From Kiptopeke to Google
by Nate Swick
There may be no technological innovation of the last decade so beloved by birders as Google Maps. We use it to find birds, to find habitats, to direct people to birds and habitats, to get directions from one hotspot to another, and on and on and on. Without it, birding itself would likely be a much less convenient endeavor. Google is as scrupulous as companies go, and doesn't do anything without a darn good reason, but free and complete GoogleMaps may be the closest thing to corporate benevolence since that one time Starbuck's gave away free coffee.
There are lots of birders on Google, but how many birders are actually in Google?
Google streetview, the ambitious attempt by Google to provide panoramic views of every street in the world, fairly regularly captures regular people going about their lives. In fact, there is no shortage of websites and top 10 lists dedicated to sharing the oddest activity the Google Car - a small, white vehicle with a spherical 360 degree camera mounted to the roof - has captured as it makes its global rounds. And this past fall, at the ABA rally in Virginia, that included me.
Before the rally participants had begun to arrive I walked over to the Kiptopeke hawkwatch tower to spend a little time before the event officially kicked off. There I met Steve Kolbe, Kiptopeke Hawkwatcher, and we wiled away a couple hours watching hawks pass over and talking birds. You know, like we all do.
I first noticed the bizarre car as it tried to drive down a wide dirt trail. It's hard to miss with the aforementioned rooftop camera and the words "Google Maps" emblazoned across the side. We then watched as it turned through down the side road up into the parking lot, circled around once, and headed back out to parts unknown.
I didn't think much of it until Steve emailed me this photo.
That's me on the right, Steve on the left, recorded for internet posterity. You can find up in actuality here.
Has anyone else been captured by Google while birding?