22 de diciembre de 2020

Just hit 5000+ observations

i just realized that after posting some observation this morning, I'm now officially over 5000 observations. i don't think i'm as happy about that milestone as i would be in "normal" times. it's been sort of a terrible year with Covid-19 and such, but hopefully things just get better from here. the solstice just happened, along with a Jupiter-Saturn conjunction. vaccines are being distributed now. so signs of light and hope...

it's been a strange year. with so many businesses being shut down as a result of Covid-19, lots of folks have crowded the local parks. not everyone has been distancing or wearing face masks, although i do see more people at least putting on their masks as they pass me on the trails lately, as the Covid-19 cases have been spiking this winter.

early on in 2020, the road traffic really died down, and things were so quiet in the city, but i didn't get a chance to explore much then, since i was trying to respect the guidance from local officials to stay at home. but late the in summer, when i became obvious that most folks were simply not following the guidance, i gave up, too, and started exploring a bit, masked and still trying mostly to hit trails that were less frequented by the masses.

since late 2019, i've making some iNat-related stuff for the web and making it available at https://github.com/jumear/stirfry. although there's quite a bit that folks can do with the iNaturalist API (https://api.inaturalist.org/), i realized that many people don't know where to start. so hopefully some of my code will help make that stuff more accessible to the masses or at least provide useful examples.

there's stuff that you can use to search for identifications (https://jumear.github.io/stirfry/iNatAPIv1_identifications.html), something to display observations as a slideshow (https://jumear.github.io/stirfry/iNat_observation_slideshow.html), some basic maps (https://jumear.github.io/stirfry/iNat_map.html), more complex maps (https://jumear.github.io/stirfry/iNat_top_observers_map.html), and on and on... (if you have any questions or requests, feel free to send me a message.)

i've also been starting to capture some short videos on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7LHJO5RCpwI1Das_d1F_vg/videos) just to complement some of my observations here on iNaturalist.

Publicado el 22 de diciembre de 2020 a las 06:20 PM por pisum pisum | 2 comentarios | Deja un comentario

03 de marzo de 2019

2000+ Observations

Well, I'm officially above 2000 observations. That includes 1800+ from various outings since I first started contributing to iNaturalist, along with 200+ observations from old vacation photos and such. (I'm not done adding old photos, but I stopped for a while because it was hard figuring out geocoordinates for some of these photos that don't already have that data recorded in the metadata.) So assuming 1100+ new observations since my last post about 7 months ago, I'm averaging about 150 new observations/month (or 5 observations/day), down from over 200 observations/month in my first few months.

The decrease is probably mostly due to weather, I think. It's been rainy a lot of days since fall, through winter, and even today has been on the verge of rain all day. I don't mind taking photos occasionally in the rain, but often the flowers close up and animals hide, and it's hard to get shots with the rain and the low light and the wind. And even when the rain stops, the trails are muddy. I don't mind walking through mud in boots, but trails get destroyed faster when you walk through them when muddy, and I try not to destroy them if I can help it.

Anyway, I'm still mostly taking photos in Memorial Park and occasionally in Hermann Park. I tried to go down to Buffalo Bayou Park once or twice, but it's not as enjoyable nowadays with all the different parts of the trails closed due to flood damage.

I remember summer being good for dragonfly observations, and then came the rain and clouds. In October, it started to seem like I wasn't seeing a lot of new stuff. The flowers were winding down and leaves began to wither and fall. So I started mixing things up a bit by looking under logs and then doing night hikes armed with a UV light in November, which was quite enlightening. Starting in December, I started checking out other places, including Brazos Bend SP, Armand Bayou Nature Center, Galveston Island SP, Anahuac NWR, and Brazoria NWR to see more birds and sea life. I even added some polygon-based iNat places for ABNC and GISP so that I could clean up IDs and follow what's going on at those places. (There are some really good photographers at the two NWRs in particular, but also at the other places.) But now that things are greening up and blooming again, I'm mostly doing my observing at parks back in the city, which saves me the long drives.

I'm still finding a lot of new stuff almost every time I go out to look for stuff. Of 40+ observations I made yesterday, more than a handful of them were things that I had never seen before. Today I even requested a taxon to be added for a beetle that I observed. In the last week, I actually requested another new taxon for another person's oak gall, and I flagged a misspelled fungus taxon, and doing that has made me understand even more how this is very much a community-driven platform.

I also realized what a great community is here as I started to old photos from various other locations and found that people were there to identify the local species, and as I put in new bird and shell observations and found lots of people quickly identifying those. That really makes me feel like part of a meaningful collective effort.

In another month or so it'll be the City Nature Challenge (https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/city-nature-challenge-2019-houston) again, and I'm looking forward to participating in that. But in the meantime, I'll be out when I can, looking for all the new stuff that spring brings!

Publicado el 03 de marzo de 2019 a las 09:10 PM por pisum pisum | 46 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

23 de julio de 2018

It's July!

At the time of my last post (at the end of May), I had just finished exploring most of Memorial Park, including the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center. Since then, I've explored pretty much all of Buffalo Bayou Park and east into Downtown Houston where Buffalo Bayou meets White Oak Bayou (the founding site of the city). The Arboretum also re-opened a newly redeveloped area that includes a couple of big new ponds and grasslands/wetlands, and I've explored those quite a bit, too. I've also started to explore parts of Hermann Park and have been retracing some of my previous outings in Memorial Park just to see what's changed.

The weather has changed quite a bit since my last post. It's now routinely in the high 90s (Fahrenheit) in the daytime, which means that I'm usually soaked by the time I've finished taking photos. There have been long stretches of dry days alternating with long stretches of rainy days, plus really heavy rain on July 4th that flooded a lot of the city, including Buffalo Bayou Park. (I've gone back to the Park once after the floods, and there are several sections that were newly fenced off, in addition to the sections that had been fenced off since Hurricane Harvey.) Lately, it's been fairly hazy, too, with lots of dust blowing in from the Sahara desert.

In total, I've made 419 observations since my last post. As in my last post, I'm including my favorite observations from each of my outings, but I also wanted to note few things that have stuck in my mind since my last post:

  1. Things can change dramatically in a just a short amount of time. In July, I tried to retrace a May outing in the Hogg Woods / Triangle portion of Memorial Park, and it was totally different. Grass that was ankle-high in May had grown so tall and dense in one area that I decided it was better to turn around than to be surprised by snakes. The ground skinks and tiger beetles that scurried about as I walked along the trail in May had been replaced by grasshoppers and moths. In general, there don't seem to be as many flowers as in the spring, but the plants are definitely still getting bigger, and there's a lot more animal activity.
  2. I'm still discovering something new (to me) with each outing. It's not just new species but new life stages within species and, probably most interesting, new behaviors and interactions. I think one of my favorite observations is one that I didn't realize I had even captured until I was reviewing photos back home. I was taking pictures of some herons in watering hole, and I noticed that several different birds had congregated together in a small area, which I hadn't seen before. I thought it was a territorial dispute, which would have been interesting, but it turns out they were actually ganging up on a big water snake, which was something I never expected that birds would do.
  3. Life can be tough sometimes. I've noticed a surprising number of insects that are missing legs or have broken wings or other broken parts. And yet they keep going. Or even in death, they still help other organisms go on. I'd always understood this was the case conceptually, but I don't think I'd ever really seen this in action.
  4. There's so much life that can happen in a small space. Even without getting down to the level of bacteria, I've seen so much happening on just a leaf in a pond or on a flower. During my first visit to take photos at Buffalo Bayou Park, I remember spending lots of time taking pictures at a random small, muddy pool in the path, where lots of different insects came to drink or gather mud. Later on, I walked over to the Waugh St. Bridge over Buffalo Bayou looking for bats and discovered that there were also lots of swallows nesting under the bridge and starlings, too. There were also lots of herons fishing in the bayou below, which I suppose means lots of fish and other creatures in the water there.

As usual, the iNaturalist community has been very helpful, and I'm starting to become familiar with individual personalities. I've also started to use more power features of the system. There wasn't an existing Place for Buffalo Bayou Park. So I created one, along with a few others, so that I can more easily follow what's being observed in those places. I learned from another user how to query identifications (https://www.inaturalist.org/identifications?user_id=pisum&for=others), which helps me find past identifications a little more easily than using the standard interface. I've also started using some Observation Fields, which are useful, too, though I haven't fully figured out how to query against them, other then by clicking on an existing Observation Field in an observation, which is fine for now but lacks customizability. I'll figure it out one day...

Publicado el 23 de julio de 2018 a las 03:09 AM por pisum pisum | 18 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

30 de mayo de 2018

A month since my first iNaturalist observation

I've been making identifications on iNaturalist for at least a couple of months, but I made my first set of observations only a month ago on April 30, 2018. Around that time, I saw others making lots of observations as part of the City Nature Challenge. So I decided I'd get out there and make some observations of my own.

For my observational debut, I decided to visit the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center, since that is a nice little spot of wilderness in this busy city, and since there were a few identification mysteries that I wanted to clear up in person. (What kind of Nymphoides is really in that big pond there? What kind of blackberries are really out there? What kind of ferns are really out there?) I intended to stay out there only a couple of hours, but it was such a nice day -- relatively cool, not too sunny but not rainy, not too windy, the frogs were calling, the birds were chirping -- and I was finding so many interesting things -- all sorts of flowers in bloom, tiny insect eggs, unusual insects in yoga poses, etc. -- that I found myself spending almost the whole day out there, ultimately making 80+ observations.

Since I had discovered so much that first day, I figured I'd go explore the rest of the natural areas in the Memorial Park area. Bit by bit over this past month, I covered almost the entire hiking trail system that isn't paved or dedicated to runners. Every outing, I found something interesting and new -- terrain that I didn't know existed in the city, unusual lifeforms of all sorts, nice spots for peaceful contemplation. In total, I spent over 24 hours of the last month out in the field and at least that same amount (if not much more) uploading and researching my 250+ observations. That's over 10 observations per hour in the field, or 1 observation every 5 minutes or so. (I've added my favorite observation from each day to this post.)

It was definitely a crash course in being a naturalist, photographing nature, navigating the Memorial Park trail system, and using the iNaturalist system -- good exercise for the brain, the body, the soul. I was also pleasantly surprised to discover such an active and helpful community out there with experts and projects of all sorts. I guess I'm really part of this community now, and I'll have to figure out what I want to explore next...

Publicado el 30 de mayo de 2018 a las 06:28 AM por pisum pisum | 9 observaciones | 1 comentario | Deja un comentario