App News

The BirdsEye Bird Finding app is already one of the most useful mobile apps for birders, allowing you to access eBird data on-the-go and find birds and hotspots near you. But the BirdsEye team has been steadily improving the app and adding new features. They’ve recently announced the availability of additional sound packages for many regions of the world.

The Sounds

BirdEye has partnered with birdsounds.nl, a company that has produced many highly acclaimed bird sound collections. The collections available in the BirdsEye app are:

  • Peru
  • Colombia
  • Venezuela
  • Brazil
  • Costa Rica
  • Nicaragua
  • Northern Siberia
  • Sri Lanka
  • Australia
  • Belgium and Holland

These things are extensive! Costa Rica, for example, includes 2,061 recordings of 764 species (over 15 hours’ worth), while Colombia has 5,500+ recordings of over 1,600 species (46 hours!). Altogether, they average 2-3 sounds per species, but some birds have many more than that if warranted. I’ve barely scratched the surface of all the sounds available, but the ones I’ve listened to sound great.

Using the Sounds

You play the sounds from each bird’s species page. The easiest way to access those is to use the Nearby Birds or Browse All Species functions from the home screen. You can also get to them from the bird lists for each hotspot.

Even with these options, I felt that something was missing. I wanted a way to view and play all of the sounds from a given package, but just the ones from that package. I finally discovered a way to do so. Go back to the Bird Guide Store, tap on a package you’ve purchased, then go to the Bird List. Tapping on the names here will take you to the Species Account page where you can play the sound.

Playing the sounds is very simple – just tap on the speaker icon at the bottom of the species page. That brings up a list of all the sounds for that species across all the packages that you own. Then just tap on the sound that you want to play. Note that if you’ve downloaded the sounds for offline use that the topmost one starts playing automatically when you tap the speaker icon. That could be problematic depending on where you are and what you’re doing (it could potentially scare away a bird), but that’s easy to deal with if you’re prepared for it.

BirdsEye species account screen

Tapping the speaker icon on the bottom-left of a bird's page...

BirdsEye sound playback screen

...gives you the sound playback screen in BirdsEye.

This interface is a little too simple for my taste. From the screen you can only switch sounds, pause, or close the list. You cannot skip ahead or backwards within the track or set it to repeat. Also, a progress bar appears when playing, but it would be nice to have the total time and time elapsed displayed as well. Finally, the sounds are labelled as “song” or “call”. Rarely, further information is displayed, like “Pacific” or “Caribbean”, but it would be nice if this was done on a more consistent basis.

Getting the Sounds

BirdsEye sound packagesYou can purchase the sound packages either from the BirdsEye website or directly in the main BirdsEye app or the BirdsEye North America app (they are not available in the other regional apps) by going to the Bird Guide Store from the app home screen. From there, you can find extensive details on each package, including the list of birds included. Once you purchase the package, the sounds are instantly available within the app over the cloud (provided you’re connected to the internet, of course). Alternatively, you can download the whole package, which I would recommend if you’ll be traveling as you may not always have a reliable network connection. If you later need the space back, you can easily clear the data within the app without worry, because you can download the packages as many times as you want and from any device that you own.

BirdsEye sound package info BirdsEye sound package bird list

However, there’s one catch. You have the sounds, but you need to be able to access those species in BirdsEye. To do that, you need to have either a membership subscription ($4.99 or $9.99/month) or the appropriate regional app. For instance, if you purchase the Bird Sounds of Peru collection, you need to make sure that you also have access to Peruvian birds either through a membership or purchase of BirdsEye South America. Update: This is not the case. I’ve been informed that when you purchase a sound package, you also get full access and content for those birds in the app.

That’s not very straightforward, but this process is going to be made more user-friendly soon. Shortly, the main BirdsEye app will become free and will give you access to the 50 most common species anywhere you are on the planet. (The newly released Android version of BirdsEye already does this.) Then there will be several options to see more species:

  1. Purchasing a membership will give you eBird data and BirdsEye content (photos and text where available) for all of the species on Earth as well as unlimited favorite locations
  2. Purchasing a region will give you eBird data and BirdsEye content for all of the species in that region
  3. Purchasing a sound pack will give you access to that content, plus eBird data and BirdsEye content for all of those species

These sound packages are a great addition to an already useful app. If you’re going to be birding any of these regions, they’re a great way to have the bird sounds always at your fingertips. I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you how important that is. These packages aren’t cheap ($24.99-$49.49 each), but they’re a good deal considering how many recordings you get. And purchasing them through BirdsEye is actually cheaper than getting them on discs, and much more convenient.

Disclosure: These sound packages were provided by the publisher for review purposes. But the opinion expressed here is my own, it has not been influenced in any way.

The Warbler Guide appPrinceton University Press just announced an app based on The Warbler Guide will be available for iOS devices in December. Among the list of features, one in particular caught my eye:

  • 3D models of birds in all plumages, rotatable and pinch-zoomable to match field experience of a bird

That could be AWESOME! That’s one way that apps could really improve upon printed field guides.

Here are the other features:

  • Intuitive, visual, and interactive finders with filters for possible species based on audio and visual criteria chosen by the user
  • Rapid and confident two-step ID process using visual finders and comparison species
  • The first complete treatment of warbler songs, using a new objective vocabulary
  • An intuitive visual finder that includes side, 45 degree, and undertail views
  • Many additional photos to show behavior and reinforce key ID points
  • Color Impression Icons for narrowing down ID of warblers from the briefest glimpses
  • Playback of all songs and vocalizations with sonograms makes study of vocalizations easy and intuitive
  • iPhone® and iPad® versions let you take these useful tools into the field
  • Selectable finder sortings grouped by color, alphabetical order, song type, and taxonomic order
  • Interactive song finder using objective vocabulary for fast ID of unknown songs
  • Comparison species with selectable side, 45 degree, and undertail views

Bird Songs of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East iOS appBird Songs of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East
$79.99

From Edition AMPLE:

This is the professional App to the renowned reference work of Schulze and Dingler covering all 819 European species including all 2,817 songs and calls from the CDs and MP3-Discs. All species can be browsed according to their taxonomical classification and can thus be easily compared. Spectrograms to all sounds as well as high quality photographs and descriptions to each species are also included. As a novelty and practical advantage, multiple songs and calls of one species are arranged consecutively on separate tracks. Each track consists of several calls, which can independently be chosen and played immediately without the need to fast-forward. Explanations to all recordings and bird names are given in English.

Special features:

  • 2817 songs & calls
  • Includes 802 European species
  • Spectrograms to all sounds
  • Descriptions to all species
  • 1350 photographs
  • Create sighting lists and sort by place, date, group, and name
  • Make notes for each bird spotted
  • Display bird names in 18 languages

 

If you don’t already have this comprehensive sound collection – and have an Apple device – this looks like a convenient way to always have these songs at your fingertips.

Princeton University Press is looking for some feedback on a birding app they’re working on. Here’s the link to the short survey – https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/92F8D86

The big surprise…it’s an app to identify bird sounds, the mythical Shazam-for-birds.

Several bird apps are on sale right now. But hurry, this is only for a limited time.

Peterson Birds of North America – $0.99 (regularly $9.99). iOS only

Audubon Birds — A Field Guide to North American Birds – $2.99 (regularly $9.99). iOS, Android, Kindle, and Nook. All the other Audubon Single Subjects and Ultimate Nature Guides are also on sale – http://natureshare.com/#apps

BirdLog – North America – $4.99 (regularly $9.99). iOS and Android

BirdsEye North America – $4.99 (regularly $19.99). iOS only

Peterson Birds Pocket Edition iOS appPeterson Birds Pocket Edition – A Field Guide to Birds of North America
$0.99

From Peterson Guides:

Peterson Birds Pocket Edition is the latest nature app from Appweavers, developers of award-winning Peterson apps for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Pocket Edition includes Roger Tory Peterson’s ground-breaking illustrations and content from the best selling book, Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America.

Peterson Birds Pocket Edition includes identical core content to the award-winning Peterson Birds of North America app, with illustrations, range maps, bird songs, species details, and much more.

 

This new app takes a different approach to the “lite” app concept. Instead of including a limited number of species, this Pocket Edition includes all the birds from the full Peterson App but drops some of the features. You miss out on some cool features – like the content of additional Peterson guides and some list capabilities – but you still get all the illustrations, sounds, maps, and species account text. And perhaps best of all – it’s only $0.99!

Costa Rica Birds Field Guide iOS appCosta Rica Birds Field Guide
$19.99

From Birding Field Guides:

Full-featured birding field guide for Costa Rica, including bird photographs, individual bird range maps, vocalizations, field marks, description, habitat. Additional features include comprehensive filter choices, sorting options, personal notes, camera, email notes and photos.

Features include:

  • Over 400 Costa Rica species
  • Quality photographs for each bird
  • Extensive search / filter
  • Range map for each bird
  • Description, field marks, habitat for each bird
  • Bird Sounds
  • Personal notes
  • Email notes
  • Camera

 

There’s not a whole lot of information about the app on itunes or the developer’s website (but there are a few more details at Costa Rica Living and Birding). But there is a free Lite version that you can check out. This is the first field guide app to anywhere in Central America that I’m aware of, so even if it doesn’t turn out to be the best app ever it could still be plenty valuable to visiting birders.

Count Circle iOS appCount Circle
$2.99

From Stevens Creek Software:

If you’re involved with Christmas or Breeding Bird Counts, the boundaries of your count circle are always of interest, and sometimes unclear. Count Circle includes the complete National Audubon database of CBCs, with a total of 2429 different count circles in 72 different states and territories including Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, South America, and Antarctica. Lookup and display any count circle on an interactive map, and find out exactly what is (and is not) included in the circle. The software also displays your current location, so you can determine precisely if you are inside or outside the count circle as you are doing your count.

You can also use Count Circle just to view the different circles, to help you decide which ones you might like to participate in.

If you have reason to believe the database is in error, Count Circle lets you set the center of the circle, then update the database, and even, if you choose to do so, report the revision directly to National Audubon.

You can also create and save your own circles, and even choose your own radius (in miles or kilometers)! Great for “patch challenges.”

 

Looks like a very useful app for bird counters.