Thousands of people embraced the Western New York Hiking Challenge during the pandemic. Now a new challenge aims to enhance it.

The Buffalo Audubon Society Nature Challenge is teaching people about the plants and animals they interact with while hiking.

As baby bluebirds sit in their nest at the Beaver Meadow Audubon Center, the trails around the area are a part of the Western New York Hiking Challenge.

Executive Director Ed Sirriano, along with the organizer of the Hiking Challenge, Mike Radomski, noticed they kept getting the same question.

“Hundreds and hundreds of people walking here and enjoying the outdoors and people are like what’s that tree, what birds are here, what other kinds of animal and  wildlife can we see?” Sirriano said.

Together, they came up with the Nature Challenge. It will help people learn more about the outdoors. You’ll get tools to identify trees, flowers, insects, birds and more. Take a picture and upload it to the submission page on the Outside Chronicles website.

“Upload them just like you would to outside chronicles and you will get a patch from Buffalo Audubon saying you completed that challenge,” Sirriano said.

There are six categories in total, and if you complete all six, you get a patch that shows you completed them all.

Sirriano suggests people use the app call I-Naturalist, which helps people identify what they’re looking at by uploading a picture of trees, leaves and more.

“Ultimately once you learned that, you won’t need the phone anymore,” he said. “Ultimately you’ll know oh that’s a yellow birch, that’s a white-tailed deer, not just a deer.”

It costs $20 to register, but you don’t have to register for the Hiking Challenge to participate in the Nature Challenge. All money goes back to the Audubon Society and supports their work.