Taking multiple pictures of nests all on the same building, should I have each nest be a separate observation or group them together?

I’m doing a little project where I am trying to see how many Cliff Swallow nests are where I live and I am wondering if I should be recording each individual nest as its own observation or do what I am doing now and grouping the nests in the same observation by which building they are located on ( I am taking pictures of all the different nests, just including them under the same observation). My worry with uploading the nests as all individual observations is I don’t want to flood the explore page with same-y pictures of nests. What do yall think?

unless you need to track them separately for your own purposes for some reason, i would just do one observation (and note how many nests you have in total). however, i think the offical guidance says you’re supposed to do one observation per individual (though that gets squishy in many cases).

note that a single observation has a limit of 20 photos.


Yeah, I’ll just keep doing one observation per building then and just put the number of nests I saw in the notes so I don’t flood inat with like 30 pictures of nests. Thank you for the input


The photo limit only applies when you first create the observation - once it’s up on the site you can add as many photos as you like. for example: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/212100659


this is something I only noticed recently, and maybe I’m going crazy, but I swear this has not always been the case. I remember in the past trying to eg add 4 photos to an observation with 17-18 photos already, and it not letting me


do you know when this was? i joined in may of last year and i’ve always been able to add more than 20 photos, as far as i can remember.

no recollection at all, sometime in the last couple of years

We added the 20 file (can be sounds, photos, or a combination thereof) limit in 2020, but it only applied to 20 at the time of upload. It looks like the intention was to also prevent more than 20 media files in an observation as well, but that didn’t get implemented.


thank goodness… i like being able to include lots of files!

That doesn’t mean it won’t be implemented. I personally think 20 photos are more than enough for just about any observation.


…and when I am identifying, if I don’t see any identifying features within 20 photos, I tend to conclude that I’m not going to see any, period.

Are there taxa that can only be identified by looking at more than 20 features that each require a separate photo?

you’re probably right. i just like to include all or most of the photos/audios i captured of an organism.

probably not… but what came to mind for me almost immediately was those hard-to-identify hybrid animals like coydogs/dogotes. while these probably don’t need more than 20 photos, the uploader may have a few photos that would be really helpful in identification, they just don’t know it, so they choose to exclude those photos from their observation. someone not as experienced with certain taxa may not realize that the files they’re withholding would actually help them reach an ID quicker, if at all.

obviously, this is the minority of observations on inat. but why not be able to upload more than 20 files? and if this restriction were put in place, what would happen to existing observations?

additionally, in the observation i linked above, you can see many photos of deer over a short period of time. i think observations like this may be useful in some cases to observe certain behaviors and patterns that couldn’t be portrayed with fewer files. does that need more than 20? again, probably not. but again, what’s the harm in it?

I think the potential “harm” - which I would term a “cost” myself - is that “someone” has to host the data/files in perpetuity. There’s a financial cost to this, as well as the cost of energy (fewer files = more sustainable). So while I can see that it’s possible that there could be a benefit to some observations in having >20 photos, it seems generally unlikely. At some point the cost outweighs the benefit, and 20 photos seems pretty reasonable as a cutoff to me. It will accommodate most users, but also prevent the upload of very large observations which are generally unlikely to have much benefit.

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I agree 20 maximum should suffice 99.9% of the time.

This is my reasoning for times when I include the full 20 (or in rare moments overstep) :

  • Taxa like Ichneumonidae will be extremely complex to key out and might involve 20 distinct features to work through the key
  • On upload you may not know the ID or features, so will be shooting blind in the hope someone with expertise will check at some point, so want to include as much detail as possible
  • Sometimes slight shifts in angle will confirm a feature does or does not exist which may be otherwise unclear, warranting very similar photos.
  • Rarer or more obscure observations with many photos are akin to having an actual specimen. Features may not be necessary now according to current keys but may be needed in future if a split in taxonomy occurs or an addition to a national species list occurs.
  • In rarer species extra photos may be helpful in terms of offering extra training data.

Personally, I also just really struggle with editting… neurodiversity in play perhaps.
But again, I agree 20 maximum should suffice 99.9% of the time.
And I don’t think uploading 40 photos of for example, a mallard, is ever helpful.

In terms of actual file-size for storage… I checked once an observation I had with lots of screenshots where an identifier expressed concern about this… vs a phone upload. The phone upload with 6 images was similar in size (500mb-1mb per photo) to the 20 screenshots (150kb per photo ). Phone uploads are likely a bigger cost in this regard - lower quality images and much heavier files ( in my workflow at least ). It’s not always as simple as “fewer files = more sustainable”.

As an identifier I think it’s rare that I come across observations with 20 or more images.
But if I do, they are probably users wishing to maximise detail and usefulness of the observation.
Casual phone uploads with 4-6 blurry unidentifiable images however, are abundant.
( not that they don’t also serve a purpose at times )

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