There is a very cool new application out for the iTouch/iPhone called BirdsEye and I love it!
The application was developed by Birds in the Hand, LLC, of Virginia, and brings together content from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, eBird, the Academy of Natural Sciences, and Kaufman. It's available on the App Store in iTunes.
This is not a field guide, this is a bird finding guide. There are photos and some information, but if you were expecting a Kaufman Guide for your iPhone this is not it. But what it is, is incredibly useful and solves a few problems for me.
The application requires access to the internet. I have an iTouch and so if I have access to a wifi signal, I can use it. If you have an iPhone, you can use it with your internet plan. The menu gives you the option to either look for nearby birds, look for a specific bird, find out what birding hotspots are near where you are at that moment, check out what birds are being reported at a particular location, and keep a life list of North American Birds. Above, I have entered where I was starting from--that's the green dot and all the red dots are birding hotspots near me--at least, hot spots that have been entered into eBird.
I touched one of the red dots on the map and the name of the location came on. It mentions how many different bird species have been reported at this location (by eBird users). If you touch the blue arrow next to the name, it will bring up a list of birds and a thumbnail photo of the birds.
You can see the lower red arrow is pointing to wild turkey (and the two dark blobs behind my iTouch are turkeys that were staring at me at Hyland Lake's visitor center). But note that under the turkey it reads, "last week." That means someone reported it at this location last week. Check out the hooded merganser, it's been reported on eBird within the last three days. The green arrows are pointed to check marks. That means I have checked that bird off on my life list. Thanks to this app, I can look up a bird and see if I've seen it before...and I know how many birds I have on my North American life list.
Here's one of the turkeys that's listed as being seen in the last week at Hyland--I saw it. As a matter of fact, when I came home, I logged into eBird and entered in the birds I saw at Hyland...
And if I look at the Hyland list now--it reads that the turkey was seen today--that's my update! It updates surprisingly fast. I'm told that the eventual goal will be that you will be able to update your lists to eBird by using the app, but it's not quite ready for that yet. But for a bird finding tool, this is really, really cool.
The initial app costs $19.99 and comes with gorgeous photos from VIREO as well as bird calls from the Macaulay Library of Sounds for 470 of the most reported species. The photos and bird calls also include a brief description written by Kenn Kaufman. The descriptions are not to give you clues to tell a first year Thayer's gull from a first year Iceland gull, they are designed to help you find the bird by mentioning behavior and habitat. Also, the photos tend to fall on the pretty side, not on the identifiable side of things.
For example, the above is an interesting photo, but I'm not sure it's the most useful for helping a person id an American wigeon. Keep in mind that this is designed to help you find birds around your home and travel in North America, the photos are just a reminder of the species. I will say, the bird call collection is very good. I was disappointed that there were only 470 bird species with the added photos, calls and descriptions. For example, when I was going through it for last week's Sax Zim trip, I was able to find photos and descriptions for northern goshawk, but not northern hawk ow. I can purchase the rest of the birds (another 377), either by group for $2.99 per or all of them for $19.99.
I understand why it is this way--it costs money to get access to the photos, bird calls and Kaufman's time to write the descriptions. This app is worth the price, I'm not sure I'll go for the rest of the photos and calls--I already have that with birdJam. But using this for locating birds birds is awesome.
I love this app because it's solving several issues for me:
1. I've grown tired of the birding listservs. Every state's birding qroup has their quirks and nothing brings out quirkiness like email. I unsubscribed to my state's birding listservs during one of my longer trips and was amazed at how much I didn't miss it. I didn't have to see the emails from birders arguing over how dead a bird has to be before it's no longer countable, or the hardcore birders who get mad about backyard sightings or the casual birders who take hardcore birders to task for for just listing. With this, I can get bird reports without the added quirkiness.
2. I've always thought eBird was a good idea, but never got in the habit. This gives me a good reason to form the habit--especially if the app will eventually let me report birds with it.
3. I now have a reason to use my iTouch. My phone is a Blackberry. I have the iTouch because it came free with Non Birding Bill's last MacBook purchase. I've half-heartedly been using it and seriously considered selling it (I still have an older iPod with all my music on it). But ever since I got this app, I've been using my iTouch on a daily basis...well, that and FourSquare.
I've been behind on getting my gift guide together, but this is the most exciting bird app I've seen come down the pike this year.