31/05/2006
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How to get the most from BirdGuides and mobile technology

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Almost everyone carries a mobile phone these days, and some of us also lug round devices such as PDAs, 3G phones and BlackBerries. This increases the availability of data in the field, and should maximise your chance of catching up on the latest rarities. This article aims to explain how you can use the latest gadgets in conjunction with BirdGuides news services to be first on the scene of the latest mega and in the most cost-effective ways.

Mobile Phones: Much more than a simple phone nowadays. If you are lucky enough to have the latest models you can surf the web, receive emails, receive texts and, of course, make phone calls.

Screenshot from WAP emulator Screenshot from WAP emulator Screenshot from WAP emulator
Home page with personal sites and links to more details (on Nokia 8310) See full details of any report
(Nokia 6210)
View reports within range of any site
(Siemens SL45)
Screenshot from WAP emulator Screenshot from WAP emulator Screenshot from WAP emulator
Access details of over 9000 birding sites
(Ericsson R600)
Look back at past reports of any bird
(Motorola Timeport 260)
View photos of most species
(Siemens ME45)

(Screenshots from WAP emulators.)

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Whichever mobile phone you have, you can set up your BirdGuides account to send you Bird Text Alerts (BTA) of the latest birding news. Once you have subscribed, you can customise the service to send you texts according to precisely defined criteria by filling in a simple web form. You can change this profile, as often as you want, to tailor the level of cover depending on what you are up to. Perhaps if you work Monday to Friday, you could elect only to receive first reports of Megas on these days. If you will be spending the weekend birding in Dorset, you might elect to receive all reports from that county. For more information on this service, click here.

The more sophisticated mobile phones and PDAs also allow you to surf the web. For these devices we offer Bird News Anywhere (or BNA). This provides the facility to browse the BirdGuides website in the field, and see the information just as you would on your PC at home. Some phones will even allow you to view pictures of the rarity you're interested in. In general, it is best used in conjunction with BTA. Imagine you receive a text alerting you to a nearby rarity. You can then check BNA for the full entry, including access details, and also to monitor whether there are further sightings, special instructions, or simply to check what else is close by, to maximise your day's birding. For more information on this service, please click here.

Most newer mobile phones will allow you to check your emails in a "dial up" fashion where you need to visit a WAP page to receive your emails. BlackBerrys and certain new mobile phones with 3G service will receive emails as they are "pushed". This makes them "always on" and so the BirdGuides email alert service can parallel that provided by a pager, but at much lower cost. As with all of our services, email alert is totally tailorable, so that you can change your personal settings to suit your activities on a day-to-day basis. For example, when you are stuck in the office you can opt to have your BirdGuides email as a daily digest - and then at the weekend you can have sightings delivered to your phone as and when they happen. For more information on Email Alert, please click here.

Written by: Fiona Barclay