What is a good average number of observations per day?

What is a good average number of observations per day?

I ask this not only as a personal question, but rather to facilitate a discussion about the experiences and perspectives of observers averaging different numbers across the spectrum.

I notice that observers average anywhere from 0-100 observations per day on this site, from the date they first joined the site. I calculated mine and I average roughly 1 observation per day. Some others average 0.5 per day, some 3 per day, some 10 per day, and some others 60-90. I understand that a lot of people averaging on the higher side are probably keen, experienced naturalists, travel extensively, manage projects, or maybe live in areas very suitable for observing wildlife. But I can’t help wondering if it’s possible to average 60-90 observations per day, every single day, over 4-5 years and still ensure a high quality of observations? Is there a trade-off between quantity and quality here? Is there a sweet spot?

I see some observers posting anywhere between 20 to 100 observations of the same species from the same locality. Is this desirable? It might help with recording frequency/seasonal variation etc. of a taxon, I understand. But what if that taxon is already very well described and studied to bits ad nauseum over the last hundred years? Is it still worth posting those many observations or are we just spamming the site because there’s no upper limit?

What do people look for in a photo taken by them, before deciding if it makes a good observation or not? What factors help you decide if you should post an observation or maybe let it remain in your camera? What improvements can one make to ensure that their observations provide best value to the community?


I think it is extremely hard, if not impossible, to generalize an answer to the question, “What is a good average number of observations per day?”

I would say that a “good” average number of observations per day is whatever number works best for the individual person. It has to be fun. If it ceases to be fun, then that person will quite likely end up giving up, and will stop using iNat.

I also think it is a mistake to compare yourself to other people and say, “I make more observations than this person, but not as many observations as that person”. Everyone is different, and their lives can be hugely different in terms of how much free time they have, or how many places they have access to. Or how much they love to learn about nature at this point in their lives.

I myself use the iNat app and a smart phone camera (iPhone X), so I tend perhaps to make more observations than the average person who is using one or more separate cameras with one or more separate lenses, and then the person adjusts the images, and then they upload them. My images are nowhere near as high-quality as some other people’s observations, but that is fine with me, as long as most of the time it is possible to ID the organism from the photos I take.

I go out iNatting hoping to find things that are new to me, and possibly to find something that is a new record for New York City, but I also photograph almost anything that catches my eye, either because it is a very nice example of a common species, or something especially attractive, or just a species that I myself like, or something that I find interesting. I also photograph things that help me learn what I don’t know, or know only poorly.

Since the beginning of December 2019, I have been doing a “streak”, where I make an effort to make at least one or more observations every day. That has helped me tune into nature more in my everyday life, and as a result I notice a lot more things than I used to.

But basically, I keep coming back to the fact that each person needs to enjoy what they are doing. You have to find joy in it. And I think everyone finds joy in different ways. I could certainly see that someone uploading an average of one observation a day might be having a blast doing that.

And I can see how it could be good to photograph 20 to 100 observations of the same species from the same locality, even if that was done all on the same day.

And honestly, no species on Earth is so well studied that there is nothing more that can be discovered about it, even just from iNat images.


Firstly, I don’t think there is such a thing as the “right amount of observations”, because that depends on so many factors, time of day, weather, location, how you are feeling etc.

I don’t think you can exchange one for the other. You can post one observation one day and its a blurry photo of a gecko scuttling away. I know of a few inatters who post maybe like 150 observations of clear photos after an evening of mothing.

Well I guess the limit depends on how much storage the backend has. I don’t think observers need to be conscious on whether they are posting several observations of the same species in the same locality. Plus they would count as valid observations and are not spam.

Well it depends, for me if the photo provides features for a positive ID then thats good to put in. But of course knowing what shots to take requires a bit of experience. iNat helped me in that sense.

This shouldn’t the priority for using iNat. The priority, at least to me, should be using iNat to facilitate your interest in the nature around you.

Lastly, I’d also suggest to explore the forum a bit more as many of the questions you posed have been asked and discussed.


Good question and good answers. It all depends is a good answer.
I am not sure what my average is, though it could be easily figured out. During the COVID-19 stay-at-home experience I am covering my back yard a lot more thoroughly than I have in the prior two years. It is making me aware of when species show up, or I stop seeing them. I am also finding new species frequently because I am in the yard more. I try and get out of town once a week or so to explore and look for native Rhododendrons. The same time I do that I am also recording other plants, and insects, that I find interesting. Processing the 100 or so photos after a days outing out of town takes a lot of time - hours in fact. I want to crop photos to show the flower or insect in as good of detail as possible. And, I frequently include the uncropped photo so someone who may confirm the identification has a good idea of what the size of the object is in comparison with surrounding material. How much time do you want to spend? I am enjoying the observations made and posted on iNaturalist, and am finding the ‘it’s never too late for old dogs to learn new tricks’ a good adage!


Loved reading your answer, and thanks for your input. I think we’re all getting more time to explore during this Covid break, and that’s a silver lining in these dark times. :slightly_smiling_face:

Thanks for your lovely answer, and yes, I agree that it works differently for different people. And it helps to hear from everyone about what works best for them.

I’m certainly having a fun time on iNat at the current rate at which I post my observations. It allows me to read a bit about the species I’m posting, look at related species, images posted by others, ID the same and related species for others, etc. If I were posting too many observations, I’d probably get less time to learn about them. Stay safe, and may your ‘streak’ continue for long!

As thers say, good is not te best word for it, but if you want to think about what would be ideal for you if you ave time and energy, it’s still a hard question, it depends on groups you like more, you need 1-3 smartphone shots for most of plants and you sometimes need 10+ minutes and who-knows-how-many photos for 1 insect. But in general at least 20 per day is very good, but there always will be days when you’tr noy out and have 0 observations.


For me, there is definitely a limit on quantity in trying to assure quality. Yesterday over the course of 4 hours in the field, I took 300 photos of plants and animals with a camera (not the app). I ended up with 49 observations. I spent almost as much time at my computer as I did in the field, cropping and selecting photos to upload. For most plants I take 5 or more photos in order to capture field marks important for identification. With a stationary subject that is typically close by, most of the photos of plants are usable. But when it comes to distant birds or tiny insects, I may end up with dozens of photos of one individual, most of which are deleted because they are “identical” shots or they are blurry or the lighting is just too awful. With some organisms, I will post more than one observation of the species on the same day, but usually if I take photos of multiple individuals of a common species, I post the “best” (most identifiable, but not necessarily a great photo) and delete the others. Yesterday, I made a point of posting two observations of a species of plant that occurs in our county but has not made it onto the list of AI suggestions and so is often incorrectly identified by those who rely on that feature to make IDs. Once the total number of observations of our local species is high enough, the AI should learn to recognize it when it is next updated.

Obviously, what works for you may be entirely different, but I do think it is important to keep in mind quality if you want your observations to be identifiable to species.


Fully agree with you about the quality. I feel it’s always better to offer the best possible angles and photographs to facilitate effective identification. Even though we might spend an extra few minutes obsessing over which photos to choose, in the end the satisfaction is worth it.

And that’s a very relevant point you make about the computer vision. I guess it starts to offer suggestions only when the total observations of a species is >100 or so, which makes it practical to post more photographs of species which have a low number of observations on the site.


If only.

While I no longer have commute time eating into my day, I am far less prolific at making observations from home (my place has no yard and is in the middle of highly developed surburbia) than when I was in office (within walking distance of a state park).


It’s more or less similar for me. There’re very few things I can take photos of near home, and I end up waiting hours for a good moth to come flying into my porch. But, on the other hand, I’m finding more time to make IDs, read literature, and explore the site itself.


If I spend five hours hiking, I’ll usually take about 600 photos with my camera (which has a GPS) then spend about five hours turning those into roughly 150 observations with pictures cropped as needed, etc. Obviously, I can’t spend ten hours every day on this (no one has yet offered to fund my iNat habit), so I guess on an average day I take about 10 or 20 observations. There are some things I take lots of pictures of so that I can pull up a map of where I’ve seen them, other things I document because I haven’t seen them in a while, or they are pretty, or I want to know what they are, or they landed on my hat. I have fun, and generate identifiable observations, and learn a lot, and therefore am doing it right.


I apparently make 4.4 observations per day, though I think my first five years on iNat doesn’t count since I hardly used it.

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I have completely given up on the very concept of an average day, since this past year I was a student and I never got the impression that my professors were scheduling my tests with my iNat habit in mind…
some days I upload 100, others none at all. I add IDs virtually every day though.
Next year I’m taking a sabbatical year for health reasons, so maybe I’ll be able to start a daily streak.


We will each have a different answer to your question. I choose to bring very few obs to iNat - specifically seeking an ID for mysteries.

But others are in nature for hours every working day, with MANY photos.


Exactly why I posted the the question, Diana. It’s interesting to know the thinking process of different individuals. Hope iNat has an answer to all the mysteries at some point!


some of this depends on why you, personally, are using iNat. Part of why I use it is to see what sort of seasonal variation I get with pollenators in my garden–so I upload lots of fiery skippers and gray hairstreaks from there right now, maybe 2x a week or so. But after a year or so this should help me kind of get a feel for what I’m getting when.


Maybe try to stick to about 50-100 a day. I know that I can handle up to 500 in a day, but sticking to somewhere like there would be ok

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I make it a rule to do at least three IDs every time I visit. And I skip those who are posting dozens and hundreds, and those with multiples of the same thing at different angles. Better things to do…
Quite a few of my posts for not-that-rare, but regionally specific native plants, go without confirmation. It’s so surprising that something that should be getting oodles of posts should be so lonely.


Like a lot of subjects on the forum, this seems to hingeher on what and who inaturalist is for.

There is a spectrum of users on here. Some people just want to photograph interesting plants or animals in their gardens or neighborhood park, and will only take a photo if it is something especially interesting. Some people are dedicated naturalists and professional scientists, who might be spending hundreds or thousands of dollars to visit a national park and want to get an encyclopedic survey of different species of fungus or beetles. Some of the pictures on here are taken with cell phone cameras, others with professional photographer cameras.

This site is here for both groups. I don’t know the exact statistics, but there is kind of a division here where basically 10% of the users create 90% of the observations. For those users, going to a natural site and getting 100 observations is probably about normal. For the other 90%, they probably get an observation once every two weeks when a particularly beautiful flower blooms in their yard or an owl perches on their roof.

I am probably in-between, I have had one 100 observation day, but a lot of times I am just getting targets of opportunity while going about my business.