Jim Williams has been watching birds and writing about their antics since before "Gilligan's Island" went into reruns. Join him for his unique insights, his everyday adventures and an open conversation about the birds in your back yard and beyond.
If you use your iPhone for birding, there is a new app from the Peterson Birds of North America folks. It does everything – enlargeable illustrations, text, range maps, songs and calls. listing programs, comparison of species, and comparison of songs, and more. It’s my understanding that this is not an update of any Peterson-based program already published, but a new workup by a company called Appweavers, Inc. A review of it can be found at http://birdingisfun.com. The reviewer is a blogger named Scott Tuthill.
I remember when all we had was the Peterson guidebook with its little arrows. I still have the first one I bought, back in the early ‘60s. I wore it out, then had it rebound so I could keep the notes I had made giving dates and locations for first sightings.
The first time I traveled at all was when I went into the Army. I took basic training in Missouri. Bird heard on the long marches we took provided a nice diversion for me. That was the first time I heard Bobwhite call. Turkey Vultures drifted in circles about the machine gun firing range. Red-tailed hawks were up there, too. My identification was limited to the obvious because I didn’t have the book with me until my 16 weeks of basic and advanced training were complete, and I was transferred to a base near Boston.
Birding there was very good. The book was well used. I couldn’t afford binoculars on pay of $65 per month, adopting a semi-successful stalking technique instead. Binoculars, cheap binoculars, were among my first purchases when I got home.
I remember those, too. They were so out of alignment that it took my eyes countable seconds to return to normal vision when I took the bins away from my eyes. When I bought my first pair of serious birding binoculars it duplicated the moment when, at age 15, I stepped out of the Medical Arts building on Hennepin Avenue (a building long gone) with my first pair of eye glasses, and looked down the street. The world had sharp edges; everything was in focus. It was amazing! The binoculars, Bausch and Lomb 8X42 Elites, provided a similar reaction. I still have those binoculars. Actually, I have two pair, buying the second pair at half price when National Camera was closing that model out. A pair and a spare. The binoculars I use on an everyday basis now are Swarovski 10x32s, extraordinary glass. I have them on permanent loan, which is a nice way to have them, given their price. That’s a story for another day.
Anyway, the new iPhone app is a far cry from the tools I had when I began serious birding. I don’t have an iPhone, so I won’t have the app. I’m not even certain I’d want it. Part of the pleasure I find in birding is the work involved in learning field marks and sounds. I’d rather have that information in my head (or on my bookshelf for later reference) than in my pocket. Not that the app doesn’t sound like something that might bring more people to seriously invest in the pastime, and that would be good.
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