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A New Resource for an Old Mecca

A review by Marcia OBara

Birding Southeast Arizona App, by Tucson Audubon Society and the Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory

For Apple iOS and Android Devices

Available for purchase and download at TucsonAudubon.org

I live in Southeast Arizona, and I love birding here. For years our go-to guide and constant companion has been Tucson Audubon’s spiral-bound Finding Birds in Southeast Arizona, first published more than two decades ago and now in its eighth edition. When the new app became available, I immediately added it to my iPhone collection of finding guides and identification apps. 

The app’s intended audience includes both residents like me and birders who are planning a trip to the region. It will likely be most appreciated by visiting birders, but those living locally may also find it very useful, especially if they are as directionally challenged as I am: I am not an Arizona native, and I still rely on guides and directions from fellow birders to get me to rarities and hotspots. It contains maps and site descriptions, and can even generate directions to popular hotspots, equally useful in the planning of a day trip to an unfamiliar site or putting together a weeks-long visit to all the famous destinations.

 

The main screen is the launching spot for all of the app’s features. A green footer also includes a settings link, a link to the sponsors, and an informational icon. The settings link allows you to set your map preferences and other functions.

Geographically, the guide covers the familiar and traditional “birder’s southeastern Arizona,” northwest to the Santa Cruz Flats, southwest to Arivaca, east to the New Mexico border, and northeast to Mt. Graham. The sites are grouped into six major areas: Tucson and the Santa Catalina Mountains, the Santa Ritas and the upper Santa Cruz River, the Huachucas and the San Pedro River, the Sulphur Springs Valley and the Mule Mountains, the Chiricahua Mountains, and the Mt. Graham area of the Pinaleño Mountains.

A very helpful feature, and invaluable for visiting birders who may not know the area well, is SITES NEAR ME, which shows dozens of sites at an ever-increasing distance from your current position (you may need to give the app permission to use your location). Selecting one of those locations returns a map along with a list of amenities available there. The map legend indicates the best seasons and shows restrooms (we all know how critical that can be), handicap accessibility, camping, picnicking, site fees, and any other important features of the site. This feature also connects to online maps, including Google maps, thus giving you a route, distance, and time to the location. The single drawback is that there is no way to customize the locations, a lack unlikely to be a deterrent to most birders.

Icons across the bottom of the BIRDING SITE screen provide access to such site-specific information as a general description, lists of birds to be expected, and a handy press-to-record checklist. A photo of each species from the Audubon Guide to North American Birds, with captions in English or Spanish, is available when you touch the circled “i” next to the species name; in many cases, of course, a single photograph will not be of much help in identifying an unfamiliar bird. Another icon leads to lists of restaurants, places to stay, and gas stations. 

One really nice feature is labeled SHARE. A tap on that icon leads to a map screen with a red place marker, which you can move to the exact spot of your sighting, then add any details in a text box. Sharing the sighting and your comments is as easy as tapping the camera button, then filling in an email address to send the report to your birding friends. Sharing on Facebook is also an option. 

The SEARCH feature permits searching by species and by site name, or you can look for sites near a specific location or in four major birding areas. In addition, the SEARCH page also gives access to the SITES NEAR ME list and to BROWSE ALL SITES, which connects to an alphabetical list. A fun feature is SHAKE ME, which takes you to a random location when you shake your phone or press the link—nice for anyone who is just looking for a new place to bird in this wonderful region of the world.

The final feature is MY LISTS. This allows the user to record all species seen in a given location, a great supplement to eBird. No more forgetting what you saw, and you can leave the paper and pencil home, at least when you’re birding one of the sites included in the app.

Let’s take a look at what you would see while looking for a local hotspot.

When you open the app, the main page offers several options:

 

 We can choose BIRDING REGIONS,

then VIEW AS LIST.

 

Scroll down through the alphabetical list of all the region’s sites to the one you want, in this case, Sweetwater Wetlands, a bird-rich oasis in the city of Tucson.  

 

The legend at the top of the screen recommends the best seasons to visit, indicates that the site has restrooms and handicap access, and provides a local map. The clickable icons at the bottom offer more information, starting with a description of the site.

 

Next, BIRDS:

 

Scrolling further down leads to a handy check-off list for your sightings. 

After a day out birding, it may well be time to refuel. Choose NEARBY for a list of cafes and restaurants.

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You can click on each one for a map and information. 

You can also SHARE your location. Choose SHARE and follow the prompts. For those who like coordinates, you will find them at the top of the screen.

 

If you need to go back to a previous screen, just use BACK or HOME.

All in all, this app does exactly what it was designed to do: It enhances the birding experience in an amazing birding destination. The app is very easy to use, and easy to download and set up. Simple and intuitive, it will make birding southeast Arizona an even better experience than it already is. 

Marcia OBara has been birding for over 30 years. She learned to bird in western
New York with the amazing birders there. Marcia recently fulfilled a longtime goal of
moving to Tucson, Arizona. Not everyone can live in a birding paradise, but she manages it.

Recommended citation:

OBara, M. 2018. A New Resource for an Old Mecca [a review of Birding Southeast Arizona App, by Tucson Audubon Society and the Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory]. Birding 50 (5): 67-68.

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