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Technology: Vasai gets its own birding app

If you're heading to Vasai fort or its vicinity, our review of a new app to identify birds will come handy

This is not the apt season to go birding; however, if you do happen to be strolling around Vasai you might want to download Vasai Birds, a new app developed by a group of wildlife enthusiasts to promote birding and the biodiversity of Vasai.

The app, we are told covers 250 common and rare species around Mumbai, most notably in the Vasai region. Naturally we took it out for a stroll. Here’s what we found.

What we like
We have to admit, Vasai Birds is a treasure trove of information. Once you have downloaded the app (it’s a a small download of 4.5MB size), you are taken to the home page which lists different categories of birds with a searchable map under it. You can check a list of aquatic birds, birds of prey, forest and grasslands birds and garden and urban birds. Each list comes populated with names and images of birds, selecting which takes you to a new page offering detailed information on the bird. You can find out its common and scientific name, size, habitat type, whether or not it’s a visiting or local migrant, a list of identification marks, as well as nest and food types. The app also gives the current International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) status of birds.

The Android app, however, is as much about birds as its of habitats in the area. Therefore, a second tab, Habitat, offers a list some of popular green habitats in Vasai along with a count of bird species spotted there. We also realised that there is more to the green belt than Suruchi beach and the areas surrounding Vasai Fort. One could visit the Umela and Naigaon salt pans, Dongri, Bhuigaon, Nirmal Lake, Gass and Krishna Township and Agashi and Arnala to catch more birds. In fact, the last destination is home to 150 bird species. A third section, gives details of the project and the people behind it.

What we don't
A good user interface (UI) is critical for the success of any app. But unfortunately, that’s something the app failed to achieve. When it comes to UI what we are offered is a mishmash of pictures and text that doesn’t impress. The makers of the app could have easily taken help from a professional to make the app look aesthetically pleasing to users. We are also disappointed to find birds being linked to Wikipedia pages instead of more scientific resources like Birdlife.org or IUCN.

We were happy to see a list of habitats in the region, but it doesn’t serve much purpose since the habitats are not linked to a map in the app. We all know how difficult it can get to access a place — especially birding spots — if you are not a local. Considering the goal is to create awareness, and there’s a technology to make it possible, it should have mapped them.

Log on to: Play.google.com

The Guide verdict

Vasai Birds is a great app to learn about bird species in the Vasai region and nearby spots in Mumbai. And with a download size of 4.5MB, it's super light. However, it could do a lot more with better integration with maps and a user-friendly interface.

Other local wildlife apps

Indian Birds
Browse through 350 birds spotted in India based on state. Search using their local names as well as save your favourite locations. Be wary of the ads, though.
Available for: Android OS
Log on to: Thenatureweb.net

eForestrails
Download the app to take a GPS-based self-guided audio-visual tour of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. Created by Ladybird Environmental Consulting, the app offers three guided trails — Avenue Trees Trail (1.3km), Bamboo Hut Trail (1.4 km), and Upper Kanheri Trail (1.2km), each with 20 waypoints (points of interest) that are GPS-tagged on a map in the app (and numbered on the actual site). During the trail, you can either listen to an audio commentary about a waypoint or read a text description of the same along with images.
Available for: Android OS
Log on to: play.google.com

eBird by Cornell Lab
If you wish to play a larger role in bird conservation, you can start uploading your sightings of birds and help create a database that can be used for understanding the distribution, richness, and uniqueness of the biodiversity of our planet. All records uploaded on the eBird app are also updated on the eBird directory managed by Cornell Lab, New York, US.
Available for: Android and iOS
Log on to: Ebird.org

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