iSpot 2015 highlights… What are you ‘spotting’ in 2016?

Janice A's picture
rstewartb - snow bunting240.jpg

The year 2015 looks like it will go down as the warmest on record and there are predictions that 2016 will be even warmer due to the effects of El Niño and climate change. It’s already the beginning of February, have you noticed any effects on our wildlife?

The iSpot Team has been busy developing our plans for 2016, while at the same time reviewing and reflecting on iSpot activity last year. What were your favourite observations of 2015?

Very hard to choose from the thousands posted over the year, we know, so here are a few you might want to see to spark your interest.

For example, rstewartb’s Snow Buntings (Plectrophenax nivalis) in the Scottish Highlands observed February 2015.

HK - flower mantis2 300.jpg

Contrast this with Rowan Watt-Pringle’s colourful Redscribble Pipefish (Corythoichthys flavofasciatus) image captured from along the Sodwana Bay, Southern Africa.

The Chile community produced many coastal observations last year, including Paloma Araya’s posting of an Octopus found in a tidal pool along the Dichato coast, Concepción, Chile. Imagine finding this while out rockpooling, any ideas on its identity? Why not be the first to ID it!

You can also see an observation of the Flower-mantis (Creobroter gemmatus), one of the highlights from the very first Hong Kong Bioblitz.

These observations give an idea of the very different habitats and weather conditions in different parts of the world. While one area is freezing there are coral reefs and warm subtropical forests, but all have interesting wildlife to observe.

JaneFD - whale bone300.jpg

Initially thought to be a piece of wood then identified as a whale bone (Cetacea), this observation from Jane FD drew some interest. Is it a rib or part of the jaw? Is it from a fin whale, the second largest species of whale weighing up to 74 tonnes, if so where is the rest of the skeleton? Why not add your comments to this and other discussions around an observation.

Have you looked at the iSpot projects section recently?

In the UK and Ireland community there are about 1000 different projects on a variety of things, for example MickETalbot has set up an project looking at seeds as an aid to plant identification.

Talbot - seeds project 2 250.jpg

There are also some very interesting projects in the South African community; do take a look. You can switch communities using the Communities button on the top right of the toolbar.

Have you ever tried clicking on the taxonomy links that appear on the right hand side of the observation page once a name has been arrived at? It can be a powerful way of finding lists of similar species and understanding more about that group of organisms.

Carex sedge 250.jpg

For example, how many of the 97 species of Carex (a fairly obscure, tricky to identify, group of plants) listed in the UK species dictionary have been observed on iSpot? 10downing's observation of Bottle Sedge (Carex rostrata) is just one. Why not click on Carex in the taxonomy links, then on the resulting page click on ‘This taxon’s children are:’ and all the species of Carex and some hybrids are listed. It turns out that almost half of the species in this difficult group of plants have been recorded on iSpot!

Thanks for all your contributions is here to help you learn and share more about the wildlife around you, what will you find this year?


Tony Rebelo's picture

Southern African Community

Observation of the year

We have own own competition for best observation, and have been running it since we began.
Our current winner for 2015 (and the runners up) can be seen here:

Our selection is voted by any iSpotter (mainly southern Africans, but sometimes other communities participate).


Southern African users have really taken to projects, and Andrewm has created a project for projects, as iSpot does not seem to have an index or search for projects. To use it, bookmark and do a search (Ctrl F) to find out if a project on your topic exists.
Our projects range from the Macabre (,
to serious Conservation Planning ( - 3025 observations - click show more 4 times and then zoom in),
to self-educational (
to simply fun (
There is even one for observation of the year (

Our Wish List

We even have a wish list of what we want from a Better iSpot: see here
Oh that 2016 could deliver some of it!!!

Taxonomy collection and Surfing

If you are a serious iSpotter, bookmark the following:***
for the taxonomy:
Did you know you can search any taxon in the dictionary? Just type the Class, Order, Family, Tribe, Genus, Subgenus or any other name after the "/" and iSpot will show you the observations from most recent to older. Try it for - say for the "African Mammals" Afrotheria
Note that this is the same as:
* doing a search and then looking under the dictionary tab and selecting an item.
* clicking on the Scientific Name in the ID box (it is in blue)
* clicking on any item in the taxi rank (the taxonomical ranking below the map of an observation)

for the surfer:
Did you know you can search any taxon in the dictionary? Just type the Class, Order, Family, Tribe, Genus, Subgenus or any other name after the "/" and iSpot will show you the species in order of most to least observed.
You can even compare unrelated groups and Ranks: - like Horses and Rhinos (Order: Perissodactyla) and Antelope (Family: Bovidae) - just add the slash "/" before each taxon.
try it - < /Perissodactyla/Bovidae >
I dont know why iSpot does not show the subtaxa of Bovidae - see < /Bovidae >
but using the same principle you can force iSpot to to show the next level using this principle: < /Aepycerotinae /Antilopinae /Bovinae /Caprinae /Cephalophinae /Hippotraginae /Reduncinae - but no spaces >
(I found the names by looking in the "This taxon's children are:" in the taxonomy collection above for Bovidae)

Have fun!!!

For other communities substitute for the

* taxonomy "sanbi" with "UKSI" (UK) or "CoL" (global, Chile, Hong Kong)
(note - you can switch between these dictionaries by clicking on the tabs "CoL/SANBI/UKSI" on top)

* surfer "southern-africa" with "UK-and-ireland" (UK) or "Global" (global, Chile, Hong Kong)
you can even use these without having to change communities.

(note: unfortunately, in both cases, you can only look at one community/dictionary at a time)

Tony Rebelo's picture

Any News on the Plans for

Any News on the Plans for 2016?

Are our bugs going to be fixed?

What new features are planned?

dejayM's picture


A nice and timely summary Janice with a welcomed pointer to Projects.
Like Tony I would love to know what the iSpot Team is planning.