05 de enero de 2022

The Streak Continues, And It Has Changed Me

Many, very impressively, note their eBird observation streaks. The other day I saw that one of my FB contacts has been making an eBird report everyday for FIFTEEN YEARS. That's incredible. I try to remember to do an eBird report everyday, but the longest I have made it is 201 days, though truth be known, my streak would be longer if I would actually submit the reports I started but did not complete... Follow through... Working on this for 2022.

Where I have failed to follow through on eBird, I have figured out how to manage on iNat. This year I noticed that on the iNaturalist “Year In Review,” they included a graphic on the longest iNat streaks; how many consecutive days someone has made an iNat observation. As of December 31st my streak was at 1100 days. Some of you may have seen my post on September 22nd, when I reached the 1000 day mark (https://www.inaturalist.org/journal/skrentnyjeff/57108-1000-consecutive-days-of-an-inat-upload).

Pretty cool to know that of the millions of iNat users worldwide, I have the 3rd longest streak, a few days longer than three consecutive years of making at least one "verifiable" iNat observation every day (https://www.inaturalist.org/stats/2021). As I mentioned in September, I am proud of this. At that time I had no idea I have the third longest streak in the world of iNat users, which is cool, but not nearly as cool as the nearly 25,000 observations of the natural world I have been privileged to make in that time.

Doing this has changed me.

Mostly in very good ways. I see the world in a very different way than I once did. And yes, this all started with birds for me. After birds it became about making sure birds have habitat, which resulted in my efforts to help the FPCC restore LaBagh Woods. In restoring LaBagh Woods, I met folks like Derek, who helped me develop a deep love for more than just birds, and flying things, but for all life. Of course he has a predilection toward plants and mushrooms, but together we have made a great exploring team that have made iNat observations throughout Cook County, Illinois and beyond.

All of this, birding, restoration, exploring and documenting nature, has healed me after some health issues that I still work to manage daily in my life. Doing these things has added a purpose to my life that was taken from me when those health issues first stopped me in my tracks all those years ago, and dramatically changed my life. Though I may not be the man that had his first cardiac arrest in February of 2010, and now my health may require much more attention than I prefer to give it all the time, the metamorphosis since my life took the turn into birding, restoration and observing nature because of these health issues, is one I am very pleased to have grown through.

It has made me a better passenger, sharing my ride here on Spaceship Earth with all these other creatures that travel with me, and you, too.

Publicado el 05 de enero de 2022 a las 06:38 PM por skrentnyjeff skrentnyjeff | 2 comentarios | Deja un comentario

23 de septiembre de 2021

1000 Consecutive Days of an iNat Upload

It was with great joy that I read on Facebook the other day about my birding friend Ted's accomplishment of reaching 1000 days in a row of submitting an eBird checklist. I am struggling to keep my streak going for a year. I make them daily, I forget to send them in from my app. Stupid, I know.

Ted, amazing citizen science. Thank you.

When I read his post, I understood what an accomplishment his data collection achievement was, because I knew I was coming up on a 1000 day streak of my own. Though it is not the streak I thought I would be celebrating this day, today, sometime in the rain this morning at LaBagh Woods, while leading the COS bird walk there, I made an observation of these Chicken of the Woods (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/95776786), and that made 1000 consecutive days of uploading an iNaturalist.org observation to help in my own modest way to create a citizen science record, legacy, of the life I see here on Spaceship Earth in my time, and in my places.

My journey began on Friday, December 28th, 2018, with five bird species observed and documented on and near the Diversey Turning Basin on the Chicago River behind Diversey Bowl. One of those 5 observations was this Ruddy Duck (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/19392419).

500 days later on Friday, April 10th, 2020, I saw the first Spotted Salamander I ever recall seeing (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/41840575), down in the Palos Preserves of Cook County. It was one of 14 observations I made that day.

Between December 28th, 2018, and today, September 22nd, 2021, when I added 9 observations to iNat, I have made 15,593 iNat observations of 3592 species of organisms. 11,914 of those observations of 2969 organisms have been peer IDed, or confirmed by others on iNat.

Some interesting stats: 14,936 of those observations were made in Illinois. 12,735 were made in Cook County. 8141 were in Chicago proper, and 3655 of my observations in that 1000 day span were made at my patch, LaBagh Woods. I also made 1531 observations at my small urban residence on Chicago's NW side in that time span. Probably the most iNat observations at a single residential address in all of Chicago, LOL.

The world will little note, or likely care about this modest achievement. Hell, the world takes little note of the damage it is doing without concern to Spaceship Earth, so of course not.

And though I rage on and on about that lack of concern, I have made it my mission to think globally and act locally, doing what I can to be one of those who does stewardship at LaBagh Woods. Additionally, everywhere I go, I do my best to create a record of what I see living there. When all is said and done, besides my two children, I hope, this may be the most important legacy I can leave to the future: A nearly anynomus documentation of what was living here, in this time, and in these places, where I have been.

I am good with that. I am really good with that. I believe it will matter.

Where to from here?

To Wednesday, June 19th, 2024. That will be my second 1000 days of consecutive observations.

Who is with me?

Said in that way only the future Senator Bluto Blutarsky could (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q7vtWB4owdE).

Publicado el 23 de septiembre de 2021 a las 04:45 AM por skrentnyjeff skrentnyjeff | 1 observación | 1 comentario | Deja un comentario

12 de junio de 2021

Can't Respect What You Can't Name

Today, as I was heading out of the house to see some of my favorite doctors, I noticed this fly on some of the vegetation along our walkup. Didn't recognize it, took a few photos, got on my way.

When I got home and loaded it into iNaturalist.org, I learned it was likely a Narcissus Bulb Fly (Merodon equestris). I looked to see if I had ever seen one before, as it did not look familiar. I learned that I had indeed see one, ONCE before, on the very first day I ever used iNat, on June 8th, 2016. That day I helped Pete Leki and the folks at Waters Elementary, where my kids did some of their elementary education, to do a bio blitz on the Waters School campus grounds.

I had never heard of a Narcissus Bulb Fly before that day. That day it was just a fly. An interesting looking fly. I had also never heard of iNaturalist, and wasn't sure I even wanted to learn how to use it. HA! Turns out, this fly was the 28th iNat observation I ever made. Flash forward 5 years (and three days) and I see the second Narcissus Bulb Fly I have ever seen. It was iNat observation 22,026. Still didn't know what it was when I saw it today. I did know how to find out what it was this time.

In the 5 years between these two Narcissus Bulb Fly observations, I have made 22,000 additional iNat observations of 4110 other species of living things. That comes to about 12 observations a day for the 1829 days I have been an iNat user. For the last 898 straight days, I have made at least one iNat observation a day as I try to learn the world of living things that share Spaceship Earth with us. Can't respect something you can't name. Isn't that why they chant "Say his name?"

I digress.

Really, that is about it. I found it rather amusing that today I saw my second ever Narcissus Bulb Fly, a bug I only ever saw once before, and that on the first day I ever used iNat. How interesting that that was almost exactly 5 years ago today. In the interim I have made 22,000 additional iNat observations.

I thought this was pretty cool.

Derek likes to say to me that making iNat observations is my compulsion. Or is it my obsession? My addiction? Could be worse I guess. At least those observations will help with the citizen science that iNat empowers. And really, I think of it as my classroom. My text book. My teacher. I think of what I knew about our natural world 5 years ago, I think about what I know now. HA!

I think Spaceship Earth would be a better place for humans and the organisms who share this ride around the sun with us on this 3rd rock from the sun, if everyone made one iNat observation a day to learn what else travels with them on these annual rides around our sun.

Really, I do.

Can't respect what you can't name.

Publicado el 12 de junio de 2021 a las 03:06 AM por skrentnyjeff skrentnyjeff | 1 observación | 1 comentario | Deja un comentario

23 de noviembre de 2020

My 2500th Cook County, Illinois, Self IDed Species for 2020. Now for the iNat Peer IDs

This was it!


Self identified species #2500 for my #2020cookcountyinatbigyear: Western Grebe at Rainbow Beach photo by Matt Sparapani. I only got to count it because I looked back one last time. But I am getting ahead of myself with this story.

As I retired on Friday night, I had self IDed 2499 species of living things in Cook County. My goal is to see and have peers ID on iNat 2500 living things from Cook County in 2020.

BEFORE that can even be possible, I need to SEE 2500 myself.

I began Saturday morning at Centennial Park where a Townsend's Solitaire had been seen the morning before. I was up at 555am and there before the 648am sunrise. Shortly after sunrise, Isoo joined me, and we searched the park and the neighborhood to no avail. Isoo also had intel on a location in Evanston where a White-winged Crossbill had come to a thistle feeder the two prior days, but the homeowner didn't want anyone to show up until after 10am.

We decided to head to St Adalbert's Cemetery to check out the pinery there, as Joe Lill had a few White-wings there Thursday and we had two hours to kill. After Adalbert's we figured we would head to Memorial Park Cemetery to check that pinery. It was just a few blocks from the homeowner we planned to visit at 10am.

As we arrived at Adalbert's we learned that Matt & Allison had a Western Grebe down at Rainbow Beach. We didn't even think twice. We were on our way.

Nothing worse than arriving at a location where a rare bird is to see everyone looking in all different directions, chatting it up, and eager to tell you where it was last seen and by whom. Don't care. Where is the bird? DAMN.

I don't know how long we stood there, searching, but eventually the Tolzman's, who had been there for an hour looking if I heard them correctly, left. Then Isoo left. They were going over to Park 566 to see if they could relocate the Western Grebe from that vantage, looking north to the Rainbow Beach breakwater. I decided I was going to join them too.

See, overnight, I had a clear and vivid dream that I saw a Western Grebe at Park 566. I remember being very happy. It seemed obvious that I should join them and make this dream come true.

Yet, I hesitated. Scott & Alisa along with Matt & Allison were walking off the beach, so I thought I would say hello. I mean, how many underwing moths did I get sitting at Scott's deck late this summer? I waited and learned what I could from them. We all talked, while keeping an anxious eye on the water. Nothing. I said my goodbyes, and headed to the Prius C.

And I hesitated one last time, and put up my bins to check one more time. Every birder has done this a million times, and it never amounts to anything. This time, there was the Western Grebe. Distant, small, but right where Allison had found, and Matt had photographed, the grebe more then an hour or so earlier. I yelled to Scott to get his scope on it, I looked at it again to make sure I had my ID right. This never happens. I did have it right, there was the Western Grebe. I ran back to Prius C to get my scope.

Wish I hadn't done that.

When I got back to the group, Scott and Matt had one more brief look, and then the bird dove. We never saw it again.

Didn't know that at the time, so we called Isoo, he called the Tolzman's, they all came back. Another 30 minutes went by, nothing. Well, a Common Loon, but that wasn't what we all wanted to see. Scott & Alisa left, Matt & Allison left, and it was now 1030am.

What about that White-winged Crossbill in Evanston?

Isoo shared the intel he had, and I was off while they would keep looking for the grebe, which they never did see. I found and photographed the White-winged Crossbill with Fran and the homeowner Alan. I watched the crossbill until it flew away to the northwest. It was very satisfying.

Got home, and only then realized that the Western Grebe was the two thousand five hundredth species of living thing I had seen in Cook County this year. BFD. No way to get 2500 peer IDed species until I saw 2500 species. Real BFD. I wanted to jump and shout and yell with someone.

Around me at home, AG was packing for a three week Florida trip, RN was playing Minecraft, Lynne was reading. No one really cared all that much. Just another day where dad / Jeff was doing his nature thing. I smiled a big smile, and went upstairs to paint what was once my office, that was now going to be RN's bedroom. I need to have that done before AG returns home in three weeks, so she can quarantine downstairs where RN is sleeping while his room gets painted.

There was no jumping around, screaming or yelling. I just looked at my list of what else I might yet see this year and plotted my next outing.

When I was done with round one of painting, I met Derek out for quick seed collecting excursion, and that completed, we found a few easy plants I did not yet have for the year. Met him again this afternoon after painting, did the same again today. I now have my total to 2511 self IDed species, and my iNat peers have IDed 2022 of them to this point.

No kicking back, though, not until the year is over 39 days from now. Tomorrow, off to see if I can turn up the Hoary Redpoll that was seen today at the Chicago Botanic Gardens.

That would be an excellent addition to my species list for the year.

Publicado el 23 de noviembre de 2020 a las 06:05 AM por skrentnyjeff skrentnyjeff | 1 observación | 2 comentarios | Deja un comentario

01 de julio de 2020

Cook County iNat Big Year 1/2 Year Update!

I didn't know it at the time I took this photo, because I was unable to ID this damselfly in the field, but it was a Vesper Bluet, an insect I had never seen before.


When I saw it I was with my Cook County exploring friend and mentor Derek, in a southern Lake Michigan forest preserve property that is seldom visited, at least that would be my guess. Derek had to fix a log walk way across some open water that spring flooding damaged. I am guessing no one was back in the areas we explored since the log walkway had been damaged.

Anyway, this Vesper Bluet, seen by us June 20th, which, by the way, is not a mature or adult, but rather a just emerged damselfly, was the 1000th species of life I have seen and had peer IDed in Cook County on iNaturalist for 2020. My foolishly set goal was to see 2500 species of life in Cook County for the year. I way over played my hand setting that goal.

Or did I?

For those with your scorecards and pencils at home, here is where I am at for the year:

I have made 3534 observations of species in Cook County thus far this year of 1513 species as I have identified them. I know that I do not have all those IDs correct.

Of those observations 2568 have been peer IDed by 499 members of the iNat community for 1110 confirmed species so far in 2020. Technically, to be on pace, I should have 1250 species peer IDed to this point in the year.

What have I seen:

931 observations of 231 bird species
29 observations of 10 amphibian species
31 observations of 8 reptile species
66 observations of 17 mammal species
12 observations of 7 fish species
6 observations of 4 mollusk species
22 observations of 14 arachnid and mite species
378 observations of 232 insect species
986 observations of 547 plant species
90 observations of 53 mushroom / fungi species
and 2 observations of 2 protozoan species

(yes, I know these numbers do not add up, confused about this at moment)

Plus I have peer IDs on about 70 observations that will never be IDed to species, but are IDable to genus or tribe or sub-tribe, or something of that ilk.

Actually, its a pretty good start for a half year. I'd like to say a half year to go, right? But truth is that I basically have until the middle, MAYBE end of October to get the observations made to try and reach my audacious goal of seeing 2500 species in Cook County and having them peer IDed on iNat.

I basically have 15, maybe 16 weeks to see the remaining 1390 species to make goal.

Things up my sleeve? I have over 200-300 species that have yet to be peer IDed that I have already observed, including over 200 plant species, many of which are probably IDable. BUGS. The bugs are starting to come out in hoards. I have lots of bugs to get. And my guide Derek tells me that I will see more plant species in the second half of the year over the first half.

This all makes me a bit more optimistic than I was when I made my last update. I will need to see a lot of life in Cook County, and if you see something great, PLEASE let me know if it is something you think I can find after you have seen it. I am gonna need a lot of help to get this over the finish line, but one way or another, we are going to find out if one person can actually see 2500 different species of life here in Cook County, in a year.

Publicado el 01 de julio de 2020 a las 04:58 AM por skrentnyjeff skrentnyjeff | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

02 de enero de 2020

2020 iNaturalist Big Year in Cook County, Illinois

2019 is in the books, and I was happy to achieve my two main iNaturalist goals for 2019, getting 5000 iNat observations recorded over the year and having 700+ research grade plants observed in Illinois for the year. Can't learn them if you don't see them, right?

So what do I have in mind for 2020?

An iNaturalist Big Year in Cook County, Illinois.

My friend Paul Sweet (@psweet) got me thinking about this idea, he came up with doing it in Lake County in 2020, I thought it would be fun to see how I can do in Cook County while we help one another accomplish our individual county goals.

I wrote earlier today that 2500 species for the county for the year was my MAJOR STRETCH goal, and it will be a stretch indeed. After looking at my numbers, I see I have only recorded 1877 species in Cook County since I have been on iNat in early June, 2016, and of those observations only 1599 are research grade. For 2019, a year when I traveled around Illinois rather a bit to see 700 Illinois plant species, I only saw 1139 species in Cook County, and of them, just short of 80%, 904 of them, made research grade.

(addendum, just searched how many research grade observations were made by all observers on iNat in 2019, and it was only 2488 species... that's a bit of a gut check. Overall, Cook County has 3461 research grade iNaturalist species in its database.)

So I am looking to do a bit more than may be possible.

I am guessing I can get close to 200 bird species photographed. Maybe a 150-200 fungi? Would 500 plant species in Cook County be possible? 600? What do you think @sanguinaria33 and @bouteloua? And insects. That is where the goal will be made, and they are not a strong point for me. Not that I am good at much outside of birds. I will likely need close to 1000. Trevor (@randomrover) can we get 200 moths in Cook County? Butterflies and dragonflies another 100? That leaves a LOT of insects to be found and IDed.

What the hell.

No one ever learned without setting stretch goals. And so what if I fall short. Would getting to 2000, or 1500 species in Cook County be such a failure for an amateur naturalist like me? NOT. AT. ALL.

And think of the places I will get to explore?

Of course, this likely won't get off the ground if I don't get some help from others in my iNat community. Many have shown me and taught me so much in the last few years, but in 2020, I will take any taps on the shoulder telling me about a species I might miss if I don't quick go see it that you all are willing to share. Send all such messages of support. I will take all the help I can get.

Because, in the end this isn't about me. This is about leaving a record of what one person with the help of many others could log in a single year in one very diverse county in northeast Illinois. I think it could be a legacy worth leaving for the future. Or, if nothing else, a hell of a lot of fun.

Publicado el 02 de enero de 2020 a las 04:58 AM por skrentnyjeff skrentnyjeff | 5 comentarios | Deja un comentario

11 de junio de 2019

Random Thoughts About my 10,000th iNat Observation

Different people are motivated in life by different things. In my life I have had many motivations... finishing college; getting kicked out of graduate school; mastering my craft as a headhunter, then trainer of headhunters; seeing every MLB park; running 50+ marathons, including 10 Bostons; trying to raise two kids; dealing with my health; birding.

Birding remains a strong motivation for how I spend my free time, but it has lead to more. First, it lead to thinking about bird habitat and conservation, which has become my LaBagh Woods volunteer efforts, and that, lead directly to learning to ID and name more than just birds. Why not put a name to everything in nature. If you can't name it, can you really show it proper respect?

I found iNaturalist.org three years ago almost to the day, and learned this app and online tool could help me log for science, all that I photographed and saw in nature. Those observations will become a record, a legacy, a reminder of what was once living here on Spaceship Earth in my little patch of the world, or the places I ventured into away from my patch.

Observe and log I did. Tonight I achieved my goal of recording my 10,000th iNat observation in three years. Who cares? Maybe no one. Maybe the future. Maybe science, whatever that actually means. Doing this gives me purpose for the observations I make, even if it is just one of the 3372 observations of 970 species I have seen at LaBagh, my patch; or if it is one of the 79 Illinois endangered or threatened species of flora and fauna I have been lucky enough to observe while they are still observable in the wild here in Illinois.

What was my 10,000th observation? I planned for it to be a Cerulean Warbler (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/26729553) I saw with my friends Skillethead and Jonas. What was my 10,001st observation? A Loggerhead Shrike (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/26730033) I saw with the same two friends three hours later. Both are endangered or threatened species here in Illinois. Though I have seen both numerous times, it is a thrill to find both species EVERY time I do. It doesn't get old or boring, I don't think it ever will.

Where do I go from here? 20,000 observations of course! More to observe, and more need to observe it, and record it now more than ever. The iNat software tells me I have seen 2596 species of living things since I have been engaged in this effort. I would like to hit 10,000 species. Then maybe 20,000 species. Can one actually put a name to that many living wild organisms, when they didn't start until their mid-50s?

I guess time and motivation will tell.

Publicado el 11 de junio de 2019 a las 01:05 AM por skrentnyjeff skrentnyjeff | 4 comentarios | Deja un comentario