[Tweeters] The Future of Bird ID

J Christian Kessler 1northraven at gmail.com
Sun Nov 5 22:05:58 PST 2017

This sounds like very impressive, and very "cool," software, and software
that would come in handy at times for all of us. But I wonder about the
effect over time of such tools on our ability to make those ID decisions in
the field ourselves -- to really "know" the birds. The more we rely on
such tools, the less we use our own analytical capabilities, and the less
we use them, the more they atrophy.

I have experienced this myself with navigational skills -- at 14 years old
(about 1962) I was expert with a compass & a topo map -- I could bushwhack
across the mountains of western Virginia with confidence and accuracy.
While I can still to some degree navigate (for example, in my car) by dead
reckoning (paper maps are largely a thing of the past), frequent reliance
on GPS & cellphone software has led me to become less capable (and less
confident) in my navigational skills, even on roads.

Technology may help us "master" nature, but it can also make us less "in"
nature, which is a big part of why many of us bird in the first place. Not
an objection to the software, just a thought about how to use it.

Chris Kessler,

On Sun, Nov 5, 2017 at 11:27 AM, Teri Martine <terimartine at me.com> wrote:

> FYI, interesting post from Noah Strycker on Oregon Birders On Line (OBOL)

> --

> Teri Martine

> Seattle


> From: Noah Strycker <noah.strycker at gmail.com>

> Date: Sat, 4 Nov 2017 20:24:06 -0700

> Subject: [obol] The Future of Bird ID


> Hi birders,

> David's query ("Bird ID please"), with links to three photos of a mystery

> raptor in California, inspired me to try a little test.


> Note: If you haven't downloaded Merlin, the bird ID app from Cornell, do it

> now! (I have no commercial interest in the app, and only recently tried it

> for the first time. It's free.)


> I clicked on David's first link, a photo of a brownish hawk in flight - one

> that would probably confuse a lot of birders. Then, using my phone, I took

> a snapshot of that picture as it was displayed on my computer monitor (a

> horribly pixillated way to transfer the image to my phone, but fast).


> I opened the Merlin app on my phone, tapped "Photo ID," selected that

> picture, chose "I don't know" when it asked the location and date, and...

> it told me it was a Swainson's Hawk. I tried it with the second image, and

> Merlin again guessed that the bird was a Swainson's Hawk. (Which it is.)

> The whole process took less than a minute.


> That's pretty radical! Merlin will now identify any species of North

> American bird (including Mexico) with a click, and it's amazingly accurate.

> I tried it on fall warblers, sparrows, and juvenile shorebirds, and Merlin

> got them all right. Then I gave it photos of Black-capped and Carolina

> chickadees, with no hints about location, and it nailed those, too. It

> correctly identified a bird painting on my wall, and told me that the

> Oregon Birding Association's logo depicts a Hermit Warbler. It's not

> infallible - I was finally able to stump it with a picture of a stuffed

> Labrador Duck (not in the database, apparently!).


> Who knows? Maybe the next generation of birding optics will have these

> algorithms built in. The technology is already here. Once you download the

> app, it works offline, too.


> http://merlin.allaboutbirds.org/


> Good birding,


> Noah




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