Identifying Animals and Plants
Once you have made an observation, you will have to identify what you observed. This can be tricky, and often it will be impossible to know with certainty what is on your photo or what bird sound you heard. Luckily there are lots of resources to help. If you are using the app iNaturalist, then this already includes a guide that you can use. You can also check our Resources webpage for more information.
- Animals on camera photos taken at night can be really hard to identify. In normal conditions no one would confuse a wallaby with a forester kangaroo, but on a photo that can easily happen. The difficult animals are mostly potoroo, bandicoot, bettong, pademelon and wallaby. Distinguishing the different kinds of quolls can also be challenging.
- As the photos are black and white, what you will be looking for are size, body shape, head shape and features, and the length and features of the tail.
- Generally, it really takes time to get your eye in when you are first starting. The best way is to look at all the photos you have, or a few hundred, first, and then go back to the start again. You will see that animals you were not sure about at first, you can suddenly identify.
- Also important is that it’s OK to be unsure. Many photos you will have are impossible to identify. That’s normal, don’t get worried about that.
- Finally, ask for help, especially if you think you may have recorded a threatened animal.
- Birds are a little bit different in that you usually observe them directly by day or night.
- However, you can also set up cameras for them, and one interesting way is to do a pellet ID for owls. For example, if you have a large tree with hollows and you see lots of scat marks from birds on its side or on the ground and you find a pellet, then that’s a really good way to find masked owls or other owls. And if you want to be certain, you could even send it to an expert for identification.
- Looking for birds gives you important information, not least they are a really good indicator for biodiversity and ecosystem health.
- Plants are really important, for habitat, ecosystem structure, food, soil and water health, for oxygen … and many more things! So much is dependent on plants, so it is good to know what you have in your area.
- There are 100’s and 100’s of plant species in Tasmania, so it can be a bit daunting to try and learn about them.
We suggest that you focus on three broad categories – the most common plants found in your area, the threatened and rare plants, and the weeds.
- The common plants – because they are the backbone of your local ecosystem
- Threatened plants – because these ones are particularly important to know about, so that we can protect them, and know more about them
- Weeds – so that we can get rid of them!
When ID’ing plants, there are a number of things to look at:
- Leaves, flowers, growth form (appearance, structure of leaves and flowers): Look at the shape and size, texture, hairs on leaves and flowers, colour, number and arrangement of floral parts of flowers
- Context of the plant: What time of year is it flowering or fruiting? What environment is it in (coastal, wet, dry…)?
- Consult resources (books, flips, websites)
- Try to identify potentially rare and small plants on site without damaging them (i.e don’t take any samples home!)
- Making your own Herbarium by pressing plant samples can be a really good way to learn Tassie's plants (keeping rare and small in mind)
There are lots of ID resources out there to help you. The following are a good start:
- The Euca and Tree Flips
- A Guide to Flowers & Plants of Tasmania, Book by the Launceston Field Naturalists Club
- The key to Tasmanian vascular plants by the University of Tasmania