Wildlife Adventurer Tools

Here are some of the tools I use regularly when constructing blog posts. They are useful for any naturalist from novice to expert. Some are specific to Southern California, but others could be useful from any location.

So glad a friend clued me into this site. Here I make observation records for the different organisms I see on my trips (birds, tide pool creatures, flowers, mushrooms). Each observation includes the location, species, a photo (if I took any) and any notes I have about the circumstances. Also, you can choose an option to add your observation to a pool where others can help you identify it. There seem to be experts on the site in so many different types of organisms - particularly one of the developers, kueda. The map features are great because, if you're considering a trip, you can see what others have observed at that location before. It could use more active participants which would increase the expertise and sitings at different locations, but even with only a small number it is effective and fun to use.

This is a great site for identifying California wildflowers and plants. You can enter scientific or common names. You can limit by county, elevation and plant community and you do not need to enter a search term to see results (i.e. the site allows browsing). However, some limits are definitely needed because simply choosing Los Angeles County and clicking search returns almost 4,000 species. Once you find one that seems like it might match the flower/plant you observed you can see a range map to determine how common it is in your area, etc. 

This site is amazing for identifying birds. The tool I use the most is the search because you don't even have to type in a term, just enter your state, general size of the bird, primary color and habitat and you can narrow it down enough to browse through the icons and find your bird. Also, each individual bird page includes a ton of information about the bird (range map, call, color variations, etc.) as well as an illustration (many times multiple because in a lot of cases the male, female and juveniles look different) and some photographs from the field. It has helped me identify countless birds.

This site is great for identifying all kinds of "bugs" - butterflies and moths, spiders, beetles, dragonflies and damselflies, etc. Click on the icon on the left that you think your observed "bug" might fall into and you can browse through user-uploaded images of the different species. At first you'll be on the Info tab which can be helpful for deciding if you're on the right track (e.g. you'll learn from the Identification section that butterflies have knobs or hooks at the end of their antennae and moths don't).  Click on the images tab at the top to flip through images. If you choose the Browse tab you can shuffle through the families individually. And, if you really have no idea, you can upload your own photo and ask the experts to help you identify it by choosing ID Request at the top.

California Herps
This website is great for identifying snakes, lizards, turtles, frogs and salamanders (the "herps) because it has lots of photos. It starts with a list of the most common species for each type of animal in California and gets more specific from there. There are also range maps which is helpful when narrowing down to a specific species.

Gastropods of the Pacific Northwest
This site is specifically about gastropods (snails, limpets, shells) of the PNW, but I like it as a starting place when I'm trying to ID species even in SoCal. The images are helpful for figuring out which family your organism is in.

Butterflies and Moths of North America 
This is another great site for identifying moths and butterflies. Their regional checklists are great. You can limit by state and county. Like with bugguide, you can submit your photo and have help identifying the species. If you're super interest in entomology, you can look through their Glossary of Entomological Terms.

Tide Calendar (University of South Carolina)
There are many places online to find out when low tide will be but I just keep coming back to this one (which is hosted by Biological Sciences at the University of South Carolina). I like how you can choose to display one month at a time because I like to print out each month and keep it with me in case I get the urge to see some low tide life (yes, I am a huge nerd but you probably are too if you follow my blog :) You can see the most tide pool life when tides are 2 feet or below.

This site is also great and more user friendly than the one above. First you chose your state and then you can either download an entire year (as Excel or csv) or view the charts online. You can enter in your zip code or a city and it will show you the closest locations where tide is calculated. Once you find the location you want you click on the month and then you can click through the days of the month on an interactive table. The visuals make this really easy to use. Remember: You can see the most tide pool life when tides are 2 feet or below.

Desert Wildflower Report - Southern California
I visit this site often in the late winter and spring for tips about where to see wildflowers, but also because users can send in photos and some of these photographs are breathtaking! I didn't think I cared much about flowers until I experienced my first wildflower bloom in CA and it wasn't just a bunch of flowers, it was a complete change in the colors of the hills and valleys! Beautiful.

CA State Parks 
This is obviously where you can find out information about places you're considering visiting if they are part of the CA State Park system. I'd love it if this site had more maps of specific hiking trails at each location, but I like checking out the park brochures here.

SoCal Hiker
Here you can find hiking trails (you can limit your search based on mileage, difficulty, dog-friendly, etc.). He's got a great challenge called the six-pack-of-peaks where he gives guidance for hiking 6 peaks in SoCal.

The Santa Monica Mountains and CA State Parks facebook pages are also great if you have a question about something you saw or a park you're considering visiting for the first time.

Let me know if you use any resources that I haven't listed.