Journal archives for February 2016

February 01, 2016

Why I Love iNaturalist

(I must tip my hat to http://www.inaturalist.org/journal/sambiology/3679)

I am very curious about the natural world around me. As my profile and my observation list bears out, there are a wide variety of creatures I am interested in. My level of interest in observing and photographing wildlife has fluctuated throughout my life, but it has always been there.

1. iNaturalist combines many great facets in a coherent way. It is a field guide, a fellow naturalist friend, an expert to consult, a photography forum, a place to learn, a place for tips, a place for constructive criticism and feedback, a place to explore taxonomy, a life list a place to held record species lists and range maps for others, a place to contribute to something bigger, etc.

2. It is broad. There are many great specialty sites like BugGuide, Mushroom Observer, and eBird. They fulfill a niche and do it well, but there is none that has the depth and broadness of iNaturalist.

3. iNaturalist is improving and getting better. I'm very thankful for this.

4. There is a great community of people on here, both experts and amateurs like me!

I'm very thankful for the people that have helped me learn and identify my observations on here. Thanks a lot! My lifelist is much better due to your help!

We need to get more people on to iNaturalist, especially in some of those areas that are under-represented. My town (Essex) and county (Essex County, Ontario) are under represented, in my opinion. We have a lot of bio-diversity, but not many observations here. Here is a letter to the editor I wrote in hopes that some more people would join a project I made to document the wildlife at Sadler's Pond here in the town of Essex, Ontario: https://twitter.com/ContraTweet/status/694098091209814017

Posted on February 01, 2016 10:05 AM by marknenadov marknenadov | 5 comments | Leave a comment

February 05, 2016

Tips for Making iNaturalist Observations

(these are a mix of things I do and things I *aspire* to do)

  • Finding people that you respect or who interest you on iNaturalist and study their observations. It's amazing how much you can learn about making observations by observing the observations of others (boy that's a tongue-twister).
  • Make sure your photo is cropped in closely to the subject. It makes it easier for others to help you identify it. Closely cropped photos usually look better and are almost always are easier to identify by. Basic, safe, useful cropping mechanisms are now built into Windows, available in free open source software, and are even available on smartphones! There are no excuses (except perhaps that the iNaturalist app doesn't let you crop :->)
  • Learning photography (especially lighting, lighting, lighting) is huge. Continue to study it!
  • A common mistake made on observations is entering a name in "place of observation", but not hitting enter. This will result in your observation not being attached to any particular location and will guarantee that it will go to "Research Level".
  • The vast majority of people making IDs are very friendly, don't be shy to ask them for help, even if it is via a private message. Most are very eager to help in whatever way they can.
  • Be patient. Even though your chance of getting an ID does decrease as the age of your sighting increases, you will receive random IDs as time goes on and people continue to search for unidentified stuff and new people join the site, etc.
  • There is a great mix of levels of expertise on here. So do be careful about assuming others are necessarily right. Many of them may have different areas of expertise or live in different areas and may not be familiar with the fauna and flora in your area.
  • On the flip side, be humble and willing to learn. Don't take disagreement or questioning as a personal attack!
  • If you are going to take the time to report your sightings, you might as well get them in as many projects as you can. Look for projects in which you can put add your sightings to. (If you see snails, snakes, spiders, ferns, dragonflies, or damselflies in Ontario, Canada, I've made projects for them, by the way)
  • Unless you have a strong reason not to, make sure that your iNaturalist settings allow others to add your observations to projects. This lets others do that work for you and it is also a great way to discover new projects.
  • Include as much contextual information as you can--magnification level, environment, habitat, etc.
  • The specificity of the identification you make (when you are not certain) can have ramifications on your liklyhood of getting an ID, but the choice isn't always clear. There is a good case to be made for erring on the less specific side. Some identifiers may be hesitant to pick the genus (when that's all they can vouch for) if you have nailed it to a species, since it will be essentially a vote against your ID. So in some cases they won't even chime in. Whereas if you just put the genus, they might be more eager to jump in. That said, on the flip side, we need to be bold and try to move identifications forward, and so there is also a strong case for going out on a limb and letting others correct you. You may learn more that way in many cases.
  • Don't be shy to make observations. There is no need to save your observations for the most significant things you find. For the most part, we are aggregating data for future use. Let the "future you" or someone else decide what is useful. You can always prune stuff later if you feel it is just "noise".

That's all for now from my limited and amateur perspective. I'd be interested to hear others chime in.

Posted on February 05, 2016 12:19 PM by marknenadov marknenadov | 2 comments | Leave a comment

February 17, 2016

Brunet Park & Ojibway Park Prairie

What can I say? I have an itch for spring! Today was an overcast day with temperatures sitting around 30F. It was cold, but not cold enough to prevent me from trying out my new (to me) DSLR camera. I made a very brief stop at Brunet Park in LaSalle, Ontario. I then took a somewhat longer hike on the prairie habitat at Ojibway Park in Windsor, Ontario. At Ojibway it drizzled (somewhere between snow and rain), though it never reached significant levels. I didn't see anything earth shattering, but it was an enjoyable day. So far I have added 1 new species to my life list, though the results are still coming in.

Posted on February 17, 2016 12:15 AM by marknenadov marknenadov | 11 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

February 18, 2016

2016 Goals

  • Reach 1000 species here on iNaturalist (started the year at 476, am now at 483...need another 517)
  • Learn my new DSLR camera--especially maximizing macro photography
  • Visit three local areas I have not yet visited in Spring/Summer (Maidstone Conservation Area, Ojibway Park's Spring Garden area, and Devonwood Conservation Area)
  • Find 10 new spider species
  • Get spider IDs that henceforth have seemed impossible--perhaps some microscopy (grass spiders, crab spiders, wolf spiders, etc.)
  • Find a fox snake and massasauga rattlesnake with @dwakefield in June
  • Find a spotted turtle
  • Find more leaf litter invertebrates (possibly through sifting or a berlese funnel)
  • Contribute some more "firsts" on the country, province, and state level to BugGuide
  • Get and use a sweep net
  • Learn to identify birds of prey and add 2 new species
  • 3 new Odonata (dragonfly/damselfly) species
  • 10 to Lepidoptera (moth/butterfly) species

Pie-In-The-Sky Goals

  • Find a Snowy Owl
  • Find a Piebald Deer at Ojibway Park
  • Prove that Cherry-Faced Meadowhawks exist in Essex County
  • Prove that Smooth Green Snakes still exist in Essex County
  • Get out to the South and/or West and find some animals!
  • Find all the spiders on Gerry Blagoev's Ojibway Checklist
  • Find all the dragonflies on Paul Pratt's Odonata of Essex County Checklist
Posted on February 18, 2016 09:28 AM by marknenadov marknenadov | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Devonwood Conservation Area

Though always within 20-30 minutes of where I live, Devonwood Conservation Area is a place I haven't really visited substantially. It's a nice little woodlot within the city of Windsor. I went there over my lunch break today. I heard a lot of birds, but for the most part only saw tracks, plants, fungi, and snow. It will be nice to check out this area in the heart of spring.

Posted on February 18, 2016 06:36 PM by marknenadov marknenadov | 15 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

February 20, 2016

Building an Enhanced Macro Setup

Starting off with my new (to me–it’s actually about 12 years old) Nikon D70S and a Sigma 17-70mm F2.8-4 DC Macro lens, I decided to try out extension tubes. I bought a set of three Fotodiox extension tubes for $15. The set includes 7mm, 14mm, and 28mm, stacking together for a total 48mm. Basically, the extension tubes sit between the camera and the lens.

The initial problem with this setup is that you (a) lose tons and tons of light, (b) lose the ability to autofocus, and (c) lose the ability to tweak your aperture.

My strategy for overcoming this had to be simple: reduce movement and increase light!

First, I rested the camera on a desk. Then I turned off the autofocus on both the camera and the lens. Then I zoomed the lens all the way in and positioned the object I’m photographing so that it is just under a inch away from the subject. Then I turned off the flash and figured out an external light source. Sometimes I used an overhead lamp. Sometimes I used the flashlight app on my phone. Sometimes I used both. I experimented pointing my phone light at different angles for different results and different shadow configurations. Then I manually focused and shot away!

I’m very happy with the result. I estimate that I get almost twice as much magnification with the $15 tubes! Objects that are in reality 1 cm appear in my images well over 20cm. What I lose is photo quality and I have to fuss with external lighting and obsessively remove movement.

I look forward to warmer weather and a chance to try this setup out on invertebrates. For various reasons, this setup is not very practical for field work. However, I’m hopeful that it will be very helpful in getting better macro photos of invertebrates.

Here are some links to some of my tests on Flickr:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/34157166@N08/25052690861/in/dateposted-public/
https://www.flickr.com/photos/34157166@N08/25145997045/
https://www.flickr.com/photos/34157166@N08/24507329764/in/dateposted-public/
https://www.flickr.com/photos/34157166@N08/25019766612/in/dateposted-public/

Posted on February 20, 2016 12:31 PM by marknenadov marknenadov | 0 comments | Leave a comment

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