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Is making lists of plants and animals you see really so interesting, and worth the trouble?



First of all, the best way to celebrate a good sighting, such as spotting a rare hawk or an endangered wildflower, is to list it! Once a good sighting is in the list, you can return to the list again and again and remind yourself that to accomplish this sighting you were perceptive enough, smart enough, and lucky enough to see something special. In other words, the listing will be exactly like a hunter's trophy.


When you get a little addicted to identifying plants and animals -- and a lot of us do -- it can be fun to share your lists with others, all over the world, especially if your IDs are accompanied by photos. Hardcore list makers are called twitchers. If you like this idea, check out

Lists also help you learn. Let's say that one day word gets out that you know the local street trees, and the Scout leader up the street asks you to lead a field trip showing all the little Scouts how to identify  various species. Not to worry. Already you have street-tree lists reminding you of which species are to be expected. Moreover, your notes accompanying the lists remind you that Sugar Maple leaves have U-shaped sinuses, while Red and Silver Maples have V-shaped ones. And that Black Oaks are the ones with extraordinary "stellate," or branched, hairs on their lower leaf surfaces.

Beyond such incidental advantages to making lists,  probably the most important byproduct of list making occurs during the list-making process itself. For, in making the mental effort to organize your discoveries on paper or in computer files, you're obliged to organize your brain with regard to the subject at hand, and you remember what you've seen better.

You'll discover an additional service your lists provide when you join with other naturalists at meetings or on organized field trips, bring out your notes, and delicious discussions and debates arise about what you've listed!:

"You saw an Eastern Narrow-mouthed Toad at the nature reserve? But I've wanted to see one of those for years! Did you hear it? Does it really bleat like a lamb?"


Here are a couple of "rules" that should be followed if your lists are going to be important to you.

Once you get some lists you can post them at the wonderful iNaturalist.Org website, where everyone in the world who is interested can see them.