I’m always casually identifying the plants and animals I pass when out and about. I don’t even mean to, it’s just like a mental tick list!
There are inevitably times when there’s something I’m not sure of or haven’t come across before and I need to look it up. I’m a collector of facts and I’m curious (some call it nosey!). I like to find things out and amass new knowledge.
Whilst an app on my phone will never fully replace a classification key or identification book for me – the skills involved in being able to work out what you’ve found from the clues is a vital one which should be taught and practised! (This is also true of map reading over SatNav use!) – there are times when you just aren’t sure and can’t find what you’re looking for in a field guide.
There are many forums online, of course, where you can ask questions and even submit photos for identification, but I’m finding the free Seek iNaturalist app more and more useful. It works from an image captured in the app on your smart phone and is capable of narrowing down from order to family to genus and even species of a whole host of plant and animal life in nature. And it’s pretty instant! Ta-da! This is what you’re looking at.
Here’s the difference between that Norway Maple and Field Maple.
This is definitely a 7 spot ladybird.
These are all members of the Bromes grass family.
It will just give you this information (including Latin and common names, range, distribution, season and other details) if that’s all you want, but if you enable location settings in the app then it can record your sightings and save them for you, and let you know what else has been spotted nearby.
There are also a number of ‘challenges’ you can take part in, including the forests challenge, climate challenge, citizen science challenge or the current backyard challenge where you need to snap 5 plants, 2 insects, 1 arachnid and 2 birds in your garden or local area to earn a challenge badge.
Seek is created by the iNaturalist team – a joint initiative of the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society. Seek gets its data from iNaturalist – the largest community of naturalists in the world, working together to identify photos of living things uploaded around the world. These observations then help to train the model, so the more people who use it, the better it will get.
There’s so much new wildlife about at this time of the year and this app speeds up spotting. I still love a reference book to thumb through, but the instantaneous response of Seek iNaturalist is very helpful. It will be a great tool for #30DaysWild this June and beyond.
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