Review: Audubon Birds field guide app for iOS

20130126-115719.jpgAudubon Birds with NatureShare
Green Mountain Digital
$16.99 available for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch

[dc]S[/dc]martphones, tablets and other internet-connected devices are becoming ubiquitous, and as more people start using these devices there is a growing demand to be able to interact with each other in new ways. Nature enthusiasts are no different; in addition to a growing number of Facebook groups there have been a variety of attempts at social networks designed exclusively for them. Birdwatchers are particularly interested in new ways to share sightings, having grown accustomed to adopting new technologies to spread news of bird sightings by phone chains to email and now Facebook and text messages.

A new platform for sharing sightings was recently released via NatureShare and allows you to not only sharing your sightings of birds, but also insects, wildflowers, mammals, trees, butterflies, fish, and mushrooms. Now, in addition to viewing sightings submitted to eBird, the already excellent Audubon Birds app has added the ability to directly add your sightings to NatureShare. The NatureShare community has supercharged the social aspect of sharing sightings, and the newly updated app makes it even easier.

From within the Audubon Birds app, it requires a minimum of effort to add new sightings. After you select the species you are able to add a photo of the bird if you took one, then you select the location. The app automatically detects your current location but you can drag the pin to the precise location you saw the bird. Then, using your selected location, the app provides you with nearby landmarks such as cities, parks, lakes, etc. You can add additional information and then just which social networks to share your sighting with (Facebook and Twitter). Finally, select which lists you want to add the sighting to and then submit it to NatureShare.

The app also allows you to explore sightings submitted by other users. A constantly updated feed is access by tapping on NatureShare Community where you can sort the sightings to show everyone’s sightings or just the users you follow. If users didn’t submit a photo, NatureShare uses high-quality photos of each species to make the interface look slick.

The NatureShare features are well integrated into the app; from the NatureShare Community pages, you can tap the info button on a sighting to go to that species account where you can look up identification information, range, calls, etc. When you are looking up a bird in the field, you can add it to your list of sightings just by tapping the + button on the bottom of the screen.

Overall this is a major update to an already superb app. Birders differ on their preference for field guides that use photos vs illustrations, but I think there is room for both. Audubon Birds is a full featured app that continues to push the envelope on interactivity and the social aspects of enjoying nature. Download it now on the App Store for $16.99.

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