Monday, May 1, 2023

The Seek app, my new obsession

My friend Melinda and I were walking the other day when she introduced me to this app called Seek, by a company called iNaturalist. You get to track your sightings of nature.

You know me, on my walks I love to observe strange creatures, plants, and trees.

So I immediately installed the Seek app and pointed it at a tree. It identified the tree however now I have forgotten what the tree was. I did not know you had to take a picture for the tree actually to be entered on your list of observations. That is one thing I love about the Seek app, that it keeps track of your observations.

Since then I have taken the Seek app on several walks. I have taken it to Forest Lawn Cemetery and to Tifft Nature Preserve. And around the Delaware Park Ring Road, where I observed the bunny up above. The app identified the rabbit an Eastern Cottontail.

This is just so much fun! 

The one drawback is, I have to say, when I first pointed the app at that one tree, I must have had beginner's luck. I am finding it is a challenge to get the app to identify things. Occasionally it identifies a species right away, however that is the exception rather than the rule. As a rule it is finicky. It tells you to adjust the angle, which I do, and take more photos, which I do. Even then I often end up having to give up on some element of nature and move on to something else. 

So that is frustrating. At first I embraced it as part of the game. However I watched a YouTube video of a guy using the app and he kept saying, "And it quickly identified this as..." He kept using that word "quickly." So now this gets on my nerves. I cleaned my camera lens, just in case that was the problem, however it is still finicky.

Here is a thought on that. I have learned that the app identifies things based on photos people have taken and posted to its sister app, iNaturalist. Many of the things I have been unable to identify are not the sexy plants, the plants everyone would be photographing and posting. They are these common grasses and weeds. Perhaps there are not enough photos of them. Maybe no one has bothered to take pictures of this grass I was trying to ID.

Another app issue: I am not sure how I am to take pictures of fish -- especially pictures that are up to the app's exacting standards. I am working on in the Lakes and Ponds Challenge but I do not think I will be able to include fish.

I have one sighting so far in that Lakes and Ponds Challenge. That is the Broadleaf Cattail!


I observed that fine specimen at Forest Lawn, in their wetlands area.

I still need 9 more items for this challenge. You need 10 items from: dragonflies, amphibians, fish, ducks, mosses, ferns, water lilies, bulrushes, and cattails. At Tifft on Sunday I tried to identify some cattails there however the app drew a blank on them. They were probably the same species anyhow.

However I did rack up three species observations at Tifft. I identified Colt's-Foo and the Common Motherwort/

And -- ta da -- the Great Stinging Nettle.

The plants at Tifft were not as diverse as I was hoping, my time was limited because the rain was moving in, and I was not able to get a good picture of any of the little birds swooping around. However I was proud of the observations I did chalk up.

Three more good things about Seek: 

1. It is free!

2. It does not engage in annoying behaviors like showing you ads or nagging you to upgrade to a paid plan. 

3. I am actually learning things! This was funny, I looked at a tree and was disappointed because I recognized it as a Saucer Magnolia. And I had already sighted a Saucer Magnolia.

Then I realized: Hey, I can recognize a Saucer Magnolia!

Imagine how smart I will become!

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