Jun 27 2011
Today’s blog is for “techno birders,” people like me who play with technology and go birding to get away from it all. Or so I thought.
Until recently my birding was low-tech. I’d go outdoors with only binoculars and my field book. Then three months ago I bought the Sibley eGuide for my cellphone. I thought I wouldn’t use it much. Hah! I love it!
First let me say that I come by technology honestly. I’ve worked with computers since high school and my real job at WQED is Director of Information Technology (no, not “blogger”). Even so, I’m conservative about gadgets and updates and am slow to adopt the latest technology. I never have the newest stuff because I’ve seen too many new things crash and burn.
On the other hand, I have a Droid smartphone. I don’t carry it to make phone calls. Nooooooooo! It’s my pocket computer and I use it everywhere. I suffer withdrawal if I can’t get on the Internet. Ask my husband how I react in a certain place in Maine that has no 4G network.
Being a slow adopter I am very cautious about downloading apps to my Droid. My low-tech husband was the one who researched the Sibley eGuide for my birthday gift. I downloaded it a few months early so I could use it during my trip to Nevada last April. (It cost $29.99 at the time.)
Since then I have become addicted. The Sibley eGuide allows me to:
- See Sibley’s great images and read detailed information about each species including range maps and behavior.
- Zoom in on the images to see more details.
- Use taxonomic or (my new favorite) alphabetic lists.
- Narrow the scope of potential birds by choosing my state/province location.
- Use the Smart Search function to further narrow the possibilities by size, color, body features (such as tail patches), etc.
- Listen to the song to help my identification. (No! No! No! I do not play the songs so the birds can hear them. I turn the volume very low and listen right next to my ear and play just a short bit to verify my audio guess. Do not play the sounds for the birds! Here’s why, from Sibley himself.)
- Compare two species’ images side-by-side as I would in a book-based field guide.
- Compare two songs side-by-side. Can’t do that with my field book.
- Record the bird’s date and location and email or export the list.
The Sibley eGuide validates its license over the network every time you open it but it works just fine when you’re off the grid. On Android it used to force-close at startup but I learned that if I exit the app from the home screen instead of killing it with my task killer the force-close issues disappear.
Since downloading the Sibley eGuide I’ve changed my birding habits. Instead of thinking “I’m not carrying my field guide because it’s heavy and I won’t encounter a bird I don’t know,” I now say to myself, ”I don’t need my book. I have my Droid.”
I never leave home without it.
(image from Sibley eGuides to Birds App webpage at sibleyguides.com. Click on the image to read more about the app. Get it at Android Market or at iTunes for iPhones or at Blackberry App World, depending on your cellphone model.)
As you can tell from the links in the photo credits, the Sibley eGuide also runs on the iPhone (its original platform) and the Blackberry.