Snake in the grass

On a recent dog walk, one of our kids spotted a snake in the grass (photo below). Actually it was on a bike path, but moved into the grass fairly quickly. When asked if I knew what kind of snake, I didn’t know at all. I decided to get some help.

Enter a handy mobile app called iNaturalist. I uploaded this photo to that app and within a 1/2 hour had multiple people tell me it was a Dekay’s Brownsnake. How cool is that?

From an early age, I’ve been interested in flora and fauna. There is still so much I do not know, and frequently I wish I could identify what I see on walks or bike rides or when driving down the road. I’ve made use of various types of field guides over the years, and they are helpful to a degree, but I’d like to know in the moment what I’m seeing, if possible, and smartphone apps can help make that happen.

All the most in-depth books and most well-designed apps in the world can’t prevent mysteries or misidentification, though. That’s just the way of things. I find bird identification particularly frustrating at times. What I see does not always readily match up to stock photos or descriptions. The key then is to be able to rely on crowdsourcing, where other helpful people with more experience than I have monitor incoming posts, and who can then jump in and say, “Oh that is actually such-and-such.”

Even then, sometimes that works, and sometimes it doesn’t. You’re at the whim of someone else’s interest level or perhaps the type of thing you’re trying to identify, or even the quality of the photo you are able to provide to help with ID. When this system works, it’s great, though.

Some people get a bit fanatical about this stuff, especially birders. I tend to take a rather lackadaisical approach, similar to how I view fishing. If I catch something, great; if not, at least I spent some quality time outdoors. The end goal is the experience, not whether I catch something, and I’m satisfied with that.

Also, I have zero interest in killing things and am not a fan of shooting at anything except with a camera lens. Don’t even get me started on gun control and the NRA…

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