Saturday, 16 January 2010

Review:Birds of Britain & Ireland App for Iphone

Many years ago birders used to carry Field Guides, in the field hence the name. These days few do, although most have a Collins perhaps tucked away in the car in case of an emergency.

Reliance on memory and familiarity is fine but if you're starting out or have only been birding for a couple of years and yet to achieve the dizzy heights of being able to nail a Blyth's Reed Warbler at fifty paces with one eye closed finding a new bird can often be frustrating. Cases of misidentifcation and ones that got away are all too common in the early days for most birders (or at least the ones without an ego too big to admit to getting anything wrong).

So what if you carry a Field Guide on your phone, sounds good? What if you could throw in a huge quantity of superb portrait images for many of the species, sounding better? Add to that some distribution maps and the songs and calls for 271 British & Irish species and the definitive text accounts from the Concise edition of Birds of the Western Palearctic and it starts sounding just a little bit better than good doesn't it?

That's what the team at Birdguides have delivered with their latest Iphone Application the Birds of Britain & Ireland available from the Iphone App Store now for £14.99. No, that's not a misprint before you reach for the comment button, £15 quid gets you more information at the swipe of a screen than you could possibly carry around in your rucksack.

Browsable in A-Z listing or by family group, searchable by first three letters of species name, access to the species accounts is fast and easy. Double click on a plate or picture and you can increase the size and zoom in on that bill or tail pattern with ease. Moving between plates and texts is simply a matter of a few side swipes with the finger.
Now if I'm honest I was never a huge fan of the plates in BWP but just as on the Birdguides flagship product BWPi the ability to zoom enhances their use and improves the usability. As you would expect the image quality on the portraits is often outstanding (although as a laridophile the lack of any Caspian Gull images is disappointing, although I'm sure this will be rectified at some point).

Of course many long in the tooth birders will be waiting for the next 150 species, the rare and increasingly scarce, which is sure to follow before too long, but if you are amongst them don't dismiss this product as unnecessary. With the Iphone in your pocket and armed with Concise BWP all those tricky post-birding pub discussions about the difference between Taiga and Tundra or the Western Palearctic distribution of Red-breasted Flycatcher can be sorted in an instant.
If you haven't got an Iphone this might just be the start of a long line of apps that makes it the phone of choice for Birders and finally consigns the pager to the annals of history. If you have got one get this app, you won't be disappointed, the value for money delivered here is extraordinary.
All the reviews on the app store so far (five) have delivered five stars, they're not wrong.


beast said...

These apps will undoubtedly be of benefit to some...and with more apps to follow...well...who knows where 'it' will all end up! Regards iphones tho..i believe the battery life is supposed to be pretty you could end up rather 'knackered' in the field!
I suppose 'this' sort of thing will appeal to younger fledgling that's perhaps a 'plus' thing. If they can afford an iphone that is!

As i'm a 'pay as you go' bloke...i am very unlikely to get an i just looked at the prices...!

ps...out of interest to anyone who is looking for 'a deal' on an iphone...i found a website.. ['']..which stinks of a scam...[i doubt very much that you will bid on a 3GSiphone and get it for about £6o]..!!!

pps...i found a comment on a review of this site...'if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck then....'

Skev said...

Any idea if this app works on the i-Touch Alan?

alan tilmouth said...

My understanding is that it is compatible with Ipod Touch Skev.

Beast - I've found the battery life enough for regular use for a full day in field on Iphone. Go with Orange on 3G and you can get the phone for free at £30/month, sign up to Birdguides Email Alert at £40/annum (£3.33 per month) and you can se your phone to push the email to you in the field. Compare this with the alternative such as an RBA pager and you have a £99 pager purchase cost (3 years life = £3/month?)+ £180 annual news fee (£15/month)then factor in your phone monthly costs which for most pay as you go must be c£10/month. So your comparing £33/month with £28/month BUT for the extra £5 you get mobile email, an Ipod, a camera, a voice recorder as well as the opportunity to use the various apps.I think it's a steal.

Davy Turner said...

There is also a similar app for the Ipod also from Bird guides which i can recommend as it has helped me in the field many a times

Newton Stringer said...

Has the world gone completely crazy ?!!!

…...or have I just turned into a very grumpy old git ?

For me birding is about being out in the elements and immersing myself in the natural world...who really needs all this technology to appreciate nature ? I can’t think of anything worse than having to fiddle about with a miniature computer (disguised as a mobile phone) while I am out birding…..

If they produce one of these things for rarities too, then I'm sure we'll get plagued with clueless idiots using phones to tape lure everything.…can’t wait for that !

OK Alan…. Yes, I know, before you say it…. I AM DEFINITELY A GRUMPY OLD GIT !!

alan tilmouth said...

Stringer, I think the answer to the question who needs it? lies with the kids. We have largely created a landscape and a youth that have a disconnect with nature but a major connect with technology. I see the technology as a means to re-connect kids who might otherwise not get involved. As for tape luring that for me is simply a matter of personal individual responsibility, those that choose to do so in a thoughtless and irresponsible way should be subject to criticism by their peers.
I also think there is a danger of older (grumpier?) birders straying dangerously close to hypocrisy when for years they've benefited from 20th century technology such as pagers helping them to connect with difficult and rare stuff, why shoud we have the perogative to use the technology available to us and not others, surely a matter for individual choice?

beast said...

Although i embrace some aspects of technology i find that sometimes...certain things...just go a bit too far and are perhaps unnecessary. I understand completely where you're coming from...regards using the hi-tech approach to involve the 'kids'...[as you mentioned on a previous blog post].
Be interested to know just how many of the youngsters could afford iphones tho! What age group do you mean...10 to 14 year olds...something like that? Now i guess some reasonably well off families might be able to buy their kids such a thing...but i certainly don't know of many!
I am always in two minds,at least,
over 'tech stuff' tho it obviously also distracts and maybe even distances you from reality.
I shall stick to my sony ericsson phone for has all the bird songs/calls on and recording it only costs me 3p a text...[i spend about a tenner every 3-4 weeks]...and the phone only cost about 60quid bran new!

ps...field guides never run out of battery life...

alan tilmouth said...

Affordability is understandbly an issue that we all have to be cautious about, but the prices are now one sixth of the launch price three years ago and with increased competiition in the UK are sure to move lower still.
I also know that many people will bend over backwards to get their kids the latest gadget/phone etc whilst that may not always be a good thing I think the number of kids with access might surprise you. My 2yr old loves it!

beast said...

A 2 year old..!....start em young eh?!
Are iphones..[apple]?...really one 6th the price of a few years ago? Maybe i've been looking at wrong websites...[wouldn't surprise me]!
The latest apple3GSiphone is 7-800 quid or thereabouts. [Obviously on a contract it's a different 'thing']. Are there that many, maybe 10-14 year olds, on 'a contract' deal these days with iphones? Seen plenty with ipods naturally...
Would have thought the 'average' parent would get their kids a 'pay as you go' job! Maybe i'm just outta touch...[that wouldn't surprise me either]!

ps...i was having a good chat about modern techno-stuff and it's various applications with a fellow oldish grumpy git..Mr.Dipper..[Keith Lyons] Eye Brook yesterday. He'd only recently acquired an 'ordinary' mobile phone...and he was having a 'bit o bother' operating that...[bless him]..! Oh how we laughed at the latest gizmo addicts....'boys n their toys' and all that....[some o the new gadgets do look great fun tho]!

Jon said...

Haha, well with over 90,000 IPhone apps they do have something for everyone! Even somewhere to view dusty bins!