December 02, 2021

November 2021 Photo-observation of the Month: Tetracladium setigerum


A conidium (a kind of fungal spore) collected from a sample of Black River foam in Craftsbury, VT. © Connor Quinn

Congratulations to iNaturalist user Connor Quinn for winning the November 2021 Photo-observation of the Month for the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist. Connor’s photo taken through a microscope of a minuscule fungal spore received the most faves of any iNaturalist observation in Vermont during the past month.

Connor is an undergraduate student from Vermont with an interest in aquatic hyphomycetes and other ascomycetous molds. Unlike the fungi many across Vermont are familiar with, from the edible Hen of the Woods to the colorful Fly Agaric, the fungi that pique Connor’s curiosity lack fruiting bodies, and instead are identified based on the structure of their spores that can be found floating around in air or water.

By using a microscope and specialized dyes, Connor was able to isolate and view this fungal spore in a sample taken from foam atop the Black River in Craftsbury, VT. The structure of this particular spore is unique enough to identify it as belonging to a species called Tetracladium setigerum. The specialized nature of the study of these fungal spores means that there are no other records of this species in Vermont (or North America for that matter) on iNaturalist, but thanks to the diligent efforts of Connor this species now has an image and a location marking its place in Vermont’s vast array of biodiversity.

While iNaturalist is dominated by observations of large, observable forms of life such as mammals, plants, and birds, microorganisms also have their (very important) place in a region’s biodiversity. Thanks to people like Connor submitting their observations, we can gain a more full picture of all the miraculous organisms that call Vermont home. In case you’d like to see some more mind-boggling microorganisms, check out some of the photos of diatoms that have been submitted to the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist.


With 3,306 observations submitted by 476 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 02, 2021 23:38 by nsharp nsharp | 0 comments | Leave a comment

November 30, 2021

Cocoon Watch is being extended through December

Hello everyone!

The Giant Silk Moth Cocoon Watch is being extended through December 31, 2021! We hope that this will give a greater number of people time to participate. If you have not already joined the iNaturalist project and would like to do so, you can join the project here. Visit the VAL Cocoon Watch page here to learn more about cocoon ID and where to find them.

Stay tuned for future cocoon-related events!

Posted on November 30, 2021 14:51 by jpupko jpupko | 0 comments | Leave a comment

November 10, 2021

Reminder: The Cocoon Watch has begun!

It's November, and the VAL team has kicked off the giant silk moth cocoon watch. To join this project, click the link here and select "Join" in the upper right hand corner of the page. Be sure to check out our recent journal post on locating silk moth cocoons and adding more information to your iNaturalist posts! View this post by clicking the link here .

Happy cocooning!

Posted on November 10, 2021 23:52 by jpupko jpupko | 0 comments | Leave a comment

November 08, 2021

A Note on Geoprivacy

Wood Turtle

This time of year, Wood Turtles are slumbering through winter at the bottom of frigid streams and rivers throughout Vermont. This past spring and fall, however, the Vermont Atlas of Life received dozens of reports of Wood Turtles from across the state. Due to its designation as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need in Vermont, Wood Turtle observations submitted to the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist are automatically obscured to protect these turtles from being harassed or illegally collected by unscrupulous people. But sometimes conservationists like us can’t see the locations either.

For example, we share observations each year with the Vermont Reptile and Amphibian Atlas, which collects data needed to make informed recommendations regarding the state status, state rank, and conservation priorities of Vermont’s reptiles and amphibians. To do this, the atlas requires exact locations of observations. Unfortunately, if we don’t have access to the locations, they cannot be used for conservation.

iNaturalist also places geoprivacy in your hands. You can make make any of your observations obscured or even completely private, if you so choose. However, if you are uploading obscured or private observations, or are uploading observations of rare or threatened species that are automatically obscured, like the Wood Turtle example, it is likely that your observations are not fully contributing to research and conservation.

The default settings of an iNaturalist project like the Vermont Atlas of Life are such that the coordinates of any obscured or private observations actively shared with the project are visible to our team of biologists, but the coordinates of observations passively gathered by the project (any observations that are made within the state of Vermont but the observer is either not a member of the VAL project or didn’t purposely add the observation to the project) are not visible to VAL curators. This means that the coordinates of many important observations of rare and threatened species are hidden, and conservationists and researchers are unable to fully use them. There is a quick fix for this!

If you would like your obscured sightings of rare species or species of conservation concern to be accessible to professional conservationists, biologists, and researchers that work with VAL, go to our  short primer on iNaturalist geoprivacy and learn how you can best set your geoprivacy settings for the Vermont Atlas of Life.

Posted on November 08, 2021 20:07 by nsharp nsharp | 0 comments | Leave a comment

November 04, 2021

Join the Vermont Silk Moth Cocoon Watch This Month!

As November begins, we enter stick season, surrounded by the bare​ ​twigs of deciduous trees and shrubs. However, the lack of leaves reveals other jewels, if you know where to look for them—giant silk moth cocoons​.​ Giant silk moths (Saturniidae) are massive by moth standards, including the well-known Luna Moth (Actias luna). In Vermont, five species in this group have been recorded: Luna Moth, Polyphemus Moth (Antheraea polyphemus), Cecropia Moth (Hyalophora cecropia), Promethea Moth (Callosamia promethea), and Columbia Moth (Hyalophora columbia).

These species overwinter as pupa, wrapped snugly in their silken cocoons.​ ​This November, ​the Vermont Atlas of Life is asking you all to join ​our Cocoon Watch ​on iNaturalist by locating and ​photographing giant silk moth cocoons​. Learn more about the project and how to find/ ID cocoons at https://val.vtecostudies.org/missions/cocoon-watch/ and join us on iNaturalist ​at https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/vermont-giant-silk-moth-cocoon-watch.

Posted on November 04, 2021 14:02 by jpupko jpupko | 0 comments | Leave a comment

November 02, 2021

October 2021 Photo-observation of the Month: Hairy Woodpecker

A Hairy Woodpecker with a bill deformity appears to investigate its reflection in a mirrored surface. © Craig Hunt

Congratulations to iNaturalist user Craig Hunt for winning the October 2021 Photo-observation of the Month for the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist. His photo of a Hairy Woodpecker with a bill deformity appearing to ponder her reflection in a pane of glass received the most faves of any iNaturalist observation in Vermont during the past month.

Bill deformities such as this are the result of a disease known as Avian Keratin Disorder (AKD) which affects many species of birds and often results in uncontrolled beak growth to the point where the upper and lower mandibles completely cross over. Sadly, AKD increases bird mortality due to the increased difficulty of feeding and preening with a deformed bill, though it seems that this individual at least has been able to find enough food to survive to adulthood even with its severely crossed bill.

A team of researchers at the United States Geological Survey’s Alaska Biological Science Center have been studying birds with AKD since 1999, compiling reports of birds with deformed bills and looking for patterns and potential causes. Recently, they discovered that a virus known as Poecivirus could be linked to AKD. Species such as Black-capped Chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers, and others that often visit bird feeders seem to rarely but regularly suffer from AKD. If you encounter any birds with wonky bills at your feeders, be sure to report them to this USGS site.


With 10,818 observations submitted by 1,303 observers in October, 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 November 02, 2021 16:23 by nsharp nsharp | 1 comment | Leave a comment

October 07, 2021

September Photo-observation of the Month: Upland Sandpiper

Congratulations to iNaturalist user Coleen Lawlor for winning the September 2021 Photo-observation of the Month for the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist. Her photos of a handsome and uncommon Upland Sandpiper roaming the grassy plains of the William H. Morse State Airport in Bennington received the most faves of any iNaturalist observation in Vermont during the past month.

Upland Sandpipers are almost exclusively found in large, contiguous grassland habitats during the breeding season, and as such have been steadily declining in the state (and North America in general) due to habitat fragmentation as well as earlier and more frequent mowing and haying of suitable fields. The 2nd Vermont Breeding Bird Atlas reported an 85% decrease statewide. With this in mind, any Upland Sandpiper sighting in the state will surely draw the attention of birders. This individual was first spotted by a pilot taxiing on the runway of the airport, who snapped a distant photo and sent it to a bird-savvy friend. Several local birders were able to peer past the airport fencing in the coming weeks and see this grassland sandpiper strolling alongside runways and seemingly taking full advantage of the human-altered grassland surrounding the runway. While perhaps not as famous as Konza, this Upland Sandpiper was a truly exciting find well-documented by Coleen!

With 18,334 observations submitted by 1,907 observers in September, 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 October 07, 2021 14:09 by kpmcfarland kpmcfarland | 0 comments | Leave a comment

September 24, 2021

Don't Forget to Fav Photos for the September Winner!

Cast your votes and be counted! You can 'fav' any observation that you like to vote for the Vermont Atlas of Life iNaturalist photo-observation of the month. Located to the right of the photographs and just below the location map is a star symbol. Click on this star and you've fav'ed an observation. At the end of each month, we'll see which photo-observation has the most favs and crown them the monthly winner. Check out awesome observations and click the star for those that shine for you. Vote early and often!

Check out who is in the lead and see a list of all of this month's photo-observations.

Posted on September 24, 2021 13:20 by kpmcfarland kpmcfarland | 0 comments | Leave a comment

August 31, 2021

August 2021 Photo-observation of the Month

Callistosporium purpureomarginatum © iNaturalist user @myco_mama_vt.

Congratulations to iNaturalist user @myco_mama_vt for winning the August 2021 Photo-observation of the Month for the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist. Their photos of several fungi known as Callistosporium purpureomarginatum sprouting out of a decaying oak log received the most faves of any observation in the state during the past month.

Not only are these photos gorgeous, showcasing the stunning purplish-red gills of these fungi, but they also provide all of the necessary features for identification! Many photos of fungi that go unidentified on iNaturalist show only one or two features, leaving out others that may clinch an identification. Making sure your photos show the cap (top view), gills (bottom view), and stem (side view), as well as including any notes about what kind of substrate the fungus is growing on all can help lead to an ID. Thanks to @myco_mama_vt's superb photos and prior knowledge of fungi identification, this observation was confirmed as Vermont's first record of Callistosporium purpureomarginatum. Autumn is one of the best times of year in New England to go out looking for a variety of colorful and interesting fungi, so with these photographs as a guide, and this exciting discovery as inspiration, get out there and see what fungal friends you can find and photograph for the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist!

With 20,606 observations submitted by 1,861 observers in August, 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 August 31, 2021 20:43 by nsharp nsharp | 0 comments | Leave a comment

August 02, 2021

July 2021 Photo-observation of the Month


A pair of Peregrine Falcons playing with their food. © Michael Sargent.

Congratulations to Michael Sargent for winning the July 2021 Photo-observation of the Month for the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist. Mike’s photo of a Peregrine Falcon pair engaged in an acrobatic aerial food transfer narrowly beat some tough competition this month to end up with the most faves of any observation in the state for July.

You might recognize Mike’s name from his many photographic contributions over the years to our blog posts from the VCE Mount Mansfield Banding Station. While a longtime photographer and friend of VCE, Mike’s only recently joined the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist, where his photo received quite the warm welcome! Peregrine Falcons are one of the most charismatic and exciting bird species in the state, and their acrobatic behaviors are thrilling to watch. This pair seems to have slightly miscalculated their aerial food transfer, with the prey item (a European Starling) tumbling below their grip. Rather than come straight in to the nest, a Peregrine Falcon returning with food will often wait for its partner to fly out, where the prey item is handed off or even dropped in midair. The quick reflexes and staggering speed and agility of Peregrine Falcons allows these transfers to go smoothly most of the time, and this behavior results in some spectacular displays of ‘passing the baton’ with any mishaps corrected by a steep dive to catch the plummeting prey before it hits the ground.


With 34,237 observations submitted by 2,201 observers in July, 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 August 02, 2021 16:37 by nsharp nsharp | 0 comments | Leave a comment

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