[Tweeters] The Future of Bird ID

Hal Michael ucd880 at comcast.net
Mon Nov 6 06:59:06 PST 2017

I agree. Even though we have GPS capability I will review a map and the route before setting off. The GPS programs make enough mistakes so that I don't totally trust them.

I doubt I will ever get one of those ID apps; won't work on my flip phone. I do use the camera to get an image to look at later and compare with field guides. There is so much variability out there. I have seen on various FB postings where the apps have given some really bizarre results. Plus, one of the joys, for me, is the planning. Thumb through the guides, see what might be there, and (most importantly) figure out what to look for. That preparation found me us an Oilbird in Ecuador last month. And, there are many times when you can't get a picture.

Hal Michael
Olympia WA
360-791-7702 (C)
ucd880 at comcast.net

----- Original Message -----

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

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.


Good birding,


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