Uploading photos with uncertain times

Back in 2005 and 2006 I spent several months in Papua New Guinea, and photographed a lot of birds, plus a smattering of other things. There are very few observations from PNG on iNat, and almost none from one area where I was, so I’d like to add these. However, many of these photos have no time stamps, or time stamps that are clearly wrong (keeping batteries charged and electronics working was a challenge in the rain forest), and so I’d be checking my old notes and guessing (with error of up to a month) when the photos were taken. If there is already a topic about this, I haven’t found it: How should I deal with observations with uncertainty in the time, but where I know the location within a few hundred meters? Thank you!


The same applies to scanned old slides. Please add with every observation a short summary of the problem and add approximate date in the description.


I have encountered a somewhat similar problem when attempting to upload old photos where I know the date and place but iNat is unable to load the photo because, as best I can determine, there is no “date taken” but rather “date modified” due to the photo being transferred from one computer to another and actually taken by my old film camera and having no date stamp.

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Those sound like special observations and I’m sure that there would be interest in having them recorded somewhere.

It’s a good question and I don’t have an answer per se – you should wait for iNaturalist admin on this. It’s perhaps worthy of a feature request (Make date range for observations, e.g. "circa 2005).

From what I can tell you can add observations without any date at all. These will be considered “casual” but at least other people will be able to see your photos and where they were taken. You could write the year and your estimate of the month or date in the notes and these may still be useful for someone in the future depending on what kind of research they are doing.

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If it’s only the time that’s wrong or uncertain, you can upload the image with no time of day, just a date. That’s totally fine and by the book.

If the date is also unknown (but guessable), there are a couple schools of thought. Some would prefer no date at all to one that’s a guess, but as said above, that makes the observation “casual”. You can also guess a date and explain in the description how far off it might be – but remember that Research Grade observations get exported to GBIF, where the date field doesn’t include these notes.

My opinion is that many museum specimens also only have approximate dates, but those get used for research anyway. And to a certain extent, researchers accessing GBIF data should understand that there is an inherent error rate and if it’s important to their research, they should check the original records on iNat (which will include the date notes). Others may feel differently.


Here are a couple of observations of mine where I had the same problem:

I used rounded-off dates plus text describing the level of inaccuracy.

i have come across this too. I personally don’t think date should be required to get research grade, at least beyond year. Yes it is useful for phenolgoy and migration and such, but it certainly doesn’t remove the value of the data to not remember exactly what date you saw it.


If you are going to guess at the date, at least mention that in the comments. Some species are only present at particular times in the year and it would be a big deal if they were found outside of that date range, so a very wrong date could be misleading. I’ve seen summer species being posted from the winter only to later find out the date was wrong.

If you know you observed it in June but just don’t remember which day in June, though, then it’s really not as big of a deal.


Thank you all! There seems to be some consensus that it is okay to upload observations with rounded dates, so long as the uncertainty is stated clearly in the notes. That is what I’ll do, and if anyone objects, I’ll send them here. ;)


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