Making Sense of Unusual Findings
Asking Questions, Using Resources

Questions to ask about . . . Resources

Observers and methods

  • Is the observer experienced or is he or she a novice?
  • How much does the observer know about the species?
  • Does he or she know how to identify it?
  • Did the observer use the right standards (protocol)?
  • Which comments from observers or experts make me think this is an accurate (or inaccurate report)?
  • Are there more observers in some areas than others? How could that affect the data/maps?
  • What other questions do I have for the observer?

Contacting observers Click on “I” on any species map, then click on a symbol. In the Field notes, you’ll find an e-mail link.

The animal’s behavior and physical traits

  • Is the reported behavior typical? If not, how does it vary?
  • Can I infer from the animal’s appearance or behavior that it is 1) a migrant or 2) a resident in the area? What evidence can I find in the report or experts’ comments?
  • How many miles per day does the species usually travel? What factors could explain the difference (e.g., wind)?

News Updates

The current migration

  • How many miles away was the nearest individual (group) seen this season? What was its latitude?
  • What else do the maps “tell” me about migration patterns?
Current migration maps

Past migrations

  • Has this species ever been spotted so far ____ (north, west, inland) this early in the year?
Past Seasons: Maps and Sightings

Weather and climate

  • Could a change in weather or longer-term climate explain the unusual sighting? How?
  • How did this year’s weather patterns compare to last year’s? To previous years’ patterns?

* Minimum temperatures
Departure from normal temperatures
* Winds
* Other weather links


  • Are the species’ food sources – such as milkweed plants and nectar – available where it was spotted?
  • Are plants or insects along the migration trail ahead of or behind schedule?
  • Could human actions affect the habitat and migration (e.g., development or deforestation)? How?
* See above
* Plant hardiness zones