May 15, 2024

Vote for the May 2024 Photo-observation of the Month

We're already halfway through the month of May, which means it's time to start casting your votes for the best Vermont Atlas of Life Photo-observation of the Month! You can "fave" any and all observations that you like—located to the right of the photographs and just below the location map is a star symbol. Click on this star and you've fave'd an observation. At the end of each month, we'll see which Photo-observation has the most votes and crown them the monthly winner! Check out this month's awesome observations and click the star for those that shine for you.

Check out who is in the lead and see a list of all of this month's Photo-observations so far!

Posted on May 15, 2024 03:34 PM by vce14 vce14 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 2024 Photo-observation of the Month


Big Brown Bat foraging a couple of hours after the solar eclipse on April 8. © iNat user @hobiecat

Congratulations to iNat user @hobiecat for winning the April 2024 Photo-observation of the Month for the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist! Their photograph of a Big Brown Bat foraging the evening of the April 8 solar eclipse received the most faves of any iNaturalist observation in Vermont during the past month.

Big Brown Bats are year-round Vermont residents. hibernating inside winter shelters called hibernacula like caves, mines, hollow trees, and buildings. In springtime when insect populations return, these bats emerge to feast. In the late evening, they take wing to forage over fields, along forest edges, high in the canopy, and along bodies of water for beetles and other flying insects. This iNaturalist observation shows this particular Big Brown Bat foraging from around 5:15 to 5:50 PM, a couple of hours after eclipse totality. The dusk-like quality of light during the eclipse may have confused some wildlife, including this bat, into emerging to forage early!

With 18,816 observations submitted by 1,560 observers in April, it was very competitive. Click on the image above to see and explore all of the amazing observations.

Visit the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist where you can vote for the winner this month by clicking the ‘fave’ star on your favorite photo-observation. Make sure you get outdoors and record the biodiversity around you, then submit your discoveries and you could be a winner!

Posted on May 15, 2024 03:15 PM by vce14 vce14 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 25, 2024

Welcome to the Second Vermont Butterfly Atlas (2023-2027) Field Season!

Spring is finally here, and already this year, atlas volunteers have found 10 species of butterflies, signaling the start of our second atlas field season. I hope you have seen some and shared them too.

Thank you to returning volunteers for adopting a survey block last year and big welcome to any new or interested volunteers. If you’d like to adopt a survey block(s), just visit our Block Mapper tool and sign up, but if you are continuing to survey the block(s) you adopted last year, there is no need to sign up again. They are still yours to continue to explore and survey!

Thank you for helping us make the first year of this atlas an incredible success! We had 104 survey blocks adopted by 75 participants (72/184 priority blocks and 32 non-priority blocks). We had 88 observers report 88 butterfly species in 1,840 complete checklists comprising 6,400 butterfly occurrence records to e-Butterfly.org, our official atlas data portal. Additionally, nearly 950 observers reported more than 5,500 butterfly photo-vouchers to the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist. What an incredible start to the atlas despite a very rainy summer.

Generally, our goal is to record >40 species on each priority block before the end of the 5-year survey. With 184 priority blocks scattered across Vermont, we have a lot of work to do!  We have made some big improvements to our Block Mapper tool this year. For example, you can now compare what you have found so far on your block to the first atlas, historical data, and more.

We have also improved our flight chart tool to help you see what might be flying each week. Give it a moment to load as it grabs over 100,000 butterfly records and builds the chart on the fly. It then orders them for the week by prevalence. We have improved our searchable species checklist and account pages too. As an example, check out one of my favorite species that is just starting to fly, West Virginia White, and learn all about its natural history and where it has been found in the state so far. And finally, the tool we have all been waiting for…a mobile app for e-Butterfly. We have worked hard all winter to prepare this app and it is in the final stages before release now. Soon, you will be able to record your butterfly checklists on your smartphone and upload them directly to e-Butterfly. It also has computer vision to help you put a first identification on images you take.

If you have not, please join our Atlas discussion forum, a place for everyone to share ideas, ask us questions, learn from each other, and more. There are already some great questions and conversations taking place there about survey types, zero counts, and more.

If you need some help getting started or a refresher about using e-Butterfly, we have quick start guides, videos, and more. Every time butterfly watchers raise binoculars and cameras to record a butterfly sighting, they collect important data. Recording the number, date, and location of each and every butterfly, no matter how common or rare, may seem trivial, even repetitive— but this detailed information can be invaluable to science and conservation. Butterflies act as early warning signals for habitat degradation, climate change, and other ecological forces. Join Dr. Rodrigo Solis Sosa, our Human Network and Data Coordinator at e-Butterfly, as he explains how to use e-Butterfly in this recorded webinar.  Or check out our Help pages that will quickly get you started on using e-Butterfly. There’s a Quick Start Guide that takes you through each step when entering a butterfly checklist. Learn about our crowd-sourced data vetting system and our identification tool and how you can quickly get started in helping to verify eButterfly data too.

Finally, if you need any help with the atlas, I am always happy to answer questions and even jump on a zoom call for a mini-tutorial or answer questions. Please feel free to drop me an email anytime or share your question, ideas, knowledge and stories on the forum where we can all join together to learn and discuss. Thank you so much for being part of the Second Vermont Butterfly Atlas!

Posted on April 25, 2024 01:00 PM by kpmcfarland kpmcfarland | 1 comment | Leave a comment

April 15, 2024

March 2024 Photo-observation of the Month

A red stalk of Bug-on-a-stick moss points skyward from a carpet of other green and brown mosses. © iNat user @origamilevi

Congratulations to Levi Smith (@origamilevi) for winning the March 2024 Photo-observation of the Month for the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist! Their photograph of Bug-on-a-stick received the most faves of any iNaturalist observation in Vermont during the past month.

Bug-on-a-stick is not actually a bug on a stick, but a unique-looking moss (Buxbaumia aphylla) found in temperate regions across the world. Named for its tiny fungus-like stalk and capsule that resembles a bug perched on the end of a stick, this moss is a pioneer species that likes disturbed soil with minimal competition from other plants. After the snow melts in the spring, green stalks and capsules begin to appear, turning coppery red as they mature. With any luck, you might find these elusive mosses in the forest growing from the decaying wood of old logs or along the edges of creeks.

Smith was also the recipient of the 2022 Youth Community Scientist of the Year Award and was the subject of an article in Fall 2022 Field Notes.


With 4,528 observations submitted by 541 observers in March, it was very competitive. Click on the image above to see and explore all of the amazing observations.

Visit the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist where you can vote for the winner this month by clicking the ‘fave’ star on your favorite photo-observation. Make sure you get outdoors and record the biodiversity around you, then submit your discoveries and you could be a winner!

Posted on April 15, 2024 03:50 PM by vce14 vce14 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 11, 2024

February 2024 Photo-observation of the Month


A Peregrine Falcon, with its narrow, pointed wings and torpedo-shaped body, is built for speed. © iNat user @winterglow

Congratulations to @winterglow for winning the February 2024 Photo-observation of the Month for the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist! Their mid-flight photograph of the fastest bird on earth, the Peregrine Falcon, received the most faves of any iNaturalist observation in Vermont during the past month.

A peregrination is a long, often arduous journey or pilgrimage, a word well-suited for a long-distance migrant such as the Peregrine Falcon. This falcon, found across the globe on all continents but Antarctica, might be better known for a much shorter journey that begins high in the sky and ends with a duck, shorebird, or pigeon far below gripped in its talons. During these high-speed flights known as ‘stoops’, Peregrine Falcons can reach speeds in excess of 200mph, faster than any bird on earth. Just as comfortable on the rocky cliffs of Vermont as they are on the skyscrapers of New York City, the Peregrine Falcon is one of the greatest conservation success stories on the continent, having recovered from the disastrous effects of DDT with the help of captive rearing and release programs. Some may know the Peregrine Falcon as a vital character in My Side of the Mountain, a book that sparked a love of nature in myself and many other budding naturalists. In Vermont, Peregrine Falcons have recovered in recent decades to the point where most suitable cliff faces in the state now have a nesting pair in residence. This success is thanks in part to efforts to reduce disturbance of nesting falcons by closing off breeding sites to climbers and hikers. You can learn more about the status of Peregrine Falcons in Vermont here and view a map of nearby sightings of this iconic species on Vermont eBird.


With 2,844 observations submitted by 524 observers in February, it was very competitive. Click on the image above to see and explore all of the amazing observations.

Visit the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist where you can vote for the winner this month by clicking the ‘fave’ star on your favorite photo-observation. Make sure you get outdoors and record the biodiversity around you, then submit your discoveries and you could be a winner!

Posted on March 11, 2024 01:48 PM by nsharp nsharp | 0 comments | Leave a comment

February 01, 2024

January 2024 Photo-observation of the Month


A Bobcat, illuminated by the winter evening sun, fixes its gaze across a snowy meadow. ©
@melissainvt

Congratulations to @melissainvt for winning the January 2024 Photo-observation of the Month for the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist! Her stunning image of a Bobcat in the snow received the most faves of any iNaturalist observation in Vermont during the past month.

Bobcats are one of Vermont’s most evocative mammalian predators, and encounters with this species tend to fall into two camps – the split-second view of one disappearing down a trail or bounding across a dirt road, and the much more satisfying prolonged views of particularly bold Bobcats sauntering through backyards or engaging in intense stare-downs across open country. This month’s winning photo perfectly captures the feeling of that second scenario, with a handsome and healthy-looking bobcat fixing its gaze across a field, perhaps deciding if the photographer should be viewed as a threat or merely another animal present on the landscape. Vermonters can expect to see many more Bobcats in the coming months, though perhaps not in the way they might expect. The 2024 Vermont Habitat Stamp features a stunning design featuring a Bobcat and a newly rediscovered orchid, the Small Whorled Pogonia, two icons of Vermont’s biodiversity that will benefit from funds raised by habitat stamp purchases. Get your 2024 Vermont Habitat Stamp today and you can spot a Bobcat on your car, laptop, water bottle, or wherever else you display your love for Vermont’s flora and fauna.


With 1,554 observations submitted by 259 observers in January, it was very competitive. Click on the image above to see and explore all of the amazing observations.

Visit the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist where you can vote for the winner this month by clicking the ‘fave’ star on your favorite photo-observation. Make sure you get outdoors and record the biodiversity around you, then submit your discoveries and you could be a winner!

Posted on February 01, 2024 08:58 PM by nsharp nsharp | 0 comments | Leave a comment

January 22, 2024

December 2023 Photo-observation of the Month


A Black-capped Chickadee seems to have lost most of its namesake Black cap! ©
@c_burns802

Congratulations to @c_burns802 for winning the December 2023 Photo-observation of the Month for the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist! Their photos of an exceptionally unique Black-capped Chickadee received the most faves of any iNaturalist observation in Vermont during the past month.

The last Photo-observation of the Month for 2023 offers us an up-close look at leucism! If we’re splitting hairs (or in this case, feathers) it’d be more accurate to say that this special chickadee is exhibiting signs of ‘partial leucism’ as the abnormalities of this bird’s plumage are limited to a few specific areas. Fully albino birds exhibit entirely white plumage and pinkish bare parts (eyes, bill, legs) due to a genetic mutation that limits the production of the pigment melanin, while partially leucistic birds such as our chickadee here exhibit patches of white feathers as a result of defects of groups of pigment cells. You’d be hard-pressed to find a leucistic bird in any field guide, and as such these unique individuals can often be quite challenging to identify; thankfully, enough of this bird’s ‘normal’ plumage was maintained, and the overall shape, structure, and behavior of this bird help identify it as a Black-capped Chickadee. In addition to the fascinating biology of leucism in birds, these leucistic individuals often are beloved by the birders that host them at feeders. The individuality of birds can be masked by their uniform patterns and plumages, but leucistic birds encourage us to look out for that one unique individual, and perhaps even get to know the patterns and behaviors of an individual bird intimately.


With 2,322 observations submitted by 367 observers in December, it was very competitive. Click on the image above to see and explore all of the amazing observations.

Visit the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist where you can vote for the winner this month by clicking the ‘fave’ star on your favorite photo-observation. Make sure you get outdoors and record the biodiversity around you, then submit your discoveries and you could be a winner!

Posted on January 22, 2024 09:38 PM by nsharp nsharp | 0 comments | Leave a comment

January 10, 2024

Vermont Atlas of Life iNaturalist Project Celebrated 10th Anniversary in 2023 by Surpassing 1 Million Records

In 2023 thousands of iNaturalists added over 200,000 biodiversity records to the rapidly growing database of life in Vermont, helping us surpass 1 million records during our 10-year anniversary. Read about all the amazing discoveries and more at the Vermont Atlas of Life blog - https://val.vtecostudies.org/newsfeed/2023-report-inaturalist/

Posted on January 10, 2024 09:36 PM by kpmcfarland kpmcfarland | 2 comments | Leave a comment

December 04, 2023

November 2023 Photo-observation of the Month


A Long-eared Owl showcases its namesake ear tufts while taking a mid-day snooze in a Windsor County backyard. ©
@smccaull

Congratulations to @smccaull for winning the November 2023 Photo-observation of the Month for the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist! Her photos of a remarkable chance encounter with one of Vermont’s most secretive owls received the most faves of any iNaturalist observation in Vermont during the past month.

On a sunny fall morning in the Connecticut River valley, VCE friend and board member Stephanie McCaull stepped outside to a din of cawing American Crows. Knowing this cacophony could be in response to a local owl or other predator drawing the ire of these crafty corvids, she searched around her front yard until she spotted a well-camouflaged owl with protruding feathery ‘ears.’ Smaller and slimmer than the more common Great Horned Owl, and with a different patterning of coloration on the breast and face, the Long-eared Owl is one of Vermont’s most secretive and sought-after owl species. Avid birders will spend hours at night listening with hands cupped to their ears for the soft, low hoots of Long-eared Owls in their preferred habitat — dense thickets of cedar and other coniferous trees adjacent to open areas for hunting rodents — but every so often one of these reclusive owls will roost out in the open, providing a treat for lucky birders. To learn more about these charismatic, reclusive owls, head over to Vermont eBird where this article on the thrills of searching for Long-eared Owls in Vermont also provides a plethora of natural history information.


With 3,068 observations submitted by 501 observers in November, it was very competitive. Click on the image above to see and explore all of the amazing observations.

Visit the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist where you can vote for the winner this month by clicking the ‘fave’ star on your favorite photo-observation. Make sure you get outdoors and record the biodiversity around you, then submit your discoveries and you could be a winner!

Posted on December 04, 2023 07:20 PM by nsharp nsharp | 0 comments | Leave a comment

November 18, 2023

Second Vermont Butterfly Atlas Newsletter

The final 2023 Butterfly Atlas newsletter is out and chocked full of information.

-Highlights from the First Season
-From Botany to Butterfly: A Community Science Success Story
-Vermont Butterfly Species Conservation Ranks Updated
-Species Spotlight: Two-spotted Skipper
-Log Your Volunteer Hours for Conservation Funding
-Butterfly Videos and Books for Winter Learning and Enjoyment

Check it out at https://val.vtecostudies.org/projects/vermont-butterfly-atlas/newsletters/

Posted on November 18, 2023 04:07 PM by kpmcfarland kpmcfarland | 0 comments | Leave a comment

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