By Thomas Loucks

As described below, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife division has a nature sightings database that is helping Park officials create Park-usage and stewardship guidelines, and Denver Audubon ( is participating in the planning process by feeding I-Naturalist sightings into the database.  More on that below, too.  Meanwhile, Denver Audubon has asked UWPC member/photographer Tom Loucks to assist by shadowing one of the Audubon Naturalists in periodically patrolling the Audubon property near Waterton Canyon and taking good DSLR photos of whatever observations that individual wishes to record (birds, mammals, insects, plants, amphibians, etc.).  The actual Audubon project on I-Naturalist is labelled, Denver Audubon Nature Center and Trails.

Tom reports that he’s using two DSLRs fitted with short-range and long-range zoom lenses to capture plants and animals.  Thus far, he hasn’t used a macro-lens but has found that enlarging flower images has sufficed to capture views of appropriate insects.  As of this writing (June 28th), there have been 114 observers recording sightings for Audubon (not including Tom), and 1046 observations recorded.

Presently, Denver Audubon is contemplating how it might best use the data being gathered.  The issue is, since the Audubon data is already being contributed to the Parks’ database, the most likely beneficiary of such data is Chatfield, and Chatfield is already receiving and massaging the data.

Denver Audubon employee Kate Hogan – Community Outreach Coordinator (and the one who conscripted Tom!) – reports that Colorado Parks & Wildlife currently collects all of the Audubon project data into the greater “State Parks Finder” project which helps to catalogue the wildlife and plant observations at all 41 state parks:

Colorado Parks has a Stewardship Planning Process which is specific to each of the State parks.  This process relates to a comprehensive biological resource management plan designed for each of the State parks.  The individual Park plans result from field surveys, background research, and research-grade sightings compiled from I-Naturalist (these are corroborated sightings which, once confirmed, are deemed worthy of being incorporated into the planning process).

How does all of that affect the photographer/hiker/park-user?  Setting aside the long range planning process, the current sightings also feed into a Guidebook section of I-Naturalist which can be called up for each park:  each of the Parks now has available a Park Animal and Plant Guides, on-line.  Tom has not personally tested the following, but reports from the Parks website:

  • Each park has its own set of guides for plants and animals that occur in that park;
  • A particular on-line guidebook can be refined by filtering colors and families (birds, mammals, grasses, butterflies).

To use the Park guides, go to the Guides section of the I-Naturalist website.  Then,

  • Type the name of the Park into the search bar, and select which guide you wish to use.
  • Click the menu icon on the side to access the species filters.
  • If one is accessing the Guides on-line, one will need to click “Green +” to add additional filters.

It’s a work in progress.  Tom has joined I-Naturalist and may have more to report as we move through the Summer into Fall.