For iPad owners who love being outside, but aren’t that into sports, bird and butterfly watching apps provide a way to engage with the natural world, usually without breaking a sweat.
Working in conjunction with the Audubon Society, Green Mountain Digital created Audubon Birds and Butterflies, a universal app, to help iOS users recognize and track the birds and butterflies we see.
Not only does Birds and Butterflies include a database for species identification, much like a traditional printed field guide, it also lets the user keep a journal — like a digital life list — and offers eBird integration.
Upon opening the app, the user may choose to use the bird or butterfly section of the guide.
Choosing the birds section brings up a search menu that allows the user to find birds with eBird, or browse by shape, family, or name. Choosing the advanced search option allows the user to specify criteria such as size, shape, color. It also allows the user to check the likelihood that a particular species will be in a US state or Canadian province in a specified month. This feature is very useful for trying to narrow down an identification.
The Butterfly menu is similar, except there is no eBird section, and it lacks the ability to specify common butterflies one might see in a particular state and time of the year.
Both apps link to the users journal, which is available by tapping the journal button at the bottom of the screen. The journal feature allows users to track which birds and butterflies he has seen with a couple of screen taps.
To create a new journal entry, open the journal and search for the bird or butterfly you wish to add. The journal entry is time stamped and allows for notes. Users can even share a sighting via Facebook or email.
The next time you see the same bird or butterfly, simply tap the plus sign and the journal tracks another observation. Summer is the busiest time for birds and butterflies in my yard, and after several months of using Birds and Butterflies I now have a much clearer picture of the visitors to my yard. For example, the Rose-Breasted Grosbeak population has dwindled to a few females, one juvenile, and the odd male and I haven’t seen a Hummingbird Moth for weeks.
Birds and Butterflies uses location services to track where a user’s location when a bird is spotted, though one would obviously need cellular service to use location tracking in the field.
Download Audubon Birds and Butterflies from the App Store for $7.99.
What I liked: I used this app almost every day this summer. I paid more attention to the butterflies in my yard than I had in previous summers, and learned to tell the difference between the Giant Swallowtail and the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail thanks to Birds and Butterflies.
What I didn’t like: At 725 MB, Birds and Butterflies is rather large. Don’t download the app unless you can clear 3 GB of storage first. (You can always take apps off your device to make room, then put them back on after installing Birds and Butterflies.)
To buy or not to buy: Though Birds and Butterflies is a bit pricey, iOS users who enjoy tracking birds and butterflies will not regret this purchase.
- App Name: Audubon Birds and Butterflies
- Version Reviewed: 1.5
- Category: Reference
- Developer: Green Mountain Digital
- Price: $7.99