Sunday, March 24, 2013

Product Review: BirdLog eBird App

BirdLog is a bird checklist app for your mobile device. According to its advertisers, BirdLog is a breakthrough because it is the app which "for the first time allows quick-and-easy data entry directly from the field".

Let me get straight to the point: BirdLog is a rip off. The burn is twice as intense because I broke one of my own rules when I was considering the purchase of this app: I believed the hype about it. I read the glowing reviews on eBird as well as other praise lavished upon this app around the internet. I should have taken it as a warning, but instead I uncritically jumped on the bandwagon.

There are two deceptive aspects of the way this product is marketed. The first one is that the developers have not made it sufficiently clear that this app is only useful in the field if you have an data plan on your device and you are in proximity to an available cellular network. I have an iPad that is WiFi only. Perhaps I should have realized that I needed a data plan for the maps to work correctly away from a wireless connection, but I didn't. My second complaint is that the folks at eBird who provided such glowing reviews have an undeclared (or at least insufficiently declared) conflict of interest in that a portion of each sale is donated to them. The eBird endorsements were the most influential on me in terms of my purchase decision, however I did not realize at the time that eBird and BirdLog were in cahoots. Not only did I make an improvident bargain, I have also been disillusioned.

In conclusion, BirdLog only does one useful thing that the regular eBird doesn't, namely it enables you to enter your location using the GPS capability of your mobile device. If you only have access to WiFi you will find this feature to be unavailable in the field.

For someone with an iPhone with a data plan, eBird might be mildly helpful. From my perspective, BirdLog is an over-hyped waste of money.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Affirmative Action at Beamer Hawkwatch

Future Hawkwatcher?

It was with interest that I read today's Ontbirds post calling for volunteers at the Niagara Peninsula Hawkwatch, especially the part where it said "f
emale birders of all ages and young birders of both genders are particularly encouraged to come out". Ahem, what about visual minorities and the LGBT community?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Those Lovely Gulls

For you larophiles out there, getta load of these...

Kelp ("Cape") Gull

Most of the gulls we saw in South Africa were in the coastal areas of the Western Cape. Kelp Gull was the most conspicuous. According to some authorities, the southern African race is a distinct species (Cape Gull).

Hartlaub's Gull

Hartlaub's Gull is an elegant gull, about the size of Bonaparte's Gull. It was split not too long ago from the similar Silver Gull.

Gray-hooded Gull

Gray-hooded Gull was not on my radar at all, so we were pleasantly surprised to see several. The bird pictured above was along the coastline, but this is the only gull you are likely to find inland in South Africa.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Book Review: The Biggest Twitch

The Biggest Twitch is the story of a forty-something couple who, in 2008, quit their jobs, sold their house in north Wales, and went into debt to fund a year long, around-the-world birding bonanza with the explicit goal of racking up the biggest global bird list in a single calendar year. Their motivation: for the love of birding, and with the hope of achieving "fame in the birding world, bird guiding commissions, [and] ... book deals".

There is a target audience for this book: competition stoked, international-travelling, "big list" birders. If you fit this description, you will absolutely love The Biggest Twitch! I expect your enjoyment of the book will diminish in proportion to how remotely you are situated from the target readership.

I liked this book, and I liked the protagonists, Alan Davies and Ruth Miller. They have guts, nerve and they are obviously intrepid travellers and talented birders. I admire them for their hard work and determination, and I envy them all of the fantastic birding experiences they have had around the globe. The book also has a wealth of information for any birder planning a trip to Australia, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Spain or any one of the dozen or so countries that they visited during their year-long adventure.

This book provides a detailed and candid (sometime too candid) look at the logistics involved in such a huge undertaking, the sacrifices that are necessary and the foibles of getting along with each other as well as their various guides, hosts, friends, family members and the numerous other birders they encountered.

Birders who have read Wild AmericaKingbird Highway, Call Collect, Ask for Birdman, The Big YearBirding on Borrowed Time, or To See Every Bird on Earth will recognize The Biggest Twitch as belonging to the same genre. The premise is not original, but the authors definitely deserve credit for elevating the idea of a Big Year to a grand and global scale.

On the binocular scale, from Tasco on the low end to Swarovski at the high end, I rate The Biggest Year a Pentax.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Greg Miller at the 2013 OFO Convention

Here is your advance notice that Greg Miller has been confirmed as the keynote speaker for this year's OFO Convention on the weekend of September 27-29 at Point Pelee.

Jack Black & Greg Miller

Who? You know, Greg Miller, the lovable underdog from The Big Year. In addition to giving the keynote, Greg has agreed to lead a hike on the Saturday morning and possibly narrate a screening of the movie version of The Big Year in the theatre at the Point Pelee National Park Visitor Centre. He lives not far from Pelee in nearby Ohio.

Maybe he will bring his buddy Jack Black along. I bet that guy would be fun to bird with.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

For the Ladies

Kittlitz's Plover, approximately one week old.

I photographed this bird on mudflats at low tide in West Coast National Park, South Africa on February 5, 2013.

You can contact me for adoption details.