Embracing Techno Birding

I think I'm almost done talking about Bird Watch America--I've been trying to space the entries out with other bird stuff so it's not all product review. As you can tell by this post I survived the nuclear disapproval of grooming Cinnamon. More on her tv appearance in the next entry.

The most interesting and encouraging trend I noticed at Bird Watch America this year is that some wild bird specialty stores are finally beginning to embrace technology. This year birdJam (that's Denese Van Dyne on the left showing MN nature writer Val Cunningham her software for iPods), National Geo's Handheld Birds and of course WingScapes (the motion sensitive camera the company I’ve been helping out) all had booths.

The camera exceeded my expectations as far as interest from bird stores. Bart had set the booth up very well with a video playing of photos we’ve taken with our test cameras. Bart got a great video at his house of a Carolina wren and a junco. He set a suet cake on the ground next to a seed ball. When you watch the video, watch the seed ball—I love that junco head that pops up and looks around, almost like it has its own little fort--it's not even thirty seconds long, you must watch it. Cracks me up every time.

Let's talk about the iMainGo. It’s cool and of all the speakers I’ve tried so far it’s the best quality speaker for the price (around $69). I tested it out this morning at Carpenter and got some chickadees calling back and even a cardinal flew up over my head. I’m curious to try it with some owls. I might give it a go with the owls at The Raptor Center.

The speaker runs on 2 AAA batteries. It has an on/off switch and even an option to use it as an alarm with your iPod. You do need to make sure that the speaker is turned off when not using the iPod so as not to eat up batteries. It comes with a little wrist holder like you would get on a digital camera, but I think I’m going to switch that out with a carabiner. Of the speakers I’ve found, this one is the smallest with the best quality. It can handle great gray owl hoot and grouse drumming almost as well as high pitched warbler.

A few of the birds store owners I spoke with had said that customers are coming in and asking about some of the new software and programs available. Part of what really sells these are people having them in hand and playing with it. During the retail workshop, Mitch Whitten (editor of Birding Business Magazine) showed three or four different birding tech devices available and I had all of them. I still love my Handheld Birds and feel so cool when I whip it out when someone asks what a bird sounds like.

Other software news is that you'll be able to purchase gift subscriptions to Birds of North American Online for family and friends--this is a great gift for students into birds. I'm amazed at how much I use it, it's great for finding quick nesting information and it's updated when necessary. Thayer Birding Software is finally coming out with a Mac version. I've never really played with it since I'm a loyal Apple user so I'm curious.