Best of 2023 and looking forward to 2024

What is your best iNat memory/experience of 2023? What are your goals for 2024?

Happy Holidays!

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My favorite observations of 2023 weren’t necessarily the showiest of organisms, but they were three I really wanted to see. Browsing iNaturalist either alerted me to their existence or made me realize they could be found locally, and then I had a mission.

My very favorite was this terrifying larval tiger beetle from my front flower bed:

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/178308858

My next favorite was this juniper-specialist fungus from my back yard:

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/176460256

And then I saw this adorable but introduced woolcarder bee at the university where I work:

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/180698526

The moral of the story is you don’t have to go far from home to see some really amazing stuff, even if you don’t live in the tropics or near vast wildlands.

@egordon88 What were your favorite finds?

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There are so many memorable experiences I can not chose a favorite. My goals for 2024 however are the following:

  1. Reach 2,200 species.
    This I feel like would be fairly easy to acheive. I only need less than 400 lifers.

  2. Reach 65,000 identifications.
    This might be a little difficult but I feel like I can make it. I need close to 25,000 more ids.

  3. Reach 20,000 observations.
    This might be a little to ambitous but I think there is a chance I can make it. I observe around 5,000 obs a year so I would have to double that in 2024 to reach my goal.

  4. This takes nothing but commitment, an observation every day.
    My longest streak I think is like 3-4 months (don’t quote me on it) so it will take some work, but certainly in the realm of possibility.

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In 2023, I passed 13,000 observations on my account. Among that, I contributed to first identified living photographs of several species, which is always exciting …

Globemallow bee in New Mexico
Croton bee in New Mexico
Spring miner bee (visits Ribes, Rhus, and Salix mostly) in New Mexico

… and New Mexico first state records like this crane fly and this darkling beetle.

I passed 200,000 identifications for others including new determinations for several rare Penstemon in Mexico…

Observed 2009 and properly identified 2023
Observed 2019 with lots of back and forth discussion

…and continuing to find important records of wedge-shaped beetles.

Less conventionally, I used iNaturalist to plan 3 nature walks locally, organize a rescue for a local cactus with beautiful red flowers - they are not legally protected and going to be bulldozed for a solar farm next year, and talked about this community on a pollinator podcast.

In 2024, I want to reach 2,000 yard species and achieve more progress on my Ripiphorus research. I want to spend time in southern New Mexico, especially to photograph specialist bees like Ancylandrena larreae and this wedge-shaped beetle (expected but not yet documented in the state), and generally continue to explore the southwest with my camera when I’m not working or volunteering for the Xerces Society or gardening.

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6 posts were split to a new topic: Solar panels and nature

of my 4000 observations, near 3000 observations are from this year, and I loved making absolutely all of them! If I had to pick just 5 favourites, it would probably be these:

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/184630247
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/187176804
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/186900135
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/186354934
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/184635710
While they’re not the most interesting (I’ve made a few iNat-firsts), they’re still my favourites!

My goals for 2024 are mostly to hike more frequently, and to do so in different and more obscure locations! I have plans to visit a few lakes and hike farther into the mountains then I have before!

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Some of my highlights from this year -

An iNat first - the Marlborough Dark Snail

Red-chested Buttonquail, a very rare species!

The magnificent Hercules Moth!

No image on this one as I forgot my camera, but one of my bucket list species to see in the wild - the Rainbow Cale

Perhaps uninteresting for people in America, but the Laughing Gull is a very exciting vagrant here in Australia!

The Azure Kingfisher had eluded me for some time, so it was very exciting to finally see one!

Cute Leopard Blenny

Flyingfish in the jaws of a tern

Whitetip Reef Shark

A Nicobar Pigeon that appeared in Australia - of course, there has been heavy debate over whether this is a wild bird or an escapee, and afaik there has been no consensus yet. Still one of my favourite observations this year!

Day Octopus

Blue Button

Finally got a decent picture of a Blue-lined Surgeonfish

Quokka - need I say more?

An individual of the enigmatic “Green Island White-eye” - there is heavy debate over what species to which this population belongs, and whether or not they are hybrids. Most books I’ve read assign them to Ashy-bellied White-eye, so that’s what I identified my observation as

Winged Pocket Comb Jelly

A vagrant Nordmann’s Greenshank, appearing in the same location every shorebird migration season for four consecutive years

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So far I have gotten 3000 observations this year. It was a year I engaged with iNat a lot more than I had. My biggest day was Sept 1 when I got 146 observations. This was the first year I had access to a proper camera rather than clip-on lenses for my phone. I got some pictures I particularly enjoy of some avian dinosaurs
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/172061279
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/172061256
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/172061182
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/177233849
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/177250062
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/172960168
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/172959909

Another year of light trapping my heavily urbanized back alley. Highlights include my rarest observation with 6 others on the site
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/168234733
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/176054000

Some other incredible insect finds this year
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/169087067
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/181661978
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/178943917

I also got heavily into identifying the observations of others and identified over 20k observations this year. I may have a problem.

In the new year, I plan to start a science education page where iNat will undoubtedly feature heavily. I will also be traveling to Honduras for a research project where I’m sure I will run out of space to take pictures of new and exciting observations.

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Great finds!
I got kingfisher again when I clicked on blenny, though.

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Plants I’d never heard of, right here in my own neighborhood :
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/187632461
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/178048281
Thanks to the iNat identifiers and the CV/AI
Wish for 2024: Many happy hours in the field.
Happy New Year Y’All
Kim

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In 2023, I met more wonderful biological and botanical colleagues from different parts of the world, and I had the opportunity to exchange views with several of them; This is an extremely important function of the website for me - meeting new, interesting people who bring a lot of new content to my subject area…

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The thing that has probably made the most tremendous difference to my iNatting this year is the decision to purchase a proper camera. This was mainly motivated by a desire to take better bee photos, but also has proven useful for springtails and other small arthropods and has the added benefit of being able to take bird photos that are recognizable as birds rather than blurry blobs. For me, this has been transformative – it’s so much less of a struggle to photograph the sorts of organisms I am interested in. And I’m so much happier with the aesthetic quality of my photos.

This was only my second year using iNat, so lots of interesting discoveries, but here are some of my highlights:

Arthropods:
A bee species that is closely associated with salt-heavy ecosystems, Camptopoeum friesei. The local population is pretty isolated and much further north than the rest of the species’ range. They are beautiful, striking bees, so it was exciting to see them in person.

A solitary wasp, Leptochilus regulus, which is associated more with Mediterranean climates than central Germany. As far as I’ve been able to determine, this species has not been previously documented for the region. This was found in a meadow/weedy patch near a tram stop in the middle of town, so it absolutely is possible to make interesting finds even in urban areas.

The first (and second and third) iNat observations of a tiny violet-colored springtail, Stenacidia violacea (all still unconfirmed, but I don’t see what else they could be). And what is likely an undescribed Seira species, at the same site.

I was fascinated to watch a couple of courting jumping spiders, Aelurillus v-insignitus until we were sadly interrupted by other people wanting to use the footpath.

Plants:
Nothing extremely rare or unusual, but I found several locally established species which turned out to have interesting stories about how they had come to be there:
Gypsophila perfoliata
Grindelia squarrosa
Nonea lutea

I also had fun documenting white morphs of several flower species that are normally pink or blue, including Lamium maculatum (with a detailled photo comparison with its white cousin, Lamium album)

And although the photograph is rather inadequate due to the distance, I liked this Scrophularia growing on a tree stump in the middle of the river.

Edit: I forgot the “goals for 2024” part:

I’m not going to list specific organisms, though there are some I would really like to see. But I generally prefer to go out and see what I find rather than specifically searching for something and being disappointed. I want to do more exploring of some of the notable local ecosystems, e.g. the post-mining landscapes that have created habitats for halophilic organisms, but also the pockets of warmer climate in the wine region. So: more day and weekend trips is definitely a goal. This will likely require somewhat more planning than has been my habit: I’ve been rather spoiled by the generally excellent train networks in Germany, but as I discovered this past summer, many of the ecologically interesting local places are not well connected to public transit and require a bit more work to get to.

I am also long overdue for a trip back to Colorado. I have been putting it off for all sorts of reasons (difficult family dynamics, lack of mobility that comes from being a non-driver), but if I can figure out how to organize a trip that would allow for some good naturalizing opportunities, it is tempting. I was out in nature a lot as a kid, but in a much more casual way, so it would be interesting to go back and see what I find now, looking at things with new eyes.

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As I was intentionally trying to focus more on fungi this year, because I don’t know them as well, I ended up with a couple of exciting lifers, such as American dyeball and, after swimming out to a tiny karst island, flamingo chanterelle. One plant pathogen observation turned out not to be a fungus at all, but an insect, Meunieriella on-smilax which, although frequently observed, is still undescribed. And as seen in the comments on that observation, the host plant is the infrequently observed coral greenbriar, which I would have overlooked if it had not been pointed out.

For species-rich genera where I only have observations of one or two species, I would like to fill out more of the species. I also want to focus more on the underwater world, since that was why I chose my current camera in the first place.

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Seeing several zombie ants (dead carpenter ants infected with Ophiocordyceps unilateralis) and a huge amount of Dixie Reindeer Lichen while out looking for galls during fall gall week.
https://www.inaturalist.org/calendar/lappelbaum/2023/9/4

Second best was seeing a big gar lift its head out of the water and snap its jaws and seeing a dung beetle rolling dung while out looking for Limpkins. First goal for 2024 is to go back to this spot with kayaks this time and hopefully find the Limpkins and not just mussel shells strewn all over the place.
https://www.inaturalist.org/calendar/lappelbaum/2023/10/9 (not quite done posting all the plant obs)

Other goals are to do some longer/further road trips within Texas. So far plans are to go to Aransas NWR to see Whooping Cranes and to Del Rio to visit friends and see the total solar eclipse and of course do some iNating while I’m there.

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My favorite observations this past year
Ruby throated hummingbird (I know it’s a super common bird but we just moved in the fall to the house that belonged to my husband’s grandmother, she longed to see her Hummers but she could no longer have her feedeers up so they rarely came. I started planting native plants hoping I would attract the Hummers for her, unfortunately she passed away last January, and wouldn’t you know, this past summer we had Hummers visiting daily with only plants as feeders. )
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/194658737
Clasping Venus looking eyeglass, which I had never seen before in person and had only heard about. Was delighted to find it in my woods.
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/193694908

These two beetles which appeared because of the delightful smell of rotting carcasses of Asian jumping worms
Fancy Dung Beetle (not super common in this area)
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/178104274

Tomentose burying beetle
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/176701508

A new-to-me bumble bee, B. vagans
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/175633362

Leersia virginica, It was a delightful surprise to see the ecological memory of my creekside spring to life after removing the invasive English ivy.
3 types of sedges, some kind of rush and white grass :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/174024494

This beauty in my home country, Mermaid’s wine glass
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/169071474

This mantis fly which I found only by sheer coincidence
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/165411985

This naturally variegated smooth Solomon seal which I saved right before a well meaning family member destroyed that entire area where it and other amazing natives were growing.
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/155710486

And last but not least
Bloodroot that is growing wild in our woods
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/153528948

Next year’s goal, lofty as they may be, I’m looking forward to identifying or at least observing every single plant in our woods and the wildlife associated with them.

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Brava! for feeding hummers their healthy diet of plant nectar (not sugar water)

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oh oops!

try this one instead!

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I tried to narrow down to a representative top 10 of the 700+ species I recorded this year.

My main goal was reaching 1000+ in region species (total) this year which I did. Next I will focus on getting it to 1000+ in the local ecozone.

Top bird, is a common one I see all the time, but is a image I wanted to catch of a duck on the top of a tree, because people would ask about birds on trees in this area, and when I told them it sounded like a shelduck have doubt. So took this for example.

Paradise Shelduck on top of tree.

Top fish is also not uncommon, but this obs with it with a catch was a real surprise to me.

Olive rockfish with common triplefin

Top fungus

Ophiocordyceps quite large out of wasp.

Top harvestmen, it was a great year for spotting them, with my first trip to the Amazon really increasing my species count (Of many things), hard to choose a fave

This Obidosus carnaval was quite cute

Saw many cool frogs/toads but my fave is probably

These Variable Clown Tree Frogs

Top/onliest salamander

Ecuadorian Mushroomtongue Salamander

Top mosquito - thats a thing right?

A pretty Sabethes

Top spider

Have wanted to see a Brazilian Wandering Spider for many years

Top orchid

I think you can see why this is a “dancing” orchid

Fave non-orchid flower

Parkinson’s Rātā are one of my fave ratas, it was nice to see a couple in tree form.

Smallest in-focus-enough-ish creature

Some kind of Mixonomata? maybe just over a mm

Goals for 2024, get better at photos of super small creatures, and be the top spotter of species of harvestmen in whatever country I travel too (Though thats normally not hard, like in Colombia this year it was basically bound to happen).

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My best iNat experiences for 2023 both involve butterfly firsts for iNat. I was able to take a short trip to the Dominican Republic in May and when looking for birds at a high elevation site found this beauty of a skipper: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/161922949
This fall, I went on a three-person adventure in the southwestern-most canyon in New Mexico, where I live, and we found a first state record Hepburn’s Metalmark: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/187739281

Because New Mexico is a relatively unknown state biologically within the US, my goals for 2024 are the same as I’ve had pretty much since joining the iNaturalist community: to find and document as many NM taxa as I can. I’m especially happy when I can document a relatively common species in a local area where no other previous iNaturalist observations have been made - such as this Honey Mesquite: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/181714392 or
Hairy Woodpecker: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/195273754

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It’s so hard to pick just one, but the family of baby raccoons was the first one that came to mind! I had a lot of observations that excited me this year though, like my first snake observation, my first cicada shell, and crossing spotting a lace bug off my observation bucket list. Investigating a leaf-mine only to find the larva still inside was a real surprise as well!

:beetle: Make 1,500 observations (I’ve been hovering around 1,200 per year, so I’ll have to challenge myself!)

:beetle: Make 12,000 IDs

:beetle: Observe 600 Species

:beetle: Contribute 100 observations to my Organisms Found at Gas Stations project

:beetle: Possibly try to buy some more high quality equipment

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