Repeat Observations - same species over the year

I checked, and I don’t see quite this question raised before.

I have Ring cameras that record automatically at the same location. From the videos, I can get still images and also sound recordings. Bird and mammal populations obviously change over the course of the year. I have not made a habit of posting observations of species I have posted before, especially those that appear regularly (possibly even the same individual). For instance, I saw bluebirds this week, haven’t seen them since the summer. I see a Carolina wren regularly - it was a summer resident, but obviously is a winter resident, too. I never saw slate juncos, chickadees or titmice at that location in summer, but they are here now. Some of the summer regulars, like song sparrow, are not appearing. All summer I watched two does with their fawns, which of course grew over the course of the summer. I know it was two, because one had twins. I also get interesting recordings of a variety of bird vocalizations.

Is it useful to post observations like this once a week or once a month, to track changes in behavior or population over the seasons? I would assume it is, but I don’t know if there are better places to report this kind of thing.



Someone who does research can probably speak to this better than I can but I think giving observational information over time is very important. Longitudinal studies can give so much more dimensional information than just a single observation. If one just has a check list of what they saw and then moves on to the next thing, that is their choice but it does not give as much information to the observer or those reviewing that observation. I think some of your suggestions over why are spot on.


Every specimen can be observed once a day and species can be observed as many times as you wish, you can upload as many recordings from cameras as you find useful. I know some will disagree, but posting one taxon only one time sounds extremely boring, all your observations are useful as long as they’re idable.


Any observation posted here will bring some sort of merit for some people (provided the photo/audio is clear enough to be IDable). I would imagine that scientists who use iNat for data collection would like to gather information both spatial and temporal data for a certain taxon. For example, such data can be used to track the spread of an invasive species. At the end of the day, it is the user’s choice to post what they want to post.


The study of how organisms vary through seasons is called phenology, and inaturalist data is perfect for such a purpose. Can tell us when plants are flowering, fruiting and dormant. Can tell us when migrating birds and mammals move back into the area. Don’t be shy about posting whatever you can!

One recent study on iNaturalist users implied that most users only post a species once, and noted it as a potential weakness and source of bias for the data.

For my work, I am very interested in the distribution of giant clams throughout the world, including the common, widespread species like Tridacna crocea and T. maxima. Most divers on Indo-Pacific reefs have seen these species, but if they only posted them once I might miss the different phenotypes of these species that seem to be present in different regions.


I think it’s great to post these species with some regularity, so show when they’re still there and thus, by implication, when they leave. Post these organisms as often as you want!


Yes!!! It is so frustrating trying to research plants, because even for common ones, most of the information to be found is range data, e.g. the USDA Plants Database page for Achlys triphylla. Not much here other than a picture of what it looks like and the states/provinces where it occurs. The ITIS page for the same taxon will give you the full taxonomic tree, but nothing else about it. Calfora, again, just gives localities and pictures of what it looks like.

Want to know about its life history, natural history, and ecological interactions? Nothing. Google Scholar is a little better; but even that is mostly phytochemistry. I have looked for information on other plants, and not even found as much on life history, natural history, and ecology as for this taxon. And I’m not talking about rare plants, either. We know more about the life histories of weeds we’re trying to kill than about those of even common native plants.

Why should iNaturalist be just a duplicate of USDA, Calflora, or Jepson, i.e., yet another repository of locality points and pictures of what it looks like? If you can show its phenology through the year, or several years; or pollinator activity; or seed dispersal; or some other aspect of life history, natural history, or ecological niche, that adds a layer of usefulness that those other sites do not have.


In order to study seasonal changes a good time-series dataset is required. Having a subset of observations of the same individual or group of individuals observed at the same location could be very helpful.
It would be useful to include a note indicating that this is the same species/individual at a given location.
Perhaps this is an opportunity to discuss which iNat observationFields could be populated to facilitate use of the dataset?
Are there specific DwC terms that should be recommended to identify the subject ‘organism’?

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My guess is that iNat data will prove particularly useful as climate change accelerates in the coming centuries. What will happen to ranges of common species as the climate changes? Do the ranges of, say, cool-climate plants “move” northward or uphill? Will the suite of plants that inhabit only the dried-out edges of lakes and ponds cope with increased precipitation? (I’m thinking particularly of coastal plain pond plants in New England here.) Trees slowly “moved” north after the glaciers retreated; birds are “moving” north as humans transform the landscape (more carrion on roads for vultures, more planted berry shrubs and bird feeders for cardinals). I’ve had occasion to consult old floras of New England from a century ago and it was eye-opening to see what was common then vs. now (with the caveat that most of the changes in this case seemed to be resulting from habitat destruction or forest clearing with resulting regrowth, rather than outright climate change). So, iNat data may prove very useful in the future.

Usually, what I do when I make iNat observations is take one photo of each species at each site I visit on each day. I try to visit new places as much as I can, but occasionally I go back to a spot I’ve been before. My overall aim, if I can say I have one beyond enjoying myself, is to leave a snapshot of where the easy-to-photograph species were at this point in time, within an hour or two of my home. Will those data prove useful? Eh, I don’t really know.


If only I could share the optimism in the underlying assumptions of this!

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I’m only optimistic that life will survive in some form, not that humans will have an easy time of it in the next couple of centuries. But, assuming humans survive in any numbers and that there are still scientists, I bet those scientists will be curious about how and why things changed, if only so they can try to understand their current landscape and make predictions about their near future.

Or have I completely mis-interpreted your comment?


No, spot on.

For iNat data to still be accessible more than just a few humans will have to survive though, civilisation will have to survive.

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I doubt civilization will go anywhere in a couple of centuries.

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Sob. For Cape Town’s fynbos neither is an option. We are already, way down South, next stop Antarctica. Uphill is Table Mountain which already has its ‘happy’ plants. Cape Town will become two islands, the City and the Deep South.


Agreed. Alas.

Thank you, all. I haven’t posted much recently, but I have a nice archive of date-and-time stamped videos from which I can take stills and sometimes sound recordings. Birds and mammals, in my case. Since I’m slightly disabled, my Ring cameras do the “legwork.” I’ll catch up soon. I just read an article in a local paper saying that the Carolina wren, apparently living on my property, and my recent bluebird sightings would have been unusual in colder winters. So they are actually significant data points. Who knew?


Saw a robin in our hamlet today. No photo.