Ik blijk de app meer te gebruiken dan ik vooraf gedacht had. Toch blijft het voordeel van het boek dat je meerdere soorten in één oogopslag kunt bekijken. In de app gaat alles (afgezien van de thumbnail-overzichten) apart per soort. Dus als je bijvoorbeeld snel de afbeeldingen van 4 of 5 tapuitensoorten in detail met elkaar wilt vergelijken, dan gaat dat niet met de app, althans veel omslachtiger dan in het boek, waar je immers gemakkelijk twee pagina's (dus zeker 6 soorten) tegelijk kunt bekijken.
Een voordeel van de app is dan weer wel dat je de afbeeldingen flink kunt opblazen (en ze blijven scherp). Dit is handig om een afbeelding van bijvoorbeeld een specifiek kleed aan meerdere mensen tegelijk te laten zien, bij een discussie of op een excursie.
Lars Svensson, Killian Mullarney & Dan Zetterström
App edition produced in partnership by: NatureGuides, William Collins, Bonnier Fakta and Gyldendal
Price: £12.99 / € 14.99 on Google Play / Playstore
Collins Bird Guide app for iOS was launched in 2014, and it was the sole reason I wanted an iPhone rather than an Android phone. Every time I saw my iFriends elegantly swiping through the Collins app I was so jealous. Now I can look them in the eye and declare – I have a Collins Bird Guide app on my lovely Samsung!
As soon as I saw it is available on Google Play, I downloaded the app. Even though on Google Play it says ‘This is an unreleased app. It may be unstable’, this seems to be a final and fully-functional product. £12.99 later and I dug in. The book currently costs about £15, but eventually the app costs more or less the same. This is an expensive app, even without extensions. With extensions offered to make it comprehensive (Britain and Ireland 2007-11 Breeding Atlas maps, and full video list for all species – an extra £3-4) it is quite heavy, yet affordable.
Very quickly I understood that it’s a digital version of the book – it’s not a birding app. Plainly, the best-selling second edition of Collins Bird Guide that every birder has, was digitized and adjusted to phone / tablet screens. And the app is as beautiful as the book. The artwork is accurate and lovely.
The maps are clear and generally accurate. The menus are simple and comfortable. Finding species through the main menu is quick and easy, and navigating through the different portions of text, audio and maps is straightforward. I like the hierarchic order, the thumbnails and how order and family descriptive texts are neatly expanded.
The taxonomy is the same used in the 2010 book, in almost all cases – not the most updated sadly. The only update I found was a more ‘advanced’ treatment of distinct taxa in the ‘Subalpine Warbler’ complex.
The only bit of information that appears in the book but was not included in the app is the detailed information about occurrence of extreme vagrants (the infamous table on pp. 418-421 in the book). The app has some additional features to the book, but they are few. It is somewhat disappointing that this app didn’t take the extra step forward to make it an all-inclusive birding app. The text is not interactive which is a real pity. For instance, I think it would be good to link text comparisons with similar species (e.g. but only slightly smaller than Black-throated) to the relevant pages. However, the app does sport a ‘Compare’ button on every species account, that offers comparisons to each species mentioned as possible confusion species in the text.
Additionally, this handy ‘Compare’ functionality allows also bespoke side-by-side comparisons from the main menu.
Another important advantage of the app on the book is audio – most species have at least one audio file. Nowadays many birders have bird calls downloaded on their phones anyway, and bird calls are accessible online via e.g. xeno-canto or Macauly Library. However, this quick link between visual ID and audio files is very handy in the field.
The app website promises free 59 ‘stunning videos’ of prominent species with app purchase. Sadly, videos are not available on the version I downloaded. Perhaps the videos are available on the iOS version?
It is a UK-focused app. Every species account offers, as mentioned above, an extension to 2007-11 UK Breeding Atlas maps, in addition to the general distribution maps. I think that the status of each species presented in the text is adjusted to language. The app comes in five languages – English, Swedish, Norwegian, French and German. In English the status given is for GB. In German is it for Germany? I am not sure.
The app provides a basic ID feature. Not an advanced eBird-connected ID app like Merlin, but still a welcome first step in European context. When starting a search, the app refines the entire bird list by location (the GPS function does not work on my phone, so I manually select region), time (breeding or non-breeding), morphological features and habitat choice and suggests a list of likely species. I must admit I was not impressed by the results. I tested the app with a few pretty striking birds, e.g. Black Wheatear in southern Iberia in summer. The results I received were somewhat irrelevant to a bird of ‘mountain/moorland’ – European Storm-petrel etc.
Another feature of the app is ‘My List’ – personal lists can be created either through the main menu or by adding species from species ‘pages’. In an era of cutting-edge inter-connected bird recording systems such as eBird, observation.org, BirdTrack and more, this feature of the Collins app isn’t its main strength. I will continue using eBird.
Despite its few drawbacks in the additional features, the largest strength of the app is the main text. I am sure many birders will purchase this app, mainly because when in the field it’s so much easier and handier to have the text and audio on your phone rather than carry a book, even if it’s not too heavy. I have already used it in the field, and generally enjoyed using the app very much. I will surely use it often in the future. Should it be improved? Certainly. I would love to see future versions adjusted to a larger European context, and contain more visual material. But for the time being, this is as good as it gets in the Western Palearctic. I would suggest to purchase it, and look forward to next, updated versions. This is the beginning of a new friendship.