By Pamela Bofferding – Ready Nutrition
If you have an iPhone, chances are you’ve used a recognition app like Shazam if you’ve ever heard a song you liked and wanted to identify the artist. These recognition apps seem like magic, giving you a definitive answer in just seconds and providing a link to purchase the music you’ve just heard.
Once, while on a hike in the Hudson Valley with a friend, we joked that there should be a Shazam app for nature. At the time we were both living in NYC and we felt a big disconnect from the plants and animals we were seeing around us. Wouldn’t it be great, we thought, to have an app that would tell us which berries were dangerous and what kind of bird has a bright red chest? After doing a little research, it turns out that there are a few apps meant to do exactly this.
- Bird Song ID is basically Shazam for birdsong. The app allows you to record birds’ singing and then a processor will let you know what species you’re listening to. Like Shazam, the clearer the recording, the better your chances are of getting a match. An added bonus is that don’t need an Internet connection to use this app, so it’s perfect for those remote hikes.
- Merlin Bird ID is fast and simple to use while birdwatching. You’ll answer 5 quick questions to narrowdown a list of potential species. Millions of recorded observations help the app to make educated guesses.
- Leafsnap allows you to take a photo of a leaf against a light-colored background and identify the plant or tree from which it came. The catalogue is extensive and it’s a free app—a downside is that you’ll need an Internet connection to use it.
- IdentiPlant is an app for identifying flowers and plants. Like Leafsnap, this app works by using an image your snapped of the plant and cross-referencing it with a large database. There’s no need to take a photo against a light-colored background for this one, and the app provides extensive information about each plant.
- Audubon’s Field Guide to North American Mammals can help you identify what animal just darted across your path. You’ll narrow down possibilities by size, shape, location, and habitat and you can even analyze the droppings or tracks the critter left behind.
- For more advanced nature lovers, the What’s Invasive app lets people track invasive species they might encounter. A list of invasive plants or animals is provided by the National Park Service based on your GPS location. Look through the list before your hike and then keep your eyes open for species that threaten native plants and animals. Report what you see to do your part in keeping indigenous species safe. More advanced nature nerds will love this, plus, if you have small children, this app can give them something to watch out for and therefore hold their interest on longer trails. Also available for Android.
All of these apps are under $5 and most of them are free. Take advantage and download the ones that interest you before your next brush with nature!
Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.