During this period of lockdown and while observing the natural world literally on our door step I have been investigating and trying out nature recording apps – those applications you can install on your smart phone or tablet.
Here is a small selection of free apps that I have tried and my initial reviews:
Bird Track (available on Andriod and IOS) allows you to record bird sightings at user defined locations seen on specified dates and time periods. It can be used ‘off-line’ (ie where there is no mobile or WiFi signal) – you simply upload your records when you get back home. Easy to add basic information (species and numbers seen) but a bit clunky to add notes/behaviour for example and once uploaded the app does not allow you to review your individual lists.
You need a Birdtrack id (register free at https://www.bto.org/user/register?action=register&target=71 ) – and then via the Website you can review and amend your submissions, as well as see how they fit into the local/national picture. Verdict: a birds sighting recording application – consider it as a mobile ‘adjunct’ to the main Birdtrack website.
iRecord for Butterflies
iRecord for Butterflies (available on Andriod and IOS) allows you to identify and record British butterflies at a given site and date. The application can pin point a location with a GPS signal, or you can select it on a displayed map. The recording is easy with a list of butterflies presented as thumbnail photos to select from. Then add how many, where, when, notes and upload any photos if desired. You can submit individual sighting or those seen at a given site on a given day. The app also has a photo id guide with handy comparisons between similar species, habitat range and a calendar of when the caterpillars and adults are most likely seen. You can review your own sightings within the app but although these are not individually viewable on the associated website they are added to the Butterfly conservation database. If you wish to get more involved with recording, check out the recording and monitoring page on the Butterfly conservation website. Verdict: easy to use and record your butterfly sightings. A great way to get into butterflies!
Seek – by iNaturalist
Seek by iNaturalist (available on Andriod and IOS). So we have all dreamed, at one time or another, of pointing our binoculars at a species and for the identification to just ‘pop up’ into our vision. Well this app tries to do just that! Ok – it is not ‘in your binoculars or telescope’ – so you have to point your phone camera at the species in question – but the results are (often) amazingly accurate. Best of all, it will have a go at anything biological – birds, mammals, flowers, trees, fungi, fish, amphibians, reptiles etc. It first homes in on the class , order, family, genus and eventually picks out the matching species. You can then ‘snap it’ and the record is made -what you’ve seen, where and when. You can enter ‘challenges’ and earn badges, (likely to appeal to young naturalists), or like me, just to point it at an unknown plant (which I am hopeless at) and for it to suggest a likely genus or species – which is a game changer. Dig a little bit deeper and it will show similar species, so can check these out as well. It does need a mobile or WiFi signal to work. However, the app can also be directed towards photographs – I can see no end of fun identifying all those plant species I have photographed for which I don’t know what they are! Or else when out and about (when we are allowed to do so) and out of range of a signal then just snap a photograph and point the app at it when you get home. Verdict: Here is AI (artificial intelligence) and ML (machine learning) in action – no doubt we shall see more of this capability in the future, but already it is usable and useful – give it a go!
Swift Mapper (available on Andriod and IOS). This does what it says in the title! Dedicated to swift recording and helping their conservation. The idea is to record where swifts are nesting so a national picture of where they are can be built up and then, over time, monitoring how this is changing. Plus it will allow conservation bodies to use this data to take appropriate action for swift conservation. Once you have logged in, the app has a simple interface to enter details of prospecting (screaming) parties of swifts, known nesting sites or previous nesting sites now absent. Partners in this project are the RSPB, Swift Conservation and Action for Swifts. Verdict: As a keen ‘swift observer’ myself this is an essential tool to be able to contribute to this vital project. If you live near a swift colony I recommend you get this app in order to submit details of swifts in your local area.
So which nature apps do you use on you smart phone? Let me know – even better contact me if you’d like to write a review of one or more.