May 192009
Hummingbird? No ... not even a bird.

Hummingbird? No ... not even a bird.

Dad, what is that? Mom, and that?

If you are walking along, you see something cool, and your child asks you “what is that neat animal?” or “what is that pretty flower?” you know the sinking feeling if you cannot answer. All they asked was the thing’s name so you take your best guess, which could easily be the wrong species. Wouldn’t it be good to have some help here?

Well nature sure doesn’t make it easy when some things just look like each other. For example, a hummingbird and a hummingbird hawk-moth share a lot of similarities, and at first/quick glance (which is often all one gets) one can easily mix them up. For many of us the same is true of Moose and Elk, Wolf and Coyote and so on, not to mention wildflowers, bugs and other fun species.

Naming is step #1 in knowing…

Not knowing (or mistaking) the species of wildlife you encounter does not stop you enjoying the experience. The beauty, the character, the interest are all still there irrespective of a name. However, it is better to know because knowing allows a closer connection with that moment, access to fun facts about the critter, and/or recording on a life list. Know when you can know, but enjoy anyway when you cannot.

Contribute common mix-ups

Knowledge of common mix-ups (and a known one is Wolf and Coyote) is half the battle, and helps us avoid falling for them. Being more comfortable that we identified the critter will significantly increase all our enjoyment of wildlife spotting, and it is wildlife spotting fun that this is all about. Bringing wildlife closer to all of us, and us closer to wildlife.

I would like to see the identification situation improve in favor of us all, and one way to help is to share knowledge of common mix-ups… Please let me know what wildlife pairs you know that people frequently misidentify. I plan to use this data to help folks reduce such mix-ups.

To contribute, either leave a comment here, or tweet to @wildobs and use the #wildobs-mixup tag. Something like this tweet (below) would be great, but be creative:

Example #wildobs-mixup Tweet

Example #wildobs-mixup Tweet

Some examples off the top of my head from this part of the world:

The list goes on, and on. Please do contribute your ideas on what mistakes people make. What wildflower do people mistake for another? What tree or plant? All wildlife mix-ups wanted…