Journal archives for January 2016

January 05, 2016

Critter Calendar

Happy 2016 everybody! To mark the New Year, we're rolling out a new weekly schedule of featured organisms that we're calling the Critter Calendar.

Inspired by National Moth Week, each week for the duration of 2016 we will announce a featured critter along with a little blurb to help you recognize them and know where to look. We will tally all of the observations made of the critter during the week in a project, and at the end of the week, we will recap what was found and highlight any interesting findings.

We've picked widely distributed, frequently observed groups and have arranged them based on the timing of past iNaturalist observations. So hopefully as many participants from around the globe as possible will be able to find these critters near their backyards.

This first week running from Sunday January 3rd through Jaunary 9th we are featuring cormorants and their relatives!

Critter Calendar Weeks

Critter Calendar weeks so far:

Posted on January 05, 2016 12:00 AM by loarie loarie | 14 comments | Leave a comment

It's Cormorant Week on iNaturalist! Jan 3 - 9

This week we're featuring a group of waterbirds known as Suliformes. This order of birds is distantly related to other waterbirds such as herons, loons, and penguins. They are made up of four distinct families:


Cormorants are the most widely encountered of the group. They are large, black, somewhat awkward looking birds often found swimming in lakes, ponds, and along coasts around the world. Cormorants catch fish by swimming after them underwater. Their feathers lack oil which allows them to sink, but prevents them from flying while wet. As a result, they are often seen perched with wings spread to dry.


Anhingas, sometimes called swamp-turkeys, resemble cormorants but have thiner, snakelike necks. They are confined to freshwater in tropical and near tropical climates such as the swamps of South East North America. When not swimming, they are usually found perched in trees.

Gannets and Boobies

Gannets and boobies are ocean birds. Gannets prefer colder waters while their warm water counterparts the Boobies are confined to the tropics. Both are usually seen flying over seas in search of food unless you visit the small rocky islands where they nest. They resemble sleeker, shorter necked cormorants. From the air, they dive-bomb into water like living spears after fish and squid.


Frigatebirds are also found flying over tropical oceans. Their extremely long pointed wings allow them to spend nearly all of their time in the air. While they also eat fish and squid, frigatebirds steal food caught by other birds like boobies by harassing them in the air until they relinquish their catches. Like Boobies, you're much more likely to see Frigatebirds in the air unless you visit their nesting colonies.

If you think you see any of these this week, share your observations with us. We’ll be keeping track here. Happy Suliforme hunting!

Posted on January 05, 2016 08:47 AM by loarie loarie | 6 comments | Leave a comment

January 10, 2016

It's Woodpecker Week on iNaturalist! Jan 10 - 16

This week as part of the Critter Calendar we are featuring a group of birds known as Piciformes.

Woodpeckers with their near global distribution are the best known, but the group also includes eight other lesser known families confined to the tropics. All Piciformes share X-shaped 'zygodactyl' feet with two toes pointing forward and two pointing backwards - most birds have just one toe pointing back.


Woodpeckers are easily identified by their habit of drumming into and prying at bark in search of food with their strong bills. The group includes large species like the Pileated Woodpecker pictured at top as well as smaller species like the Downy Woodpecker. Many large woodpeckers are dependant on old-growth forests for food. As this habitat has declined, several species of large woodpecker including the Ivory-billed and Imperial Woodpeckers have recently gone extinct. While most woodpeckers drill holes to search for insects or sap, Acorn Woodpeckers drill holes to store acorns and keep them safe from squirrels. Lewis's Woodpecker was discovered on the Lewis and Clark Expedition and represents one of the few surviving specimens brought back from that expedition.


Toucans are well known for their colorful plumage and large beautiful bills. These birds primarily eat fruit and are confined to the neotropics. In the paleotropics, an unrelated group of birds called Hornbills occur that have similar habits and physical characteristics.

Jacamars and Puffbirds

Two other families confined to the neotropics are the closely related jacamars and puffbirds. Both are sit-and-wait hunters that perch motionless on branches and ambush insects that fly by. Jacamars look like oversized hummingbirds with long bills and metalic plumage. Puffbirds have a puffy, large-headed appearance.


Honeyguides have a paleotropical distribution. Their unusual diet of beeswax has resulted in a habit of leading honey badgers, humans, and other honey-eating mammals to beehives. After the mammal has done the hard work of breaking up the hive, the honeyguide has access to all the beeswax it can eat.


Barbets were once thought to be a single widely distributed family of birds, but were recently found to represent four distinct families. Two families live in the neotropics, one lives in Africa, and one lives in Asia. However, all have the similar appearance of stocky little short-billed toucans like the Red-headed Barbet pictured here. Like toucans, barbets are colorful and primarily eat fruit.

If you think you see any of these this week, share your observations with us. We'll be keeping track here. Happy Piciforme hunting!

Posted on January 10, 2016 09:26 AM by loarie loarie | 3 comments | Leave a comment

January 16, 2016

test post of tepid awesomeness

Happy 2016 everybody! To mark the New Year, we're rolling out a new weekly schedule of featured organisms that we're calling the Critter Calendar.

Posted on January 16, 2016 05:00 AM by loarie loarie | 0 comments | Leave a comment

January 21, 2016

Cormorant Week Wrap

We kicked off the Critter Calendar in style with a record breaking Cormorant Week on iNaturalist! We counted 89 Observations from 11 countries by 54 observers representing 15 distinct species.


As expected, we had a lot of Double-crested Cormorants checking in from North America, but we counted seven different Cormorants in total. Gena Bentall (@gbentall) managed to tick all 3 cormorants from California at Moss Landing, near Monterey

The relatively widespread Neotropical Cormorant and Great Cormorant were each well represented across the Neotropics, North America, and Europe. We also counted two cormorants from Australia and New Zealand. The Little Black Cormorant from New Zealand is well represented on iNat, but was missed this week. We also dipped on a few African species that have previously checked into iNat, but not this week.

A swimming Double-crested Cormorant observed by @tnewman


The American Anhinga was well represented from the New World, and thanks to efforts by Ry Beaver (@ryber), we had a second Anhinga species with his Australian Darter from near Perth.

Gannets and Boobies

James Shelton (@james5) found a couple of Northern Gannets on the Virginia coast. It looked like we weren't going to get any Boobies, and then Colin Morita (@colinmorita) came through with visit a Hawaiian Red Footed Booby colony. And towards the end of the week, @icosahedron reported 3 Booby Species from the Galapagos!


We had 2 species of Frigatebird check in. The Greater Frigatebird also from the Galapagos, and the Magnificant Frigatebird from Florida, Mexico, and this great spotting of one perched by Scott Trageser (@naturestills) from Barbuda. Both Roger Shaw (@aredoubles) and @tnewman managed to tick Magnificant Frigatebird along with two other species (Anghinga and Double-crested) in Florida this week.

This was the biggest week ever on iNaturalist by number of Cormorant (Suliformes) observations! We appreciate everyone who participated help kicking of the Critter Calendar, and remember, Hawk Week is currently underway - so get outside and find us some raptors!

Details on how we're counting

Thanks to everyone for bearing with us as we fiddle with this Critter Calendar idea. We'll likely change some of the details for how we're counting as we (a) learn from this experience and (b) make some changes to the software. But for now, we're counting (adding to the project) everything observed during the Calendar Week (ie Midnight Sunday through Midnight the following Sunday in London) that is a candidate to become Research Grade (e.g. has a photo, location etc.) and we have permissions to add to the project. The way iNaturalist counts species varies a bit on the site, but we're counting distinct taxa (ie all taxa minus their ancestors).

Thanks to Blake Matheson, Dario Sanches, barloventomagico, birdman_of_jalova David and Dorothy Jenkins (Sharing for 2015), Mikko Koponen, Len Blumin, Drew Avery, Kevin Rolle, Blake Matheson, Jerry Kirkhart, Franco Folini, Marj Kibby, Jan Smith, Xavier Ceccaldi for licensing their photography for use in the graphic.

Posted on January 21, 2016 08:37 AM by loarie loarie | 0 comments | Leave a comment

January 24, 2016


Went out looking for hawks and newt, found hawks but no newts. Was nice to be reminded that the Bay Area is indeed in the Pacific Northwest (and not Nevada) with all this rain. Fetid Adder's Tongue are up and in Bloom!

Was pouring rain pretty much the whole time but luckily I brought an umbrella.

These steams were bone dry most of the last year - awesome to see them looking so lush

rain stopped for a bit an unsaddled the girl to catch a Ligidium

Posted on January 24, 2016 12:30 AM by loarie loarie | 19 observations | 7 comments | Leave a comment

It's Duck Week on iNaturalist! Jan 24 - 30

This week on the Critter Calendar we moved from soaring raptors to the aquatic birds of the order Anseriformes - ducks, geese, swans and screamers.

Counting some of the most familiar and iconic birds in the world as members, the Anseriformes are well adapted to living life at the water’s surface. They all have webbed feet for powerful swimming, most have special oils which protect their feathers from water, and their bills have special filters, called lamellae, which help them feed on the plants that make up most of their adult diets

Ducks, Geese, and Swans

Nearly all Anseriformes belong to the family Anatidae, which includes the ducks, geese and swans. Dabbling ducks, like the ubiquitous Mallard, tend to feed in shallower waters where they can upend themselves to feed on shallow aquatic vegetation, their hindquarters sticking above the water’s surface. Diving ducks such as Ring-necked duck tend to submerge their entire bodies when searching for food, and have larger feet than dabblers. Many ducks are sexually dimorphous - males often have bold colors and patterns, while females are usually drab in plumage. The Paradise Shelduck is a notable exception to this pattern.

Geese and swans of the subfamily Anserinae are bigger than ducks and have longer necks. Large Mute Swans are known to have wingspans reaching 3 m (9.8 ft) and may weigh 15 kg (33 lbs). Geese and ducks can often be found feeding on terrestrial vegetation.


The family Anhimidae, or “screamers,” consists of three species who live in South America. More terrestrial than the Anatidae, their feet are only partially webbed and their bills are more pointed than flattened. Bizarrely, they have air bubbles in their skin which supposedly make crackling noises when pressed!

Magpie Goose

Papua New Guinea and Northern Australia are home to the lone species of this family, the Magpie Goose. Their bill shows they belong in the Anseriformes but are considered an early offshoot within the order. Magpie geese have black and white plumage, yellow legs, and can congregate in large groups during breeding season.

If you think you see any of these this week, share your observations with us. We’ll be keeping track here. Happy Anseriforme hunting!

Posted on January 24, 2016 04:55 AM by loarie loarie | 0 comments | Leave a comment

January 28, 2016

Responsive test with hover

ok this is a test of what should be a responsive SVG created with d3

Did it work? same thing on tumbler here
and in a simple iframe containing doc here

Posted on January 28, 2016 03:01 AM by loarie loarie | 1 comment | Leave a comment

January 31, 2016

It's Heron Week on iNaturalist! Jan 31 - Feb 6

The Critter Calendar stays in the wetlands and watery areas of the world as we focus on the order Pelicaniformes - a diverse group of birds that includes pelicans, herons, ibises, spoonbills and more!

Comprising medium-sized and large water birds, the taxonomy of the Pelicaniformes has gone through many changes, and for this week we are going with the International Ornithological Committee’s definition, which includes the following families:

Herons and Bitterns

The Ardeidae are the Herons, Egrets and Bitterns, who use their long legs and necks to to stalk their prey, often along the water’s edge. Herons like the Grey Heron have grey, blue and other dark feathers, while egrets are herons who have white or buff feathers. Egrets in the United States were nearly hunted to extinction in the early 1900s, due to their plumed feathers being sought after for women’s hats. Bitterns are smaller than herons and have shorter necks and brown/tan plumage. The Ardeidae fly with their long necks retracted and their legs held straight back.


The large gular pouches under their long bills make the pelicans (Pelecanidae) instantly recognizable. They prowl coastal and inland waters around the world and often skim just over the water’s surface as they fly, using ground effect to keep them in the air. The four “white” pelican species, like the Great White Pelican, nest on the ground, whereas four darker colored species, like the Brown Pelican, nest in trees or rocks. They will catch multiple fish in their pouches then drain out the water before swallowing.

Ibises and Spoonbills

Found mostly in standing or slow-moving brackish water, the ibises and spoonbills (Threskiornikidae) have long necks and legs like the Ardeidae, but hold their necks out straight while in flight. Spoonbills like the Royal Spoonbill have flat and wide spoon-shaped tips to their bills, which they use to find aquatic creatures as they sweep through the water. The bills of the ibises point downward and they use a probing motion to feed for invertebrates in the mud. Ibises are gregarious birds and are usually found in groups.


The Shoebill (Balaenicipitidae), which ranges throughout swamps of central Africa, lives up to its name - it sports a large, wide bill with sharp edges, which it can use to decapitate the lungfish which make up most of its diet. It is the only member of its family and is highly sought after by birders.


Like the Shoebill, the Hamerkop (Scopidae) is also a single species family from Africa. Their name means hammer-head in Afrikaans. Hamerkops have brown plumage and and shorter legs and necks than other wading birds in this order. Bizarrely they also have partially-webbed feet and will join together in “ceremonies,” where they call loudly, raise their crests, flap their wings and and run in circles around each other. Hamerkops build giant nests that resemble huge piles of sticks high up in trees very similar in appearance to the pack-rat nests seen in North America.

If you think you see any of these this week, share your observations with us. We’ll be keeping track here. Happy Pelicaniforme hunting!

Posted on January 31, 2016 07:36 AM by loarie loarie | 2 comments | Leave a comment

Woodpecker Week Wrap

We're entering week 5 of our Critter Calendar but have gotten a bit behind on these wraps. So here's a quick long overdue breakdown of what happend during Woodpecker Week on iNaturalist! We counted 172 Observations by 98 observers representing 22 distinct species.


During Woodpecker Week we didn't get any of the non-woodpecker Piciformes (toucans, barbets, etc.), but we got plenty of Woodpeckers! Downy woodpecker was the most frequently seen, followed by Northern Flicker, Red-bellied woodpecker and Yellow-bellied sapsucker. @robberfly and @kimssight each managed to tick 5 distinct species in the California San Francisco and Los Angeles regions respectively. @sanguinaria33 found woodpeckers 6 of the 7 days of Woodpecker Week near Chicago reporting a total of 10 observations. Some of the most exciting woodpeckers came from @bob-dodge who was in Cuba during the week and managed to tick Cuban Green and West Indian Woodpeckers. Some interesting observations from Mexico yielded species like Golden fronted and Golden cheeked Woodpeckers. And in Europe, Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers checked including a Great Spotted observation posed by @at8eqeq3 from Russia!

A Pileated Woodpecker observed by Wendy Feltham (@wendy5)

We'll try to get wraps for Hawk and Duck Weeks up ASAP, but for now, Heron Week is just starting so get outside and find us some of these waders!

Thanks to Francesco Veronesi, Laura Gooch, Victoria Gracia, Jerry Oldenettel, Jason Means, Andy Blackledge, Gavan Watson, Dwight Beers, Minette Layne, Eddie Callaway, Vitaliy Khustochka, Doug Greenberg, Dawn Vornholt, Dmitry Mozzherin, Mike Baird, Cheryl Harleston, Dominic Sherony, Scott Young, Doug Greenberg, Shelley & Dave, Jim Frazier for licensing their photography for use in the graphic.

Posted on January 31, 2016 09:08 AM by loarie loarie | 2 comments | Leave a comment