (tradition, I suppose) and conversed about the afternoon findings. We blacklighted closer to the river this night to see if some different insects would show up.

In the morning, some of us went up to Gene Howe WMA. This was a relatively unexplored spot on iNaturalist, so it'll be nice to see some observations get added here! We 'gathered' at noon and then again in the evening to do some blacklighting close to headquarters. The panhandle has a bit of wind during the day, but it really does die down after sunset. So many cool insects showed up at the blacklights.

I hope that one of the big products that this trip accomplishes is some digital vouchers for the biodiversity at these spots. I hope that others recognize that these wildlife management areas are refuges for countless species -- the management practices there provide just the habitat that all of these organisms need. Through this bioblitz/gathering, we'll help with the ever growing species guide to the specific areas. We've got loads to still upload, but it's impressive so far:
Species at Matador WMA
Species at Gene Howe WMA
Hopefully we'll all get our observations up in a few weeks... hint hint. ;)

Throughout this whole time, I so enjoyed engaging with both nature and with my fellow naturalists. I think that's exactly what iNaturalist does to us. We learn more about nature, we seek it out, we document it, find new stuff, etc... but we also engage with each other. Sometimes, as in this case, it was a physical engagement with each other (except at a little bit of a distance), but it also happens online when we see what nature others see. That's a wonderful thing, and man, does it make me happy. :) We greatly missed those of you that weren't able to join us, but please know that you were there in spirit!

Next early spring, let's think about west TX!!! :) We had some fun discussion about Elephant Mountain WMA and Big Bend Ranch State Park, and there are some really nice Nature Conservancy spots there too. If we do West TX, we'd probably gather around mid April (dates TBD, of course).

iNaturalist is a tool of engagement! :)

Posted by sambiology sambiology, June 03, 2020 22:04

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I want to come next time!!!!

Sounds like a great trip!

Posted by lseman 2 months ago (Flag)
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@sambiology thank you for putting all of this together, it was a lot of fun. Also, so nice to meet everyone else and finally put some faces + names together.

Posted by pynklynx 2 months ago (Flag)
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Two weeks!? [panicked voice] 😱

Posted by annikaml 2 months ago (Flag)
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It was so great meeting you all! The BioBlitz was super fun. I've finally finished uploading the photos I took while you were here, but I'll be taking more all the time. Thank you for introducing the app to me, it'll be a fabulous way to learn!

Posted by amarely 2 months ago (Flag)
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After an extra couple of days in the Panhandle, I'm just getting home. Nothing like having 3250 images on my SD card to inspire me to...uh, er, quit iNat? ;-) I'm glad to see I have only 65 notifications to sift through on iNat!

Posted by gcwarbler 2 months ago (Flag)
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I'm jealous of all the nice Bups you all got up there--Acmaeodera obtusa AND Texana?! The observations have tempted me to take a trip out there myself next year

Posted by tuftedparidae 2 months ago (Flag)
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@sambiology It is a bit of a scattered WMA system, but has there ever been a blitz on the Las Palomas system? So many diverse units down there, and many are really small and relatively easy to access. Zach and I were wondering that on our drive home. Big Bend or somewhere in west TX would be pretty awesome, as well.

I'm not quite up there with @gcwarbler, but I did wind up with 2095 images to sort through. I hope to get them all done and uploaded in the next few days.

Posted by beschwar 2 months ago (Flag)
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I'm so sad I missed it this year. I would love to join you all next year if the timing works out for me.

Posted by zdufran 2 months ago (Flag)
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Thanks for the update. I live near the Haggerman NWR. Next time you plan to go, I hope to hear about it. It sounds like lots of fun!

Posted by greenfoot 2 months ago (Flag)
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glad you had fun!

Posted by madisong 2 months ago (Flag)
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So, I've got everything up except the black lighting observations. I intentionally didn't take many of those, so it shouldn't take me long to finish up and get those up. I'll probably end up with around 1,000 observations give or take. If anyone is interested in the plant highlights, I put together a little journal post: https://www.inaturalist.org/journal/nathantaylor/37016-plant-highlights-from-the-trip-to-matador-wma-and-gene-howe-wma

Posted by nathantaylor 2 months ago (Flag)
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Sam I just finished with the official observations upload for both locations. I still have some before and after to do. Really enjoyed myself on this trip, meeting some new folks and reacquainting with old friends. Thanks for the effort!

I'm looking forward to West Texas!

Posted by mikef451 2 months ago (Flag)
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I have one more batch to process for Lake Marvin and will be done after that. Ooof...

@gcwarbler - I finished uploading all the moths from Lake Marvin. There are a couple Cisthene moths in there. One was unusually pale.

Posted by beschwar 2 months ago (Flag)

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