Way Back Recap: June 2021 Panhandle Excursion

When I go on a targeted iNaturalist trip, whether with a group or on my own, my focus on Nature is pretty intense. But I’ve wondered occasionally how this compares to other people’s experience and outcomes. Just this morning (March 1, 2022) I’ve completed the uploads from a rather grueling six day journey last June to the Texas Panhandle. (Other trips and obligations delayed these uploads.) So I’ve compiled some overall stats from the trip, as follows.

Over the six days and five nights of the trip, I made stops at eight target destinations:

— Timberlake Biol. Station (Mills Co.) with other iNaturalists
— Lake Meredith NRA (Moore/Floyd Co.)
— Rita Blanca Lake (Dalhart, Hartley Co.)
— Rita Blanca Nat. Grassland (Dallam Co.)
— Palo Duro Res. (Hansford Co.)
— McClellan Creek Nat. Grassland (Gray Co.)
— Caprock Canyon SP (Briscoe Co.)
— E.V. Spence Res. (Coke Co.)

There were other miscellaneous roadside stops and observations most days. Most of my focus was botanical, trying to learn new plants in the South Plains and Panhandle, but of course I tried to document any critters I encountered that would sit for a photograph. I made concerted mothing efforts at three of the locations (Timberlake, Rita Blanca NG, and E.V. Spence Res.).

I got home with a little over 2,200 photos, out of which I eventually created 707 observations of 431 taxa of plants and animals (according to iNat’s accounting). Excluding two days which were primarily long travel days, my uploads amounted to 652 observations from 4 primary field days, thus averaging 163 observations/day on those intense days (range 116 - 181).

Here is a link to the full set of observations over the six days of the trip. It includes a small number of moths that I'd documented at home early on the first morning before I hit the road.
And here are links to my observations for the counties of some of the above destinations:
Mills Co.: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?d1=2021-06-12&d2=2021-06-17&order=asc&order_by=observed_on&place_id=1714&user_id=gcwarbler&verifiable=any
Moore Co.: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?d1=2021-06-12&d2=2021-06-17&order=asc&order_by=observed_on&place_id=888&user_id=gcwarbler&verifiable=any
Hartley County: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?d1=2021-06-12&d2=2021-06-17&order=asc&order_by=observed_on&place_id=1551&subview=table&user_id=gcwarbler&verifiable=any
Dallam Co.: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?d1=2021-06-12&d2=2021-06-17&order=asc&order_by=observed_on&place_id=807&user_id=gcwarbler&verifiable=any
Hansford Co.: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?d1=2021-06-12&d2=2021-06-17&order=asc&order_by=observed_on&place_id=2777&user_id=gcwarbler&verifiable=any
Gray Co.: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?d1=2021-06-12&d2=2021-06-17&order=asc&order_by=observed_on&place_id=814&user_id=gcwarbler&verifiable=any
Briscoe Co.: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?d1=2021-06-12&d2=2021-06-17&order=asc&order_by=observed_on&place_id=801&user_id=gcwarbler&verifiable=any
Coke Co.: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?d1=2021-06-12&d2=2021-06-17&order=asc&order_by=observed_on&place_id=1770&user_id=gcwarbler&verifiable=any

So how does that compare to field days for you? I seem to recall that during one of the first City Nature Challenges I participated in for the Austin area—a five-day event at the time—I was uploading something on the order of 150 to 200 observations per day (you could check me on that). So this Panhandle trip was a roughly equivalent effort. That early CNC effort was exhausting. This Panhandle trip was steady and there was a lot of travel involved so the changes in location were as much responsible for the high number of observations as the diversity of plants and animals, per se.

I love taking these iNat trips. For me, documenting so many plants and animals cements in my memory the broader, diverse landscapes that I encounter during each journey. Among those thousands of photos, I do include any number of general “habitat” shots, but the encounters with this plant or that critter offer hundreds of “defining moments” that I can think back on. The trips and the subsequent research to identify all the plants and animals deepen the learning experiences. They are overt evidence of my old adage, “Travel is taxonomically broadening.”

Publicado el marzo 1, 2022 05:29 TARDE por gcwarbler gcwarbler


I think that's pretty typical. If I'm in a new location and the flora is interesting to me I can easily generate 80 to 150 observations. However, if I'm in a familiar area I don't tend to take as many photos. I tend to just take photos of new things, my favorites, and things I know are rare. I also don't really bother taking photos of super common things anywhere unless it is a particularly pretty plant in good lighting, it is growing in an unusual place or out of its typical range, or if I want to take detailed photos of unusual aspects that most people don't photograph. I've also started to watch the road side more as I drive for interesting plants, making frequent stops to take a few plant photos here and there. Uploading photos takes time, I still haven't finished uploading all of my photos from this summer, probably a few thousand more observations worth.

Publicado por currenfrasch hace más de 2 años

Awesome accomplishment! Uploading observations takes time!

I am intrigued by how I can track the travels of avid nature lovers by following their observations across Texas or even the world. (Cullen Hanks is now in Ecuador and Sam Kieschnick visited his place in Lee County over the weekend.) I love traveling vicariously with other iNat folks and learning about Texas flora and fauna.

Publicado por connlindajo hace más de 2 años

One thing I don't do well is taking good field notes. If I upload right after a trip, I generally have a pretty good spatial memory for where observations are along a trail (ex. third switchback, near this or that trail crossing or waterfall, etc.), but if I wait too long that memory begins to fade. I also rarely check my phone's GPS while hiking and if I am a long hike, like 10-15 miles + I rarely know exactly where I am along a given trail when I take particular photos, especially when using a paper map. I do occasionally take screenshots of my phone's GPS location and compare them with the time stamp on my photos and strive for relative accuracy that way. I also tend to place groups of observations together on the map if I know they were photographed near each other (ex. these obs were near the start, these were near the tree line, these were after, and these were near the top or turn around point, etc.) I try to be much more accurate with rare plants than just average plants. I also just tend to remember their locations better as well. It's also harder to remember specific locations when I take hundreds of photos in a day vs tens. Does anyone have any suggestions or tips that they use? I know a GPS unit would help along with a notepad. How focused/obsessed are you on setting the smallest possible radius on a particular observation's location?

Publicado por currenfrasch hace más de 2 años

I'm pretty much in the same vein as you as for observation accuracy. My point-and-hope Canon cameras don't have GPS capabilites, so I tend to generalize on location to +/- 50 or 100 or 200 yards for a given hike. My Canon SX740 camera supposedly can geotag images when used with a Canon GPS app on my phone, but I have found it be tedious and often inaccurate (the app, not my phone) and the app is a battery hog. I do take GPS waypoints with a different app (MotionX-GPS) on occasion and then just use those coordinates to manually add out-of-the-way locations to my observations at upload.

Publicado por gcwarbler hace más de 2 años

I should also mention two other aspects that help me place photos: (1) I do take pretty good notes, particularly travel notes with locations, placenames, times, distances, etc., which can be compared with the time stamps on photos; and (2) I will often take a "habitat" pic at the start of a hike or at a brief stopping point, making sure that the image captures some landmark(s) that I can have confidence in refinding on Google Earth when I get back home and get into the process of adding locations to images. Those habitat images might be street signs, a store front, a trail map at a trailhead, or a scenery image showing distinctive landscape features--anything to get me re-oriented later.

Publicado por gcwarbler hace más de 2 años

Chuck, thanks for documenting plants in the always-and-forever-neglected panhandle area. I appreciate it.

A hack for logging GPS locations that I discovered after you noted the plant I misplaced at Elephant Mountain: There is an app called Geotag Photos 2 that tracks your location, regardless of cell phone signal availability. It then syncs up to your photos using the timestamp and tags them with the coordinates of where you were at that point in time. That said, your cell phone and camera need to be set to the same time. It's slightly draining on the battery for us iPhone users, but has saved me tons of time from having to manually enter the location of my photos.

Publicado por amzapp hace más de 2 años

Thanks, Lena. I'll look into that app.

Publicado por gcwarbler hace más de 2 años

UPDATE: I added links to the full set of observations and sets for each primary county I visited.

Publicado por gcwarbler hace más de 2 años

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