Palmtop PCs and birding

To: "'Simon Mustoe'" <>, <>
Subject: Palmtop PCs and birding
From: "Alastair Smith" <>
Date: Sun, 9 Jul 2006 15:10:10 +1000
Simon et al,
Simon Bennett has built and is testing a version of his 'Birdinfo' birding
database software for PDA. I have seen it in action on his PDA - it also has
with full GPS compatibility and functionality. Soon we will be able to
record bird sightings on a PDA, but when will we get an Australian field
guide for PDA?  

-----Original Message-----
 On Behalf Of Simon Mustoe
Sent: Friday, 7 July 2006 9:53 PM
To: Birding-aus
Subject: Palmtop PCs and birding


I've just become a convert to the world of Palmtop PCs / PDAs (Personal
Digital Assistants) for birding. Actually, it happened last year whilst
birding in South Africa. Robert's fieldguide is published in a format that
can be used on PDAs and many South African birders use it.

I bought a factory seconds HP Ipaq, one of the new series with a built in
GPS for about $550. I've installed Oziexplorer CE. I already have a copy of
Oziexplorer and the two pieces of software are needed. They cost about $130
all up and you need a separate PC / laptop to run Oziexplorer as the files
have to be converted to place on the Ipaq. I also bought the CSIRO basic
Natraster map series, which is the whole of Australia at 1:250000 scale and
costs $100. With this system, I can navigate anywhere in the country. The
GPS drains the battery faster than normal so a car charger is necessary four
long-distance route work and you'd want to keep it topped up between walks.
But you don't have to have it on continually as it gets a fix very fast if
you periodically download the latest satellite position data (the unit does
this automatically, either synchronising it to a file downloaded by your PC
or connecting to the internet itself). This is one drawback: the Ipaq seems
to want to connect to the internet at every available opportunity and the
cost of bandwidth is quite high. I have found myself setting up a 'false'
connection setting so it doesn't connect without me knowing. If I need to
access the internet, it is pretty easy to set it back and I don't really
want to become the sort of person dependent on the internet whilst in the
bush! Nonetheless, it could prove useful. 

Over the last few years, I've also been gradually taking extracts from bird
call CDs and tapes and saving them to MP3 to use on another system and I now
have them on the Ipaq. I don't know if I should be saying too much about
this but it's pretty handy to drop them across for trips and have everything
neatly indexed - beats the old dozen volume tape set. I don't tend to use it
for call playback because the speaker is pretty useless on the Ipaq though
for about $100 you can buy a bluetooth speaker with about 5h play time (20
hour standby) which would be an option. Again, bluetooth connectivity from
the Ipaq draws quite a bit of battery power but would prove a workable
device and the sound quality / volume would be very good. 

For a trip I have coming up shortly, I've compiled waypoints from Frank
O'Connors website, which is a very useful navigation aid saving me from
constantly having to stop and start looking at maps. You can save new
waypoints and routes on the way, so it is possible to backtrack or simply
keep positions and notes as you go. For the grey-headed lapwing, we sat and
planned the route on the way in the aircraft and set waypoints as regional
towns. We also used it semi-successfully to navigate backroads through Wee
Waa and take the shortcut to Burren Junction. Unfortunately, since these
maps were produced, new roads have been added and others removed. Neither
does it show dead-ends so you have to use a bit of judgment. At least it's
useful to know if you're heading in the right direction though. 

It saves having to tediously write down GPS references in one's notebook and
I will start keeping a list of waypoints from trips for future use. There is
also the scope to create or import text from word and excel files, import
webpages (I have a couple of Frank O'Connors web pages stored in my history
for access later). Oh, and of course, the device also doubles as your mobile
phone, you can check your emails on it etc etc etc. 

Dare I further mention, for fear of a copyright lawsuit, that scans of the
odd page from bird books that are otherwise too large to carry in the field
are quite useful. You can save images as full size JPGs and zoom in to view
them. Memory space is a good as you want it. I have a 2GB flash card which
is more than ample. 

If these systems become more popular, it would be extremely simple to create
a PDA version of something like HANZAB, including bird calls and sell it.
The elements are already there for someone to create their own poor-man's
version but I would prefer to see something like this put together
officially. For information, the Victorian Dragonflies website
( is all but PDA-ready and when
we've got the site better produced, I would intend creating a downloadable
PDA version for field use. It is remakably simple to modify. 

I'd be interested to know if anyone else is enjoying the same benefits of
these systems and has any other software that they know about or could

All the best,

Simon Mustoe.


Simon Mustoe, Director

AES Applied Ecology Solutions Pty. Ltd
39 The Crescent
Belgrave Heights
Victoria 3160

Tel +61 (0)3 9752 6398
Fax +61 (0)3 9754 6083
Mob 0405 220830

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