It always helps to use your "Notes" section for some habitat notes

I see too many naturalists, including a number of the most experienced ones, failing to offer any of what I will argue is some of the most important information that can be used to identify the observed species, that is its HABITAT! They will too often only use their "Notes" section to tell us the location, duplicating the information in the satellite map. (I suspect this originates with a need to include location information in field notes, when there was no satellite map that you could zoom in to, or out from, to see the location.) Some location information that you don't think could readily be determined from the satellite map, might still be useful to include.

Every naturalist knows that you first need to know where a species is being observed to know if it is within the range of that species, that is to know whether or not the species it might be identified as, is known to occur where the organism has been seen. If it is being seen in North America, it is not likely to be a kangaroo, only known to occur in Australia. While Australia could be considered the "physical range" of that species, its habitat could be considered the "ecological range" of that species. Learning the ecological range of a species is at least as important as learning the physical range, and reporting the ecological conditions where a species is found, can be one of the biggest keys to knowing what your species might be.

It always helps me when the "Notes" section is used to include at least a short note about the habitat of the observed species. For fungi, and plants, this can include what it is growing in, or on. For plants, it helps to know the other plant species it is rooted in the same material with, and within a short distance from (a shorter distance for shorter rooted, nearby herbs, and a longer distance for longer rooted nearby trees). That material can be wetter, or drier, it can be rockier, sandier, or composed less, or more, of humus, or maybe clay. It could be in an acid bog, or in an additionally salty area, possibly with salt spray, or where some tidal salt water periodically covers the ground, mixed, or not mixed, with fresh water. The spot can also be sunnier, or shadier.

For Animals any information on the physical conditions where it is, and the community of species it is among, is also likely to help. For animals, plants, or fungi, with obligate relationships with other species, such as parasites, it is more important to know the other species it is with, in, or on. Similarly, all animal species have a limited range of what other species they can eat. For example, many caterpillar species can only eat one kind of plant, and all caterpillar species have at least some limited range of "host" plants that they can eat.

Naturally, with plants, and fungi, the more one knows about the natural growing conditions of each species in one's area, and the species communities each species is a member of, the more the information about surrounding species will be useful in determining what the subject species growing with them is. For fungi, if you know plant species it may be growing in, or with, that can be very helpful. If it is growing in wood, and you know the species of wood that can help, if you don't know the species of wood, but still know whether it is of a broad-leafed tree, or if it is coniferous, indicating which often helps. The same is true for plants growing on coniferous, or broad-leafed, "nurse logs". One moss specialist I know does a great job of always including, in his "Notes" section, a short note on what the moss is growing on. This may be partly because mosses are sometimes classified by what they will grow on, and those who study mosses are more likely to understand the importance of knowledge of what the moss grows on.

My older brother / nature mentor liked to say "Habitat!, Habitat!, Habitat!" to emphasize that the first thing you want to note for an ID of a species is what habitat it is in. Then you don't have to worry about knowing how to distinguish a "Short-billed Marsh Wren" (now called a "Sedge Wren") from a "Long-billed Marsh Wren" (now just called a "Marsh Wren") if it is in an actual marsh, where the only "marsh wren" you would ever find would be the one we had called the " 'Long-billed' Marsh Wren".

While iNaturalist asks that observation photos always include the observed species, some photos can be taken at angles, and distances, to give some idea of the larger habitat there, and the other species it is with, without making the observed species hard to see. Another advantage of including views from further away than the best distance to see one individual, is that the way multiple individuals grow together, or gather together, can be a key to recognizing a species.

The essence of identifying a species is the process of narrowing down the possible species, using one potential distinguishing feature after another, and habitat, much like range, is generally one of the best features that can be used as we start to narrow down the possible choices for the species we are seeing!

Posted by stewartwechsler stewartwechsler, October 08, 2021 18:40

Observations

Photos / Sounds

What

Dyer's Polypore (Phaeolus schweinitzii)

Observer

stewartwechsler

Date

September 20, 2021 01:35 PM PDT

Description

Under a Douglas fir. Third photo shows a small piece of the cap upside down displaying its pores.

Comments

Good points.

Posted by sedgequeen about 1 year ago (Flag)

Thank you @sedgequeen I expect you remember the "Long-billed" Marsh Wren, and even more the "Short-billed" Marsh Wren, that was renamed after you! - The "Sedge Wren"

Posted by stewartwechsler about 1 year ago (Flag)

I wish iNaturalist had emojis for laughter!!

Posted by sedgequeen about 1 year ago (Flag)

(:

Posted by stewartwechsler about 1 year ago (Flag)

HI,thank you for sharing. I am complete amateur naturalist...I do try and appreciate all comments and suggestions others have written to me;). Last moth I observed the Spotted Lanternfly in downtown Philadelphia where I am from, across from City Hall where I worked for 12 years. We were visited for the weekend and these insects were really visible throughout the downtown and people were stepping on them as much as possible. I wanted to comment on my observations ..about the awareness of people we spoke with throughout the downtown..do you suggest I write my observations on inaturalist? also any other suggestions. Thank you. Best regards,Sheila

Posted by sheilsun about 1 year ago (Flag)

@sheilsun Sure, writing those observations on iNaturalist would be good!

Also, for what it is worth, after looking up the Spotted Lanternfly, I found it was a kind of plant hopper, rather than a moth.

Posted by stewartwechsler about 1 year ago (Flag)

Thanks for this. When I first started using iNat you were a great help in asking for habitat information for plants, and then adding insightful comments. Like this: "T. menziesii is a moisture indicator, needing moist sites for its clonal babies to root in.", and that Heuchera micrantha is always on rock, etc.

Posted by johndreynolds about 1 year ago (Flag)

Thanks for this. When I first started using iNat you were a great help in asking for habitat information for plants, and then adding insightful comments. Like this: "T. menziesii is a moisture indicator, needing moist sites for its clonal babies to root in.", and that Heuchera micrantha is always on rock, etc. I keep those comments and other tips from you and others in a Word doc to help me remember.

Posted by johndreynolds about 1 year ago (Flag)

@johnreynolds My pleasure! And I'm honored that you have saved my habitat tips for different species!

Posted by stewartwechsler about 1 year ago (Flag)

John's comment is in-line with what I have already started, and will continue to try to do...
Excellent note here Stewart.

Posted by jjjjaaaammmmiiiieeee about 1 month ago (Flag)

Thank you so very much....for helping me learn and appreciate nature so fully, adventurously and remarkably.

Posted by sheilsun about 1 month ago (Flag)

@sheilsun Only my pleasure!

Posted by stewartwechsler about 1 month ago (Flag)

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