Identification/Verifiability of unrecognizable blurred dark images

It has been observed that several Images/Pictures of different Species/things have been/are being uploaded everyday which may have been captured far away from the object in the backlight by a Cellphone etc which are unrecognizable blurred dark images (e.g that of a flying bird etc). I can’t understand how these Pictures are identified on the basis of assumption only and get RG Status. Is it very important to upload millions of somehow taken pictures of whatever it may be, tons of pics of same very common species of an area or to become a top identifier of million species? Is that the objective of being a naturalist?

A lot of even badly lit, blurry pictures can get a qualified ID by skilled identifiers actually. That does not mean those IDs are made up.

The objective of this side is to connect people to nature, no matter what equipment they use. While some observers take pride in uploading only high quality observations, others might use it for example to keep track of everything they observe and any evidence will do. I see you are more the aesthethical observer with nice pictures of very charismatic species, which is great, congrats on your lovely pictures. But this is not a photo sharing site in the first place, even if I do enjoy such nice observations.
But motivations for observers are very different… as well as for IDers. It is totally fine to observe the most common species, even if they have been uploaded 1000s times before - those observations can still meet a valid purpose in science for example in studying intraspecific variation, seasonal patterns or behaviours… one never knows. In the very least they might be the key species for getting some more people into nature observations. Live and let live :slightly_smiling_face:


“Is that the objective of being a naturalist?”

Could be. We all learn about the world in different ways. Doesn’t hurt anyone.


Then its ok. But still I don’t believe that pics of a flying dark blurred tiny image of a bird etc (with so many almost exactly similar looking different species) can be identified exactly by anybody without any confusion. Anyways, it is not a question of taking pride. I personally am a below average very bad photographer but don’t like to shoot what can not be shot. Devices (whether its a phone or cam) doesn’t matter. Both can take pics if can be taken appropriately. It is a question to present something which is at least something. That will help a person like me (who is not at all an expert) to know and confirm id of species which I hv never seen. Identifying my unrecognizable picture by two friends of mine will not help anybody. But still, I hv no objections regarding this as per ur comments. Yes, live and let live.


As an educator, I’d also note that many of the people uploading to this site are newly engaging with nature. They have quite a learning curve ahead of them. For example, I’ve had discussions with people who were utterly shocked to learn that there is more than one species of “seagull”. I’ve also seen a few times where someone who started out uploading what some would consider “bad” images quickly improved their observation skills and became incredibly knowledgable, prolific uploaders. We’re all at different stages in our engagement with the natural world, and I actually kind of like how this site reflects that (despite occasionally being annoyed while trying to ID others’ observations).

As for the actual ID part… yeah some assumptions may be being made in certain cases. I can’t and won’t try to defend every identification made. From the uploader’s perspective though, without some prior knowledge it’s hard to know which blurry photos might be identifiable (e.g., I’ve seen some pretty terrible photos of pelicans which were nonetheless clearly identifiable) or not (e.g., a generic sparrow with no discernable markings). Only way to find out might be to upload and see what happens.


I know to be critical is not good but I believe critical reviews do help over unnecessary praises. Let me clarify a bit. I, being a mere observer, want to see an Indian Vulture but not a Slender-billed or Griffon (say). Now such confusing observations stating a vulture looking bird as an Indian Vulture doesn’t help me. Yes it doesn’t hurt me but makes me very much disappointed as I couldn’t know whether it was that in that region which I am looking for. But its ok. Millions of confusing un-reliable pics distracts me about the whole matter. But submitting Pics meeting at least a minimum standard (so as to help identifiers to identify correctly) is only my personal liking. As in my case few of my observations hv been rectified by experts which, I presume, they couldn’t do if I couldn’t upload a presentable pic.

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Thanks for ur comment. I wasn’t talking about ‘Bad’ images cause I myself capture images very badly. I was talking about ‘unrecognizable blurred dark images’. As u very correctly pointed out, is it possible to accept such confirmed image of a flying dark Gull, without any doubt, as a Black-headed and not a Brown-headed Gull. But its Ok. Criteria for a minimum standard anywhere is my personal opinion only.

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I think it is important to realise how many (probably most?) people start using iNaturalist:
They download the app on their phone, they take photos on their phone, and as the curious person they probably are they want to identify (or rather have identified) as many things as possible.
Now, phone cameras usually aren’t made for animal observation. They don’t have good enough optical zoom for observations of far-away things and you also usually cannot get close enough to objects for meaningful macro shots (though this is changing on newer phone). So you end up losing a lot of detail. But the species was so cool, they simply have to upload in the hope of finding out what it was. (I can’t and don’t want to blame anyone for that)
The time for acquiring expensive gear for most is usually after the iNat-addiction kicks in. :D

As for the identifiers: As I am obviously not an expert in every taxon (nor in any, for that matter), I cannot verify this myself, but I have the feeling the vast, vast majority of identifiers take their „job“ very seriously and don’t do overconfident IDs. In fact, it’s very common to see IDers correct the over-confident ID of the observer. Especially in taxa like birds with a lot of IDers therefore, the accuracy is quite high, I imagine. (Take a look at the iNat accuracy experiments as well)
Intentional false IDs (I recently saw one of a human being IDed as a donkey or something by their friends) are against the policy and should be flagged.

All in all, I agree with Ajott that even a very blurry image can hold enough information for taxon-experts to identify them.

P.S.: I took a look at your observations. Stop saying you’re a bad photographer. The images are absolutely beautiful! :)


Events like the recent City Nature Challenge lead to lots of observations such as you describe. People are competing to do as many observations as possible, so often the lighting is poor, the distance is too great, or they don’t take the time to ensure the photo is in focus.
I have added IDs to some pretty poor photos, which you might think were impossible. However groups of kids tend to travel around together taking photos, so often I have seen multiple photos of the exact same plant/insect/whatever. So I am adding IDs based on other photos I’ve seen which were much clearer. I feel a bit sorry for the kids with older, less fancy phones. They deserve to get IDs as much as the kids with the more expensive, newer phones, so if at all possible I will ID their blurry, grainy, dark, photos.


unrecognizable […] images

The main issue, I think, is that if you’re not an expert, you often can’t guess which images will lead to an identification. I’ve taken some “bad” photos (especially of birds) that are now research grade and, on the same day, I’ve tried to take very sharp pics of an insect from every possible angle just to read, coming home something like “that kind of bug? No dissection, no identification”.


I know its not a Photo sharing platform. I re-iterate- I wasn’t talking about ‘Bad’ images (good or bad r relative words). I was talking about ‘unrecognizable blurred dark images’. Anyways, I hope nobody will be distracted by un-identified junk files in future and more and more people will be involved in this outstanding platform.
P.S: Thanks a lot for ur compliments. I don’t know whether I deserve that, Only try to upload pics which I think are verifiable.

The sad part is that, I tried to check the matter with an ‘almost unrecognizable (to me) dark image’ suggesting an Id which goes near to one species out of more such similar species. That image got RG status. Next I uploaded the same image suggesting Id of another similar looking species. That also got RG Status. Eventually I deleted that observation so as to avoid any wrong suggestion to anybody. Thanks for ur comments. My objective is not to hurt anybody. My only concern was to ensure that such uploadings r necessary and will not lead to loss of attention by the identifiers and novice observers like me after going through several such images.


I agree, I think the first identification can influence some iders if they are not vigilant enough. That’s why it’s better to stay at genus/family level when we don’t know for sure, to avoid RG.

We shouldn’t be perfectionist either, to err is human. Some posts elsewhere suggest that iNat’s results are quite good.


If you find images that you find blurry and unrecognizable, you have several choices:

  • You can skip the observation.
  • You can query the observer/IDers (politely!) about what characteristics they used for their ID. Sometimes local knowledge can help users to interpret a photo that otherwise seems unidentifiable.
  • You can disagree with the species ID and suggest a higher level. You should only do this if you have reason to believe that there is not enough evidence to rule out other similar species in the area (not because you believe the photo is too bad to be ID’d on principle).

People don’t, as a rule, intentionally post bad photos. Many users have limited equipment, and new users in particular may not be aware of what is needed for ID or the difference between what they saw and what their phone captured. Sometimes people post observations as a personal record of what they saw, and this may be more important to them than whether others can ID the photo.


To prevent that happening - you can put the species in a comment - then they can’t just click Agree. They have to make a more thoughtful effort first. As an identifier, you need to make an ID where you are comfortable being supported to RG.

It is also difficult to ID an obs with one beautiful photo, which doesn’t show enough field marks.


So was I. The point is that what is unrecognisable to you or me may not be unrecognisable to taxon experts. I‘m sure that if you go to such an observation and ask the identifier directly what makes them think it’s species , they will usually provide you with a good answer.


Thanks for ur valuable comment. Personally I won’t suggest an Id to any of my pics unless and until I’m sure about it. I tried that instance as a check of whether anybody can do that and sadly noted that it can be done.


Now who are the experts? Suppose one of my friend uploaded such an image and suggested a wrong Id. I agreed to his/her observation blindly (as we put likes in FB etc hahaha). So the Image got verified. But am I an Expert? No. Is my verification of Id valid? No. I got anxious whether these pictures can be seen by real experts in the crowd of many pictures already verified by persons who are not experts.
P.S : Pl don’t think I do this. It was an example only. But although I know I’m a novice I like to believe that I’m an Expert. Hahaha.
Anyways, I got all of ur points and understood there is no harm in uploading anything. Everybody has due right to do that. The system will take care of it. Regards.


Thanks for your comments. Yes, I think if I can show the god-created creatures in their true beauty, more people will pay them the respect due to them. All the Birds and Animals species are charismatic if they can be presented rightly. Whether or not a site is for photo sharing, it is my principle. I don’t want to show them distorted anywhere. However, they are not only charismatic, a lot of them fall in CR and Endangered category. Regards.

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Give it time. You will also see specialists who do taxon sweeps - then errors can be retrieved and pushed back. One of the good things about iNat IDs being virtual is that they are ‘not carved in stone’. Taxonomy changes, new species emerge, someone (new) goes back and looks at that obs again … wait, that shows … so it must be …

PS 2012 … 2018 … first obs on iNat today - thanks to @ajott !