How to handle repeat species

I am interested to know how people handle taking pictures of species they have seen before. Personally if I’ve seen a common species before in a certain area, I won’t take a picture of it. I don’t think it would be valuable to have 100 pictures of Canadian geese all from the same park, for example. However, if I go to a new area and see Canadian geese, I would take a picture since it may not be documented from that area.

The exception to this is insects, since there are so many look-alike species with overlapping ranges that you may not know its a different species at first glance. I’m not sure if I’m going about this the right way however, what are your thoughts?


You can do whatever you want about “repeat” species! That’s the good side of not knowing what future researchers will want – leaves us free to do what we want. Your approach certainly sounds reasonable. Other plans are good, too.

I personally – well, I use too many approaches to summarize quickly. Repeat photos of species A at location X allows me to document when A disappears from X – true, but also a good rationalization for taking lots of photos of A. Also, repeat photos show seasonal changes and individual variation. When I visit a location, I often try to photo one individual of each species. Sometimes I photo only ones of interest to me, or views that will make particularly good photos. I repeatedly photo birds at my feeder, sometimes even the same individual. For some species that are hard to photo well, I rarely choose to take the time. Some are so common I hardly notice them and rarely photo them – e.g. Douglas-fir, which I view as just an obstacle to walk around so I can find the plants.

Have fun! That’s the main thing, and with all of us taking photos, useful data will be produced.


Like Barbara said… in the end just do what you feel happy with… you never know what might be useful for a researcher interested in a species you observed (or a place).

I found an exchange interesteing I had with hosts of a german beetle recording site. At one point I asked them exactly that - “How useful is it, if I post the same species over and over again from exactly the same spot (assuming I know it is this species already).”
They replied that it would always be usefull to report species if they have been seen on different days, as they calculate the phenograms (seasonality) of this species from that data… which is also a feature one can access here on iNat.

In many arthropods it is also helpful for getting a sense of variability.

So yes, multiple observations of one species in one spot might be helpful.

I myself do have some favourites, that might also change over time… I do photograph them almost any time I see them … like right now a certain kind of spider that is super comon, exotic to me as a foreigner but super pretty and photogenic. It is commonly observed on iNat (about 550 observations now), but not as common as could be… on my last hikes I found them about 20 times and only photographed half of them… maybe the many observations can also give a sense of abundance… if not, I still had fun observing them :-)

Other species are super common and around almost always (like many flies), but I just rarely take a photo, as they do not interest me that much and they seem to be rarely IDed here anyways.


Honestly I go back and forth! As @sedgequeen mentioned, we don’t know what will be valuable to researchers, so trying to predict is as likely to be limiting as helpful. And I think there’s value in recording habitual visitors to or residents of an area in part because it makes it clear to an outside observer that the organism is not only present, but abundant. There’s a difference between seeing a deer in town once and having a robust urban deer population, but if the only iNatter in town (we’re being hypothetical here) only posts one photo of a deer because they seem too common to bother with, a researcher might draw the former, incorrect conclusion.

Now, there’s obviously a limit to this, especially when it comes to things like plants. I only photograph one common yarrow per outing, and probably wouldn’t post others from the same area unless I had a really compelling reason. Like the other folks in the thread have said, it’s ultimately about what feels right to you. iNat serves serious purposes, but it’s also for fun, and if it starts to feel like a chore I think it’s totally within your rights to adjust the way you use it until you’re enjoying yourself again.


What species of spider is it?

I also tend not to photo Canada Geese every time i see them unless it’s some new location where I haven’t seen them before. Roadrunners are always fun to see but I don’t bother shooting them either because I could get repeat pics almost every day. But if they are new to you, you should get pics. It’s a personal choice what you decide is record-worthy.


Of course 100 geese from the same park is valuable info, especially if you can map them correctly to the spots they were at.


It´s one from South America… As soon as I descent a bit from Bogotá I find them almost anywhere :-)


Personally, I think repeat species observations are fine, including repeat observations of the same individual at different times. I’m big on tracking phenology, so I do a lot of that. First/last time I’ve seen some butterfly that year, or when and where what things were blooming is useful info for me, and I would hope by extension also for others.


It all comes down to what you feel like doing - my mantra is “every data point is useful to someone for something eventually”. So it just comes down to what I feel like doing on any given particular day. Sometimes I’ll try to take one observation of every species I see. Sometimes I’ll take 37 observations of the same species on one walk just because it appeals to me that day.

As far as usefulness goes though, taking 1 observation per day of a common species in the area could be very handy info - it shows the progression of plant life stages, for instance, or when a migratory bird species leaves the area.


Repeat observations are very useful. Since my current emphasis is on arthropods I try to get at least one shot of every species I see during an outing even if I saw it the day before in the same spot. If I was more of a birder I would even do that for Canada geese. I’ve become even more assiduous about this since becoming more aware of the phonograms that @Ajott mentioned.

As far as I’m concerned the only real limit to repeat observations should be your time and interest.


I photograph the same species on different days. I focus (not exclusively) on pollinators and want to contribute to knowledge of flight times.

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Identification frequency influences our uploads.

We have 42 observations of Brown-belted Bumblebee and will record more observations when we see them. Why? 1) We like them. 2) Looking for Bumble Bee species is fun for us. 3) People ID them. If no one ID’d them, then we might not upload more.

We have uploaded 17 Grass Veneers but only 3 have been ID’s so we are not uploading them as fast.

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Appreciate all of the responses given so far! They gave me some food for thought that I hadn’t considered before. I was worrying that by posting 100’s of pictures of the same species it might “waste time” of researchers having to ID them all when they could be IDing more uncommon species.

I guess there is no best strategy as everyone has said! Each inatter having their own technique is kind of like an ecosystem in a way.


I make a fair number of observations of Western Fence Lizards, but not every one I see. But, then, I see them so many times a day. They are like little escorts or an advance guard skittering in front of me when ever I’m outside. If they were not so very quick and nimble, I would fear stepping on them.


Actually many of the ID’s for common species are done by keen amateurs. You might want to try it yourself :wink:


I actually do ID some of the really common species from my area like western honey bees, monarchs, asian lady beetles, etc!


For taxons I’m fond of like Alkali Heliotrope (Heliotropium curassavicum), I take multiple observations in the same location if they differ in their microclimate. For example, bottom of canyon vs. top of canyon. I guess it depends on how broadly the same location is defined?

However, I’m not sure that following proper surveying rules (which would need definition and agreement) would make a difference in the data quality given topics:

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@teellbee has done quite a few identifications. It would be great if everyone would!


My personal rule, when I go hiking is that I will try to document every species I see at least once. More if I favor it. Even if I have seen it before, I didn’t see it on that day! It helps that I don’t hike the same path very often anymore. When I do return I may photograph less, just what stands out or if a plant in a different stage (e.g. flowering vs. in seed).