Monday, March 19, 2012

BirdsEye Bird Log: "Killer App" for eBirders!

In the 1980's and 90's technologists were looking for that "killer app"--that one program or application that people couldn't live without--that would make people buy computers. Spreadsheets, email and the World Wide Web certainly contended for the title of killer app. No one could have foreseen that the killer app of text messaging on a telephone--of all things!--would displace the personal computer!

Last week I turned in my pre-2000 Nokia cell phone ("candy bar" shape, external antenna, tiny monochrome LCD display, no games). It still works fine, the battery has never been replaced. I've never dropped or lost it. When it would ring I would joke that it must be a wrong number, which it was about 75% of the time. It lasted so long because I rarely used it. I didn't call or receive calls very often, and texting was so difficult that anything more than "ok" or "no" was all I usually replied--I never initiated a text message. It was just an emergency phone.

So what prompted me to buy the latest Andoid Smart Phone?

The BirdsEye Log eBird Application!

The BirdsEye Log app lets you enter your eBird checklists from the field, in real time. What's the big deal? The app uses GPS to find your location on the map with eBird hotspot locations and your personal locations shown. Select one of these or create a new location, with a name selected by Bird Log based on your location, or choose a name of your own.

Start the app when you begin birding and add species and numbers as you go. See more of a species already entered? No problem, either scroll down to the bird in the list and edit your number or add additional individuals by entering the additional numbers and the name again. Bird names auto-complete, but you can also use the bander's 4-letter code. This is quick and easy!

Some birders are even using the app to enter past trips, though I prefer the larger keyboard of my laptop and using the eBird web site.

This app is going to prompt you to enter more eBird checklists. It will locate precisely your incidental sightings. You're going to find yourself stopping randomly at good-looking habitat and making a quick 5 or 10 minute survey of birds. This app will make tracking multiple stops during your day's birding so much easier!

Amazingly, it will work even if you are out of range of any cell towers. Then just save the results and submit the checklists when you are back in range!

It is not perfect, of course. I suspect that it will not plot your midpoint for traveling transects. So you may have to move your plotted positions later. You cannot edit the position of previously submitted checklists from the app. You have to do that from the web interface for eBird. There are a couple other things that the app could use. Buy a car charger, because the app will be on longer and using the GPS feature of your phone, which uses battery power.

The Android version of BirdsEye Log has been out for a couple of months, with generally good reviews. The iPhone version is just out. Cost is $9.95, which I understand is a high price for Smart Phone apps. But I think it's worth it.

BirdsEye demo from the creators.

March 12, 2012 review by Scott Simmons.

February 9, 2012 review by Dan Tallman.

(BirdsEye Log entry screen image obtained from the Google Play marketplace for Android.)