A quick BirdLasser guide: Prepping for Birding Big Day 2020

BirdLasser is an easy-to-use mobile application for you to log your bird sightings while in the field. It works like an electronic notebook – but it’s so much more.  

  • The app also logs the co-ordinates, time and lots of other information linked to your sighting.
  • Your data is backed-up on the cloud, so your valuable sightings are saved forever!
  • It maintains your life list for you!
  • And your sightings can contribute to citizen science projects, such as the Southern African Bird Atlas Project or various causes, as the data is used by conservationists and researchers to conserve birds in South Africa.

 

You’ll be using BirdLasser to capture your sightings on Birding Big Day (on Saturday 28 November), organised by BirdLife South Africa.

 

During Birding Big Day, you have 24 hours to identify as many birds as you can within a 50km radius. If you log your sightings on BirdLasser, you will be able to see your data, and that of others on an online map. By participating, you’ll be joining hundreds of birders across South Africa to celebrate our wonderful bird diversity and birding as a hobby.

If you’re a regular BirdLasser user, then you know the steps to follow. But if you’re a beginner to this app before Birding Big Day, here are some easy tips to use BirdLasser. You can also watch this video which will show step-by-step how to setup your BirdLasser and how to log your sightings.

Step 1: Register

Download the app from the Google PlayStore (Android) or App Store (iPhone) (it’s free) and follow the steps to register using your email address.

Step 2

Remember to let BirdLife South Africa know you’re participating in Birding Bid Day, with the name of your team, and your team members. The online entry form is here.

You’ll then receive an email from BirdLife SA to confirm your entry.

Step 3: Are your settings accurate?

 When you open the app on your phone, tap on the 3 vertical lines (the menu icon) or the menu button. Its placing on the screen depends on which phone you use. It’s on the left top corner on a Huawei phone.

Under General:

BirdLasser recommends you only enable location providers when you struggle with GPS accuracy. It should also not be necessary to tick the box to always leave GPS on (which uses a lot of battery power).

You can run through the other options, such as your profile, languages and regions and life list management to fit your requirements.

Step 4: Create a trip card

You’re ready to start birding. Tap on the + button to start recording your observations. Give your trip its name, and click on ✔️. You can create a new trip card every time you head out, or for those days linked to special causes (such as Birding Big Day), or you can keep updating the same trip card (for example, if you’re undertaking a big year) – but bear in mind the app could become a bit slower if the card becomes too long.

Step 5: Log your sightings

Click on Log when you see a bird, such as a Blue Crane – and then choose Blue Crane (Bloukraanvoël/Grus paradisea) from the BirdLasser list. Follow this same pattern to log all the birds you identify during Birding Big Day, or any other day. The video above provides a series of shortcuts you can use.

Step 6: Here’s what the app does for you

During Birding Big Day, as you identify and log birds (when you’re in cellphone range), the app will automatically sync your sighting to the online map, so that other birders can see the number of species you’ve seen. There’s no need to submit your sightings as the app automatically does this for you. This will also happen when you change the name of a species or delete an incorrect entry.

You can also:

 

  • Edit your trip card, if you would like to make changes.
  • Park your trip card, if you are done, but would like to revisit it in future.
  • Hide your trip, which closes it temporarily.
  • Export your trip card as a CSV file (great for conservation purposes).
  • Email your trip card to an email address you choose.
  • Submit you card to the Southern African Bird Atlas Project.
  • Delete your trip card, which results in losing all the records in that trip.

 

How do you see these options? Click on the 3 dots next to your trip card, which will give you a dropdown menu with these options.

Your life list

BirdLasser will also automatically capture all your sightings in a life list, so that you can see over time how many species you’ve identified anywhere in the world.

To see your life list, tap on the menu icon (the 3 horizontal lines), or the menu button, and tap on Lifelist on the dropdown menu.

Join a cause

You can also join a cause, such as the Threatened Species project. Tap on the menu icon or the menu button, and then on Causes. Select Threatened Species, or other causes you’d like to join. 

Or join a challenge:

It’s also possible to join a challenge, such as the Overberg 150km Challenge. You need to log onto your profile on the website to join a challenge (it’s not possible to join a challenge via the app on your phone, but you can see you challenges under the PLAY section if you tap on the menu icon). Go online (www.birdlasser.com), log into your profile, click on Challenges on the home page, and then join challenges such as the South African Birding Big Year or the Cape Town 150km Challenge. 

For more information about Birding Big Day you can email the organizer, Ernst Retief at ernst.retief@birdlife.org.za.