2023 is my iNat big year

tl;dr I made all my goals with the help and support of family and iNat friends

I think I'm going to go for it -- 2023 is my iNat big year. I'm going to try to post personal bests in the basic categories: most observations in a year, most species (=unique taxa), most new species, most identifications, and at least one observation every day. New species is going to be the most difficult personal record I think, although I'll probably focus on that and then fumble my streak or something. Here are my personal bests:

Most observations (2017) = 3560 (Goal = 3600 obs)
Most species (2017) = >1764 (Goal = 1800 sp)
Most new species (2017) = >1130 (Goal = 1200 newly added sp)
Most identifications (2012) = 775 obs/339 taxa/292 observers (Goal = 800 IDs)
Observation per day = never attempted (Goal = 365 day streak)

It will be hard to beat my 2017, which included SE Arizona iNat-athon, a work trip to Indonesia, a dragonfly society meeting in Virginia Appalachia, and vacations in Tennessee and elsewhere. But, the attempt should be fun. I will update this journal post as I go.


January

January recap: A good start with daily observations around my Anchorage Alaska home and commute, and a trip to Morro Bay, California, scheduled to coincide with their lowest tides of the year. An otter with a live rainbow trout was neat to see and you can watch a couple videos of the otter dealing with it flopping around, eating just the head, and then slipping away with it again under the ice. In CA, nudibranchs of the Central Coast were a big draw for me in the intertidal, and I was thrilled to see 12 species (pictured above) along with many other animals, plants and fungi on the trip. Some of the other new-to-me taxa included a seaside button lichen, a pencil isopod, and a cinnamon teal. Thank you to @anudibranchmom @thomaseverest @jeffgoddard @tomleeturner and many others for the dialogue, comments and identifications that helped make my CA iNat'ing better. January recommendation where to stay: the "Bird House" in Los Osos CA (VRBO link). Where to eat: Valley Liquor in Los Osos for quick breakfast burritos & burgers. Monthly total = 620 observations.


February

February recap: last month, I traveled to California and this month I traveled even further south to western Mexico state of Jalisco and the coastal city of Puerto Vallarta. Amongst other family vacation activities, I snorkeled a bunch, including at PN Islas Marietas and a couple beaches south of the city, and fit in an entire day in the mountains with my wife dedicated to birding in the San Sebastián del Oeste area. It was glorious and particularly fun to watch my 9-year-old son get into snorkeling and get excited with me finding fish and other marine life to observe, including 7 species of pufferfish and relatives, a couple stingrays, and many yet-to-be-identified sedentary species. I added 20+ lifer birds, including brown boobies, new-to-me warblers, and the second smallest bird species on Earth, the bumblebee hummingbird. Ostensibly on a birding day tour on 24-Feb, I observed far more insects and plants, including an abundance of wasps, butterflies and bromeliads. A big thank you to @albertoalcala @aleturkmen @sultana @oscargsol and many others helping to review and identify MX-JAL observations. Finally, back home in Alaska, I got my first videos back from a backyard camera trap, adding screengrabs to the 30+ moose observations I’ve already made in 2023. Recommendations of iNat-related activities as a tourist in Puerto Vallarta: comb through the interesting shells at Playa Lindomar, take an early morning walk to el salto waterfall if staying downtown, and book a nature trip in the ocean or forest with Luis @kiskadee, who is the executive director of the San Pancho Bird Observatory. Where to eat: seafood at Abulón Antojeria del Mar. Monthly total = 500 observations. Cumulative = 1121 observation (31% to goal), 562 taxa (31% to goal).


March

March recap: I spent the full month in Anchorage, mostly dormant but venturing into the city's largest natural areas--Kincaid, Bicentennial and Chugach State Park--to look at lichens. Mostly thanks to @csyampae identifications, I recorded 19 species of fungi that I hadn't seen before, including a bevy of well-named species: the seaside firedot, the cileate wreath, a yellow specklebelly, and a bearded jellskin. There's so much to see that I had previously overlooked. Conversely, in terms of large conspicuous things that are hard to miss, I'm up to a moose-a-day rate of observations, and should have a few more to add from trail cameras currently deployed in the woods. Monthly total = 157 observations. Cumulative = 1278 observation (35% to goal), 612 taxa (34% to goal).


April

April recap: This month brings several signs of winter waning: ptarmigans and snowshoe hares just starting to transition into summer colors; more and more lichens accessible and uncovered by the melting snow; Milbert’s Tortoiseshell as the first butterflies in flight and landing on slushy ice; and the voices of cranes, geese and gulls conspicuously leading the way for spring bird migration. I became re-acquainted with Byssonectria terrestris, a neon orange, specialist spring fungus that grows on moose urine (I have a LOT of questions about this), and began daily monitoring of a couple patches – boosting it into a tie for my 2nd most observed species this year. I was so happy to go outside this month with @rkelsey who was in town to speak at the Cordova Shorebird Festival, with @paul_norwood who was in town from Sitka, and to meet @csyampae for the first time. Like March, most of my April new-to-me species are lichens found and identified by Preston, so credit to them! This month’s recommendations of iNat-related activities: become a member of the Alaska Native Plant Society (a bargain $15/year) and start planning for their iNat-fueled July plant bioblitz and contributing to the Chugach State Park Flora iNat Project all year. Where to eat while out iNat’ing: Girdwood Brewing Company foodtrucks. Monthly total = 335 observations. Cumulative = 1620 observations (45% to goal), 738 taxa (41% to goal).


May

May recap: My job took me to Wales and England for the second half of May, and I diligently sought out every weedy plant, bug and fungus that I could distinguish as potentially new-to-me. My wanderings took me to meadows in Cambridge and Oxford, a royal London park, walking trails around Church Stretton, and the Welsh hills of Snowdonia National Park. I observed a number of new as well as familiar lichens, many new insects and a small handful of new birds, and even a roadkill badger on the highway that @jason1192 slowed down just enough for me to snap. Cheers to identifiers @cmarkwilson @nschwab @oakleafe @jlisby and many others for sharing your knowledge of UK species. UK restaurant recommendation: the Magdalen Arms in Oxford. The first half of the month, still in Anchorage, I was able to meet up with several local iNat’rs: Preston in the still melting snow (now thankfully gone from mostly everywhere at sea level), reconnect with Kerri @kdog907 and meet @pynklynx and @dennisronsse on an early plant walk on Turnagain Arm. Always a great joy to meet people for the first time IRL who I’ve long admired via their iNat observations and identifications. April/May is the time when iNat action starts to ramp up in our state – I’ve written before that an estimated 63% of iNaturalist observations in Alaska are made between June and August, covering about 82% of the all taxa that have been identified on iNaturalist in the state. Alaskan summer is a rush of visitors and light and nature cycling fast, and this year shouldn't be any different. Monthly total = 893 observations. Cumulative = 2513 observations (70% to goal), 1112 taxa (62% to goal). Daily streak still intact.


June

June recap: June started with a through-hike in a miserable June snowstorm, from the Rabbit Lake trailhead to McHugh Creek with my beloved @aamuir to celebrate our 15th anniversary. Not much was seen or celebrated at the higher altitudes in the wind and whipping snow, but we did enjoy loud and conspicuous willow ptarmigans in a 2700-2900 ft elevation band on either side of the trail’s high point. Plant activity seems delayed this year, with mostly cool and cloudy May and June weather following this winter’s heavy snow. A native plant society walk with @dennisronsse in Arctic Valley was therefore less fruitful than normal, with several comments about how plant and bird timing is weird in 2023. I was grateful for @csyampae showing me a corner of Campbell Creek Gorge, sheltered from most people and lichens galore, such as this charismatic Xanthoparmelia. A couple quick visits to my hometown of Kenai were my only other trips away from Anchorage in June. Both times I drove the scenic route on Skilak Lake Road, and both times I saw bears, including a sow brown bear with yearling+ cubs. What a sight! June was a month of camp drop-offs and pick-ups, and so several of my daily observations followed wherever my kids were going, including my (never ceases to be exciting) first-of-season moose calf in Kincaid Park. I was also with my youngest son, when I made an observation of a small beetle while harvesting rhubarb. Thanks to @sdjbrown who identified it as a hairy spider weevil (Barypeithes pellucidus), which appears to be a new state record, which I flagged for @awenninger who collected it on her own rhubarb only a week later! I love the connections and the sped-up pace of learning that iNaturalist enables. Monthly total = 553 observations. Halfway through the big year, I’ve completed 85% of my observation goal, 70% of my species goal, 51% of my goal for newly added taxa, 190% of identifications, and my daily streak is intact at 181 days with 184 to go.


July

July recap: Unusual for me, I left Alaska during the month of July, and spent a week in Barbados to celebrate my in-law’s 60th wedding anniversary. It was wonderful in all respects. Barbados is the easternmost island of the Caribbean and small enough to drive around in half a day. I ate mangoes and snorkeled, poked around the fringes of wooded gullies and cleared fields (once forest, then sugar cane for 350+ years, now weeds). I made almost 500 iNat observations in a week, including 160 new-to-me taxa. Barbados is relatively under-observed on iNat, and even a short trip like mine yielded 39 taxa (and counting) identified on iNaturalist for the first time in the country, including nine insects, six sponges, six fish, four plants, and three fungi. Overall, some personal favorites: a sharptail (snake) eel observed alongside my son Marshall, a spotted spiny lobster that I never saw directly but only saw after blindly photographing inside a coral crevice, a handsome Exomalopsis bee among many other pollinators on Euphorbia heterophylla, and my first sacoglossan – a lettuce sea slug – that consumes algae and absorbs the chloroplasts into its own cells for energy production (the only multi-cellular organism known to do so, earning the group the nickname, “solar-powered sea slugs”). Thank you to @jbrasher @coralreefdreams @la_mrmd @sue1001 for sharing your knowledge of marine life and @stevemaldonadosilvestrini for island plants. Recommended iNat-related tourist activity in Barbados: Calypso Cruises for booze cruise snorkeling.

Back at home in Alaska, I picked up new-to-me species mostly in dribs and drabs, similar to June. I am learning that for areas and seasons that I have already iNat’d heavily in the past, I really benefit from the fresh eyes, motivation and the different perspective of being in the field with other people. By myself, I tend to stick to my own favorites and routines! Of note this month, I did finally observe the chokecherry midge galls helpfully flagged by @awenninger, and while @mordenana was in town for a mammal conference, he spotted a pika and a moose with sores on its legs that led to learning a cool story about moose flies and roundworms, plus another successful dipnetting season for red salmon on the Kenai River with the entire family. Monthly total = 719 observations. Cumulative = 3794 observations (105% of goal), 1535 taxa (85% to goal). Daily streak still intact.


August

August recap: August was by far my most social iNat month, connecting with naturalists across southeast Alaska as part of an “iNatathon” with Paul Norwood and Preston Villumsen. It was amazing! For a week, August 20-26, we iNat’ed every day, sometimes together, sometimes split up on the trail, passing through the towns of Haines, Skagway and Juneau, and even walking across the US-Canada border into British Columbia. Between the three of us, we’ve observed over 680 different taxa (and counting) in 2200+ iNat observations. I also tacked on a few days more in Sitka to overlap with a low tides series. I have so many favorite iNat observations from my trip, but I think I will particularly cherish the Western tiger beetles encountered unexpectedly on the Chilkat River, the aptly named “gillgobbler” parasitic fungus, a gorgeous bakery-good-brown Dyer’s polypore, every Pilophorus matchstick lichen, mushrooming with Judy in Haines, several cute red-backed voles, hundreds of moths at the Juneau National Guard and US border post, a toothed jelly fungus (aka cat’s tongue), meeting Jenifer and some of the Juneau naturalist community, meeting one of the rough-skinned newts established on Galankin Island, fishing for new species with Paul and Connor including a bonus lifer of a thick-billed murre, visiting Roland’s island, tidepooling with the Sitka crew on the causeway, and of course every shout of excitement through the woods and mountains from Preston, Paul and the naturalists along the way when someone would find something so cool that they had to share and/or help me get a new species (“Where’s Matt!? This one should be new for you! Matt!!!”). Food recommendation to prepare for a day of iNat’ing: the marionberry turnovers at Mountain Market & Cafe in Haines. Recommended iNat-related activity: listen to Matt Goff’s Sitka Nature Radio Show including Matt and I's conversation about my Big Year and other topics. Monthly total: 1478 observations, 696 taxa. Cumulative: 5293 observations (147% of goal), 2027 taxa (113% of goal! New personal record!), and 1074 new-to-me taxa (90% of goal).


September

September recap: September iNat’ing in Alaska means mushrooms. What starts as a side interest in August as other summer life shows signs of winding down, blows up into a September fixation as fungi abound in moss, decaying wood, spruce needles, and across all sorts of curious microhabitats. There are so many! Some of my favorites this year: yellow earth tongues seen in Homer; a much-sought-after Hydellum peckii, “bleeding” red-juice in Ruth Arcand park; tuning forks in Girdwood; and various elfin saddles and Gyromitra false morels, coral and club fungi, brackets growing on brackets, witch’s butter, and leafy brains. Lichenized fungi are, of course, available to marvel at all year-long, but there is something so inherently satisfying about the explosion of fruiting bodies of all types, bridging the seasonal transition with an exclamation mark and easing the loss of the long days of summer. Many thanks to @pynklynx for the ID help as always with Alaskan fungi.

My other big September adventure was a week-long trip to Minnesota, Wisconsin and South Dakota that combined a work meeting in La Crosse (electrofishing giant catfish on the Mississippi! hatcheries with endangered mussels, sturgeons and dragonly larvae!) with family time visiting my mom’s cousins and family farmland. It was hotter in late September in the Midwest than it’s been all summer in Anchorage, so I relished the opportunity to be in fields of flowers and pollinators again, exploring patches of prairie and observing what survives in and around industrial ag, dipping on a ball cactus in Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge, and enjoying serendipitous encounters with herps like my lifer tiger salamander crossing a farm road. Thanks to @csledge @aric4sloth @jeff_leclere and others for sharing your IDs on my observations, expertise and enthusiasm for nature in the Minnesota area.

Recommended iNat-related activity: Join the Galls of North America iNat project, as well as Leafminers of North America, for all your “what’s that on this leaf” questions that will inevitably change how closely you investigate plants for interesting abnormalities and feeding signs. Gall Week occurred in September and I’m grateful for a @tepary organized walk in Abbott Loop Community Park and the first opportunity irl to meet @awenninger and @danabrennan. Monthly total: 791 observations, 404 taxa. Cumulative: 6084 observations (169% of goal), 2259 taxa (126% of goal), and (!!!) 1201 new-to-me taxa (100% of goal!!).


October


November


December

October-December recap: A lot of organisms slow down for the Alaskan winter and, with most all of my goals met for the year, so did I. Therefore I'm grouping the last three months together. I picked up species here and there, but mostly I relaxed and tried to not mess up the daily observation streak so near the finish line. Anchorage’s omnipresent magpies and ravens helped out my “lazy observer” tendencies, including a local celebrity leucistic bird. I was happy to meet up with @tatianah22 in Ottawa, and @cbloomfi @leda_and_oona in NYC, both on non-nature-centric trips, but also a chance to pick up a last few more new-to-me species. Perhaps the biggest iNat-related excitement was retrieving my camera traps from the Chugach foothills (brown bears! bull moose!), and re-deploying them in Butte with @caiawatha, who generously supplied beaver scent glands as an attractant. With @csyampae along for good company to place the cameras, we spotted marten tracks and a ruffed grouse. When I returned to download the pics in mid-December, I was chuffed to see eagles, a goshawk, and the marten caught on camera (over and over again), and absolutely thrilled to see a wolf during a snowstorm in all its winter, furry glory. Monthly totals:

  • October: 137 observations, 60 taxa
  • November: 86 observations, 35 taxa
  • December: 104 observations, 62 taxa

Cumulative totals (as of 1/1/24) and new personal bests:

  • Most observations (2023) = 6,471 (2017) = 3560 (Goal = 3600 obs)

  • Most species (2023) = 2,347 (2017) = >1764 (Goal = 1800 sp)
  • Most new species (2023) = 1,262 (2017) = >1130 (Goal = 1200 newly added sp)
  • Most identifications (2023) = 2,152 (2012) = 775 obs/339 taxa/292 observers (Goal = 800 IDs)
  • Observation per day = done! never attempted (Goal = 365 day streak)

A solo wolf makes a fitting contrast to my successful iNat Big Year of 2023, because I was so happy not to do it alone. First and foremost, I'm thankful to my wife @aamuir and family who indulge and support me in my pursuits and (as I'm frequently informed) deserve more credit in my observations. And thank you to all who I've tagged somewhere above or who have otherwise provided encouragement and identifications along the way. If I were to re-do my big year goals, I think I would add one related to the number of iNat people to make an observation together with. Thanks all for joining this journey and reading!


🚨🚨 EMERGENCY BIG YEAR UPDATE 🚨🚨 EMERGENCY BIG YEAR UPDATE 🚨🚨

On December 31, 2023 and thus arriving just under the wire of the Big Year, a wolverine (Gulo gulo) was captured on a camera trap that @csyampae @caiawatha and I set up in November. WooHOO! What a way to end the year with a hugely anticipated species that I have never documented before! caiawatha was instrumental in helping make this observation happen, from discussing camera options earlier in the year to sharing locations and expertise. So that really is the fitting end to a wonderful year of observing cool things with cool people. Thanks all!

由使用者 muir muir2023年02月07日 07:11 所貼文

評論

If it helps you commit, I think you should go for it too!

發佈由 guyfoulks 超過 1 年 前

Go for it, Matt! I also think we should have a (virtual) party whenever you reach key milestones along the way toward your quest - say, each 1000 observations, each 250 new species, etc. I'll bring the (virtual) pizza!

發佈由 naturelady 超過 1 年 前

Exciting!! Good luck!

發佈由 awenninger 超過 1 年 前

Good luck! 🍀

發佈由 kitemongoose 超過 1 年 前

Sounds like fun! I wanna follow your updates also.

發佈由 onekoolkid0 超過 1 年 前

Ha, thanks all for the encouragement -- I think that will help me stick with it! January update: 620 obs (above target), 336 species (above target), 93 newly added species (below target.... but I think actually on target if you account for the time lag in IDs), 12 identifications (below target), 31 out of 31 observation days (streak intact!). Photo update above.

I created a spreadsheet to track my actual vs targets. Basically, to hit my benchmarks, per month, I need to add 300 observations, 150 species not observed previously in year, 100 species not observed previously by me ever (this will be the most difficult one!), and 67 identifications.

發佈由 muir 超過 1 年 前

Sounds like you need more road trips!

發佈由 anudibranchmom 超過 1 年 前

February update posted above. So far, I am on track! In Feb: 500 observations (above target for month; cumulatively, 31% of year-end goal), 248 taxa (above target for month; cumulatively, 31% of year-end goal), 155 new taxa (above target for month; cumulatively, 20% of year-end goal), 583 identifications (above target for month; cumulatively, 74% of year-end goal), and the streak is intact at 59 days from January 1, 2023.

發佈由 muir 超過 1 年 前

Love hearing about these big year goals!!! Come on down to Texas!!!! :)

發佈由 sambiology 超過 1 年 前

March update posted above. A setback, I had a major trip planned that was cancelled last minute, so I'm a bit behind where I expected to be for my iNat big year. I might very well need to add that trip to Texas @sambiology, ha! The end of March means a quarter of the year is in the books already. For the month: 157 observations (below target for month; cumulatively 35% of year-end goal), 51 taxa (below target; 34% of goal), 19 new taxa (below target; 23% of goal), 235 identifications (above target, 100%+ of goal), and the streak is intact at 90 days from the start of the year. I've beaten my first personal best of the year: # identifications, almost 90% of which are improving or leading.

發佈由 muir 約 1 年 前

April/May update posted above. On track for all goals, even new-to-me species which I feared was retreating out of reach. Hitting my benchmarks was rough for me in the winter months, but from now until the end of September will be the time to make hay while the sun shines!

發佈由 muir 約 1 年 前

Really enjoying your thoughtful journal entries Matt! Rooting for you the whole way! @muir

發佈由 csyampae 約 1 年 前

Matt, It was cool to meet you and now following your progress. I look forward to more outings with you as your big year continues.

發佈由 dronsse 約 1 年 前

Thank you @csyampae @dennisronsse and all for the continued encouragement!

June/July update posted above. I’m on track for all goals and a little more than halfway through, I’ve bested my second personal high mark: I made 3,794 observations from January to July, beating my previous highest number of annual observations of 3,560 observations in 2017. The remaining goals from my original list include (a) keeping the daily streak of observations intact, (b) observing approximately 265 more species/taxa that I haven’t seen in 2023 (knocking on wood, should be easy), and (c) recording an additional ~390 lifers over the next five months. Success feels in reach!

發佈由 muir 11 個月 前

August/September update posted above. I’ve met two of my remaining goals!! (1) Most species/taxa observed in one year, and (2) Most new-to-me species/taxa in one year. In 2017, in my previous personal bests, I observed 1,787 different taxa, including 1,144 new-to-me, in 3,559 verifiable observations. In 2023, so far, I have observed 2,259 different taxa, including 1,201 new-to-me, in 6,084 observations. So, that’s fun! From January to September, I have averaged over 4 new-to-me species and 22 observations per day.

I truly could not have recognized so many species by myself, and I feel an immense amount of gratitude to all identifiers and people I’ve been outside with this year, and particularly @csyampae and @paul_norwood for the August southeast Alaska trip (to the point where I sometimes felt like one of those exhausted marathon runners that you see people carrying towards the finish line, or a remora along for the ride and picking up the scraps from much bigger fish). Thank you as well as everyone in southeast with whom we shared time in nature, including @ptarmigan @jeniferak Bob Armstrong @kljinsitka @kilasiak @mccay79 @sitkaconnor @gwark @rolandwirth and several others that I’m sorry I don’t know your iNat handles! The daily streak of observations is intact at 273 days, with 92 more to go in 2023.

發佈由 muir 9 個月 前

It was fun to meet you Matt, and show you around some of my favorite Juneau spots. Your curiosity and appetite for new species is a joy to watch!

發佈由 jeniferak 9 個月 前

awesome work! and good to met you in person!

發佈由 danabrennan 9 個月 前

So cool, you've seen so many species this year!

發佈由 awenninger 9 個月 前

It was good to meet you! Good luck on your goal! I am always happy to head into the field.

發佈由 tepary 9 個月 前

Saccoglossans and marionberry turnovers! I predict that 2024 is going to be fun also.

發佈由 paul_norwood 9 個月 前

So great to meet you! Looking forward to more nature explorations with you, Paul, Preston, and others!

發佈由 ptarmigan 8 個月 前

Final monthly update posted -- thanks all!

發佈由 muir 6 個月 前

I think your spreadsheet is impressive, and your goal of shared observations worthy!

發佈由 paul_norwood 6 個月 前

Waaaaay cool!!!! Love this journal post. You're awesome, Matt. :)

發佈由 sambiology 6 個月 前

What an effort Matt! Glad to have been able to share some adventures with you and some our mutual friends who have made comments above. I’m sure I’m not alone in being inspired by your goal-setting attitude and boundless inquisitiveness. Good luck in ‘24!

發佈由 csyampae 6 個月 前

Impressive numbers Matt. In my humble opinion your wolf 🐺 observations is extravagant. I was blessed to see my one and only wolf in Denali National Park 🏞️ (1984).Well before the craze of digital technology. What is sad is I think that pack no longer exists.

發佈由 onekoolkid0 6 個月 前

Wow! Awesome job, what a year!

發佈由 awenninger 6 個月 前

Thanks all! Matt Goff @gwark hosts a neat public radio hour called the Sitka Nature Show, and he has posted a recording of the show we did together back in August. We talk about my big year attempt and other iNat-related things: https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2023/09/10/sitka-nature-show-297-matt-muir/

發佈由 muir 5 個月 前

What an enjoyable listen that was @muir and @gwark !!! Man, does it make me want to come up to visit Alaska!

發佈由 sambiology 5 個月 前

Sitka should definitely be on your iNat bucket list @sambiology! If you'd like to check out more of Matt's shows, there's lots of good ones https://www.sitkanature.org/raven/ (I was also on show #240 a couple years ago)

發佈由 muir 5 個月 前

@sambiology yep come on up! It's fun up here!

發佈由 paul_norwood 5 個月 前

One last update above y'all: A WOLVERINE!!! on December 31!!!

發佈由 muir 5 個月 前

Glad to have been of help in your Caribbean visit!

發佈由 stevemaldonadosil... 5 個月 前

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