Now is the time of the year when the sun is shining, the flowers are blooming, and the birds are chirping. I don’t know about you, but I have been waiting for some nice, warm weather for months. As you are visiting Little Forks’ preserves and other natural areas you are probably seeing many exciting things. Maybe it is an animal that you came across when strolling down a path. Or perhaps it is a beautiful flower that you have seen before but can’t quite identify. Lucky for us, there are plenty of useful resources that can be used to help identify and record what we see when we are out in nature!
iNaturalist and Seek:
iNaturalist is website that allows users to record what they observe and share their finds with others. It covers a range of taxa: mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, plants, insects, and more! It also has an app that can be downloaded onto your phone through the app store. This is great if you struggle to identify things yourself. If you are unsure of the species it will offer suggestions based on similar postings to help you narrow it down. I took an entomology class last year and I used iNaturalist quite often when I was having trouble identifying an insect. It is very helpful and offers lots of information about each species including a general overview of the animal, where they are found globally, their taxonomy, and their conservation status. Seek is an educational and entertaining identification app that was also created by the iNaturalist team. With seek, users can earn badges and participate in challenges as they observe the organisms around them. Seek can be used to identify plants, animals, and fungi. It is simple to use and is fun for people of all ages. The apps can be downloaded in the app store. I highly recommend checking them out.
MISIN (Midwest Invasive Species Information Network) is used to detect and identify invasive species. This is really important for invasive species management. If we don’t know where invasive species are then how can we control them? Along with their website, MISIN has an app that can be found in the app store. MISIN has a lot to offer users. Not only are you able to report the invasive species that you find, but you can also explore and learn more about species that you may not be familiar with. You can look up a specific invasive species if you are interested in learning more about it. Or you can search geographically to find which invasives are present in a particular area. They also offer free training modules, once you pass the short quiz you will receive a certificate of completion. If we want to stop the spread of invasives in our area then we need to do our part by reporting what we find! Megan Garrett from our local Central Michigan Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area has created a video teaching you how to use the website and app from start to finish.
eBird and Merlin Bird ID:
Do you love birds? If so, eBird and Merlin Bird ID are just for you! Created by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, these resources have tons of information that will help you on your journey to becoming an expert birder. eBird allows users to share birds that they find, explore and learn about other birds, and find hotspots near them. Our preserves in Midland County are hotspots for many species of birds, where visitors have recorded tons of observations. eBird will keep track of the birds you find, the photos you take, and even the sounds that they make! Merlin Bird ID is very useful if you see a bird but don’t know what it is. You can answer a few simple questions about the bird you saw or upload a photo and the app will suggest possible birds that it could have been. If you visit the app store and search for “eBird” and “Merlin Bird ID” you will be able to find their mobile apps.
MI Herp Atlas:
Another resource you may be interested in is the Michigan Herp Atlas. This is where you can enter information for herps, amphibians and reptiles, that you see on your adventures. You can upload information about your observation as well as photos of what you saw. You can view previous records that have been posted and learn more about Michigan’s amphibians and reptiles. This resource has descriptions about the characteristics, behaviors, and habitats of the animals. The Mobile Mapper can be downloaded in Google Play or the iTunes Store. Recording the herps that you see helps by documenting how their populations change over time.
I encourage you all to get out to our properties and try some of these resources! When visitors use them, it gives us valuable information and a better understanding of the land that we manage. If you post anything to social media use the hashtag #LFCtrailfinds or you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with some of your observations. We love hearing from our preserve users and are interested to see what you find!
Shelby Cain - Huron Pines AmeriCorps Member