September 15, 2021


Often when I am taking observations, the "where" is more important to me than the what.

Often when I am observing, I also don't know where I am. I don't have cellphone service, and so I don't have a GPS, so I just go by landmarks. A lot of times, that is really easy and obvious, especially with familiar places. Other times, it is more difficult. When I am out riding my bicycle, I seem to have a clear idea of where I am, but when I come back home---it can kind of be a blur. I try to take "landmarking" photos on the way. On my latest trip, I didn't even take them of the "County Line" markers, which would have been very helpful.

I often end up looking for incidental features of photos that I take, and then comparing them against Google Maps streetview photos. Scrolling up and down until I get the exact location...and then, after I have spent my time doing that, labeling it as a "Flowering Plant" and moving on. And often, finding the right location is not that important. Whether a dandelion was growing on Maple Lane or Oak Way doesn't really matter too much for this site's broad goals. And yet, in my own observations, I want to be very correct about where things go.

Posted on September 15, 2021 08:09 by mnharris mnharris | 1 observation | 0 comments | Leave a comment

August 30, 2021

My one year anniversary here

On September 1st, 2020, I moved to Corvallis. So I am close approaching my 1 year anniversary here.

A lot of the observations I have made of the same places have been because I could still observe them at different points throughout the year. But now that I have seen the entire yearly cycle, I will probably not observe the same places quite as much.

But even with that, there are a lot of parks with a few miles of me that I have only visited once or twice in the past 12 months. There is always more to see. There is probably about two dozen good observing locations within walking/biking/busing distance, so if I visit one of them once a week, that means I will on average visit most of them twice a year. It is August, and I am surprised that there are many places I haven't visited since last December, or at best since this March!

A lot of my plans to increase my circle of places I can visit have slowed down because of the Delta Variant. After some trips involving taking Greyhound/Amtrak in May-August, I have reconsidered whether I want to do that for a while. So as temperatures cool off, I am going to be focusing on bicycle trips.

Posted on August 30, 2021 08:32 by mnharris mnharris | 0 comments | Leave a comment

August 26, 2021

Kind of phoning it to be honest

Most of the trips I've made lately have been phoning it in, other than Eugene and Albany. Not a lot of new and different things apparent to me, the hot dry late summer has seemed to discourage a lot of activity.

It rained today, maybe I will see things, new and different.

Posted on August 26, 2021 08:38 by mnharris mnharris | 1 comment | Leave a comment

August 23, 2021

An important part of science

An important part of science is realizing that we can have reasonable reasons for believing things---and still be wrong.

Posted on August 23, 2021 07:43 by mnharris mnharris | 1 comment | Leave a comment

August 03, 2021

Symbolic goal for the year

Since a lot of my interest in biology is geography related, I have a goal I have been working on for a while in Oregon:

By the end of the year, I want to be in the top 10 of the leaderboards for 10 Oregon (*or, conditions permitting, Southwest Washington) counties. I know this is an arbitrary goal, since it is not like visiting a single corner of some county and photographing all the daisies in some city park is really going to wildly expand my biogeographical horizons. But, as with so many other things, it is a process related thing. It makes me think of going places I would not otherwise go.

Currently I am on the top 10 all-time leaderboards for Benton (#2), Linn (#3), Polk (#6) and Lincoln (#9) counties. I am about 100 observations out of place for Marion County. After that, I admit it gets pretty far-fetched for the time remaining in the year: the Portland area (Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington) would take several hundred observations for me to get in the top 10. Lane would require several hundred more, as well.

And obviously, as wildfire season and Covid-19 Delta variant become greater threats, I am not going to endanger myself and others chasing something like that...but I still do feel it is good to have goals driving me on.

Posted on August 03, 2021 08:07 by mnharris mnharris | 1 comment | Leave a comment

August 02, 2021

Places that slip through the cracks.

When I first moved to Corvallis, which happened on September 1st, 2020, I was so excited to be in a new place and I voraciously explored my first few days and weeks here. As I settled in, I picked out a few "favorite" places, as well as spending more time going outside of the city.

For that reason, there are key places that I went in my first few days here that I haven't been to for months.

A little bit about Corvallis, for those who aren't familiar with the area (Although the one person who usually reads this is, of course). Corvallis is between hills in the west and north, and the wetlands around the Willamette and Marys River to the east and south. More or less. Corvallis, like much of Oregon, is also between an oceanic and Mediterranean climate. Pine trees or oak woodlands! Anyway, despite the large amount of exploring I do, I have not been to the hills to the west since March, or possibly May depending on how we look at it, and I haven't been to the open oak woodlands on the hills to the north since November. And these places aren't hard to get to: they are literally like two linear miles from my home. But I haven't gone there, despite finding it in me to take 50 mile bicycle round trips.

Anyway, this Friday, I did go there, and it was interesting to see how different this place was, even though it was so close to me. Some of the plants I saw there were slightly different than along the river, and some were similar, but growing in a slightly different way. So it was nice to get that reframing of my surroundings.

Also, it underscores how much of an embarrassment of riches there is here. With one year here, there are many places I haven't gone at all, and many places I have only gone once or twice. Looking forward to seeing and doing more things! :)

Posted on August 02, 2021 09:24 by mnharris mnharris | 3 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

July 27, 2021

A kind of boring July.

...I thought I submitted this, I might have lost it?

Anyway, July has been a pretty boring month, observation wise. Not a lot of trips very far, at least not ones with a lot of observing. It has been really hot, and it has sapped my energy.

I am hoping to get more interesting things done in August.

Its also ironic that all through the dreary long Decembers here, I was waiting for these long hours of daylight. But now that they are here...well, I am too tired to do anything.

But even though most of my observing has been in a neighborhood park, I still feel I am learning a thing or two. Mostly about bees.

Posted on July 27, 2021 08:18 by mnharris mnharris | 2 comments | Leave a comment

July 23, 2021

Just linking this for reference

I think there are probably like three people who will stumble across this journal, at some point, but if anyone is interested, I have a YouTube playlist showing the different places I have gone in the area.

This puts some context into when and where I took many of my observations.

Posted on July 23, 2021 21:55 by mnharris mnharris | 0 comments | Leave a comment

July 20, 2021

Pretention ahead! Ahoy! There is no objective world that we view from an abstract, unbiased position of observer!

This is a post about a philosophical position I have, that might put me at variance with various other people in the naturalist communities.

I don't like editing my photos. For one thing, I am lazy, and editing photos takes a lot of time and clutter.

But I also have a philosophical reason for that. Sometimes I post pictures that are off-center, badly focused, in bad lights and angles...and I do all of that because I am recording not just an organism floating in an abstract space, I am recording my own experiences. My own interaction with the world is part of the story. For example, in this observation of an osprey, it was gliding overhead while I was walking and I barely got my camera out and zoomed. For some animals, I think this is especially important. My photos of Swallows often have them flitting around in a blurry mess near the edge of the picture, and that is a pretty good picture of how we encounter swallows.

Which I know for someone who is just encountering the picture out of context, it might not be clear why I post some pictures. Sometimes I've seen an animal a dozen times, but couldn't get a picture, so I take a picture, any blurry picture, to remind myself I did see it, and that it was difficult to catch it. Out of context, sometimes this looks like a blurry, irrelevant mess, but for me, each picture is part of a story.

To me, observing is a process, a record of my own interest, knowledge, technology, endurance...everything, a much as it is a record of "the world".

Posted on July 20, 2021 08:34 by mnharris mnharris | 1 observation | 1 comment | Leave a comment

June 25, 2021

It is hot out.

It is hot out. Really hot! :/

I live in Corvallis, Oregon, and the climate here is usually described as a cross between oceanic and Mediterranean: wet, cool winters and warm, dry summers. The summers don't usually start until July, and they are warm rather than hot. This weekend they are expected to go up to 39C on Saturday and 45C on Sunday--- the Sunday temperature would beat the all-time high temperature in Corvallis by 3C, and the June all-time high by 6C. I am planning to take the bus to the coast both days to avoid the worst of the heat (the good news is, the night time temperatures will still be "normally" hot). Next week looks hot, but not 40s hot, which is very dangerous to people---and also to wildlife.

So a very obvious fact of this, is that the observations that I, and others on here are making, are an important record of how climate change is effecting wild animals and plants. It seemed to me that the spring was very active, especially with insect activity, but now that summer is starting off so hot, it could have dire consequences across the ecosystem.

Also, of course, hot weather changes how I and others can observe. I will be at the cooler ocean, I hope, but obviously if I were here, it would change the level I could be out---I think a 15 minute walk at 40C is like an hour at 30C. An important thing to keep in mind when looking at the closeness of people's observations.

Posted on June 25, 2021 23:05 by mnharris mnharris | 4 comments | Leave a comment