[Tweeters] BirdsEye

Dennis Paulson dennispaulson at comcast.net
Sat Jan 9 18:32:33 PST 2010

No, I'm not talking about frozen foods. I'm talking about a killer app for iPhones and iPod Touches. It's called BirdsEye. I have been asked to review the application (only because I have friends in high places, not because I'm the world's most active birder), so I've been learning how to use it. It's actually quite easy, and it's fun. BirdEye has been developed by Kenn Kaufmann, Pete Myers, Todd Koym (the programmer), and others, and they continue to work on it to make it better.

The application costs $20 at the iTunes store. With it, you can tap into the eBird database from your iPhone, or if with a wireless connection, your iPod Touch. All of you who have been submitting records to eBird or looking up things on it know all about the vast store of bird records it contains. What BirdsEye does is mine that database for bird records in the past 30 days. You indicate where you are (home or on the road) and then call up the list of NA bird species. If you really want to see a Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, you can see where this species has been seen in the last 30 days, where the closest record is to you (not very close if you're in Seattle), and then exactly how to get here (all on a Google map).

Great fun, I can click on Hudsonian Godwit and see where the nearest records are to me. Well, they're on the coast of Peru, so I guess I won't be using a Google Map to drive there. But Bar-tailed Godwits have been seen within the last week in California. I see the nearest Emperor Goose records are in southern Alaska, the nearest Ross's Goose in northern California. But what if I was in Anchorage for the weekend? Then I could see that Common Eiders were seen at the Anchor River mouth only 2 weeks ago and get directions to the spot.

Or you can "View Birding Hotspots." The map will show me an array of locations around my present location from which records have been sent to eBird in the last 30 days. But by clicking on the location, you can see the list of species. So I click on Point No Point, and I see that 136 bird species have been reported from there, 45 in the last 30 days. I can click on either list, but obviously I'd be interested in the last 30 days. I can see that Eurasian Wigeon, American Wigeon, Mallard, and a bunch of others were seen there 2 weeks ago; Surf Scoter, Pacific Loon, Western Grebe et al. 3 weeks ago, etc. Darn, I see that some of the birds I saw there just a few weeks ago aren't on the list. I should be submitting to eBird!

Better yet, here I am in Miami, and I click on Birding Hotspots. Here is Matheson Hammock County Park (one of my great birding destinations when I lived there years ago), with 60 species seen recently, among them Northern Parula, Yellow, Yellow-rumped, Black-throated Green, Yellow-throated, Prairie, Palm, and Worm-eating Warblers, American Redstart and Ovenbird all seen within the last two days. Also White-eyed, Yellow-throated, and Blue-headed Vireo. Someone down there is a good eBird reporter.

Anyway, I hadn't planned on writing a review until I had worked with it more, but one thing that surprised me prompts a question to tweeterdom.

Many of the localities around Seattle are listed as "Personal Location." You can find it more or less on the Google Map, but without a name, you don't know exactly what you are looking for. These locations say that they may be private homes, and people are assured privacy by not giving any more information. But I looked at a lot of these, and some of them were certainly not private homes (for example, there were three such locations just at Point No Point, and as far as I know, Vic Nelson is the only birder living there). Are people entering "personal location" because it's their own special birding spot that they'd rather not share? If so, why send the records to eBird? Or is there something I'm missing here? In other words, why so many "personal locations?" I assume the majority were sent in by people on this list.

I'd be curious if anyone has any insight into this. I could try to answer questions about the application, but I'm still learning. One of the upgrades they're working on is a feature that will allow submission of records to eBird through BirdsEye.
Dennis Paulson
1724 NE 98 St.
Seattle, WA 98115
dennispaulson at comcast.net

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