Sunday, July 24, 2005

Birder Tech: Review of BirdPod Software.

I can highly recommend the software available from Every field birder in Eastern North America that uses bird calls in the field could benefit from this useful and time-saving (but expensive) software.

A bit of background information: Last week I finally broke down and bought an iPod. It broke before I could even use it, so I had to bring it back to the store and get a replacement. The software still doesn't seem to work quite right, but at least the thing is operational. As soon as I got the thing working, I wanted to find out what my options were for using my iPod as a birding tool.

From a birding perspective, I, like a lot of other birders, have been using a Sony Minidisc player for many years. The Minidiscs are pretty rugged, but they use technology that is 10 or more years old. One reason that many birders still use the Minidisc is because it allows you to record bird songs in the field, something you cannot do with an iPod or most (any?) mp3 players. I do find it difficult to cut and edit bird calls on the Sony SonicStage software, although to be fair I haven't found any software that makes the process easy.

So, along comes a company called Mighty Pods, and their first product is something called birdpod. (Or ibirdpod. Or birdpodmaker. Or something like that.) Anyway, what birdpod does is takes the three Stokes Eastern cds and edits them into a birder-friendly format for use on your iPod. For example, the software cuts off the spoken words on the cd (so you don't have to turn down the volume at the beginning of each track in the field to minizie the annoying "voice" telling you what species is on that track), and cuts each track so that you can play it directly in the field. The software also creates a number of different playlists that will be extremely useful in the field. For example, there is a playlist which lists all songs alphabetically by species, there are playlists for different habitat types, and there are other playlist for categories of birds like "sparrows" and "nocturnal birds."

You can buy an iPod with all of the songs and playlists already loaded onto it, or, if you already own an iPod like I do, you can buy just the birdpod software, or the birdpod software and the Stokes cds. (You need to have both the Stokes cds and the birdpod software for everything to work properly.) The whole package is a bit pricey (I paid about $100 for the software and the Stokes cds), and I suppose that some birders could edit the tracks and create similar playlists on their own. However, that would take forever, and from personal experience, I can tell you that it would be a frustrating experience.

I had two minor glitches in the software, and I had to download a Windows optional update that I really didn't want (annoying) in order for the birdpod software to work. However, even with those minor problems it only took about half an hour to download everything and load it onto my iPod.

Thanks to the birdpod software, I think that my iPod(with external speakers, of course) will now be an essential birding tool, especially for things like CBCs, SBCs, Big Days, breeding bird surveys, owling, etc. No more spending hours editing songs onto a cd or tape, and no more fumbling with different tapes or cds at 4:00 in the morning on a CBC when it's 3 degrees below zero. Since my iPod now has every Eastern bird call on it, I don't have to think about which tapes I need on any particular day of birding (different tapes might be needed for different times of year, different locations, different habitats, etc.), I can just put the slim iPod into my pocket and start birding. I even tried playing it using just the tiny little iPod headphones as speakers yesterday and I did get a response from birds that were within about 10 feet.

I don't know how much of a market is really out there for this type of software, but I hope that Mighty Pods will offer more birding products in the future. If they can expand their offerings to include Western N.A. birds calls, and then start on the tropics, it would be extremely helpful.

1 comment:

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