[Tweeters] Options for photo IDs - Canyon Towhee ID on my ID request

retief retief at deweydrive.com
Wed Dec 9 05:48:12 PST 2015

That is interesting, I will have to check that out. Much like facial
recognition for humans I guess, seems like a logical thing to do. I
will try this with some other birds this evening, the more we try to use
this the better it will get.

> Jane Hadley <mailto:hadleyj1725 at gmail.com>

> Tuesday, December 8, 2015 11:21 PM

> Bill - Somewhat confusingly, Cornell has two different Merlin

> offerings. One is the original Merlin Bird ID app that is available

> both online and for mobile, as you mention. With this program, you

> answer questions about where and when you saw the bird, the color,

> shape and size of the bird, habitat, etc. and it guesses what your

> bird is based on your answers.


> Their other Merlin program is called the Merlin Photo ID. It is at the

> link I gave in my earlier post:

> http://merlin.allaboutbirds.org/photo-id-help/


> At this link, you upload your photo, draw a tight box around the bird,

> click first on the tip of the bill, click second on the eye, and click

> third on the tip of the tail. Then click on the submit button, and the

> Merlin program will guess what your bird is. It often is right, but

> also a fair number of times wrong. The better your photo, the better

> Merlin performs, which is not surprising. It also apparently does

> better when the bird is in a "typical pose." The Cornell researchers

> are trying to improve Merlin's performance and I gather that the more

> photos it sees, the better it becomes.


> One of the shortcomings of the program is that it can ID only the

> commonest North American species -- 400 in its database. So if your

> bird falls outside of that group, you're out of luck. But this is not

> a criticism -- it is a miracle that Cornell has gotten as far as it

> has with this program.


> As I mentioned earlier, just for fun, I ran one of your photos, Bill,

> through Merlin Photo ID, and it identified it as Canyon Towhee.


> Jane


> On 12/08/2015 07:47 PM, retief wrote:


> retief <mailto:retief at deweydrive.com>

> Tuesday, December 8, 2015 7:47 PM

> First of all, thank you all so VERY much for helping to educate me,

> hopefully this old dog will retain a bit of your knowledge and help.


> These are great suggestions for searching for ID. One thing I find

> difficult is that even when someone gives me an ID, as in this case, I

> look in my Sibley's and what I see does not quite look right, although

> close. The reply from Hal Michael really helps me to understand this

> more completely, and his "single point in time" comment resonates with

> me. I try to got through these steps prior to asking, but sometimes

> they don't quite get me there. I have downloaded the Merlin app on my

> phone and tried using that, but Canyon Towhee did not show up in the

> list, not did it via the Online version. Jane, can you tell me what

> options you used so I can figure out how better to use the app?


> This is why I find Tweeters to be such a great resource, especially

> for people like myself who are do not fit what I think is the typical

> "birder", as my "focus" (bad pun intended) is a bit different. That

> being said I do want to be as accurate as possible, and you folks

> simply all deserve a very big "Thank You" from you, so ..


> Thank You very much.



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> Jane Hadley <mailto:hadleyj1725 at gmail.com>

> Monday, December 7, 2015 1:17 PM

> Bill Dewey asked for help identifying a bird he photographed in New

> Mexico. I also believe that it is a Canyon Towhee.


> Several people raised questions about whether Bill's pictures matched

> pictures in their field guides.


> I wanted to suggest that one helpful option for matching bird photos

> is Google Images. If you go to https://www.google.com/imghp and type

> in "Canyon Towhee," you'll be shown scads of pictures of Canyon

> Towhees (plus sometimes other birds thrown in thanks to the vagaries

> of the algorithmic approach). You can even search by sex, age and

> season: "female Hooded Merganser" or "Juvenile American Robin" or

> "basic plumage Golden-crowned Sparrow," for example.


> When I did the "Canyon Towhee" search at Google Images, I saw that the

> Canyon Towhee sometimes shows a crest (5th picture on the first row).


> Another sometimes helpful option is Cornell's Merlin Photo ID. This is

> at: http://merlin.allaboutbirds.org/photo-id-help/


> I ran one of Bill's photos through this program and it did identify it

> as a Canyon Towhee. However, this program is in "Beta" right now and

> is somewhat hit-and-miss in its accuracy. Still, I've found it to be

> fun to try and easy to use.


> Jane Hadley

> Seattle, WA





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Bill Dewey

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