Palmtop PCs and birding

Subject: Palmtop PCs and birding
From: John Boyce <>
Date: Sun, 09 Jul 2006 17:27:56 +1000
Hi everyone, 
I think PDAs are pretty good for birdwatching. Have had my own bird database on 
PDA for about 2 years. I can add sightings while in the field and although the 
PDA database doesn't do everything I want it does sync with my desktop version 
when I get home (although I have had some syncronisation problems at various 
times). Have also moved most of my bird calls from CD to mp3 for playback in 
the field and to play randomly while i'm in the car driving back and forth from 
work. Have tried scanning pages from HANZAB just to see how it would go and it 
would work pretty well in the field except that I don't think the PDA screens 
are good enough in bright sun. the colours are far from perfect, at least on my 
aged dell axim. I have been getting by with 2Gb of memory but I really need an 
upgrade to about 4Gb soon. Also not sure how robust the PDA would be in the 
tropics in hot moist conditions. Still I think that in a few years a PDA 
database with pictures of every bird and most calls would be quite possible and 
a must for travellers.

Alastair Smith <> wrote:
> 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?  
> Alastair 
> -----Original Message-----
> From: 
>  On Behalf Of Simon Mustoe
> Sent: Friday, 7 July 2006 9:53 PM
> To: Birding-aus
> Subject: [Birding-Aus] Palmtop PCs and birding
> Hi,
> 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
> recommend. 
> All the best,
> Simon Mustoe.
> -- 
> Simon Mustoe, Director
> AES Applied Ecology Solutions Pty. Ltd
> 39 The Crescent
> Belgrave Heights
> Melbourne
> Victoria 3160
> Tel +61 (0)3 9752 6398
> Fax +61 (0)3 9754 6083
> Mob 0405 220830
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