November 2019


Part I: The App

Just one of the profoundly useful aspects of this remarkable mobile app (developed by Birds In The Hand[1]) is the result of its close integration with data from both eBird and the National Audubon Society. This reviewer was on a small motor boat during a Christmas Bird Count in Northern California when our group noticed a number of what appeared to be gulls on an island not too far away. We did not go nearer to identify them for our survey, because our GPS location indicator on the BirdsEye app showed us that the island was actually outside of our count circle. Picky? No, precise, and that day we were doing science.

The point is that not only can BirdsEye know exactly where you are and where the relevant CBC count circles are, but it also knows ALL the sightings which have been reported to eBird within various distances from your location and over your choice of time frame. It's for this wealth of real-time data that the app has been given the full name of BirdsEye Bird Finding Guide[2]. Give it a location by name or let it determine yours, and you get a photo and frequency timeline for each and every species reported in that vicinity, with the current date indicated to orient you in the seasonal variations. And that's just the beginning.

This is not a "field guide" app in the old-fashioned sense of a digitized book with images, descriptions, and maps, plus some song recordings. It's possibly the first truly 21st Century birding app, which has been designed as a mobile application using all that the cellular, community science universe has to offer - think eBird plus. The basic app is even free, as a public service for beginning birders. More advanced birders may find that it's all they need, with the BirdsEye Blog[3] keeping them up-to-date and broadly informed.

BirdsEye has a tutorial embedded in the app, but there's much more than can be covered without actually using and exploring all its features. Described in this present review are just a few of the unusual and useful ways it can gather and present valuable information for finding and identifying birds wherever you may be. The free app gives up to 100 birds within any location; the various stages of paid subscriptions offer essentially unlimited access to global avifauna.

On the Main menu, the first item is Nearby, which provides an illustrated list of reported species with a frequency chart by months wherever you are (GPS), and the most recent sighting indicated. The "filter" controls on the upper right of the screen allow a distance range from 1 to 50 miles and from 1 week to weeks, months or selected months. Choosing a bird brings up a map centered on your location (CBC circles optional), with all recent sightings of that species shown. Choose one spot, and you're shown the name of the place and the date of the sighting. Tapping the name gives you all the species sighted at that location within any time frame you select using the filters previously mentioned.

A similer set of choices is available from the Browse by Location option (5th down on the list), but one place where this app really shines is what happens when Rare Bird Alerts is selected. "Notable" birds are automatically included with the free app ("Rare" require subscription), but look at the screen that results, again filtered by distance/time of your choosing! Choosing a species gives you a list of the eBird reports, with locations and dates. Select a sighting and you're taken to the eBird report by that observer, complete with other birds seen and embedded photos. Not sure of the accuracy of the reports? The filter choices (again) can limit your results to only confirmed sightings!

This article has skipped other significant menu options and the extensive image sets only because of reviewer/reader fatigue. The enthusiasm should be obvious, however. BirdsEye (this month's Favorite[4], of course) is the only "commercial" mobile app listed on the Bird Wide Web Endorsements list[5].

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