May 18, 2019

What have I gotten into!?

Shortly before the CNC and ever since, I've fallen in with these fine folks on Discord, so now I'm going to make some small effort this weekend to get out there and blitz a bit more with them:

It's not likely I'll place well, given how insanely good at racking up observation & species numbers the best of this group are, but it's good to be around people who inspire me to keep improving on iNat. :)

If connecting online with a bunch of other iNatters to chat sounds like it's up your alley, check out the unofficial iNat Discord server at:

My handle is SyntheticBee. If you saw my mention here & came to Discord as a result, give me a shout.

Posted on May 18, 2019 11:16 by benarmstrong benarmstrong | 0 comments | Leave a comment

September 24, 2018

Making time for bees

It was 5 pm, supper in 30 minutes, sunny out & gusty, the temperature already 12C heading towards 4C overnight. Hardly bee weather, but after a long day at my desk, I needed a stretch. I remembered goldenrods along the ballpark edges, 2 blocks away. Perfect. How many different kinds could I observe before supper? Three, and one hoverfly, as it turned out. Then back for dinner on time. No uncommon discoveries among them, but a good session. Almost any time while the season lasts can be made to work. The harder the circumstances, the more delight in finding subjects and capturing them.

Posted on September 24, 2018 22:02 by benarmstrong benarmstrong | 0 comments | Leave a comment

August 24, 2018

Mostly bees

On the 17th, I went out and did a ton of bee observations. It was so fun to try to figure them all out! I really owe the iNat community thanks, as they have been a great support in my endeavour to become a little less ignorant about bees.

I recorded a video of this leaf cutter bee (Megachile inermis) from that trip, my first iNat observation with a video (see Observation Fields: Video Link):

Posted on August 24, 2018 22:41 by benarmstrong benarmstrong | 0 comments | Leave a comment

August 05, 2018

Mostly wrong about bees

So I'm finding it difficult, particularly with smaller bees, to know bees even at a family level ... I don't see any guides for our area and wish there were one. Anyone want to give that a go? I'm a generalist, so am more interested in breadth than depth.

Meanwhile, I've found the Halifax Public Library has 3 checked-in copies of "The bees in your backyard : a guide to North America's bees" / Joseph S. Wilson & Olivia Messinger Carril. I have put a copy on hold and am waiting for the transfer to my branch. This looks like a good, accessible starting point for me.

If there are good online resources (e.g. on or whatever ... I haven't looked yet) that you know of, links, please! I'm sure I'll find these eventually, but you know ... feeling lazy this morning. ;)

Posted on August 05, 2018 15:23 by benarmstrong benarmstrong | 0 comments | Leave a comment

July 31, 2018

Getting comfy with keys in the bountiful month of July

I'm making much better use of keys this month. Go Botany has been invaluable several times, and it's becoming a habit to check it.

I've also gone out to hike the Bluff Trail multiple times, most recently bringing back 165 observations on July 27th. That has to be a personal best for a single outing, and amounts to about 12% of my observations for the entire year! Happy to have managed to keep it up this year without the incentive of a major BioBlitz to drive it like last year.

Apparently your summers have been similarly bountiful, as checking all the observations as they whiz by has been a challenge. (I hope dumping all of my own observations from the 27th into your feeds over the past week didn't completely overwhelm you!)

Looking forward to more outings once the heat and humidity subsides a bit ... humidex 31 at the moment ... blech! :p

Posted on July 31, 2018 18:23 by benarmstrong benarmstrong | 0 comments | Leave a comment

June 15, 2018

Fireflies in Atlantic Canada

After talking to a friend online about fireflies in our area, a discussion following their posting of a photo on social media of what I at first thought might Ellychnia corrusca (a species I recently observed for the first time and posted here), I went to see what else I could find written on the topic. I was pleased to find an academic paper from 2012 surveying fireflies of Atlantic Canada, written by an acquaintance I used to work with back in the 90's as volunteers for our local community net. I'm sure I'll be referring to this again! After some more discussion about the social media post, it came to light that, well, they recall observing some lit up in the night, so they might not be Ellychnia, which lack light-producing organs. Pyropyga nigricans was proposed as an alternative for their photo. We'll follow up on this later.

Posted on June 15, 2018 15:43 by benarmstrong benarmstrong | 0 comments | Leave a comment

June 10, 2018

Discrete Camera, Android + Digikam + iNat photo processing workflow

I have a new tool for iNat observations! Supplementing my Android phone (OpenCamera + OsmAnd) which I still use to capture both photos and GPS tracks for later integration & processing using Digikam, I now have a discrete camera, a Ricoh WG-50, which is a point-and-shoot camera. Although it has neither Wi-Fi nor GPS, it is small, tough, and affordable, all priorities for me. There's nothing wrong with USB, and Digikam makes it pretty simple to GPS correlate all the photos, so those weaknesses aren't a big problem for me, and the unique macro features of the WG-50 really sold it to me in the end. I'm still getting acquainted with the equipment, so my shots aren't yet up to the consistent quality of the Android camera shots, but they're getting there.

I am starting to get serious about doing something about optimizing my photo processing workflow using all of this hardware & software. See my comment added to this Digikam bug requesting iNaturalist export capability: which records some of my thoughts about what would help me, and how I might contribute.

Posted on June 10, 2018 10:24 by benarmstrong benarmstrong | 0 comments | Leave a comment

June 05, 2018

Why, oh why do I insist on the hard way? (Or: My aversion to keys)

Why will I spend hours and hours exploring up and down taxonomic trees, study countless photographs, and ultimately trudge back out onto the trail to hunt for new individuals to look at more carefully, (usually with specific questions in mind this time in order to resolve a disputed ID,) but abhor spending even 5 minutes consulting a key? OK, 10 to 15 at the worst, because I'm still picking up all of the prerequisites needed as I study the keys. But certainly using a key is more efficient! It's not like there aren't any about for most of the things I encounter (gobotany covers the majority).

It's a sickness, that's why. I voraciously consume complex systems. The more complex, the more alternatives, the more unsettled things are, the more intricate and confusing the bits are, the more fun it is! Putting things in boxes kills the fun. It's the end of the hunt. Game over.

But sometimes you just need to get a job done and get on with the next thing. The sickness is: once I set off on the chase, my mind will ... not ... let ... go. I just find myself utterly incapable of calling it quits on the "hard way" and doing the sensible thing: "use the key!" Sigh.

So this summer's resolution? Overcome my aversion to keys! Wish me luck.

Posted on June 05, 2018 20:04 by benarmstrong benarmstrong | 4 comments | Leave a comment