Surprising things you have learned on iNaturalist / the forum

Oh man, the field guides - so much misery right there.


Not misery for me. I still have two bookcases full of field guides but, admittedly, I don’t look at them much anymore. But they were once my main sources of information when trying to learn and ID organisms in my area, right through my college days and during my first jobs in biology. I’d often have 2 or 3 different guides in my vehicle on field trips and a big clunky plant guide (which were several different paperback guides taped together) in my backpack…




Since joining iNaturalist, it really has broadened my understanding of nature in so many ways, and has led me to meet interesting people whom I would never have met otherwise!

In terms of deepening my understanding of nature - I recall my first impressions were that nature was more resilient in the area I live in than I had thought, with more native species living and surviving in the city itself, when before I had mistakenly though that the majority of weeds and geckos were non-native. Not the case!

The second deepening of understanding were the ecological structure and make-up of species in the natural vegetation of my region. I had already known that the fynbos were dominated by the protea, restio and erica plant families, but what I hadn’t quite understood until iNaturalist is that several other plant families could stake an almost equal claim to what makes up ‘fynbos’ - the daisy family, geranium family, the pea family, etc.

The other aspect was my deepened understanding of the quirks and habits of certain animals.

For example, I have found so far that the local chameleons like to hide out in the reed-like restios and are, ironically, easier to spot at night with a torch. Some local frogs bury themselves in the ground when it’s dry and only come out at night when it’s wetter.

The Spotted Eagle Owl tends to like to hang out in 5m-10m tall (so about the height of a giraffe, or three llamas end to end) alien trees or palms. Some bird species can be found in somewhat unlikely and surprising spots, such as the Barn Swallow and more often Rock Martins that I’ve observed at the coastal Sea Point promenade, or the Reed Cormorant I photographed in the middle of the Company Gardens.

I’ve discovered that at the office building which the company I work for recently moved to, if it is a cloudy day, I have a much higher chance of seeing the local peregrine falcon (and sometimes its mate) swoop past the building. I never tire of seeing them each time!


Learned by accident that while entering a subspecies observation you can accept the computer vision suggestion of genus and species then click in the box again and sometimes get a list of suggested subspecies. Sometimes. Can save a lot of typing when it works.


I still use mine. I’ll even break them out while doing IDs on iNat. There are observations at RG today which are there because I still refer to my field guides.


Doing IDs just now – choosing a taxon but not a location – I was surprised to learn how much salal (Gaultheria shallon) has been observed in Britain. That’s a Pacific Northwest native shrub.


8 posts were split to a new topic: Print vs. Digital Field Guides

I think besides improving my knowledge on certain taxa, I think there is one key takeaway that I can apply to my life in general: stopping to appreciate the world around me more.

I’ve observed almost 800 species since I started using inat about a year ago, most of which I had never even seen or heard of before. Its not that most of them are rare or anything, its that I had never stopped to appreciate or care about them until I started using inat. Before inat, I would just go “oh, thats a seagull” or “oh, thats a ladybug” and carry on. There is so, so much diversity that goes unnoticed by the average person. What I once thought of as “seagull” is actually 3-4 different species.

Its definitely opened my eyes to all the incredible organisms we share our planet with, even in areas that may seem devoid of life at first. You don’t need to visit some far flung corner of the world to make a cool discovery, it could just be in your backyard if you take the time to look.


Just how amazingly diverse insect life is even in urban areas! iNat got me interested in weird bugs (for whatever value of weird my brain feels that day).