online ID resources

links last updated: 08/26/16

My main intention when I started Nature ID was to identify what I see during my hikes (and log when and where), rather than shrug it off as "Oooh, pretty flower" or "Hmm, interesting bug."  Initially, I figured my haphazard collection of field guides would be sufficient to meet this goal.  I was incorrect in my assumption.  There are more species than can fit into any printed field guide, which becomes limiting fairly quickly.  While I've gathered additional field guides since I began this blog (May 6, 2009), I can't honestly say I'd recommend most of them. I do link to specific books when appropriate, but I figure it might be frustrating for a blog reader who is looking for more information right away.

Sometimes I'll check natural history books from the library and go gangbusters on a particular plant or animal with backdated ID'd posts.  For me, the best thing about books is they provide properly spelled key words to begin online searches.  Plus, they often contain information not found online. Books and published articles are great and build a foundation of knowledge. However,  I hope nature publications (in print and online) will become more accessible to anyone and everyone who is interested and not merely focused on esoteric vocabulary, tropical species which are thousands of miles away, out of date nomenclature, or useless generalities.

These days I rely mainly on online photo ID sites which are linked in the blue-highlighted common and scientific names in most of my posts.  I rarely use formal keys anymore; instead, I look at photos and pick whatever I can find that looks like the closest match based on the information I have at hand. I'm not always correct in my IDs.  I'm sure some will scoff that this isn't very scientific, but I don't claim to be a scientist nor an expert.  I simply want to have a bit of fun and learn something new about my local natural world.  The following are links to sites I've found useful as I've created Nature ID, which means they tend to be locally focused around Monterey Bay and California areas beyond.  My favorites are marked with an asterisk (*):

local, multiple topics, and misc.
Aquarium of the Pacific
* CalPhotos
* Creagus @ Monterey Bay
Elkhorn Slough Life 
* Las Pilitas Nursery California Wildlife
Monterey Regional Park District - Nature and Wildlife Guides
Natural Resources Database in the greater San Francisco Area (I don't know how best to use the site)
* Natural History of Orange County @ University of California, Irvine
Nonindigenous Aquatic Species @ United States Geological Survey
Ocean Oasis Field Guide @ San Diego Natural History Museum
Point Lobos Foundation - Nature
Tree of Life web project
Toni Corelli's plant and marine Flickr collection
Wildlife North America

* All about Birds @ The Cornell Lab of Ornithology
* Bird Friends of San Diego County
* BirdWeb @ Seattle Audubon Society
Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival
The Monterey County List of Birds @ Creagus 
* North American Birds Photo Gallery (great pictures, but linking is awkward)
Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter @ United State Geological Survey
Terry Sohl's South Dakota Birds and Birding (hey, birds migrate)

fungi, lichens, and slime molds
Andrew Khitsun's Wisconsin Mushrooms (includes lichens and slime molds)
The California Lichen Society 
* The Fungi of California
Fungi Growing on Wood @ Messiah College
Mushroom Hobby
Mushroom Observer 
Mushrooms of Santa Cruz County @ Mushroom Observer
Robert Siegel's Stanford Fungi (have to click around, but great photos with good ID)
* Rogers Mushrooms (great organization and pictures, but linking doesn't work well)
* Stephen Sharnoff's Lichens Home Page 
"Wildman" Steve Brill's Mushrooms

Terrestrial Mollusc Tool

* California Herps
The Center for North American Herpetology (names and checklists have nice photos)
Humboldt Herps
Scientific and Standard English Names @ Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles
Southwestern Center for Herpetological Research
* Wild Herps

insects and the like
America Dragonfly
* Art Shapiro's Butterfly Site @ University of California, Davis
* Butterflies of Orange County @ University of California, Irvine in North America
* Butterflies and Moths of North America
* Butterflies of America
California Beetle Project @ Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History
California Dragonflies and Damselflies
Caterpillars of Pacific Northwest Forests and Woodlands @ U.S. Geological Survey
* Chris Tenney's Butterflies of Monterey County
* Dennis Walker's Southern California Butterflies
The Crane Flies of Pennsylvania @ Carnegie Museum of Natural History
* The Damselflies and Dragonflies of Monterey County, California @ Creagus
* Frequently Encountered Spiders (big) @ University of California, Berkeley
* Frequently Encountered Spiders (small) @ University of California, Berkeley
Harvard Entomology
Jerry Powell's moths @ CalPhotos
* Jim Johnson's, the Natural History of North America (moths) 
North American Crickets @ University of Florida
* North American Moth Photographers Group @ Mississippi State University
* Pacific Northwest Moths @ Western Washington University
Scorpions of the USA - Checklists by State (previously 
What's That Bug?

American Society of Mammalogists in California
California Mammalia by California Department of Fish and Wildlife
* North American Mammals @ Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
Society for Marine Mammalogy Species Fact Sheets

Beach Watchers EZ-ID Guides @ Washington State University County Extensions
Conchology, Inc.
Crab ID @ Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
* Intertidal Invertebrates of the Monterey Bay Area @ University of California, Santa Cruz
The Jellies Zone
* Key to Marine Invertebrates @ Walla Walla University's Rosario Beach Marine Laboratory
MARINe (invertebrates, algae, seagrasses)
Marine Flora @ Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI)
Marine Species Identification Portal 
Netarts Bay Today
* Sanctuary Integrated Monitoring Network (SIMoN)
* SeaNet @ Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Station
Seaweeds of Alaska 
Society for Marine Mammalogy Species Fact Sheets
World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS)

Birdmom's Wildflower Index
California Flora Nursery 
California Native Oaks I & II @ Las Pilitas Nursery
California Native Plant Link Exchange
California Oak Identification @ Hastings Reserve
California Wildflowers @ California Academy of Sciences
California Invasive Plant Council (Cal-IPC)
Calflora Cal-IPC illustrated plant list (Michael L. Charter of SoCal) (registration may be required) - What Grows Here (my fave!)
Califlora (group on Flickr)
Database of Santa Barbara Wildflowers @ Santa Barbara Hikes
Fort Ord Virtual Herbarium @ U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau, Land Management
George's Wildflowers in Santa Barbara
Henry Coe State Park Wildflower Photo Album 
The Huntington Botanical Gardens
The Jepson Online Interchange, California Floristics @ University of California, Berkeley
* Las Pilitas Nursery California Native Plants
Mark Egger's Castilleja @ Flickr
Monterey Peninsula Wildflowers, Shrubs & Trees by Michael Mitchell & Rod Yeager
Pinnacles Wildflower Checklist @ U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service
Plants of Montara Mountain
Reny's Wildflowers
San Diego County Wildflowers - Identifying Them
Santa Monica Mountains Wildflowers @ U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service

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