How often to make observations of local organisms?

I’m brand-new to iNaturalist, but I’m really invested.

I have a colony of paper wasps living on my balcony. I see them literally every day when I go out to water my plants. Since it’s a different date, I know it counts as a different “encounter,” and therefore a separate observation, but I don’t want to spam iNat with constant observations of these wasps.

Is there a good guideline for how often I should document them? I was thinking maybe once a week or so.


I wouldn’t submit more than one/day, but other than that it is really up to you. Once a week seems fine. There are some previous threads about this that might be useful including this one:


For the wasps, they’re separate organisms - different than the day before. I wouldn’t see an issue posting more daily :man_shrugging:t3: it’ll probably annoy some people but oh well. It’s not like you’re posting a picture of the hive daily, it’s just whatever organism you’re encountering.

If it’s the actual nest you want to post, I’d limit it to when you notice changes and possibly linking back to the previous observations of it. Kinda like posting the same plant in your yard, only post if there’s something that’s changed.

iNaturalist is your page for your observations. Be as selfish as you want with it. Stop thinking about what others might like and enjoy the process of going out, taking pictures, and getting the up on the site. Maybe you’ll start to notice nuanced difference you didn’t see before


I have the same question and I’ve kind of answered it for myself, in a way? As with many gardens in North America these days, mine is overflowing with BMSBs (Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs). At first, I was fascinated, and made many observations. And I learned all about them, and it was a great learning journey. But then I lost interest. There were other things to document. (Although they’re still my most-observed species.) The question remained, though: if there are BMSBs, shouldn’t I document them to show they’re still proliferating? My answer to myself then was that there are SO MANY that my observations probably won’t matter one way or another. This is a well-documented invasive species. I really like @daturademon’s answer to this question. Thanks!!


Almost my exact experience with the Bow-Shaped Calligrapher!

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There’s not really any hard fast rule, photograph it as many times as you want! Personally, once I’ve photographed a species a few times I tend to just ignore it in the field to spend time looking for new species, unless its the only thing around to photograph.


Thanks for posting. I found the same with white-lined sphinx moth. I’m also new to this, and had never seen so many in this area before. I felt the plethora of them was worth noting as I had never even noticed one, let alone so many, before. Cheers & thanks to everyone for sharing knowledge, insights and pictures!


I personally consider daily fine tbh; I often do it when some of my favourite species are in season.


We don’t know what researchers will want from us. That really frees us up! Post what you want to.

For myself, I avoid photographing one individual more than once in a day, but otherwise I post a lot. I try to produce checklists of what’s in local parks by photographing every species in each park at least once over the years. Lots of things I photo every year, especially locally rare species. And squirrels at my bird feeder? Many, many times per season.


Of course, of course, of course, you’re all absolutely right and every observer is free to use iNat in their own particular way. That’s fine. But since I’ve recently started doing a whole lot more IDing, I’ve got a bit obsessive about the speed at which the Needs ID pile mounts up compared to the identifying resources (in other words, us) available.
If someone is knowingly and happily using iNat for reasons other than the desire to ID the organism they’ve encountered (because they’ve already had it IDed perhaps many times before and that is not the prime reason for their posting), that’s obviously absolutely fine and the data may well be precious in the future… but shouldn’t there be, couldn’t there be, a way to bypass the identification system so the time and effort of IDers can be focussed where it’s badly needed?

“shouldn’t there be, couldn’t there be, a way to bypass the identification system so the time and effort of IDers can be focused where it’s badly needed?”

I’m good enough at identifying many of the species I post that many of my observations could be allowed to bypass ID by others. I also do a lot of ID’s. Nonetheless I oppose this idea.

First, iNaturalist isn’t, in my opinion, primarily an identification service. It’s here to encourage people to interact with nature and to produce a large database of what’s where when for use by researchers. Multiple observations of common species can fulfill both these goals.

Second, this would create the two-tier, my-ID’s-count-more-than-yours system that we’ve repeatedly rejected.

Third, good though I am at IDing many species, I sometimes make mistakes even on those I know well. Maybe I am confused for a moment, maybe I click on the wrong button. I like somebody else to be there to catch the errors.

Fourth, who decides who doesn’t need a second ID for some of their observations to get to Research Grade? (I assume we’d be expected/allowed to keep some of our observations in “Needs ID.” No matter how good we are, none of us know them all.) Some people aren’t as good as they think they are and some (especially students who are required to use iNaturalist) will simply lie about their skills, so I don’t think we could have each poster evaluate whether his / her own observations should be exempt from further scrutiny.


You are, of course, absolutely right in all you say. It’s just that since I’ve been doing some serious IDing, I’ve had the growing feeling that, particularly in terms of numbers, iNat is pretty heavily weighted in favour of observers rather than identifiers. And in the long run, I fear the imbalance could compromise the functionality and quality of the site in such a way that some potentially committed observers may lose interest. Perhaps in the long term that doesn’t matter, others will come along, but it does seem a pity not to try and invent some way to preserve both “goat and cabbage” as we say in Italy.
You say…

But actually, as it’s currently designed, it sort of is, in that an ID is pretty much the only way an observation can reach a “stable state” where it no longer needs to be reviewed by every new IDer who passes that way… whether or not the observer’s prime interest in posting that observation is to get an ID. Unless new IDers can be found, this means the backlog is just going to grow and grow and grow and new observations are going to take ever longer to reach Research Grade (if they ever do) and leave the mainstream IDing process.

Not at all! It has absolutely nothing to do with quality, but exclusively with intent. Perhaps a sort of box to indicate: a) I’m posting because I want to know what I’ve just seen/heard so I’d really like an ID (default), or b) I’m posting for my own personal reasons and I’m not too bothered about getting an ID so let this go to the bottom of the stack.
Observation (b) would still be available to researchers and could still be reviewed by IDers if they have a particular reason, but priority could be given to IDing the observations of users whose primary motivation is in fact to get an ID (I’d imagine the vast majority).
Without any sort of quality connotation, there would simply be another stack: Casual (or similar), Needs ID and Other (obviously with a better title which doesn’t come to mind in this moment).
Re-reading this I’m not sure it makes much sense :thinking:, but precisely because iNat is not intended primarily as an identification service, perhaps some container/label other than “Needs ID” would be really useful. I’d certainly appreciate it, as at present, I personally avoid posting too many repeat observations of the same species/organism, precisely because I’m aware that each one of my observations will require the intervention of at least one other person to get it out of the Needs ID system.

Your suggestion about labeling the intent of the observation could have value. The default would have to be that it needs an ID because new people, who often do want ID’s, wouldn’t understand the labeling system. If observers could label their observations as “identification not a priority,” that would remove a majority of the observations from the queue, I think. Or remove them from the front of the queue. Probably most people do want ID’s, but a huge number of observations, probably the majority, are provided by people who know what species they are uploading. I still wouldn’t support this suggestion – I make too many mistakes and see other very good people making ID mistakes they didn’t recognize. However, this might avoid the elitist aspects of allowing people to opt out.

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This option pretty much already exists.

An uploader can tick “as good as can be” in the DQA and their observation will become Casual immediately with just their ID. It will not be in the default “Needs ID” pool.

Edit: Ticking “as good as can be” doesn’t have an effect until an observation has a community ID, so this wouldn’t work for observations with only the observer’s original ID (see @spiphany 's correction below). An observer could still check it so that their observation would drop out of Needs ID once it had received one other ID if they wanted.

For those using the mobile app, we don’t have that option. I see it when in web browser :man_shrugging:t3: maybe we should talk about getting that added in for app users. I’m on Android-- idk if it’s on Apple

On Android:


Thanks. Never knew I could tap it

No, it will not. The box “as good as can be” only has an effect once there is at least one other ID besides the observer’s. And it will only make an observation “casual” if the community ID is at family level or above; otherwise it will become “research grade” at tribe or genus or whatever.

So it should not be used as an option for indicating that one does not need an ID for one’s observation.


I’ve observed the same bird multiple times a day and I don’t see a problem with it. For me it usually depends on the time difference between photos. If I pass a bird and take a picture of it, and then on my way back it’s still there and I photograph it, that can be two separate observations for me. I also tend to have a couple observations when it’s a bird (or birds) i’m really excited about if it’s in a different tree or doing something different. I try not to spam though so usually I do 2 but sometimes up to 4 if it’s a group.
I use the same logic for bugs, but I feel like plants are iffy since they don’t move (as far as I’m aware).
I really like documenting individual organism over the span of multiple days, I don’t know why but I like it when I see an animal in it’s usual spot or up to it’s usual antics. Especially when I’m in a familiar place I like the famililarity of it, like passing the same 5 spawning suckers in a tiny creek to see the same mother kingfisher and the same family of sapsuckers. I’m often surprized by how unique individual animals can be, at an observatory I was volunteering at there was this juvenile grackle that the staff there had been trying to net for weeks, but it was so good at getting itself out of the nets that they never did (it got caught and escaped at least 2 times while I was there).

I went on a little side tangent there but in my opinion, it’s up to you how you do inat. Some people upload multiple observations of the same organism (within reason) while others don’t. But i’d imagine that consistent data like multiple observations of a colony, or a bird using the same nest in a following year is helpful to researchers (i think?).

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Ah, you’re right, it won’t drop it out of Needs ID without another ID on it to make community ID. My mistake - I’ll edit above.

That said, I do think it’s fair to use this for one’s own observations to say that they don’t need anymore ID input or take them out of the Needs ID pool, even if they aren’t at species level. If they go to RG at genus or whatever, that’s not a problem, assuming all the IDs were made accurately. I think the point of having the “Good as Can Be” box was to effectively say “this observation doesn’t need to be looked at by IDers anymore, even though it isn’t IDed to species.” It just can’t do this before there’s a CID.