by Majorie March
This app added so much to my summer of staying home and social distancing! I spent quite a lot of time wandering through the woods and fields and my back yard in the day-after-day sunshine. For some reason, I must identify everything I see and this summer I had the help of my new app, SEEK, created by iNaturalist, which is a product of National Geographic and California Academy of Sciences. It’s a free app, with information from the iNaturalist’s world-wide community.
Once loaded onto my iPhone, it readily identified flowers, tree leaves, mushrooms, an insect or two, but not a bird that I pointed the camera at, probably because SEEK wants me to hold my phone close to the object and move it slowly over it for details. Hard to do with a bird.
A small row of dots turn green as the app moves through the identification process. While identifying the Brown-eyed Susan, American Pokeweed, NewEngland Aster, and Interrupted Fern spot on, it struggled with the goldenrods and other asters. It identified an adorable tiny bee-like fly that hung around my compost bin and seemed to follow me around my yard as a Hover Fly, specifically a Maize Calligrapher (Toxomerus politus). Beyond identification, I have a record of the photo, when I observed it, and pictures of similar species. There have been 15 nearby and 3,466 worldwide observations of this insect and a graph shows me that it is seen from July into September, spiking in August. (I saw it on August 20.)
Seek also offers Challenges and Achievements that I have not looked into. It tells me that I could, but have not observed any amphibians, fish, reptiles, arachnids, mollusks, mammals or birds yet.