Observation.org is an on-line notebook for collecting and maintaining observations of almost all flora and fauna. Data submitted to Observation.org is publicly available, although for rare and threatened species this information may be blocked. Currently this application supports via the web, observations for birds, mammals, plants, invertebrates, fish, etc. The focus of this application is primarily Belgium and the Netherlands, but it can be used worldwide (see Arjan Dwarshuis’ big year in 2016). Submitted data is used to generate statistics and maps. Over > 50% of the observations are submitted with applications used on mobile devices. For most people the Observation.org website is just for viewing data.
Although Observation.org appears to be a single site it supports over 600 sub-sites that seamlessly are integrated into one application. Some sites are focused on just a small geographic region, whereas others focus on an entire country. Data submitted to Observation.org (or sub-sites) is used for a variety of purposes and may contribute to local or international natural resources datasets.
Observation.org is aimed to the serious birder/naturalist and rarity chasers in Belgium and The Netherlands. Via the web, observations from anywhere in the world can be entered and shared with other birders/naturalists.
Observation.org is a web-based/cloud application and does not require installation. Mobile versions are available for iOS, Android and Windows.
Observation.org supports a wide variety of taxonomic lists for birds, mammals, plants, insects, etc. Non-bird taxonomic lists and checklists cover species globally. This program supports the largest number of global taxonomic lists of all reviewed listing packages. The table below compares eBird and Observation.org.
|Nov 19, 2016
|eBird only focuses on birds
Mosses and Lichens
Other Arthropods (Arthropoda)
Locusts and Crickets (Orthoptera)
Bugs, Plant Lice and Cicadas
Algae, Weeds and other unicellular organisms
|Includes additions such as:
Identifiable Sub-specific Group
|Worldwide coverage of all living things. Supports the Feral Dove (aka Rock Pigeon (Feral)
Observation.org gleans their taxonomic information from many sources including:
- Plants http://www.theplantlist.org
- Fish http://www.fishbase.org/home.htm
- Mammals http://www.iucnredlist.org
- Reptiles and amphibians http://www.iucnredlist.org
- Marine species http://www.marinespecies.org
- Butterflies, moths and grasshoppers mainly from European lists
- Algea, TWN List – AquaDesk
Integration with eBird
Observation.org does not have a specific function that enables data exchange with eBird. In many ways Observation.org and eBird fulfill a very similar niche, but Observation.org extends its data cataloging capabilities way beyond birds. However, it is possible to get data from Observation.org into eBird using a manual process. By exporting your data from Observation.org, you manually will need to update the export files to match with eBird’s import formats before uploading them into eBird.
Entering observations and additional information in Observation.org is a straight forward process. Using a map the location (GPS coordinates) is selected and automatically the overlapping area (e.g. a park or county) is selected.
Species are selected by typing in (part of) the common name and the build-in smart search feature quickly narrows down the list of species. If the location remains the same, entering observations for additional species is much faster. In addition to species and count, sex, appearance, activity and a few notes can be entered. As part of the data entry process, two birding protocols are currently offered: Casual and Complete Area Count. A few interesting omissions in the web interface are that photos cannot be attached to the specific observation (though they can be added later) and a checklist for entering data is not available.
The no-frills web interface is responsive and the smart search feature has very good performance on a fast Internet connection. It is noticeably slower on a DSL or satellite broadband connection.
Observation.org supports mobile platforms with their own apps; iObs for Apple devices and ObsMapp for Android and WinObs for Windows. In this review is based on the Android version 7.5.3. The application opens with a dozen button for entering your observations, maps, tracks, export and manuals. Speech recognition is build-in in this mobile application. ObsMapp records real-time your observations in the field, as well as carry your selected checklists in your smart phone. Data entry is easy using the mobile app as it has embedded a smart search function. Adding a species count and other information all are on the same page. Data for only a single species is shown. This application allows users to embed media such as photos and sound recording and upload them to the cloud. Nicely the default count is set to 1. You can review and update your observations as needed. If you want to keep track of each location in which you record an observation for e.g. Carolina Chickadee, you can do so, by simply entering a new record. If you do not want to do this, just update your first record.
The mobile app works fine when off-line. Do ensure that you have the appropriate checklists downloaded before you into the field or have an Internet connection available to download your correct list. Each observation is geo-tagged with GPS coordinates, although you can easily set a single location (GPS coordinates) for all your observations.
Data entry is easy and this mobile application comes loaded with features that are easy to use in the field.
Observation.org provides a few life list options to its users. Life list can be generated for the world, country or area. Each life list is available for life, annual, monthly and daily time periods. Lists are provided as a basic list and eternal life list. I am uncertain as to what the difference is. The reports are very basic text based tables without any frills. The basic life lists come with an extensive selection window to refine the lists based on many choices and other submitted data such as heard only. A summary table with the total species seen in each area (country, county, etc.) is available as well. This table is hyperlinked to summary information about the area and which species you have recorded.
In addition to lists, users can also view survey transects they created, a map that shows the general observation locations as well as species distribution maps that show the exact locations, and view their submitted photos in a single gallery.
The table below compares Observation.org with eBird. Although both applications fill a very similar niche, eBird offers their users more reporting options.
|“competitive” yard birding
|Multiple species abundance
|Pie chart showing total and distribution of species seen
|Single species frequency/group size/average/abundance/high count/totals
Species recorded location
|Species general location
Species exact locations
|Checklist (observations for a single date/time/location)
Observation.org deceptively simply interface is loaded with options. Many features and options are geared towards scientific research. A few features of interest are:
Species alerts (birds and other species) allow the users to get daily updates on unusual and rare sightings for a county or receive alerts on specific species of interest. These tools are geared to those willing to chase these birds or seek new lifers.
For those involved with citizen science programs such as the Breeding Bird Survey, the transect tool is of interest. Transect monitoring allows the standardized counting and recording of any species group any time any place. Search effort and geographical reference of the transect are recorded in detail. Transect monitoring is possible simultaneously for different species groups.
A photo gallery that is easy (two clicks) to access from the menu bar in the program. Photos are organized by submission order, but users can refine their selection via a range of user defined criteria.
Last updated 02/07/2017
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