November 28, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving

I give thanks for the universe, and its infinite levels of detail and surprise.
I give thanks for those people, my friends who designed, implemented, and now sustain iNaturalist.
I give thanks for the communities I participate in across my county, my continent, and the world through iNaturalist.
I give thanks for lichens and pseudoscorpions and slime molds and liverworts and stem galls and random Diptera that have made life so much more intriguing for me, filled with so much more beauty than I had ever thought to imagine

Posted on November 28, 2019 16:14 by gyrrlfalcon gyrrlfalcon | 1 observations | 4 comments | Leave a comment

November 12, 2019

Sam McDonald Special Second Bio-Blitz: February 15 (rain date February 16)

Dear Friends -

On March 2, 2019, we did a Bio-blitz at Sam McDonald County Park. We were dodging raindrops and muddy roads much of the day, but still gained a respectable total (and lots of fungus!). However, the conditions precluded getting to the more distant parts of the park, where there is greater habitat diversity. So we are going to try again with a special planned type of blitz.

What makes this Blitz different is that we will start at 8:00 am and give everyone freedom to go to the targeted areas of the park. This will necessitate a preliminary hike of about one mile no matter where you start (and you can be blitzing along the way, of course, since we will use the same boundaries as on the March 2019 blitz). Once you have arrived at an "uncovered" location (not well-represented in the previous Blitz), you can stay as long as you want, provided you are back to the parking lot by closing time. There will be no formal "wrap-up" session, though there will likely be a convivial dinner meeting.

The trails in question are
1. Ridge Fire Road (from about 1/3 of a mile up from the gate off of Pescadero Road at trail#6 to trail #26; easy parking at large pullout just west of the gate on the south side of the road)
2. Towne Fire Road (from about trail marker 20 to trail marker 33)
3. All of the East Brook Trail (from trail marker 28 to a tad south of trail marker 32)
4. West Brook Trail (from trail marker 27 for about .75 of a mile south)
5. Heritage Grove Trail south from 21 to 30/31
6. For those averse to uphill walking, the bulk of the Heritage Grove Trail from trail marker 14 to 25 is uncovered, especially in the middle sections. One could start at either the main parking lot or the Heritage Grove Parking on Alpine Road (limited, dirt lot that is often muddy)

Here is the project link for the March 2019 blitz:

For those of you not familiar with the African-American history of this park, check it out!

DAY: Saturday February 15, 2020 (rain date Sunday February 16, 2020)
TIME: 8:00 am start; running all the daylight hours; come when you can, leave when you like
PLACE: Meeting at Sam McDonald main parking lot
CONTACT: Jennifer Rycenga (

Let me know if you are interested in attending. I am hoping to garner talented iNat-ters of all types!


Posted on November 12, 2019 06:26 by gyrrlfalcon gyrrlfalcon | 7 comments | Leave a comment

November 03, 2019

Some thoughts on iNaturalist Big Days

As a birder, I have been familiar with Big Day culture. But with iNaturalist, there are so many variables - it is a whole different field of play. Having been both a Big Day aficionado and an umpire (when part of the American Birding Association's Rules and Ethics committee), I have come up with these preliminary features for a number of Big Days and the ways to measure them.

This was my biggest day, I think, with 213 observations, on the first day of 2019's City Nature Challenge. I can do better!

So the variables for measuring a Big Day include
TOTAL Verifiable Entries
TOTAL Verifiable Entries that earn Research Grade
TOTAL Verifiable Entries with substantive comment by observer and/or identifiers
TOTAL Species seen (with differentiated rules for different taxa; specifically, those taxa where getting an entry to family or genus level is itself a triumph).
TOTAL number of the Thirteen Categories represented (see my journal entry )

Big Days could maximize habitats, or seek to get the most out of one or two. I drew up this (likely incomplete) list of generalized habitat types:

1. Salt water
2. Fresh water
3. Riparian
4. Beach/Reef
5. Swamp
6. Grassland
7. Shrubby (Chaparral)
8. Mixed woodland
9. Conifer forest
10. Tropical forest
11. Montane woods
12. Montane talus
13. Desert
14. Agricultural
15. Urban/Suburban
16. Unique to your area (e.g. Karoo, kipuku)

I would think that before running the Big Day, another cool thing to do would be to check the species totals for the geographic umbrella zone (e.g. San Mateo County, Western Cape, O’ahu) to set a baseline. Adding species to the county or state list is a major accomplishment in most areas that have power users willing to undertake a Big Day, so that is a valid statistic to maintain, too.

So with these factors in play (and yes, I like such baseball statistics as Wins-above-replacement), we could construct a matrix of ways to conduct and score competitive (or self-competitive) Big Days.

I also would like to see a "Green" version wherein one seeks the highest number of entries/species with shortest distance traveled.

Anyway, I'd be interested in further thoughts.

Posted on November 03, 2019 23:21 by gyrrlfalcon gyrrlfalcon | 2 comments | Leave a comment

Scientific Names First

Wow! Just changed my settings to show scientific name first, and am amazed by the psychological change for me.

1. I actually knew more of these names than I thought I would.
2, It challenges me to learn more.
3. I bet it helps me to learn faster.

Posted on November 03, 2019 16:28 by gyrrlfalcon gyrrlfalcon | 0 comments | Leave a comment

July 30, 2019

The Thirteen iNaturalist Categories

My iNat buddies know how, as part of my own continuing education program, I attempt to get entries in as many of the thirteen iNaturalist categories as I can, every day I go out. This morning I decided to take a more rigorous approach to the problem, and so I offer my insights as a public service.

The thirteen categories, divided into three levels of difficulty (though the division is dependent on habitat)

Plants - you have to be in the most sterile atmosphere imaginable to not get a plant
Fungi - once you know where lichen hide, you've got no excuses
Insects - Something's gonna bug you if you're in the field all day
Birds - photos AND tapes AND found feathers...c'mon people, you can do this, even if you are not birders

Arachnids - the animal architecture project can always use another interesting web or spider hole
Mollusks - snails, banana slugs, and shells
Reptiles - fairly easy where I live (because, Western Fence Lizard) or Florida, but can be tricky back east
Mammals - I suppose this could be easy, if you don't mind having shitty pictures

Amphibians - when we know where the salamanders are, this gets easier
Other Animals - when at the shore this is easy, because crabs. Isopods usually happen to you in a day
Ray-Finned Fish - To once again quote @vermfly , "Get the fish" is not an easy task!
Protozoans - What can one do in a dry climate without slime molds being in season?
Chromista - Seems you've got to be by the shore...except that Sudden Oak Death is a Chromista

I once got 12 of 13, and missed the 13th simply because I didn't realize how close I was to completing the set (Mollusk was the missing one, and i'd been ON a BEACH!)

Posted on July 30, 2019 19:13 by gyrrlfalcon gyrrlfalcon | 9 comments | Leave a comment

iNat Anniversary Party August 13 (Tuesday) El Corte de Madera

Every year for the past two, I've thrown myself the kind of party I really like and think is fun - an iNat Anniversary party! It was on August 13 of 2012 that I encountered the rattlesnake at Edgewood that set me off on this wondrous journey. My involvement with iNat has brought me friends, knowledge, and a sense of environmental passion that is better than simple activism or unending despair. So I want to celebrate all of that - and to continue to build the remarkable San Mateo County BioBlitz project.

This year the anniversary falls on a Tuesday - not the most convenient time, I know. Hence I am getting the invitation out early, and making room for latecomers.

DATE: August 13, 2019 (Tuesday)
TIME: 1:00 PM (early shift); 5:30 PM (later shift)
PLACE: El Corte de Madera, Skeggs Point parking area
ROUTE: Part One: Skeggs Point to Tafoni Trail; Tafoni to Fir Trail; Fir to Resolution Trail (to chaparral); Resolution to Fir Trail, back to Skeggs; Part Two: From Skeggs to the Sierra Morena Trail and back
DISTANCE: (Part One) about 3 miles; (Part Two) about 1 mile
IDEA: iNat Every Freaking Thing WE Can Find! Blanket the area with observations!
AFTERWORDS: We can figure out where we want to eat, depending on who wants to go to dinner. We know of good pizza, good Thai, good Mexican, good Japanese within thirty minutes of location heading back east into the heart of San Mateo county.

PLEASE LET ME KNOW IF YOU INTEND (OR HOPE) TO ATTEND, so I know about how many people we have.

The observation that launched tens of thousands of contributions:

Posted on July 30, 2019 16:05 by gyrrlfalcon gyrrlfalcon | 39 comments | Leave a comment

June 20, 2019

Amazing South Africa

Wow. Just. Wow.

Peggy (@tui) and I loved our trip in South Africa, with Alvaro's Adventures and Rockjumper Tours. Keith Valentine + Alvaro Jaramillo (@alvarojaramillo) meant we had TWO world-class leaders, as well as two world-class human beings. The other participants were, to a person, interesting, patient and engaging. The trip as a total saw over 310 species of birds, over 30 mammals, and a host of other interesting beings. I am proud to say that I entered (as of today, when the bulk of the uploading has been completed) 1,114 entries here on iNaturalist, currently totaling 434 species. This is the best virtual tourbook I've ever assembled.

The quality - such as it is - of my IDs owes a lot to the remarkable iNat community of South Africa. thanks especially to @happyasacupcake , @tonyrebelo , @vynbos , @alanhorstmann , @jurga_li (not in SA but great on lichens), @alexanderr (herps, man! wow!), @colin25 , and others I am forgetting at the moment (I should have kept a list...). You were all gracious with this newbie to South Africa, and the fastest group of folks on bird subspecies I have ever encountered!

Much to my surprise, after only two weeks in South Africa - the country whose municipality of Cape Town smashed the competition in the City Nature Challenge - I made the leader board for number of observations, with 1, 114, good for 87th place (currently). Must return one day to retain my position!

While I presume everyone able to get to a journal post on iNaturalist would also know how to navigate my calendar, here's the day-by-day outline of our trip.

May 29 -
May 30 - (Kirstenbosch day)
May 31 - (Cape of Good Hope day)
June 1 - (pelagic day)
June 2 - (Rockjumper to Strandfontain)
June 3 - (West Coast National Park)
June 4 - (Karoo)
June 5 - (Ceres to Cape Town)
June 6 - (transit to Zebra Hills)
June 7 - (first full Manyoni day)
June 8 - (second full Manyoni day)
June 9 - (Mkuzi day)
June 10 - (third full Manyoni day)
June 11 - (fourth full Manyoni day)
June 12 - (Manyoni morning farewell to Durban)

It is entirely possible that I made some local iNaturalist converts while in South Africa...I do what I can!

Thanks again to everyone involved!


Posted on June 20, 2019 17:46 by gyrrlfalcon gyrrlfalcon | 5 observations | 4 comments | Leave a comment

May 29, 2019

First Time EVER in South Africa begins NOW!

Peggy (@tui ) and I are here in Cape Town, starting a two-week tour with Alvaro's Adventures and Rockjumper Tours. Knowing that Cape Town just won the iNaturalist Olympics, a.k.a. City Nature Challenge, I am grateful in advance for any ID help I receive. Thanks for overlooking my ignorance.

Posted on May 29, 2019 15:18 by gyrrlfalcon gyrrlfalcon | 5 comments | Leave a comment

March 01, 2019

The Sam McDonald Blitz is ON: rain or shine!

Dear Sam McDonald BioBlitzers -The BioBlitz is ON!

We are going to brave the rainy forecast for tomorrow. The organizers of the Blitz have designed a strategy whereby people can fan out across the park through car-pooling, and explore some of the most bio-diverse corners of the park without being far from the shelter of their vehicles. While the weather may suppress some taxa (birds and mammals) it may encourage others (salamanders and more intensely colored lichens). Be a champion for nature and come out to BioBlitz the rainforest - in the rain! It's the habitat!

8:45 in the main parking lot.

Jennifer Rycenga (a.k.a. gyrrlfalcon)

Posted on March 01, 2019 17:55 by gyrrlfalcon gyrrlfalcon | 2 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

February 04, 2019

Lichens of Southern Africa

Peggy and I are getting excited about our upcoming trip to South Africa in May-June. So I decided to take a preliminary look at what was out there in terms of lichens in that part of the world. I almost immediately happened onto this project -

The fellow who organizes this, @tonyrebelo , has written an introduction that aches for more members. Given that some of their common lichens there, such as Golden-eye, are ones we have, too, I figured there's no harm in informing my local lichen contacts of this project. I've joined already.

Lichen enthusiasts of the planet, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chain (ferns)!

Posted on February 04, 2019 01:10 by gyrrlfalcon gyrrlfalcon | 4 comments | Leave a comment