American Birding Podcast



Count Circle

Stevens Creek Software has just introduced Count Circle, a new birding app with a simple but interesting premise of showing the boundaries of established or potential Christmas Bird Count circles on an iOS (Apple mobile) device.  If the device also has GPS (such as an iPhone), you can see where you are relative to a circle in real time, something I know I could have used in the past when wandering near the edges of a count, especially one new to me.

Instead of wasting time with a Gazetteer and trying to triangulate landmarks, intersections, etc. I could just peek on the screen to see if I was still inbounds.  The app also looks great for scouting, especially when switching from the map to the satellite view which gives away habitat changes, fence lines, and back roads or even trails beyond the cutoff of “normal” mappability. If the count is already in the National Audubon database you can just pull it up from the state-by-state menu. If you notice the center is off (Audubon’s database is only as good as the submitted circle coordinates, often estimated from old maps), then you can drag the center to what you deem is the correct place.

Additionally, you can choose your own center (if, for example you are contemplating a new count circle and would like to experiment with boundary possibilities) and it will scribe the 7.5 mile radius for you.  You can also set a different radius for different purposes.  For example, maybe I’d like to do a local patch big year within 1 km from my house- the app allows for that.   Anyway, for $2.99 looks like a neat tool to add to the mobile-tech birding arsenal.


Looking under the listings for Colorado, I can find the count I compile (Boulder.)

Pulling it up, I can see the overview of the whole count circle.

I can also zoom way in.  For example, I can see that most of Allens Lake / Lake of the Pines near the north side of the circle is inbounds, though the north shore isn’t.

Maybe I’d like to see what a count circle centered on Hayden Lake would look like.

I just drag cross hairs to where I’d like my center to be and it will drop a pin there.

I can look at the big picture and re-adjust my center as desired.

Or I can zoom to more detail, in this case noting that if I’m heading up Highway 35, the circle ends just past the unnamed pond, right the road bends northward to cross the river.

Here’s their press release:

Cupertino, California, January 22, 2013 – Stevens Creek Software, whose popular Birdwatcher’s Diary app is used by birders to record and report their sightings, has released its latest iOS app – Count Circle. Count Circle contains the complete National Audubon Society (NAS) database of Christmas Bird Count (CBC) circles, with a total of 2429 different count circles in 72 different states and territories including Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, South America, and Antarctica. Using Count Circle birders can lookup and display any count circle on an interactive map, and find out exactly what is (and is not) included in the circle. Units which have GPS capability also display the user’s current location, so that during a count they can determine precisely whether they are inside or outside the circle.


Although the app was released too late for this year’s round of Christmas Bird Counts (which were the genesis of the idea for the app), it came just in time for the latest “Patch Challenge” being held in Texas, in which birders see how many species they can find in a 7.5-mile radius circle centered on their own home. Count Circle not only lets users create and save their own circles, it also lets them set a different radius (in miles or kilometers) should they wish to do “Patch Challenges” with more limited (or wider!) geographical scope.


Much of the data describing the locations of the circles in the NAS database seem to have been obtained before the widespread availability of GPS devices, and do not accurately reflect the correct center of the circles that are being surveyed. Count Circle lets count organizers relocate their circles, both to obtain accurate values for the centers currently being used, and to experiment with minor shifts in the center which might allow key bird areas to fall within the circle. The software even allows organizers to report such changes directly to NAS.


Christmas Bird Counts, along with the Breeding Bird Survey series that occurs in the late spring, are a key scientific tool in understanding bird populations and migration. Count Circle is designed as a tool not only to make those surveys more accurate, but also to encourage more birders to participate in them. Stevens Creek Software’s other birding app, Birdwatcher’s Diary, has already proven invaluable during CBCs in making the process of recording counts quick and accurate. The overwhelming response to the initial release of Count Circle suggests that it will become another valuable tool in the birder’s software toolbox.


Pricing and Availability:

The Stevens Creek Software web site, provides full information on all of Count Circle’s features.  The app runs on all iOS devices 4.3 or later, is available for $2.99 (USD) and is priced accordingly in other regions.