"The digital age has completely transformed birding. It's made it more accessible to more people," Strycker says on a clear May morning at Ohio's Magee Marsh Wildlife Area. "It's made it easier to get the information you need to identify birds and figure out where to find them."How? Phone apps let you leave the bird book at home and, with their audio recordings, identify birds by their songs and not just their appearance. Online services track migrations and alert you when a rare bird has been spotted in your area. And you can peer at plumage as never before with new camera and scope technology.
Perhaps the most radical change in birding comes courtesy of artificial intelligence, The properly trained human brain is phenomenal at making accurate judgments from sketchy details like a bird's silhouette and flight pattern, AI isn't that good, but it can reliably identify the species of a bird in a photo, AI-powered audio identification could come next, I've been birding since I was a kid, and I assure you it's amazing when an app nails a tricky ID based on a crummy photo, This past summer, I used a half dozen phone apps to identify scads of warblers with Strycker and thousands of other birders at the Biggest Week in American Birding event at Magee Marsh and the adjacent Ottawa andersen little mermaid nouveau iphone case National Wildlife Refuge in northern Ohio, I overcame seasickness and the heaving deck of a 56-foot-long boat in the Pacific Ocean to reach and photograph the awkward but adorable crested puffin on the Farallon Islands, 32 miles west of San Francisco, I lost a staring contest with a great horned owl on the other side of my camera lens in the Point Reyes National Seashore farther north in California, Even the heart of Oakland had its charms as I and others on a Golden Gate Audubon Society tour spotted an unusual northern pintail and logged the find online for the thousands of scientists and birders who track such sightings..
Mobile apps help budding birders unlock the secrets of the avian world. They can provide answers where a paper bird book provides a baffling array of possibilities. "Think of the compulsion we all have -- we come upon something new, we have a question, then we type a few keywords into Google," says Purbita Saha, an associate editor at the Audubon Society, one of the world's oldest bird conservation organizations and publisher of a free bird ID app used by half a million people. "Apps are building on that same curiosity," but with a special focus on birding.
Compare that with beginners' frustrations just a few years ago, "Unless you were privileged to have friends who were already birders or were living in a birding hotspot, it was very much an isolated activity," Saha says, Good luck figuring out if you're seeing a long-billed dowitcher or a short-billed andersen little mermaid nouveau iphone case dowitcher when all you've got is a printed bird guide with a short paragraph of text and a couple of images, In the digital age, isolation is a thing of the past, eBird, a popular free online service for logging and studying sightings, has become something of a social network, too, The service just added a profile page option, letting birders connect better..
Another service, Birding Pal, lets you find find a place to stay on a birdwatching trip or host an out-of-town birder. It costs $10 a year. Birding can even be good for your love life. "Here, we see birding as this kind of nerdy activity," Strycker says. But in Colombia, "this one guy told me bird clubs are a great way to go pick up chicks." No, he doesn't mean baby birds. Old-school email lists remain important, too. "It's so easy to be connected and know what's going on," says Alli LaChance, from Ypsilanti, Michigan. She and her husband, Steve, are bundled up against the morning chill, starting their day with a look at a sprawling Magee Marsh sign featuring 36 warbler species. She's carrying a Nikon camera, Nikon binoculars and the iSpiny Chirp app that quizzes you on bird calls. He's got the Vortex binoculars and BMW hat to keep the spring sun at bay.
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