Why isn't iNaturalist accepting my dates of observation?

I am entering many older photos that have exact dates and locations. But when I manually enter the date into the date field (such as “06/15/04”) it does not show up on the observation. Even when I use “add a field” near the bottom, and select “date observed”, it will not accept my date. So, I now have dozens (maybe hundreds) of observations that are not tagged as research grade because iNaturalist did not accept the date I entered. Why is this failing?

Can you please clarify which tool (website, Android or iOS mobile app) you are using, that will help.

There is no month numbered 15… 12= December… 01=January…

Check the date format of one that has been created successfully, and put the date elements in the same order as that.

I dont think that is the issue, if you do 01/02/2020 or 01/01/20, it still fails, regardless of if it thinks in American, or proper (just kidding) date formats.

I suspect this is just a format issue, if you enter 2020/01/01 it works fine, I dont think it recognizes other formatting strings. i think you either need to use the calendar or format in that style.

@allen4 FYI - the field you are adding is not linked to the observation date, so adding stuff there has no impact. Observation fields are totally created by users and not controlled by the site. Not sure why someone would create one for ‘date observed’, but obviously they did.


The “entry format” is likely to be tied to some system value on the platform they are accessing from, but there are some formats that will be “safe” no matter how “proper” the location ;)

Try entering 01 Sep 2003, it should always accept it. But if you enter 01/09/03 (our version of proper!) then it will go looking for system settings to determine order of elements. At least, that is how date fields have behaved in systems I have been involved with. It might be different here in iNat.

The “date observed” field could well have come from a partner data merge, such as when NatureWatchNZ merged into iNat.

As far as I can tell, if you are typing the date into the date box, the only format it accepts is YYYY/MM/DD

It does not accept the format my OS is set to, it does not even accept the ANSI standard of YYYY-MM-DD.

Every other format I tried results in the red border around the box suggesting it is invalid. I dont know if there is one it missed


My apologies, you are right! I had been entering manual dates as 2020/01/13 and that is how my system settings are, but when I changed my system settings briefly, it still accepted that format and wouldn’t accept any other! Not even the “01 Sep 2003” format works… wow…

I might have been thinking about how spreadsheets treat dates…

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@allen4 it literally has to be YYYY/MM/DD



Thank you for looking into this, and confirming that there is a problem. It seems to me that data entry errors for Date Observed can be prevented by doing two simple things. First, if the field will not accept more than one format, then provide a date format sample below that field (yyyy/mm/dd). Second, there should be a much more obvious error message if an incorrect date format has been entered. The subtle (on my monitor) red box around the date field does not tell me anything about what the problem is, nor the consequences of proceeding with an incorrectly entered date format. Knowing that entering an incorrect date format will result in no date at all being entered for my observation would certainly make me double-check what I have entered. I have not been involved with software design in many years, but these are the kinds of issues that were always fixed before release to the public.

Going forward, I can (I think) remember the correct date format, but hopefully iNaturalist will implement my suggestions above to prevent errors from occurring. But looking backward, there is one remaining problem. It appears that there is no way to fix these errors. The many observations of mine that now lack dates can never be upgraded to “Research Grade” since I cannot see any way to go back and add a date (it is always in the EXIF information that iNaturalist places in the Comments field).

I completely understand why someone added a Date Observed field. Desperation. I would hope that iNaturalist would strive to make it more difficult to accidentally submit an observation without a date. I’m sure that this has happened thousands of times to hundreds of observers, who likely just give up and leave it alone. We really don’t seem to have any option to fix this problem at the user end.

Great idea.

Edit - click in date field - use date picker to choose your date.

Note: if your camera or device added exif data, then file created date/time will be the same.

Can always delete and re-upload them. Assuming they are casual due to no date, then there won’t be a lot of effort on IDs that would be lost.

Date-picker works in the uploader too, so you can always pick a date, and then edit it to your correct date. That way you are sure of the format.

Date observed field likely had nothing to do with frustrations during upload. It is far more likely a relict of an import at some point.

Well, most of the EXIF text has been edited by me, so it is not directly from the camera. I do this because there is often way too much useless information there, and it is my own way of captioning my photos.

I was afraid you’d suggest using the “date picker”. It works very slowly, so entering a date of July 4, 2002, will be very tedious. Doing this more than 100 times for the sightings that failed to add my date is going to be a good investment of time. Deleting them and re-adding them is not a practical option for me.

Sorry to post again so quickly, but I just opened one of my observations that lack a date, and the “date picker” is not anywhere on that page. Indeed, there is nothing on the page that will allow me to add or change a date there.

When you edit the observation…

When you’re logged in on the website and viewing one of your observations, there should be a blue button to the upper-right labelled “Edit”. That will get you to the page kiwifergus is talking about.

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Kiwifergus and Jeremy,

Thanks so much for your help! I used to be more adventurous online, but not so much any more. I did not try to click on the EDIT button proper, but instead just clicked on the down arrow to the right of it, which I assumed was all there was to this function, which obviously it is not. Not sure why that small down arrow is even there. Why can’t it be incorporated into the EDIT button so there is only one option?

There are several editing tasks that can happen, and “edit observation” is on the button as it is the most accessed of the four. You can also duplicate an observation, delete it, and edit the copyright license of the observation (eg make it shareable with GBIF)

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