Monday, 9 July 2012

Birds of Britain iPhone App - Review

I have a new iPhone app that I received for free - Birds of Britain designed by CleverMatrix a London based software company. Like everybody else I always enjoy receiving stuff for free and even more so when the item happens to be bird related.

After I had installed the app the first thing I noticed is how the birds are listed, not in the usual taxonomic sequence you would find in any bird book, but alphabetically - for example; anyone looking up Common Tern would see it following Common Sandpiper and Common Scoter. I feel it would be more beneficial for the user to see Common Tern sitting along side Arctic Tern and Roseate Tern - if only to assist the user with identification of a particular bird or family of birds.

Once you have found the species of bird you want to either look up for reference or record as a sighting (the term on the app is 'spotted' which I personally am never keen on using and much prefer the term 'sighting') using the search tool or scrolling through one of the 5 tabs: All, Resident, Summer, Winter and Passing (I'm really not sure about using the word Passing. Passage might have been a better term to use). There is a small photographic image of each bird next to its name but unfortunately some of these images are not always the classic image you would expect to see, for example Garganey - it's probably not the best idea to use an image of the female bird! The same goes for Black Tern, why not use the image of a classic adult summer, instead a juvenile bird has been chosen? For Mediterranean Gull you would expect to see a summer adult with a nice full black hood but no, another juvenile and there are others examples - I understand this app is probably aimed more for recording and keeping of records than for identification purposes but these are basics that every top birdwatching app should be getting right. After finding the bird you want to either read about or record as a sighting you click on its picture and this takes you to an overview page, which I found to be nicely laid out and very informative, with Latin name, family name, a full description, size, UK distribution and migration all of which is well written and largely accurate. And lastly the feature I liked best on the app; beside each bird there is a play button which gives the call or song of that particular bird - always useful when you are out in the field.

After recording your sighting, adding the date, location and any notes you want to make this then builds up a library of your sightings in the Bird Spotted (I really don't like that term) category, in here there is also the option to allow you to map your sightings using the familiar pin drop method.

Another feature I discovered and liked was on the bottom tool bar in the More section called Places, this gives you an index of birdwatching reserves and locations around the UK, with useful information like contact numbers and addresses, websites and even a link to their locations on a map, although hitting the Get Directions button gave me an error (Access denied), perhaps this is still work in progress but would be very useful once fully functional.

In conclusion: The birdwatching/recording app market for smart phones is ever increasing with more and more people moving away from carrying around reference and notebooks, whether this be for birds, butterflies, wildflowers or whatever your field of choice, and turning instead to handheld devices for all their needs. With the ability of Smart phones to hold more and more data, soon you could have an entire library of fauna and flora in your hands at the touch of a button - especially useful if you are a novice in a particular field or just the casual observer, and this is the category where I feel the Birds of Britain app falls into. I can imagine any experienced or seasoned birder finding this app a little annoying with its minor inaccuracies - let's hope further updates are due out soon. I would also have liked to have seen a way of exporting the data saved in the app to an excel or txt file as a back up or for use in another database of your choice. But if you are a casual observer and like to record your sightings or you just want the instant ability to look up a bird you don't recognise, this app may be for you as the descriptions and distribution guides are very good as well as having the songs/calls to hand - just don't rely too heavily on the photographic images!

Overview: A user friendly app with plenty of functionality which will keep most bird watchers interested - best aimed at someone new to the hobby or for just keeping a record of your sightings.

The Cowboy Birder rating of 3 out of 5 Chili's.

Please see the Chili tab at the top of the page for an overview of my rating system.

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