Pizzey & Knight Digital Edition review

To: "'David Adams'" <>, "'Birding-Aus'" <>
Subject: Pizzey & Knight Digital Edition review
From: "Tony Russell" <>
Date: Fri, 22 Nov 2013 13:31:48 +1030
Well said David, you sort of agree with most of my own thoughts. I think
that mostly the old ways of birding are still the best. Nothing like getting
out there and learning from others. Gadgets are mostly unnecessary and just
lead to lazy thinking. All one needs are a scope, binoculars , and a field
guide (book).

-----Original Message-----
 On Behalf Of David Adams
Sent: Friday, 22 November 2013 12:52 PM
To: Birding-Aus
Subject: Pizzey & Knight Digital Edition review

> I personally don't use any of these electronic gadgets for bird IDs, 
> in
> I wouldn't know how to switch one on, let alone cart the thing around 
> with me.  Isn't it better to really get to know your birds?, then 
> these thingamajigs are not needed. Having to carry binoculars is bad 
> enough as
it is.

Gadgets aren't for everyone but one more great tool for getting to really
know your birds. Below are a list of good ways that I've tried, use
regularly, seen others do or heard about:

* Put a seed tray near your window and watch what comes in closely. (How so
many of us first saw birds as children, I'd assume.)

* Go out with binoculars and watch birds from a hide, shore, etc.

* Go out with a guide or group and learn from others. I can't think of
anything more effective.

* Take others out and show them what you know.

* Write about what you know, meaning field notes on behavior and field
identification. I don't learn much from saying "I saw a Square-tailed Kite
today" but I would from writing up how I would try and distinguish a Little
Eagle from a Whistling Kite.

* Sketch or paint what you see! Probably the best technique of all for
individual study...I'm sadly wretched at it. Even still, just making the
effort to transcribe visual details visually can be a real help in improving
your "seeing".

* Buy better optics ;-) Man, I wish I'd gotten good binoculars sooner.

* Use a camera to snap pictures and then go home and study the results.
I've gotten a lot from this:

-- It's very helpful for harder groups as you can often narrow down
something like a pair of peeps to one of 2-4 species. From there you can
study the guides and figure out what field marks are relevant for the next

-- Huh. I. Could. Have. Sworn. It. Had. Two. *White*. Wing-bars. And. A.
*Yellow*. Bill. Yeah, a picture can keep you honest. A fish-watching friend
said that with the fishes, it is incredibly easy to remember colors in
reverse - she pops up to the surface and narrates a description to try and
get it fixed in her head.

* Build a database and collect images, sounds and text about the birds. I
don't think this technique is broadly useful but since I'm a programmer, I
end up putting a lot of time into this several times a year. (Particularly
before a trip to a new place.) Apart from helping to learn species, it's
helped me *enormously* learning larger taxonomic and biogeographical
relationships. Anyone can make themselves a series of folders to collect
info about a species, if they like that sort of thing.

* Go out into the field and wait until you can match sounds to birds. (I'm
really not great at calls..but I slowly get better.)

* Sonograms...or so I'm told...I've managed to get a copy of "The Sound
Approach to Birding" but it's still sitting on the desk.

* Get and use an app. Why not? When I first saw a good birding app, I
realized they're the future. They're better than paper:

-- Integrated sounds.

-- Plates *and* photographs. I've never loved an all-photo paper guide but I
love my apps with pictures.

-- Off-line access. (Well, paper has that...)

-- A structured information space. A lot of phone/tablet apps are, well,
sort of pointless but not apps that create a nice, tight information space.
With a birding app, you can move through data hierarchically, laterally
(like similar species or groups of related birds), geographically (if the
app has the data), or non-sequentially (search for a bird.)

-- Particularly useful when you travel to a new country where you don't know
the birds. You can study up before you arrive and have a good idea about
calls of common birds and what various groups look like, what habitat they
prefer, etc. Yeah, apps are great for this...paper guides too.

There are a few advantages to paper guides that are hard to beat:

-- No batteries.
-- Not so expensive.
-- I find it easier to flip through a paper guide somehow. Particularly for
a country where I don't already know the birds. There's something
hard-to-replace about feeling "wow, 16 plates for raptors!" that just
doesn't come across electronically.

I'm hoping to get the new iPad Mini because I suspect that it is the
ultimate birding gadget. I still buy, use and carry paper guides...but I'm
reluctant to travel anywhere that doesn't have an electronic guide. And, I
carry fewer paper guides than I used to.

With all of that said, to each their own. If you find electronic guides
useful, great. If not, that's fine too. Also, no all electronic guides are
created equal any more than paper guides are of identical quality.

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