Visiting somone elses observation?

Is it appropriate to visit someone elses observation?

I recently found an observation of Neottia nidus-avis in my area and went to visit it because I was so excited of the possibility of seeing a plant I have never seen before let alone so near me… Im really unsure of if this was a good idea since the orchid is unlikely to be recovering in the area and ive now learnt is classified in the UK as “near threatened”.

I cant find anything discussing if iNaturalist condemns using it to find things outside of those that are endangered.

No harm came to the plant from me visiting it but still, is it acceptable to upload it as an observation?
I have uploaded it already since the flower spike seems to have fused with itself which I imagine is a very interesting occurence in orchids.
Happy to delete the observation.

Id really appreciate thoughts.


I don’t see any problem with this, as long as you have permission to enter that piece of land. Some observations will be made on private land and we shouldn’t assume that there is any right of access for other observers. If people want to conceal the location of observations, iNaturalist gives tools for obscuring.


Since you say near threatened
I would obscure the location.
For my own orchid obs, regardless of status, I obscure.


The location seems to be public (although I’m surprised that it would be for a threatened species), but the location is meant to be used for a few things. One of those is further research, so if you feel the obligation to find this plant yourself and you don’t intend on damaging it, there’s no harm in going there for your own look or even your own observation.


Many of the orchids I find are by going to inat coordinates where someone else found them first. It’s probably my main use of inat right after using it to post the orchids I find myself - and I’m always glad when someone asks about bloom times or how accurate the gps is or even for directions or a time I could meet up to lead someone to them.

I don’t think orchids should be obscured other than if in danger of poaching or if federally protected, but in both cases they get auto obscured already. It allows new people like myself to find them and get drawn into the world of nature - without all the orchid locations on inat I probably never would have got interested in and learned about nature, or biodiversity, or the need to protect rare species. (I’m embarrassed to admit that 5 years ago I did not understand the difference between a native plant and a garden plant. And sometimes I wonder if that ever would have changed without inat.)


Generally from what the staff have hinted, I get the impression that it is generally not intended to use iNaturalist to follow-up on other observations. Most obviously this is because of poaching risk and habitat trampling from repeated visits, but I suppose one could argue it’s also a fundamental valuation of a naturalist discovering and documenting their own finds. As opposed to the “twitching” style of chasing other existing sightings, which is common in the birdwatching community.

However, personally, I’ve learned a huge amount from seeing other people’s sightings and then having the chance to visit them in the field. There’s quite a good handful of species I wouldn’t have seen otherwise, and nothing is a better teacher than encountering a species alive and well. Some of them are even species I didn’t know existed until they were posted. They can be really valuable educational experiences.

I wouldn’t be concerned unless the habitat is very sensitive and a large amount of people are going there looking for it…


In scotland you can roam most anywhere as long as it isnt a construction site, someones garden or you are damaging a crop by doing so, so this isnt an issue in the context.

I can see this as good reason though

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There is a 5 year gap between the original record and yours, so the revisit isn’t just acceptable, it is desirable. The Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland produced an atlas of records up to 2020 so they are now in a new era of recording.

Are you in touch with your BSBI county plant recorder? They would welcome this record from you and may have a list of other sites they need to re-record and would welcome your help with.

Just one thing: You have given the location as East Lothian Council. This isn’t even a place, never mind the right place. The location name needs to corroborate where you have put the marker. So assuming the marker is in the right place, I would call it something like Shelterbelt north of Peastonbank.


I am not but did meet a member of the East Lothian Ranger Service who I knew already and told him about this and he said he will also check it out himself (there is another local site they know of and are monitoring with a Neottia nidus-avis plant).

I didnt know you could even edit the locality notes, I thought they were automatic. For some reason all observations in East Lothian are labelled as in East Lothian Council automatically so im leaving that part as is. Ill be sure to add locality notes to my observations, thank you!


Thank you all for the help, Its good to understand the general etiquette - I had hardly an idea before.

It seems the consensus from looking elsewhere that in most cases its most beneficial for organisms to be known about in an area, with a public location, for the sake of their conservation.

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If the auto label is wrong - do correct it. Words and location don’t always tie up - and it is better if the observer makes the words fit the location of the obs.


A search indicates there is an East Lothian Council area.

Lacerta bilineata is among the species observed most often in Kreuznach county not far from my home. I learned about this animal only on this site, and then went looking for it at its hot spot location, the Rotenfels (which harbors more “exotic” species).
So I’d say it is a good use of iNat to see such rare species in the wild.


As long as it’s not on private property (and you’re not going to be disturbing / destroying the organism in some way) I see no problems with it. Especially when it’s been a while since the original observation - evidence that it has continued to persist in that spot is very useful.

A huge part of what I use iNat for is finding cool stuff in my area that I can then go try to locate myself.
Speaking of which, did you know you can search an area for observations of species you’ve never observed? Just replace “graysquirrel” in the following URL with your own username, and put whatever place you like in as the location:


I didnt, thats fun!

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I don’t dispute that East Lothian Council exists and it will have responsibilities for a certain area of Scotland. But East Lothian Council is not where the orchid grows. It is like observing something in Hyde Park and recording the location as Metropolitan Police.

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The observation mentioned is in the East Lothian Council area. The East Lothian Council covers a specific area, just as does a city, county, country or other civil jurisdiction.

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The location text is generally automatically generated from Google geolocation data based on the latitude and longitude of the observation, which itself will usually come from the image metadata. The latitude, longitude, accuracy radius and (if needed) obscuration setting are the important items. No need to get too worried if location text is a little odd, although you can edit it if you prefer.

If a particular location description seems obviously incorrect, I believe Google has a process you can use to submit corrections.


Because people often forget to mark plants as Cultivated - I prefer the location notes to say Kirstenbosch ( = botanical garden, probably indigenous) not Wynberg ( = just another suburb, could be, anything from anywhere) I always edit the location notes to something useful to me on my own obs. If the location accuracy is broad, the notes help with ID. Checking that the verbal location fits could also be a prompt to see if the location pin is in fact where I put it.


In my research, I’ve visited areas shown on iNat, just as I’ve visited very specific areas cited in research papers from 1972. The specific sites that are cited in my publications or my iNat observations are there for others, not for me; if they need to visit then so be it, that’s why it’s there!