The Great Backyard BIOlympics

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics may have been postponed, but nature is still on! While we safely keep our physical distance, we can explore the nature in our own backyards and contribute to citizen science at the same time! 

June 6-7: Nature Decathlon Challenge

The Land Trust is teaming up with Toronto and Region Conservation Authority to host the Nature Decathlon Challenge!

The Nature Decathlon consists of 10 nature ‘sport’ challenges for you to do from your own backyard or neighbourhood.  Compete in one event, a few, or all of them!  Virtual medals will be given for each event, and for the overall Decathalon winner! You have all weekend to complete the challenges, and can download the full challenge package here.

1. Backyard Bird Bowl

Break out the binoculars and watch the birds in your backyard. Don’t have binoculars? Make your own kid-friendly craft bino’s!

2. Bumble Bee Bonanza

Buzz Buzz! Did you know that there are over 350 species of bees in the GTA? Get to know some of the bumble bees that pollinate plants in our neighbourhoods.

3. Invasive Species Art-chery

Show off your art skills, become familiar with some of your local invading species!

4. Freestyle Insect ID

Creeping, crawling, swimming and flying – bugs use lots of different ways to get around. Get up close and personal with some of our multi-legged friends.

5. Chipmunk Challenge

Chipmunks and squirrels do some funny things when they think we aren’t watching. Get creative with a story about them.

6. Tree-athlon

Bark. Twigs. Flowers. Leaves. There are so many parts of a tree, and just as many ways to identify them. Get up close and personal with your friendly neighbourhood trees.

7. Shrub Shuffle

Shrubs provide habitat for lots of wildlife! Keep an eye out for bird nests and flowers which may attract pollinators!

8. Fishing for Flowers

Get out to appreciate some of Ontario’s beautiful native wildflowers! Hundreds of colorful flowers bloom every spring and summer in Ontario – which ones can you find in your neighborhood?

9. Dirt Diving

Many creatures live underground. Who are they?

10. Moth-a-thon

There are so many moths, most come out at night. Try some nighttime “mothing” and see which species you can find.

Enter the challenge below:

6 + 15 =

iNaturalist is a FREE smartphone app which lets you become a citizen scientist – at home and at our events. Take pictures of organisms, post them to iNat, and learn more about the species that surround us.

Unless otherwise indicated, submissions for the challenges will be through iNaturalist. Make sure to download the free app and join “The Great Backyard BIOlympics: Nature Decathlon” project to have your observations automatically entered into the challenges.

1. Backyard Bird Bowl

Break out the binoculars and watch the birds in your backyard. Don’t have binoculars? Make your own kid-friendly craft bino’s!

Your Goal: Discover which birds live in your backyard or neighbourhood.

How to:

  1. Spend at least 15 mins watching birds in your yard or neighbourhood, or watch throughout the day
  2. Identify the species you are seeing by using the Backyard Bird Checklist or Merlin app.
  3. Fill in the Backyard Bird Checklist (or create an eBird checklist) with what you’ve seen
  4. Send in your completed checklist to kstephens@oakridgesmoraine.org

Download the FREE app “Merlin” to help you figure out other species or visit “All About Birds” for information on feeding birds, birdwatching, and how to stop birds from flying into your windows.

2. Bumble Bee Bonanza

Buzz Buzz! Did you know that there are over 350 species of bees in the GTA? Get to know some of the bumble bees that pollinate plants in our neighbourhoods.

Your Goal: Submit as many bumble bee species as you can find to Bumble Bee Watch

How to:

  1. Spend some time watching the visitors to flowers for bumble bees
  2. If you spot bumble bees, snap photos of them. Make sure to get a shot of the face, as well as the patterns on the rest of the body (thorax & abdomen)
  3. Try to identify the bumble bee using the ID guide
  4. Using either the app, or the website (recommended), submit your sighting to Bumble Bee Watch
  5. Before noon on June 8th, send a screen capture of your submission to kstephens@oakridgesmoraine.org or post in the Facebook event

3. Invasive Species Art-chery

Show off your art skills, become familiar with some of your local invaders!

Your Goal: Draw your best impression of an invasive species you have seen in your neighbourhood

How to:

  1. Go for a walk in your backyard or neighbourhood
  2. Find an invasive species & submit it to iNaturalist
  3. Draw your best impression of the invasive species
  4. Submit your drawing to kstephens@oakridgesmoraine.org

4. Freestyle Insect ID

Creeping, crawling, swimming and flying – bugs use lots of different ways to get around. Get up close and personal with some of our multi-legged friends.

Your Goal: Find, take photos of, and identify with iNaturalist as many bugs as you can.

How to:

  1. Explore your backyard or neighbourhood – look on plants, fences, sidewalks and more
  2. Take pictures of the bugs you see
  3. Identify them with the help of iNaturalist and submit

Ask Yes/No questions using this dichotomous key to figure out which group of insects the critter you’ve found belongs to. 

Use BugGuide’s Clickable ID Guide: 

5. Chipmunk Challenge

Chipmunks and squirrels do some funny things when they think we aren’t watching. Get creative with a story about them.

Your Goal: Write your best backyard Chipmunk short story.

How to:

  1. Write a short story about the chipmunks in your backyard or neighbourhood. Maximum 2 pages or 700 words
  2. Send in your story to kstephens@oakridgesmoraine.org

6. Tree-athlon

Bark. Twigs. Flowers. Leaves. There are so many parts of a tree, and just as many ways to identify them. Get up close and personal with your friendly neighbourhood trees.

Your Goal: Identify at least 3 tree species in your neighbourhood.

How to:

  1. Go for a walk in your backyard or neighbourhood
  2. Take pictures of trees (more than 20’ tall, single stems)
  1. Identify them with the help of iNaturalist and submit

Find your location on the map, then refer to the list of species to see if the tree you’re looking at is a native species! https://www.ontario.ca/environment-and-energy/tree-atlas

7. Shrub Shuffle

Shrubs provide habitat for lots of wildlife! Keep an eye out for bird nests and flowers which may attract pollinators!

Your Goal: Identify as many shrubs as you see on a walk through your neighborhood.

How to:

  1. Go for a walk in your backyard or neighbourhood
  2. Take pictures of shrubs (less than 20’ tall, have multiple stems)
  1. Identify them with the help of iNaturalist and submit

8. Fishing for Flowers

Get out to appreciate some of Ontario’s beautiful native wildflowers! Hundreds of colorful flowers bloom every spring and summer in Ontario – which ones can you find in your neighborhood?

Your Goal: Identify as many flowers you can find in your neighbourhood that aren’t in a garden.

How to:

  1. Explore an area that isn’t a garden (park, lawn, forest edge)
  2. Take pictures of flowers that you see
  3. Identify them with the help of iNaturalist and submit

Get some help identifying flowers using these guides:

9. Dirt Diving

Many creatures live underground. Who are they?

Your Goal: Identify species in your neighbourhood that live underground.

How to:

  1. Explore to find signs of critters who live underground
  2. Take pictures of the critters or their holes & try to identify who lives there
  3. Identify them with the help of iNaturalist and submit

Use BugGuide’s Clickable ID Guide: 

10. Moth-a-thon

There are so many moths, most come out at night. Try some nighttime “mothing” and see which species you can find.

Your Goal: Capture (with a photo) as many moths as you can under a light at night.

How to:

  1. Leave an outdoor light on at night
  2. Take pictures of any moths that come to the light
  3. Identify them with the help of iNaturalist and submit

Check out some of the many moths that call Ontario home.

Past BIOlympics Challenges!

The Great Backyard BiOlympics – Speed Scavenger Hunt

Downloadable Scavenger Hunt!

How many items can you “collect” in one hour? Earn points for nature and earth friendly objects in your home and yards.

This work would not be possible without the generous support of our many funders

York Region
York Region
TD Friends of the Environment