ABOUT ME - My name is Amy and I'm a birder living in central Florida. On this blog I post book and birding product reviews as well as birder gift ideas and announcements related to my birder gift shop on this site. I also have a personal birding blog called Powered By Birds.

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Unless otherwise stated, all books and other products reviewed on this blog were purchased or independently acquired by the reviewer. Readers who make a purchase by clicking on links in product reviews or featured t-shirt posts (T-Shirt Tuesday) may result in the blogger receiving a commission or referral fee.
Archive: App Review

App Review: BirdsEye BirdLog

Posted on March 25th, 2012 in App Review

BirdsEye BirdLog is a new app for entering eBird checklists while in the field. It became available for the iPhone this week (after being available for Android for the last several weeks). I tried it out on a couple of field outings this weekend and I LOVE IT! The following review / walk-through assumes you are familiar with using eBird on your home computer already (and if you’re not – you should be!).

The initial menu is simple. Pick Submit Sightings to get started.

Just as when using eBird on the computer, the first step is to pick your birding location. Since this is an app on a smartphone, you can pick locations based on where the phone is situated at the moment. When you pick a Nearby Hotspot or Nearby Personal Location, the birding spots will be listed in order of proximity. If you are somewhere new, you can use a map to pick your location, just as you would on the computer.

Next you have to enter the start time for your list. This will default to the current time, but you can easily change this.

After you have picked your location and entered the start time, you are ready to record the birds you see. BirdsEye BirdLog wants you to enter the number of individuals seen, so your first keypad will be a number pad. After you hit the space bar, the alphabet keypad will appear. The app accepts 4-letter codes for the birds, and it seems to recognize many of them after just three letters. In the example below, I typed 7 [space] bhc and the app shows Brown-headed Cowbird in the list. The final step for entering a bird is clicking on the name of the bird to confirm.

I could have also typed 7 [space] cow, which would have given me the option to tap Brown-headed Cowbird, Shiny Cowbird, or Bronzed Cowbird. The search is slick in this way so you can use either 4-letter codes, proper bird names, or parts of bird names to get the final result.

If you see additional birds of the same species on your trip, you can look through the list of checked birds (the birds you have already entered on the current list) and change the number of individuals seen. But even better, you can simply enter the new sighting, and the app will add all of the birds for a single total. So using the cowbird example, if you see three more birds, you would type 3 [space] bhco to add three Brown-headed Cowbirds to your list; your total will be 10 cowbirds.

Normally when I jot down my list on paper, I stop periodically to do so rather than record every bird the moment I see/hear it. This method works well with the app. The sightings are saved if you change to a new application on your phone, and of course your in-progress list remains when you turn off the phone.

Entering notes on your sightings is easy – simply click on the name of the species to enter comments or change the number of individuals seen. For review species, I noted that you are asked to check to confirm the entry (similar to standard computer eBird data entry), but entering comments or notes on the sighting are not required for you to proceed with entering the checklist.

When you are done birding, you enter the protocol information for your checklist. The app will help you with the duration of your outing – pretty slick!

If you need to make a change to your list after you have submitted it, the app will direct you to the eBird website. Unfortunately you can’t make changes to your checklists via the app at this time, though it’s not terribly difficult to do so via the website on a smartphone.

Your BirdsEye BirdLog lists can be found in the My Sightings portion of the app. If you start a checklist, it will be found here. It’s easy to remove false starts (or test lists) by swiping right to left on the right side of the listed checklist to reveal a delete button.

While it did take me a bit longer to enter my list on the phone compared to jotting down notes in a notepad in the field, it only takes one click at the end, “submit,” to get my list onto eBird, which is my ultimate goal, anyway. This app is a huge time-saver and pretty slick besides. I can’t wait to use it again! Moar birding, yeah! I give BirdsEye BirdLog 5 Goldfinches out of 5.

If you’re using an Android phone, the app is available for your platform, too. I suggest reading this review by blogger Scott Simmons: Review of BirdsEye Log App for Android. The screens look a bit different though the app works the same.

Quick reminder: I have a new, personal birding blog called Powered By Birds. I hope you’ll give it a look. Thank you for reading the Magnificent Frigatebird blog.

App Review: Nature Viewing

Posted on February 21st, 2012 in App Review, Florida

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.