Highest quality photos I've seen not get identified


I’ve been doing a lot of identifying lately, and I think this is the highest quality photos I’ve seen that haven’t gotten any IDs. It’s extra surprising that it’s birds, since those seem to get a lot of attention.

I don’t know why this one is hard, maybe it’s young? But I’d like to see this guy encouraged to spend more time here.

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I think the blue eye would throw some people off; threw me off. Birds Of The World suggests that this coloration is normal for immature Crows.


This one of mine remains un-identified. Thrushes are hard.


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That crow was only up for three days though!


Might have to do with arguments about crow taxonomy https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/news-about-crow-identification-in-the-pnw/8478

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One thing I’d like to point out is that a high quality photo does not guarantee a research grade observation. For the case of insects, specifically Lepidoptera (I guess this applies to insects and arachnids etc. in general? not sure), species ID can only be confirmed by genitalia dissection. Or sometimes, for the specific case for Abraxas sp. in Hong Kong, the pattern variance of the adults between the 3/4 species are so overlapping that its pretty much impossible to distinguish between species, but the caterpillars (at least for 2 species) are morphologically distinct. And then there is the case of the angle of the shot. Sometimes the photo may be good but the angle may not be the best one for ID’ing, eg. Uppersides of Lycaenidae vs undersides.


The same is true for plants. Someone can get a beautiful photo of an aster but not the right parts of it, making it unidentifiable to the species level. It’s too bad for beginners because we want to encourage them to keep posting. The primary reward that people get for posting is a positive identification and Research Grade. I think the best we can do in those cases is encouraging comments and some suggestions about what is needed to be able to i.d. a given species.


Yeah, each time I learn more about a specific group of plants and what diagnostic characters are useful, I get tripped up by the next group I learn about. If you don’t know what you’re looking at the best you can do is try to photograph everything, but even that won’t always be enough!

I definitely agree that the best thing we can do is promote more discussion, e.g. instead of passing over difficult or impossible observations we ID as low as possible and comment on what we would need to better characterize it. I think frequently there is an “I’ll leave this to a specialist and skip” mentality, especially when the observation is detailed enough that we think, maybe someone who really knows this group really could ID without X Y Z pieces of information.


I’ve been doing that recently, going through the observations of people who just joined and commenting on what useful photos / info they could add. Not a lot of them respond, but it’s lovely when they do.


I also do this when I’m adding IDs for people who clearly know what they’re doing, because then they can let me know when I’m doing it wrong!


in regards to a couple of comments, speaking as someone who benefits from identification suggestions

I absolutely am chasing that RG observation! :-)

But, I also highly value suggestions for higher taxon with a comment that says:
–photo doesn’t show X (so that next time, I try to get X)
–one can’t tell from any photo what lower taxon it might be

I monitor the RG species I’m getting (this motivates me to find new types of life specimens to observe - there are only so many Northern Cardinals one can count in one’s lifetime - if one lives in Minnesota, anyhow).

But I’m also keeping private lists of things and “Longlegged Sac Spider xx” counts for something in my private list. I know I can’t get to species level and I don’t mind. And I’m leaning to recognize broader groups of wildflowers like asters and mustard even if my photo doesn’t let me get to species within that group.

Also, every comment on one of my observations that helps me take a better photo next time is much appreciated. I now try to get underside of leaves, stem attachments, full shots of plants, etc. I’m just now understanding that there are basal leaves and stem leaves. It all helps me grow. And if I can’t identify that emerging plant or over-wintered seed head from a photo, then I’m motivated to catch it will it’s blooming.

Not everyone has the time or interest to comment on some of those ‘so-so’ photos and I know (from identifying over the winter) that there’s a good chance some people (who have posted an observation) will never read the comment nor act upon it.

But please know that I do. And I’m betting others do as well. I have felt so grateful to the good handful of people who are identifying - esp with details in the comments - my observations this spring. Don’t ever dismiss the value of the work you all do. Even if it doesn’t result in a RG observation. :-)


That wasn’t ided faster, because american Corvus is a complicated group with high hybrid %, not everyone is an expert in their range too. I don’t think anyone who ids birds would be surprised by blue eyes, that’s what I think any immature corvid shows. https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/35057633


That is totally me! I try to take as many angles of the different parts of the plant, but I always seem to forget one of them. Plants, they baffle me.


Welcome to the forum!

If you look at observations in areas that don’t have a lot of iNat users, or people familiar with the local species, (like here in Vietnam) you’ll find a lot of very high quality photos that don’t ever get any IDs.


I think we miss a lot of experts from Central Africa and SE Asia, there’re tons of observations that can be ided with knowledge of local fauna and flora.

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I’ve been learning about IDing wild Viola species in my area. Of only about a two dozen species, the following pieces of information might tell little to nothing by themselves:

  • Leaf shape and margin
  • Leaf and petal pubescence
  • Petal color
  • Stigma morphology

Things that end up being terribly important:

  • whether the plant has a stem
  • the shape of the 2mm petal hairs
  • whether the sepals are pointed

Which are all reasonably easy things to look for! But not my amateur first guess for sure.


I am very much an amateur, but I have found violets especially hard to identify. Do you know of any resources that help with violet IDs? Your comment was very helpful, and in the future hopefully I can look more at those things you specified. As of now I only know a few things about the differences between violet species in the East Coast.


I’m using this key, which works for New England. I’m not sure how much different the rest of the Atlantic coast is though. I’m very much an amateur, too :)


For these 30 species, some of the most important high-detail photos you can take may include:

  • where the flower’s attachment emerges (is there a stem it’s attached to, or is it “acaulescent”)
  • the interior of the flower, especially if you can get details of the central style/stigma
  • the sepals
  • tops of the leaves
  • undersides of the leaves and petioles
  • the spur
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Although this site is for Minnesota wildflowers, I find their info some of the easiest for me to follow in terms of distinguishing one type of plant from another similar type. I had already bookmarked their section on Violas (like you guys, love them but they’re hard for this neophyte to identify).

It looks like a lot of the violas are the same as in the New England list so it might work as a supplement resource.

@aisti - I’ve also bookmarked your key for future use. :-) I’m far from the Atlantic but I’ll use all the resources I can find!

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