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“Amateur science” and nature apps


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I was just made aware of a bird call identifier called Merlin. Last evening a friend used some (name unknown to me) app to identify a plant; I used to have one on a previous phone, and newer iOS devices can leverage visual lookup to do so. In the past I’ve used an app to identify insects (bug identifier or picture insect)

I also have a sound meter app.

What else is out there for nature and science buffs? Preferably free, and stand-alone — nothing that needs to be plugged in to the phone.

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47 minutes ago, swansont said:

I was just made aware of a bird call identifier called Merlin. Last evening a friend used some (name unknown to me) app to identify a plant; I used to have one on a previous phone, and newer iOS devices can leverage visual lookup to do so. In the past I’ve used an app to identify insects (bug identifier or picture insect)

I also have a sound meter app.

What else is out there for nature and science buffs? Preferably free, and stand-alone — nothing that needs to be plugged in to the phone.

I use PlantNet on country walks, which is a free app that works on  iPhones and can identify species from leaves, flowers, fuit or bark, or so it claims. With leaves and flowers it seems to work most of the time. I have not tried fruits or bark so far. Certainly adds interest to the walk.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, swansont said:

I was just made aware of a bird call identifier called Merlin.

Downloading now. Thanks.

Why didn't I know about it yesterday, the Bird Count Day here?

Edited by Genady
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Posted (edited)

I use Merlin all the time. Absolutely love it.

For identifying plants and trees I use PictureThis.

Sky Guide is a very good app for identifying stars, planets, constellations. You just start the app and hold the phone up pointing at the star you want to identify. You can also point it in any direction (say, below the horizon or straight down) and it will show you the stars there too.

Edited by zapatos
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On a side note, Merlin developed a novel way of identifying bird songs which had always been very difficult to do.

Quote

Automatic song ID has been a dream for decades, but analyzing sound has always been extremely difficult. The breakthrough came when researchers began treating the sounds as images and applying new and powerful image classification algorithms like the ones that power Merlin’s Photo ID feature. The Merlin team was led by Grant Van Horn, who is now an assistant professor at University of Massachusetts Amherst.

“Each sound recording a user makes gets converted from a waveform to a spectrogram—a way to visualize the amplitude [volume], frequency [pitch], and duration of the sound,” Van Horn says. “So just like Merlin can identify a picture of a bird, it can now use this picture of a bird’s sound to make an ID,” Van Horn says.

This pioneering sound-identification technology is integrated into the existing Merlin Bird ID app, meaning Merlin offers four ways to identify a bird: by a sound, by a photo, by answering five questions about a bird you saw, or by exploring a list of the birds expected where you are.

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/news/whats-that-bird-song-merlin-bird-id-can-tell-you/#

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I've downloaded it and will be very interested to see how it performs. 

I don't actually need much help in identifying a diederik cuckoo visually, but if the app picks up the die-die-diederik call I'll be impressed. I'll be even more impressed if it spots the very convincing local kestrel call the diederik makes when mobbed by the species it parasitises.

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One thing I've noticed is that Merlin will let you play the calls and songs of the birds. I played some back and immediately heard the song from the nearby woods. I don't know if it was a response, or if I was just recognizing the song because I could associate it with that species.

(it's also made me aware of how much ambient noise there is from car traffic)

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On 5/13/2024 at 6:29 AM, swansont said:

One thing I've noticed is that Merlin will let you play the calls and songs of the birds. I played some back and immediately heard the song from the nearby woods. I don't know if it was a response, or if I was just recognizing the song because I could associate it with that species.

(it's also made me aware of how much ambient noise there is from car traffic)

Could it have been another enthusiast using Merlin? That would be an amazing way to meet someone.

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Here we have an application that identifies mountains based by GPS, compass and comparing the line between them and the sky with an internal database. Then it draws an overlay on the camera view and provides detailed information about the mountain, such as name, elevation, distance from the user, etc. It records which mountains were conquered and which were left to conquer.

 

Edited by Sensei
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Adding another giant vote here for Merlin. Was sitting on my deck day before yesterday and it recognized 8 different bird songs playing at the same time. It’s really helped me to train my ear for what I’m hearing.

If that type of app is of interest, then my nature buddy who lives eats and breathes this stuff and has for decades turned me on a while back to iNaturalist. I’ve had some really good luck identifying things and impressing the kids with that. You’d probably dig it. 
 

https://www.inaturalist.org

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