Last month I downloaded a new, free iPhone app called Nature Viewing. The app was developed for budding naturalists who explore the great outdoors in Florida. I learned about this app from the new "On the Trail" with FWC blog, which I highly recommend for anyone interested in learning more about wildlife viewing and natural history events in Florida.
Three sections are devoted to field identification. Users can search for Flowering Plants, Butterflies, and Birds based on simple field marks like color, size, shape, and season.
The example below shows a search for a very small white flower with the petals arranged in a roundish shape. As it stands there are 13 results; they could be filtered further by picking the way the flowers are arranged.
The results are photos shown in a clickable list. Each flowering plant has supplemental information like typical habitat, life cycle through the seasons, and if the plant is native to Florida and how it may be beneficial to wildlife. This part of the app includes 247 of the most common plants (including invasives) found in various Florida habitats.
The identification flow for butterflies and birds works in roughly the same way. There are 200 birds and 106 butterflies in the searchable database. Here are some screen shots of a search for a perching bird with black and orange coloring that is found in my back yard in winter.
click to embiggen
I'm a novice when it comes to butterfly and plant identification, so these two sections of the app are quite useful to me. The identification flow works well for these, and it seems to work well for birds, too, though the limited number of species here proves a bit less useful to me (especially considering I have five fully loaded bird identification apps loaded on my iPhone). The flowering plant and butterfly sections are useful enough and I would love to see these expanded to other groups like mammals and reptiles in the future.
Another section of the app is devoted to 493 sites in the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail. Sites can be searched by name or by location by using the map option. With all of the information available about the sites on the GFBWT website, I was disappointed by the lack of information available on the app. Each site has one or two photographs and only the most basic location information, usually only providing the managing organization, plus county, city, and contact phone number. In the screenshot showing Chesnut Park below, there are two photos (indicated by the two dots under the photo) but no other information than what you see.
The location is detailed in the map feature, but I was hoping for the kind of useful data found on the website, like habitat, amenities, accessibility, best times, target species, etc. Even if these aren't available in the app, a link from the app to the location's page on the GFBWT site would be extremely useful.
In the final section of the app, users can add their favorite species and birding locations to the "my stuff" folder. This is a bookmark-like feature, allowing users to save species or trail locations for future viewing.
I applaud the creators (the application was developed by the Florida Museum of Natural History, the University of Florida, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission) for introducing this Florida-centric nature app. I'm looking forward to using the flower and butterfly identification sections more in the future. This is a fine app for anyone looking for help in field ID of birds, butterflies, and flowering plants. The birding trail portion of the app has the most potential and I hope this will be developed more in future versions. As the app stands today, I give it a hopeful 3 Goldfinches out of 5.