Ideas for things to iNat in Winter in Central New York State (Finger Lakes Region)

I’m headed out this week to the Finger Lakes Region of Central New York State and am already thinking about what I might be able to iNat when it is dead winter and there’s snow and ice on the ground.

I’m bringing my trail cam to look for fauna, and I’m bringing a macro lens to look for slime molds/fungi underneath logs, but in the absence of most foliage, I’m trying to think of other things I could iNat.

Does anyone have suggestions?

Thanks!
-LJ aka @ocean_beach_goth

If you are looking under logs and already have a macro setup, then might as well document a few ants and springtails.

Or check basements of the buildings for weird bugs?

There will also be plenty of birds, but that is a different lens set-up.

Though I’m admittedly based out of Burlington, VT, which is more northeast than this region, I think I have some ideas for you.

Lichens and mosses are pretty reliably present, even in winter. Once you take a closer look at them, they’re actually quite diverse and fascinating organisms. They’ve also gotten me through a good portion of my iNaturalist streak so far, in the absence of anything else to observe or free time to find observable organisms.

There are also some arthropods out and about in the snow, like snowfleas (actually not even insects, but relatives called springtails). Some other species wander around on snow, but I’m not nearly as knowledgeable about them.

Failing those, there’s always the great indoors! A lot of “creepy crawlies” take refuge inside in winter, so if you’re so inclined, you may be able to find some.

Other than that, I’m not too sure at the moment. This iNat map might be worth checking out, though.

thank you! These are great ideas!

if snowfleas are anything like sandfleas, I’m already excited to try to find them. Thanks for the ideas!

The heat-generating skunk cabbage will be melting snow as it pokes up.

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Sandfleas are pretty different. They’re crustaceans while snowfleas are springtails (a class right nest to Insects)

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Winter is my favorite time for seeking out woody plants, actually. People will say that you need leaves to truly identify our eastern trees, shrubs and lianas, but this obviously isn’t true so long as you are familiar with other identifying characteristics (buds, bark, crown structure, etc.). Also, though it is substantially more difficult than identifying woody plants, many of last year’s herbaceous species are still visible above the snow, and some are certainly quite easy to identify (ostrich ferns, for instance). I live in New York east of the Finger Lakes and I don’t find that there is much less plant life to observe in the winter if you know what to look at.

Don’t forget about tracking if snow is present!

Here’s @thetorterra’s link but with date set to January/Feb. Looks like you have a choice of at least 329 species!
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?month=1,2&nelat=42.9456408&nelng=-76.24558869999998&place_id=any&subview=grid&swlat=42.3829761&swlng=-77.72774679999998&view=species

As you scroll down, right-click on the observations link of each species and “open in new tab” to see the context of how these species were observed during the winter months. Pretty interesting perspective! Thanks @thetorterra!

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Many evergreens (even garden evergreens) have evidence from interesting pathogen species on them such as fungal leaf spots that you can find easily in winter. You can find various pests such as the Hemlock woolly adelgid, or markings on last year’s leaves of azaleas from lace bugs. And some hollies will have leafminer tracks in them, which are really cool.

Anyone who has a box bush probably has Boxwood Mite and some distorted Brussel-sprout-like leaves from Box Sucker.

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winter tree ID isn’t too bad, look for some white pine, hemlock, paper birch, yellow birch, black cherry, eastern red cedar, red oak, etc. Those all can be identified pretty well in winter, sometimes from a moving vehicle (‘ethaning’) even. If there is bare ground you can also find some evergreen ferns and such. If there’s fresh snow try some snow tracking! For sure it’s a challenging time of year for iNaturalist observations.

Thanks to everyone for the great suggestions! I did a bit of everything- looking under logs, using the trail cam and macro lens, checking out trees and woody plants, and observing tracks in the snow- good times!! I’m grateful for all the great ideas.

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Glad to hear you had fun! Truly, there’s nothing like poking around in the woods when it comes to a good time.

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