As a pretty typical 15-year-old, I like technology! I love my laptop and iPod. And best of all, they can be used very well with some other things I love, birds and birding.
I didn’t get hooked on birding because of the technology, but as I’ve become more involved with social media, I am finding various technologies to be a very useful tool. For example, I am working on a project with a friend for a birding event in April, preparing a “Young Naturalists’ Corner”. It would be much harder — and slower — getting everything done without email, digital photography, etc. Especially because I live on a farm in a very rural part of Canada, it’s very nice to have online and digital technology to keep in touch with others and to get, and send, information.
No-one in my family has a cell phone (my parents are quite frugal and also don’t like the interruptive nature of cell phones), so I’m not able to use birding apps. However, I have been downloading the good free ones to iTunes whenever they become available, so I’ll be ready when I do get a smartphone! You definitely don’t need a smartphone to enjoy birding technology.
Many organizations like the ABA, Pledge To Fledge, National Audubon Society, and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology are trying to get more young people interested in birding and nature. One thing which seems to spark that interest is the use of technology and social media.
Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites can be used very easily by birders. There are quite a few Facebook bird groups to join. Some of my favorites are for the American Birding Association, ABA Area Rare Birds, Birders who Blog, Tweet, and Chirp, the Alberta Birds group I started in May — the list just keeps going. On Twitter you can follow a variety of birding organizations, retweet links, and keep tabs on your favorite blogs. I’ve also found Facebook very helpful for keeping in touch with other birders I’ve met across the country and in the U.S., including the friends I made at the Long Point Young Ornithologists’ Workshop.
eBird is one of my favorite birding websites and a very useful birding tool. I try to submit a checklist everyday, but don’t always have time. It’s a great way to keep track of multiple lists (for example, patch list, year list, life list, county list). eBird is also a great place for learning about rare birds in your area or North America, looking at species distribution, and migrations routes. It’s an easy and fun way to enrich one’s knowledge of conservation and science about birds. You can also try to be a top lister in your province/state or county; in the province of Alberta, I’m 38th out of 100 for species seen this year. I highly recommend joining eBird!
Most states and provinces should have at least one birding listserv, for example, at Yahoo groups. The ABA has a list of all the provincial, state, and worldwide listservs. Also, Birding News from ABA is a very simple way to navigate through the listserv posts on just one site, and with BN you don’t need to join any listserv if you don’t want to.
There are quite a few good birding apps available. One thing to remember, though, is that they aren’t priced like the usual 99¢ apps. The Sibley eGuide to the Birds of North America costs $19.99 which might seem high, however, you’re getting audio for almost every species, all of the information from the book is in the app, the search functions make it very easy to search for birds, and the app is much more convenient than lugging around a printed field guide on a birding trip. Birding Is Fun has a survey of birding apps, which shows what apps are available for phones and tablets.
Birding podcasts are another type of technology. I really enjoy them and learn a lot about birding news. It’s also a fun way to listen to some of your favorite birders. My favorite is the Birdchick Podcast, very entertaining, great birding stories; I highly recommend subscribing the this podcast! Laura Erickson’s For the Birds, WREN Radio, and This Birding Life are great podcasts too!
And of course there are the bird blogs! A full list of all the blogs I follow is on my sidebar at right under Bird Blogs and Canadian Bird Blogs.
Another Alberta birder, David Pugh, just wrote a blog post and gave a presentation on technology for birders. You can find it here at his blog Calgary Birder.
Edited to add: I almost forgot to mention another way I like to use my iPod — one item I usually take along with me is a Grace Eco Extreme, a rugged waterproof iPod case with speakers. My mother found it for me at Amazon.ca (for the same price as at Amazon.com, which is unusual), and bought it in orange, so it’s easy to spot if I set it down. I use it with my Ipod Classic which has almost 1,500 bird songs on it, from a variety of sources (Stokes, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, etc.). The Grace Eco Extreme has very good volume for playing bird songs and excellent sound quality.