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App review: eGuide to Birds of East Africa

Review App Bird Africa

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#1 offshorebirder

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Posted 05 August 2014 - 01:37 AM

In preparation for an upcoming safari to Kenya, I have been researching field guides (traditional books) and looking for collections of bird vocalizations from the region. One of the things I wanted to find was an app for E. Africa similar to the outstanding "Sibley Field Guide to North American Birds" App. Thankfully I found one.

A week ago I had purchased the hard copy version of "The Princeton Field Guide to Birds of East Africa" by Terry Stevenson and John Fanshawe. I like it very much. Yesterday I purchased the iPod App - eGuide to Birds of East Africa - which in addition to the color plates, range maps, and text accounts from the paper field guide, also has vocalizations for nearly all the species covered in the species accounts.

It is a resource well worth the $30 USD whatever your level of skill or experience. In addition to Apple devices, it is available for Android tablets, smartphones and handhelds. I bought one copy of the iPhone app, and have downloaded it to my iPod and iPad (I do not do smart phones).

It looks great on the larger iPad screen, and shows color plates, text, range map, and an audio player in a single screen view. On the smaller iPod display one has to swipe between interlocking menus to see text and range maps/audio player on a split screen, or one can toggle between larger individual views. These menus are intuitive and pretty easy to navigate smoothly with a little practice.

A couple of annoyances:

- One cannot zoom in on the color plate images on the iPod app, so it is hard to see things like the red base of the lower mandible on a basic-plumaged Spotted Redshank for example.

- the compare function on multiple species accounts is weird and unwieldy on the iPod, so just swiping back and forth between things like Cuckoo species accounts is easier than using the compare function.

- A very few species, like Common Cuckoo, do not seem to have vocalizations included in the collection.

- Some species recordings are faint or in distinct with loud background noise (including other bird vocalizations).

-- But most species have clear, distinct and helpful vocalization recordings.

This app seems most useful:

A) as a tablet-based reference guide for home or indoor use
and
B) as a phone/handheld app in the field for judicious playback and quick verification of field marks or vocalizations.

Edited by offshorebirder, 05 August 2014 - 01:57 AM.

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#2 marg

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Posted 05 August 2014 - 04:41 AM

@offshorebirder...did you consider the Sasol app?  The Common Cuckoo has vocalization here.



#3 offshorebirder

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Posted 06 August 2014 - 12:37 AM

Cool - thanks for the info @marg.

I am also finding a few CDs of Kenya bird sounds, often in Kenya + Tanzania collections. Which I would be able to transfer to my iPod and iPad...

Such as:
Bird Song of Kenya & Tanzania, J Hammick, Mandarin Prodns., CD

And there is always good old http://xeno-canto.org/ as a learning + verification reference. But for high fidelity applications, the mp3 downloads suffer from the poor sound quality imposed by that format.
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#4 TonyQ

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Posted 06 August 2014 - 11:59 AM

@offshorebirder

I had never hear of xeno-canto

What a fascinating resource!



#5 Johnmac

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Posted 06 August 2014 - 12:28 PM

Totally agree,what a wonderful resource Xeno-Canto is. The wonders of the internet.

 

I am still living in the steam age,will be taking my Paperback copy of Sasol with me to Kenya during Sept.



#6 kitefarrago

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Posted 24 August 2014 - 06:32 PM

I've just returned from East Africa, and I have another gripe regarding the app: The vocalisations are songs, there are no calls. For cisticolas and larks in particular having recordings of the calls of the commoner species would have been extremely useful. I would recommend downloading some of these from Xeno-Canto. Like you I was disappointed that on the Ipod/Iphone the images are not zoomable. I left the printed book at home due to luggage weight restrictions, but regretted it a few times since going through, say, all the weavers to find the one you've just seen is a bit of a pain. However, that's a restriction one cannot blame the app for. There were also a few cases where I found illustrations for males only, but I didn't write down which species this concerned so I haven't been able to check whether this is the same in the printed book. Other peculiarities I found annoying: - If you are searching for, say `fiscal', and it shows you a list of birds with this string as part of their name, there is no way of jumping to the shrikes more generally. - If you are searching for cisticolas, say, where there are more hits than can be displayed on one page, the page it shows you may be anywhere within the cisticolas (possibly to do with which bird you looked at last?). This means you may have to scroll up to find more birds. A few times I was caught out by this until I caught on - it's certainly not expected behaviour. - If you try to get to the passerines in the taxonomic order the navigation points are useless, since tapping on the bottom one gets you to the woodpeckers, leaving a lot of swiping to be done to get to, say, the flycatchers.

#7 armchair bushman

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Posted 09 September 2014 - 10:00 AM

For bird sounds, it seems like you have it covered.  The App is good, but beware of some sounds being attributed to the wrong bird.  It's usually quite obvious when it is, and there are only a couple like this.  Can't remember which ones off the top of my head.

 

Bird Song of Kenya and TZ is good.  Only has 99 calls, but a decent starting point for some of the most common birds you'll come across in the common safari destinations and nairobi gardens.

 

Xeno-Canto is good if you have the time and patience to look for each call, then sift through the different ones from different recorders to decide which is best.

 

Common Cuckoo is mostly silent in the region, which is probably the reason they didn't bother to put the call on there.  

Just for comparison, the African Cuckoo is almost the same, but puts the emphasis on the other syllable - if that makes sense.  Rather than sounding like a cuckoo clock (the common cuckoo states: "CU-koo CU-koo"), the African Cuckoo sounds like it's asking "cu-KOO? cu-KOO?"



#8 armchair bushman

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Posted 09 September 2014 - 10:05 AM

I have also bought a couple of CDs of bird calls from Southern Africa, and only copied the calls of birds which occur in East Africa.  It has helped me fill the gaps for some birds which I didn't already have calls for.

 

There's lots to choose from from SA.  Newmans app, Roberts app, Monty and Clive CDs, Doug Newman CDs, Guy Gibbon CDs, etc.


Edited by armchair bushman, 09 September 2014 - 10:06 AM.


#9 Soukous

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Posted 09 September 2014 - 10:24 AM

having seen them in action I think that these electronic bird guides are one of the few things that might (MIGHT) persuade me to buy a tablet.

I still prefer to use real books, but the convenience of having several guides in one small device is tempting.


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#10 offshorebirder

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Posted 23 October 2014 - 03:37 PM

Brian Finch just posted the following interesting news to the Kenyabirdsnet Listserv / email discussion group.  I hope it means that bird calls and not just songs are now part of the (free) updated version of the eGuide to Birds of E. Africa App.

-------------------------------------------------------------

Deal All,
I have just this very moment heard from John Fanshawe, who said that
Apple have got our completely revised East African App available on
the ITunes library now.

All those who have the App from the original version, will be notified
that the update is ready for a free download.

I have also attached a image I just took this evening of Eurasian
Bee-eaters in our back paddock, sunning themselves in very low sun
(the first for four days I think), it shows colours you don't usually
see on bee-eaters electric being one of them!

best to all
Brian


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#11 offshorebirder

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Posted 13 July 2015 - 06:52 PM

I downloaded the free update to the eGuide to Birds of E. Africa App a while back.

 

There are significantly more bird recordings included.  And they have solved the issue of not being able to zoom in on the bird plates - they are zoom-able now.

 

One annoying thing that remains is that after you scroll down to a species of interest, and you let you iPad (or other tablet) sit idle for a moment, after you unlock the screen you are back at the starting point and have to scroll down (or search for) the species of interest all over again.  However, this may be an inherent iPad drawback and not a flaw in the eGuide to Birds of E. Africa App.


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