BDeed's picture

Overseas observations

I have noticed an increase in observations from overseas locations, though i have no objection to them, would it be possible to put in a filter to at least view only obs within a specific country.

This would help to quickly identify observations where i have a hope of helping or agreeing, it would also help users abroad to group observations from that country (i have just finished reading a post from a user in Italy where i think this may be useful), it would mean you would also retain the ability to compare possibly vagrants/imports.

I think this is becoming an issue as submissions of obs appear to be increasing as to those from abroad, and as such they are dropping off the front pages quicker and so not getting the 'attention' maybe they deserve.

I realise this is entering into the realms of geographical filtering, but possibly a selection box on upload for country would help sort/filter?



Jonathan's picture

This is our ultimate aim, but

This is our ultimate aim, but it has all sorts of knock-on consequences and so when we start filtering by country, this will be as part of a larger change and include other improvements. Thanks for your patience, meanwhile.

University of Edinburgh and Biodiversity Observatory (OU)

AlanS's picture

I would support the provision of a filter

I mostly look at fungi/lichens and there I don't find foreign observations too annoying, as there are not too many of them and sometimes I am glad to see them.

Long sets of plant observations from outside Britain, often taking a page of more of observation thumbnails do get tedious.

A filter would be valuable, but one that can be turned on and off easily.


Jonathan's picture

That is the general idea! I

That is the general idea!
I think we shall preserve one carousel of all observations on the home page that everyone will see, just for the value of serendipity. You never know what will turn up.

University of Edinburgh and Biodiversity Observatory (OU)

DavidHowdon's picture

It would be useful

Such a feature would be useful. The last couple of days iSpot seems to be basically full of pictures of birds (mainly) from overseas and several years ago.
Make it time consuming to go through and find postings where someone is seeking help with ID.

Fenwickfield's picture

very useful

I too have noticed the very large amount of oversea's ob over the past couple of day's.I do not wish to sound grumpy but I have no interest in these and a separate carousel for overseas obs would be marvellous for these users and would help those who only have an interest in the British Isles.

From a not so well travelled ispotter.


spotted cat's picture

As an overseas observer, I

As an overseas observer, I agree that a filter would be a great idea. I can understand that many UK users aren't interested in what I post, though it seems that some are (perhaps a tiny minority).

I would also like to be able to see if there are any other observations from my neck of the woods, to be able to compare and learn from others.

Personally I support the idea of a basic carousel featuring all postings, maybe with a separate carousel for UK observations so that the majority of users don't have to fiddle with filters unless they want to, plus specific filters for countries or geographical areas.

I look forward to seeing what you come up with!

Fenwickfield's picture


The problem is that if like myself have only book's on the British Isles and have and never will go abroad then I cannot really contribute to the identification as I have no knowledge on them.The only thing I have managed to help with is plant's as that is my field.I was not complaining or saying they should not be on but just asking if there can be a different carousel,as the site was originally started to post observations of nature of the British Isles.
I apologise if I have offended you.


Masked Marvel's picture

Personally I like to see the

Personally I like to see the overseas observations, particularly from europe. I'm mostly interested in amphibians and reptiles and there isn't so many species in the UK, so the overseas observations are an interesting challenge.

spotted cat's picture

No apology needed

I'm not in the slightest bit offended! Nor did I think you were complaining: you were just giving your point of view. And I agree with you!
I understand that when I post observations from abroad, there will be only a very few people who can help me with IDs.
I also understand that the original aim of the site was to feature British wildlife, and that many people aren't interested in overseas postings.
I feel grateful and very lucky that I get what help I do get.
It does seem, though, that the site is expanding enormously, and evolving as it grows, and I think it's great that its administrators are reacting to users' new needs as they arise, even if it does take time!

Jonathan's picture

Yes, we aim to cater for all,

Yes, we aim to cater for all, but can only move at a rate that is determined by our funding. At the moment that is confined to England (Thanks to OPAL and the BIG Lottery Fund).

However, we should shortly have maps that will help people see what is popping up, including from around the globe. We have observations from every continent. (Yes, even Antarctica).

University of Edinburgh and Biodiversity Observatory (OU)

AlanS's picture


Presumably it's the time of year, but I tried looking at the recent plant observations and gave up because it is so overloaded with foreign observations.

As I have said above,I am not against foreign observations but we do need that filter.

This is a proud possessor of a 'plant expert badge' who is now rapidly losing interest.


David Trevan's picture

Overseas observations

I too have noticed the increase in overseas observations, and have read all the above thread with great interest.
I have no objection in principal to overseas observations, I have a very broad interest in all plants, and having spent a lifetime working in the horticultural/countryside management/botanic gardens educational area. I find
them quite challenging and interesting.

What I am concerned about is that I have a sneaky feeling that some users are using i Spot to identify their back catalogue of photos, many of which are of dubious quality, and at the same time making little real attempt to identify the specimens themselves.I cannot see how you can learn much by doing this.Also many of these photos seem to be go back over several years.I cannot see the point of uploading such observations.Surely to be of value the observations need to be current(say the last 6-12 months). I know we all occasionally put on observations that are maybe a bit dated but I think anything that is over 5 years old is a bit irrelevant.

There are some excellent overseas observations that have been put up recently, the ones from Spotted Cat from Crete are superb both photographically and current.

So I am not against overseas observations as such, and do sometimes put some on myself as
whenever I travel I go to destinations chosen for their botanical interest, but I don't think iSpot should be used simply as a resource to get your holiday photos identified without the user having an attempt at least to research and identify the specimens, and I think they should be current!

David J Trevan

spotted cat's picture

Thanks for your comment,

Thanks for your comment, Alan.

I have to say that I feel a bit cheeky each time I post one of my observations from Crete, because, as I've said above, I'm well aware that iSpot was set up for identifying UK wildlife. Each time I get an ID or a confirmation of my ID attempt, I am grateful, and I certainly don't take any of it for granted.

I have lived in Crete for nearly ten years now, getting steadily more interested in the wildlife here as time has gone on. And I have been trying to identify what I have seen with the means at my disposal. Now those means have been widened immeasurably by my discovery of iSpot, not only by direct IDs but also by helpful suggestions of books or websites to aid my own IDs.

Already in a few weeks of using the site, I have learned a lot - and my confidence in IDing things, particularly plants, has noticeably grown. My thanks to all who have helped me.

I can understand the frustration of people who aren't interested in overseas wildlife, and I am sure that the iSpot team will come up with a suitable filter or something similar in due course.

And I agree that photos should be fairly recent and ideally be of a reasonable standard (otherwise no-one is going to be able to help, so they are a waste of people's time.)

Jonathan's picture

Alan, As you know,


As you know, observations tend to get put up in batches, so I think you were just unlucky. We will soon (a matter of weeks) have geographic filtering, so hang on in here!

University of Edinburgh and Biodiversity Observatory (OU)

MatthewGirling's picture

I too noticed that "post

I too noticed that "post holiday phot dump" and would like to filter out foreign observations. Could you consider a limit on how many observations can be uploaded in a day, so that only the best ones are uploaded and the carousel doesn't get full of one person's pictures?


Jonathan's picture

We shall soon have maps that

We shall soon have maps that you can use to filter observations with. Watch out for an announcement!

University of Edinburgh and Biodiversity Observatory (OU)

MrG's picture

Country unknown

The worst thing about posts of observations from abroad is working out where they are from. It would be useful if the country, or area if well known, was clearly stated either in the title or the location description.

Fenwickfield's picture

Good idea

That is a good idea MrG as I personally don't have much idea about were places are abroad as I have never travelled apart from the British Isles.I try to id something then notice the area is not in English and when you click on location well the word clueless comes to mind.As for rather poor photograph's we cannot just blame post's from abroad as there are some terrible ones from this country.


BDeed's picture


I agree with a lot of what has been suggested here, and overseas observation should certainly not be excluded, though filtering and perhaps labelling could be made clearer.

However, i would also suggest that we remember that people will use iSpot in different ways, though many of us are aspiring or some indeed expert naturalists looking to hone skills or just provide examples of wildlife others may rarely encounter, we must remember some people will be using iSpot to simply display their photos, or may even not have much of an interest in learning species identification themselves and are simply curious.

As such i would suggest that people use their own judgement, and if they feel this is in a way an abuse of their time and skills they have built up then simply do not provide an identification, it is an understandable position and i would also suggest that overall it is more important to retain the knowledge and skills of experience naturalists than to have every photo identified.

corylus's picture


Agree with previous posts but find it hard to get inside mindset of being curious enough to take loads of photos and not have a go at an ID although when I think of fungi I come closer to understanding that point of view.Time and motivation are other considerations and I don't think I could cope with doing much identification without books Another random thought is on locations.I am finding out about all sorts of areas of I have to use the maps to locate them let alone the exotic ones.

Hazel Trevan

ophrys's picture

Foreign photos/Curiosity

I agree with much of what has been said here. I really enjoy trying to ID the photos of plants from abroad, especially when from a country to which I have led trips, in the past. Spotted Cat's pictures from Crete take me back to the many times I have botanised there (though not for a few years, now) and help me to refresh my knowledge of Crete's plants. Incidentally, I enjoy looking at the name of the foreign location and trying to remember, or work out, where the place is, before pressing to see if I was right!

What I (like others, it seems) have an issue with is the photos which should really have been consigned to the bin at an early stage. There have been a few of these posted today! I do think people could review their own photos more, rather than putting up everything and anything from their back catalogue, and so clogging up the system with fuzzy haze. Also, we all know that you learn anything by having a go at it yourself, so what is the point in posting loads of pictures with no attempt to ID them yourself? The argument I have heard that "I don't have an ID guide" is irrelevant; if you are able to access iSpot, you could access relevant pictures of plants, birds or whatever on the internet. Surely satisfaction comes from sorting it out yourself, or at least getting close to an ID, before seeking help?

While on a mild rant, another bugbear of mine is pictures from wildfowl collections or the like. I could easily nip down to the local park and add a load of photos of birds walking around at my feet, and my reputation would improve greatly (!), but surely that is not the point of iSpot?!

Essentially, then, keep the quality photos from abroad coming in...they are a nice challenge. But consign the fuzzy haze to the bin!


My Flickr photos...

Masked Marvel's picture

Completely agree with the

Completely agree with the comment about wildfowl collections and other captive wildlife.

David Trevan's picture

Overseas observations

Ophrys, I think you have summarized everything that has been said rather well regarding the recent spate of overseas observations.

With regards to Fenwickfields point about locations,I always put the location on the title of my observations as it is sometimes hard to work it out from Google Earth, and I assume others would find it interesting to know where the observation has been made.

On a final note, one of my bugbears is when I take the trouble to put up a detailed observation from abroad and few if anyone agrees in spite of copious information being given.I recently put up a Pinus canariensis
from La Palma and got very few agreements, in spite of showing the foliage, cones, bark and habit. Now I assume most keen plants people know what a Pine is, and if it was photographed in
the Canaries then it is likley to be P. canariensis, so surely it is a process of elimination to work out that I've probably got it right, or am i being unreasonable?

I learn an enormous amount from foreign travel and enjoy being able to share my finds with others on iSpot,as you say you can generally research any plant with a few clicks on the internet!

David J Trevan

DavidHowdon's picture

People could research it

But if they do not know about the plants of the Canaries then they might not know thety P. canariensis is the most common pine there (which your post implies) and even if they did they might not have access to appropriate literature or knowledge to confirm your ID.

Plants are not my thing but I must admit if someone who is seemingly expert posts a picture and ID and a lot of supporting text I tend to assume they are correct and so go on to spend my time providing ID help to less expert people with their IDs rather than doing some research to confirm that person's ID.

Refugee's picture

Even more

There was about four months ago a series of photos of plants for ID with labels in front of them. Guess what???
They were so out of focus that they could not be read.
The wildfowl collections are the same. Perhaps they just can't be bothered to read the labels by the exhibits for some reason that lays beyond my imagination.


Capybara's picture

My two penn'orth

I would very much like iSpot to include wildlife from foreign parts. In fact I intend to add some myself that I couldn't identify while on holiday.

BUT I think these should be separated from British observations. This doesn't have to be very technical - let the users characterise their observations as UK or non-UK, and perhaps have a separate tab or sub-tab for them.

If the foreign observations could be filtered by country or region, that would be excellent, but perhaps not essential as a first step.

Refugee's picture


I think there is some work going on with mapping that will include some regional filtering. If it allows i will set me browser to pick up British isles and a little way in from the other side of the English channel and then look at the rest of the world on rainy days. So overseas observations are good and i would enjoy them when i have a little bit more time to look at them.


Jonathan's picture

Yes, that is right. We shall

Yes, that is right. We shall be allowing people to choose which regions of the world they want to see observations from. This will happen later in the year.

University of Edinburgh and Biodiversity Observatory (OU)