5 Good Nature Field Guides for your Smartphone

Smartphones can be extremely helpful when you are working in the field and you need to document with pictures, do some quick species ID or peek into your surrounding landscape with bird's-eye-view aerial imagery -- even for individuals like me, who at some point in our lives have been one of those cell phone rebels seemingly skeptical about the usefulness of all these cell phone technologies. Well, it turns out that now I'm an iPhone hog and my smartphone has really helped me at work and even in the field -- who knew!

There are a number of apps you can download for free or for very reasonable prices. Here are five I use regularly and I recommend to you:

  • Chesapeake Bay Field Guide: This awesome app created by the Chesapeake Bay Trust has a comprehensive selection of flora and fauna species for the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed. The species fact sheets are simple enough for laypeople but at the same time are useful for the more geeky crowd. It also includes handy lists of threatened and endangered species as well as lists of poisonous and dangerous species. The best part is that it is free!
  • Audubon Mammals - A Field Guide to North American Mammals: Green Mountain Digital (in alliance with the National Audubon Society), a digital media publisher from Vermont specializing in outdoor-oriented apps, brings the helpfulness of the Audubon nature guides to your smartphone. With this app you can browse the mammalian species of North America by species shape, family, name, or by using an advance search query. The species fact sheets include nice photos, range maps, voice sound clips for some species, and a cool function to locate, report, and share your mammal sightings. You can also keep a journal of the species you have spotted for later reference.
  • Audubon Reptiles and Amphibians – A Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians: Same creators and same format as above but in this case for all those scaly and slimy herpethological critters some of us love.
  • Peterson Birds of North America: For the nominal price of $0.99 this is a real bang for the buck deal! Excellent illustrations, bird songs, detailed fact sheets including information about the molt and the seasonal plumage coloration differences, nest photos, and maps, plus you can report sightings, create life lists, and much more. Also, if you want to get those nice pictures of the birds in the field (probably not with the smartphone camera though!) use the bird songs to boost their curiosity and attract them to you! Highly recommended!
  • Invasive Plants in Southern Forests: Identification and Management: Yes, there is an app for that too! Created by the University of Georgia this free app is based on the U.S. Forest Service publication: A Field Guide for the Identification of Invasive Plants in Southern Forests. Although of limited use in our region because it is geared for plant species that are invasive in the south, we also share many of the same species. It has great photos, species fact sheets, and handy management guidelines and control techniques and is connected to the EDDMaps system for the distribution maps and for reporting infestations.

Make use of your smartphone in the field you'll be amazed of how handy it can be in the woods and wetlands.

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