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Africa: Page-scrolling or app

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Old Monday 25th March 2019, 20:04   #1
jaaserud
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Africa: Page-scrolling or app

Hello all,

This August/September our family is for the first time going on a booked animal safari in Serengeti-Ngorongoro-Lake Manyara in Tanzania. Being an amateur ornithologist, I am naturally planning on squeezing in as much birding as possible. I am however overwhelmed by the ca. 1000 species covered in the newly received book „Birds of East Africa“ by T. Stevenson and J. Fanshawe. What would you recommend in the field: book-page-scrolling or an appropriate app like eBird or Sasol or a combination of both?

Regards jaaserud
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Old Tuesday 26th March 2019, 07:00   #2
andyadcock
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Hello all,

This August/September our family is for the first time going on a booked animal safari in Serengeti-Ngorongoro-Lake Manyara in Tanzania. Being an amateur ornithologist, I am naturally planning on squeezing in as much birding as possible. I am however overwhelmed by the ca. 1000 species covered in the newly received book „Birds of East Africa“ by T. Stevenson and J. Fanshawe. What would you recommend in the field: book-page-scrolling or an appropriate app like eBird or Sasol or a combination of both?

Regards jaaserud
I'd suggest looking at some reports and maybe ebird, you can eliminate many species by understanding if they're actually at any given site or not so check range maps too though they aren't always totally reliable.

This could book couuld help a lot but generally, thumbing the fieldguide will be required and you'll be surprised what you learn in the process as you read and eliminate species until you hit the right ID.

https://www.amazon.com/Birds-Serenge...=UTF8&qid=&sr=
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Old Tuesday 26th March 2019, 09:04   #3
kitefarrago
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I agree with Andy that you can eliminate a number of species based on range and time of year. You are only going to visit a limited area, and in August/September most of the northern migrants won't have arrived yet (with the exception of waders). You could, for example, put a coloured dot in the book to make it easier to see at a glance which species you are likley to encounter. Apart from filtering by time of year and range, you could also try to colour code habitat.

As for book versus app, I think the experience depends to some extent on the size of screen you have. I visited the Masai Mara for two weeks, and there was a severe limit on luggage because part of the journey was on a small plane, so I decided not to bring the book. However, I only had a device with a small screen, and trying to scroll through the app in the field was very frustrating. It also meant that it wasn't obvious that there might be colour morphs below the first illustration, making some identification processes last forever (or so it felt at the time).

Where apps could help in principle (namely prioritizing showing you birds you are likely to see at a given time of year and location, or filtering on particular id features) we aren't there yet technically. If you have a tablet I suspect that ease of use between the book and the app won't differ too much. The app will give you sounds, which is a distinct bonus.

Andrea
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Old Tuesday 26th March 2019, 20:04   #4
jaaserud
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I much appreciate your answers Andy and Andrea. Thanks a lot. Yes a combination of good old paper and digital information seem to be the best choice. This way I also have a backup medium in case one should get lost, damaged etc.
If there are just too many birds at any one time, which I hope, how valuable and efficient do you find making photos in the field and leave the Identification until back in camp? I'm certainly carrying my camera with 500 mm lens ready to shoot anyway, although the binocular is normally the first choice when an unknown bird appears.

Jostein (jaaserud)
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Old Wednesday 27th March 2019, 08:01   #5
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I much appreciate your answers Andy and Andrea. Thanks a lot. Yes a combination of good old paper and digital information seem to be the best choice. This way I also have a backup medium in case one should get lost, damaged etc.
If there are just too many birds at any one time, which I hope, how valuable and efficient do you find making photos in the field and leave the Identification until back in camp? I'm certainly carrying my camera with 500 mm lens ready to shoot anyway, although the binocular is normally the first choice when an unknown bird appears.

Jostein (jaaserud)
Photos can be invaluable post trip but in the field, it's a compromise between birding and photography.

I've been very lucky in that my wife is a photographer first and foremost and manages to get shots of almost everyting we see. We carry a Mac Pro, download shots at night and spend an hour enjoying them in bed, and even ID assistance aside, it's proved to be a lovely extension to our birding day.

Photos are especially useful with high or immature raptors which can be sorted ouit later but the bottom line is that the more research in identifying birds you do before you go, the easier you'll find it. Make sure you know what the males look like, females and immatures can be done later with photos but look at the field guide, every day if you can before your trip, learn the differences between similar species because if you see something briefly, you'll know what to look for straight away in case you don't get another chance.
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Old Thursday 28th March 2019, 09:28   #6
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One of the problems with taking photos and hoping to sort out id later is that unless you already know what it might be you don't know what the clinchers for id will be. When you get back home you realize you needed to see the undertail coverts, say, and your pictures don't show that. Or you need to remember also what the call sounded like, or some such thing.

If there are two of you interested in birds can always compromise: One to observe, and maybe take some notes, and one to take pictures.

In my experience most of the guides/drivers in the national parks in East Africa concentrate on mammals and only know the larger/more colourful birds, so unless you are able to hook up with somebody who is interested in birds you won't get a lot of help there. You don't say whether you'll have the same guide/driver throughout, or whether you'll be doing game drives via the camps you're staying at. It's definitely worth mentioning to whoever it will be that you're interested in birds, in case there is somebody available they can match up with you.

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Old Thursday 28th March 2019, 12:43   #7
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[quote=kitefarrago;3832980]One of the problems with taking photos and hoping to sort out id later is that unless you already know what it might be you don't know what the clinchers for id will be. When you get back home you realize you needed to see the undertail coverts, say, and your pictures don't show that. Or you need to remember also what the call sounded like, or some such thing.

That's what I said here, there's no substitute for prep.

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Photos are especially useful with high or immature raptors which can be sorted ouit later but the bottom line is that the more research in identifying birds you do before you go, the easier you'll find it. Make sure you know what the males look like, females and immatures can be done later with photos but look at the field guide, every day if you can before your trip, learn the differences between similar species because if you see something briefly, you'll know what to look for straight away in case you don't get another chance.
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Old Thursday 28th March 2019, 20:32   #8
jaaserud
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A big thank you for shearing your thoughts Andy and Andrea!
Luckily I've got plenty of time for a thorough trip preparation.

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