15 April, 2024

March 2024 Photo-observation of the Month

A red stalk of Bug-on-a-stick moss points skyward from a carpet of other green and brown mosses. © iNat user @origamilevi

Congratulations to Levi Smith (@origamilevi) for winning the March 2024 Photo-observation of the Month for the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist! Their photograph of Bug-on-a-stick received the most faves of any iNaturalist observation in Vermont during the past month.

Bug-on-a-stick is not actually a bug on a stick, but a unique-looking moss (Buxbaumia aphylla) found in temperate regions across the world. Named for its tiny fungus-like stalk and capsule that resembles a bug perched on the end of a stick, this moss is a pioneer species that likes disturbed soil with minimal competition from other plants. After the snow melts in the spring, green stalks and capsules begin to appear, turning coppery red as they mature. With any luck, you might find these elusive mosses in the forest growing from the decaying wood of old logs or along the edges of creeks.

Smith was also the recipient of the 2022 Youth Community Scientist of the Year Award and was the subject of an article in Fall 2022 Field Notes.


With 4,528 observations submitted by 541 observers in March, 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 15 April, 2024 15:50 by vce14 vce14 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

11 March, 2024

February 2024 Photo-observation of the Month


A Peregrine Falcon, with its narrow, pointed wings and torpedo-shaped body, is built for speed. © iNat user @winterglow

Congratulations to @winterglow for winning the February 2024 Photo-observation of the Month for the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist! Their mid-flight photograph of the fastest bird on earth, the Peregrine Falcon, received the most faves of any iNaturalist observation in Vermont during the past month.

A peregrination is a long, often arduous journey or pilgrimage, a word well-suited for a long-distance migrant such as the Peregrine Falcon. This falcon, found across the globe on all continents but Antarctica, might be better known for a much shorter journey that begins high in the sky and ends with a duck, shorebird, or pigeon far below gripped in its talons. During these high-speed flights known as ‘stoops’, Peregrine Falcons can reach speeds in excess of 200mph, faster than any bird on earth. Just as comfortable on the rocky cliffs of Vermont as they are on the skyscrapers of New York City, the Peregrine Falcon is one of the greatest conservation success stories on the continent, having recovered from the disastrous effects of DDT with the help of captive rearing and release programs. Some may know the Peregrine Falcon as a vital character in My Side of the Mountain, a book that sparked a love of nature in myself and many other budding naturalists. In Vermont, Peregrine Falcons have recovered in recent decades to the point where most suitable cliff faces in the state now have a nesting pair in residence. This success is thanks in part to efforts to reduce disturbance of nesting falcons by closing off breeding sites to climbers and hikers. You can learn more about the status of Peregrine Falcons in Vermont here and view a map of nearby sightings of this iconic species on Vermont eBird.


With 2,844 observations submitted by 524 observers in February, 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 11 March, 2024 13:48 by nsharp nsharp | 0 comments | Leave a comment

01 February, 2024

January 2024 Photo-observation of the Month


A Bobcat, illuminated by the winter evening sun, fixes its gaze across a snowy meadow. ©
@melissainvt

Congratulations to @melissainvt for winning the January 2024 Photo-observation of the Month for the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist! Her stunning image of a Bobcat in the snow received the most faves of any iNaturalist observation in Vermont during the past month.

Bobcats are one of Vermont’s most evocative mammalian predators, and encounters with this species tend to fall into two camps – the split-second view of one disappearing down a trail or bounding across a dirt road, and the much more satisfying prolonged views of particularly bold Bobcats sauntering through backyards or engaging in intense stare-downs across open country. This month’s winning photo perfectly captures the feeling of that second scenario, with a handsome and healthy-looking bobcat fixing its gaze across a field, perhaps deciding if the photographer should be viewed as a threat or merely another animal present on the landscape. Vermonters can expect to see many more Bobcats in the coming months, though perhaps not in the way they might expect. The 2024 Vermont Habitat Stamp features a stunning design featuring a Bobcat and a newly rediscovered orchid, the Small Whorled Pogonia, two icons of Vermont’s biodiversity that will benefit from funds raised by habitat stamp purchases. Get your 2024 Vermont Habitat Stamp today and you can spot a Bobcat on your car, laptop, water bottle, or wherever else you display your love for Vermont’s flora and fauna.


With 1,554 observations submitted by 259 observers in January, 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 01 February, 2024 20:58 by nsharp nsharp | 0 comments | Leave a comment

22 January, 2024

December 2023 Photo-observation of the Month


A Black-capped Chickadee seems to have lost most of its namesake Black cap! ©
@c_burns802

Congratulations to @c_burns802 for winning the December 2023 Photo-observation of the Month for the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist! Their photos of an exceptionally unique Black-capped Chickadee received the most faves of any iNaturalist observation in Vermont during the past month.

The last Photo-observation of the Month for 2023 offers us an up-close look at leucism! If we’re splitting hairs (or in this case, feathers) it’d be more accurate to say that this special chickadee is exhibiting signs of ‘partial leucism’ as the abnormalities of this bird’s plumage are limited to a few specific areas. Fully albino birds exhibit entirely white plumage and pinkish bare parts (eyes, bill, legs) due to a genetic mutation that limits the production of the pigment melanin, while partially leucistic birds such as our chickadee here exhibit patches of white feathers as a result of defects of groups of pigment cells. You’d be hard-pressed to find a leucistic bird in any field guide, and as such these unique individuals can often be quite challenging to identify; thankfully, enough of this bird’s ‘normal’ plumage was maintained, and the overall shape, structure, and behavior of this bird help identify it as a Black-capped Chickadee. In addition to the fascinating biology of leucism in birds, these leucistic individuals often are beloved by the birders that host them at feeders. The individuality of birds can be masked by their uniform patterns and plumages, but leucistic birds encourage us to look out for that one unique individual, and perhaps even get to know the patterns and behaviors of an individual bird intimately.


With 2,322 observations submitted by 367 observers in December, 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 22 January, 2024 21:38 by nsharp nsharp | 0 comments | Leave a comment

10 January, 2024

Vermont Atlas of Life iNaturalist Project Celebrated 10th Anniversary in 2023 by Surpassing 1 Million Records

In 2023 thousands of iNaturalists added over 200,000 biodiversity records to the rapidly growing database of life in Vermont, helping us surpass 1 million records during our 10-year anniversary. Read about all the amazing discoveries and more at the Vermont Atlas of Life blog - https://val.vtecostudies.org/newsfeed/2023-report-inaturalist/

Posted on 10 January, 2024 21:36 by kpmcfarland kpmcfarland | 2 comments | Leave a comment

04 December, 2023

November 2023 Photo-observation of the Month


A Long-eared Owl showcases its namesake ear tufts while taking a mid-day snooze in a Windsor County backyard. ©
@smccaull

Congratulations to @smccaull for winning the November 2023 Photo-observation of the Month for the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist! Her photos of a remarkable chance encounter with one of Vermont’s most secretive owls received the most faves of any iNaturalist observation in Vermont during the past month.

On a sunny fall morning in the Connecticut River valley, VCE friend and board member Stephanie McCaull stepped outside to a din of cawing American Crows. Knowing this cacophony could be in response to a local owl or other predator drawing the ire of these crafty corvids, she searched around her front yard until she spotted a well-camouflaged owl with protruding feathery ‘ears.’ Smaller and slimmer than the more common Great Horned Owl, and with a different patterning of coloration on the breast and face, the Long-eared Owl is one of Vermont’s most secretive and sought-after owl species. Avid birders will spend hours at night listening with hands cupped to their ears for the soft, low hoots of Long-eared Owls in their preferred habitat — dense thickets of cedar and other coniferous trees adjacent to open areas for hunting rodents — but every so often one of these reclusive owls will roost out in the open, providing a treat for lucky birders. To learn more about these charismatic, reclusive owls, head over to Vermont eBird where this article on the thrills of searching for Long-eared Owls in Vermont also provides a plethora of natural history information.


With 3,068 observations submitted by 501 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 04 December, 2023 19:20 by nsharp nsharp | 0 comments | Leave a comment

18 November, 2023

Second Vermont Butterfly Atlas Newsletter

The final 2023 Butterfly Atlas newsletter is out and chocked full of information.

-Highlights from the First Season
-From Botany to Butterfly: A Community Science Success Story
-Vermont Butterfly Species Conservation Ranks Updated
-Species Spotlight: Two-spotted Skipper
-Log Your Volunteer Hours for Conservation Funding
-Butterfly Videos and Books for Winter Learning and Enjoyment

Check it out at https://val.vtecostudies.org/projects/vermont-butterfly-atlas/newsletters/

Posted on 18 November, 2023 16:07 by kpmcfarland kpmcfarland | 0 comments | Leave a comment

09 November, 2023

October 2023 Photo-observation of the Month


Often celebrated for its ethereal voice and its special place as Vermont's state bird, the Hermit Thrush showcases a stunning palette of neutral tones when viewed up close. ©
@ckhunt

Congratulations to @ckhunt for winning the October 2023 Photo-observation of the Month for the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist! His head-on portrait of a handsome Hermit Thrush received the most faves of any iNaturalist observation in Vermont during the past month.

Unlike the other thrush species that migrate through or raise young in Vermont, the Hermit Thrush holds a special place in the state not just as the State Bird but also as the only thrush in its genus that can be found here even in the depths of winter. Thanks to the mountains of community science data that birders across the state provide through Vermont eBird, we can visualize with bar charts and graphs like this one when different species are most likely to be encountered. While most Hermit Thrushes head to more southern locales during the winter, a few hardy individuals stick around in slightly warmer or lower-elevation sites in Vermont. If you're thinking of joining your local Christmas Bird Count this year, consider seeking out areas with some open water and late-season fruiting plants that could provide safe-haven for one of these tough thrushes. Until their flute-like songs ring through the forest once more, Vermont birders can keep an ear out for the distinctive "chup" calls of Hermit Thrushes in the hopes of an up-close encounter like the one featured here.


With 12,220 observations submitted by 1,180 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 09 November, 2023 20:24 by nsharp nsharp | 0 comments | Leave a comment

05 October, 2023

September 2023 Photo-observation of the Month


Not the usual avian inhabitant one would expect to find in a nest box, this Gray Treefrog seems to have found a cozy shelter to hide out and survey the area. ©
@godricvt

Congratulations to @godricvt for winning the September 2023 Photo-observation of the Month for the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist! His photo of an unexpected bird house occupant received the most faves of any iNaturalist observation in Vermont during the past month.

That makes back-to-back wins of the Photo-observation of the Month for the wonderful Gray Treefrog! In contrast to last month’s froglet, here we have an adult Gray Treefrog capitalizing on the end of the breeding season for Vermont’s birds by taking up residency in a nest box. Gray Treefrogs are highly arboreal, so while it may be surprising to see a frog perched in a bird house like this, if any species were to find their way to this cozy abode, it’d be a Gray Treefrog. A mostly nocturnal species, Gray Treefrogs tend to stay out of sight for most of the day before ramping up their vocalizations and activity around dusk. With cooler temperatures on the way, Gray Treefrogs are beginning to seek out secluded spots to shelter away for the winter and brumate (an amphibian version of hibernation). Using chemicals produced in their liver with antifreezing properties, these tough frogs are capable of freezing solid while their cells remain intact, ready for the spring thaw. This particular Gray Treefrog shouldn’t bet on being the sole occupant of this nest box for long, as plenty of Vermont’s overwintering bird species that would take advantage of a cozy place to spend a cold winter night would also enjoy a surprise frozen frog snack. While this Gray Treefrog seeks out a tree crevice or a sheltered spot under some leaf litter to spend the winter, you can learn more about this species in Vermont on the Vermont Reptile & Amphibian Atlas site.


With 20,422 observations submitted by 1,701 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 05 October, 2023 20:00 by nsharp nsharp | 0 comments | Leave a comment

03 October, 2023

UPDATED! Choosing Licensing that Allows Scientists to use Your Observations

Most of us who add observations to iNaturalist do so in the hopes of contributing valuable information to biodiversity research and conservation. Research grade data is made accessible to the Vermont Atlas of Life scientists through the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), an international, inter-governmental organization that compiles and distributes biodiversity information from around the world.

However, what many don’t realize is that iNaturalist has different copyright licensing options available that get applied to observations, photos, and sound recordings. These licensing options generally fall under two broad categories: “all rights reserved” copyright and creative commons. “All rights reserved” copyright is what most people are familiar with - it restricts you from freely copying and using someone else’s work without permission. Creative commons (CC), a form of copyright that allows the creator (licensor) to give permission for others to use their work in certain ways without asking permission. This allows others to use creative products while ensuring that the licensor gets credited for their work.

iNaturalist only includes your Creative Commons-licensed content in regularly-updated archives produced for select partner organizations, such as the Vermont Atlas of Life and GBIF. Only observations with No Copyright (CC0), Attribution (CC BY), and Attribution-NonCommercial (CC BY-NC) are shared.

There are six different CC licenses available, each with slightly different conditions. The licensing that you choose to apply to your observations, photos, and sound recordings affect whether or not VAL, GBIF, and others can use your shared iNaturalist products. Below I will walk you through how to find your personal copyright settings, what they mean, and how they affect the feature they’re applied to.

Finding your iNaturalist copyright settings

Before I explain what the different license options are on iNaturalist, it’s important to know where to find them. To access your copyright settings, go to your profile dropdown menu on the top-right corner and click on “Account Settings”. This will take you to a page that says “Settings” with a menu under it on the left column. Select "Content and Display" from the menu. Scroll to the bottom of that page to the section called "Licensing". You will see three different categories: observation, photo, and sound. They each contain the same list of possible licenses. Take a moment to look at your current settings and know that we will return here in a couple paragraphs.

What they mean

CC0 - No Copyright - You waive your rights to these observations, photos, or sounds. Anyone can use them without crediting you. Others can create new material based on your work.

CC-BY - Attribution - Anyone can use your observations, photos, or sounds as long as they credit you. Others can create new material based on your work.

CC-BY-NC - Attribution-NonCommercial - Anyone can use your observation, photo, or sound, and create new material based on it, however they can’t make a profit off of the new material.

CC-BY-SA - Attribution-ShareAlike - Anyone can use your observations, photos, or sounds, however any new creations based on your work needs to be credited the same as the original.

CC-BY-ND - Attribution-NoDerivs - Anyone can use your observations, photos, and sounds, however they can’t alter your work to create new materials.

CC-BY-NC-SA - Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike - Anyone can use your work, so long as they don’t profit off it and use identical credits for new creations.

CC-BY-NC-ND - Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs - Anyone can use your work, however they can’t profit off it or change it.

Things to consider when selecting a license

Observations: Not all research grade observations end up in GBIF and this is often due to licensing. GBIF can’t use observations licensed as CC-BY-SA or CC-BY-ND due to the way that the data gets processed. Any observations licensed in these ways (even high-quality research grade observations) are excluded from GBIF’s database, rendering them useless to the scientific community. If you want your observations to serve as data points to researchers, you need to choose either CC0, CC-BY, or CC-BY-NC.

Photos: Photos are more flexible when it comes to licensing. They aren’t subject to the same restrictions as observations, meaning that a photo licensed as CC-BY-SA or CC-BY-ND can still end up in GBIF, so long as the observation is licensed correctly. Also, as long as your photo receives some kind of CC designation, others can use it within the parameters of that license.

Sounds: Sound recordings follow the same rules as photos. Any research grade sound recording with a CC license is shared to GBIF and can be used by others following the license.

Here's an example of an observation that is shared with GBIF: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/163713992. Scroll to the bottom of the observation page. On the right hand column you will find a section called "Copyright Info and More". On this one it shows that the observation is shared with "no rights reserved", which is CC0. Scroll a bit further down and you can see it is research grade and it is shared with GBIF. Click on the GBIF icon and it will take you to the record at GBIF.

Want to learn about CC licensing? You can check out their website for more in-depth descriptions of the six different licenses.

Changing your license settings

If after reading through all of this you want to change your observation, photo, or sound licensing, here’s how to do it. If you left your settings page, return to it following the steps described in the first section. Once at the licensing section, select the new license you want to use. Under each category (observation, photo, sound), there is a box that when checked will apply these changes to all existing observations. This allows for easy updating. If you only want your licensing changes to affect observations going forward (none that are already uploaded), then leave that box unchecked.

  1. Go to Account Settings by clicking down arrow by your icon and then select account settings. Account Settings
  2. On Account Settings, go to Content & Display on the left side menu. Scroll down to Licensing. Account Settings page
  3. Select the license you want to apply to all your material for observations, images, and sound recordings. Check off the box under each that says - update existing ___ with new license choice. Then, MAKE SURE TO HIT THE SAVE SETTINGS BUTTON on the bottom right. Account Settings page - Licensing section
Posted on 03 October, 2023 13:26 by kpmcfarland kpmcfarland | 5 comments | Leave a comment

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