I’m very happy to introduce the latest Peterson app from Appweavers, Peterson Birds Pocket Edition - A Field Guide to Birds of North America.
Peterson Birds Pocket Edition is a sweet little app. And not so little. It has the same core information as it’s big brother, Peterson Birds of North America, but is ideally suited to casual birders who don’t need all the bells and whistles of a top-flight bird app.
For a full feature comparison between the new app, Peterson Birds of North America and Peterson Feeder Birds of North America, see the graphic below.
Peterson Birds Pocket Edition is available in the iTunes app store now for $0.99.
How to Choose a Binocular
Of all the activities involved in bird watching, one of the most challenging does not involve birds at all; it is the selection of the right binocular. After all, there are dozens of books currently in publication that give advice on bird watching techniques and literally hundreds of field guides to help you tell one bird from another, but when it comes to picking the binocular with which you will be employing all those techniques, not a single book dedicated to the topic exists.
In some ways, rightly so; for there are a bewildering variety of technical aspects involved in the design and manufacturing of a binocular. However when it comes to selecting optics for bird watching, keeping three simple things in mind will go a long way to helping you select the right binocular for your bird watching needs.
First, don’t choose a compact binocular (anything with an objective smaller than 30mm). Oh compacts have their uses — quick glances, “just in case” carry alongs — but while they may be small, light, and easy to carry, the image even the best can provide won’t give you a satisfying experience when used for long periods of time in the field.
Second, don’t over-magnify. I know it seems like a 10x model will give you a better look at a bird than an 8x model, but it will also give you a smaller field of view, an image that is less bright, and be more difficult to hold without shaking. 8x is the most magnification you’ll ever need for a bird watching binocular. If you want more magnification than that, consider getting a spotting scope in which the objective lens is much larger to help balance the light in relation to the higher magnification level.
Third, choose a binocular that fits your hands and face. If you can’t hold it comfortably and see clearly through both sides at once with no “shadows” creeping in from the edges, pass it by and keep looking. If you wear eyeglasses, the binocular’s eye relief should be long enough to allow you to see the full field of view without requiring that you remove your spectacles.
Sure, there’s more that could be written, but why needlessly complicate matters? These three things will go a long way to making sure the next binocular you buy will be one with which you’ll be happy for years to come.
John E. Riutta
Writer, critic, lecturer, and publisher of The Well-read Naturalist, John was formerly the development and product line manager for binocular and spotting scope products at Leupold & Stevens, Inc.
I was going to make it a Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival special, but then decided to let the sale run all month, so I had to find another name for it.
If you are going to RGVBF, now is a great time to stock up on Peterson and put it on your iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. You do know that buying the app once lets you run it on up to five devices, right? Apple thinks of everything.
And talking of Apple-thinking-of-everything, I sent out the first Peterson Guides newsletter last week with an interesting little item at the end that I thought I'd repeat here. It's a great idea for wiling away a few hours on a blustery winter day and making the most of your Peterson app.
Peterson Birds on a Big Screen TV
If you have an iPad, Apple's latest operating system release — iOS 5 — lets you wirelessly mirror the display of your iPad to the big screen of a digital TV. Check it out.
To mirror your iPad to the TV you need an AppleTV — a $99 gadget that attaches your TV to your home network and does all sorts of cool things like let you rent movies and TV shows, watch Netflix, etc..
The iPad communicates with the AppleTV using Airplay, a new wireless technology from Apple. To mirror the display, double-click the iPad home button and swipe the task bar from left to right. The task bar is the row of icons along the botton of the screen. You will see an icon like this
Tap the icon and then tap AppleTV. The iPad will now mirror everything that's on your iPad on the big screen. Fire up Peterson Birds and away you go!
Peterson Birds has a huge amount of detailed birding information, including the full text of Steve Howell's fantastic Peterson Reference Guide to Molt in North American Birds, details from the hawks, hummingbirds, and warblers books, and the East and West Coast nest books. Mirroring the iPad to a TV screen is a great way to view this information. It's also a great way to admire Roger Tory Peterson's illustrations on the big screen.
If you do have a go at connecting your iPad wirelessly to you TV, let me know how it works out. And if you have any trouble, post to the support forum and we'll try and help out.
Enjoy the Peterson Birds app discount. If you have any friends or relatives expecting an iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad for Christmas, let them know about the sale. They can buy the app this month at the sale price and it will happilly sit in iTunes waiting for a mobile device to install on.
I suspect everyone who has used an Apple product over the past few years will be touched by the death of Steve Jobs, but for those of us who've had the pleasure of working with Apple devices day-in-day-out, it's especially affecting. The outpuring of condolences and memories on Twitter and blogs across the Internet and across the world is something you don't see everyday. Steve Jobs found a way to touch many people's lives, but I want to focus on the way he has specifically touched birders.
A few years ago I had the privelege of working alongside Mitch Waite, developer of the iBird apps. Mitch and Steve Jobs' lives have curiously intersected in different ways over the years, but if it wasn't for Steve, there would be no iBird. And if it wasn't for iBird, there's a good chance you might not be walking around with an electronic bird guide in your pocket.
The first incarnation of iBird was called Winged Explorer and Mitch developed it for Windows Mobile computers. It was something of a hobby, but an inordinately expensive one. And it failed miserably. People didn't take to Windows Mobile and very few copies of Winged Explorer were sold.
Enter the iPhone.
As soon as the iPhone hit retail stores, Mitch started to get requests from birders to rewrite Winged Explorer as an iPhone app. Having spent several years and untold amounts of money developing the app for Windows, Mitch was in no mood to go off and spend more money converting the software to work on an untried device. But, birders persisted in calling him and he eventually relented.
iBird Explorer took off like a rocket and was used by Apple in their early iPhone TV ads. Apple liked iBird because it was a perfect example of the kind of innovative new application that the iPhone made possible.
It's fair to say that if iBird Explorer had not been rewritten to run on the iPhone, birders would not have the amazing choice of apps that they have today. Publishers of paper field guides, like Peterson, Sibley, Audubon, and National Geographic, have always resisted technology and it's difficult to imagine them taking the risk to invest in putting their works out as apps, had iBird not lead the way and shown that it could be done. And iBird would never have happened if it wasn't for Steve Jobs and the iPhone.
So, whether you use one of Apple's mobile devices or an Android or Blackberry phone, if you're a birder, give a moments thought to Steve Jobs and his remarkable achievements. He changed birding.