My husband and I got into the great outdoors in a big way this year. Especially since we were lucky enough to acquire a car in September and so found ourselves able to travel easily to some stunning nearby spots that were inaccessible to us before. The colourful display across the Scottish landscape in Autumn is utterly breathtaking, and it kicked off in me something of a curiosity about different types of trees and their characteristics. I kept thinking: “there has to be an app that can tell me what kind of tree this leaf came from” …and of course there was.
Seeing as though the pandemic has made outdoor adventurers of so many of us, I figured I’d write a short guide to my favourite nature apps that can act as a source of information for new explorers. Outdoorsy apps tend to fall into three camps: those for categorisation, those for information, and those for routes. Below I’ve summed up the top nature apps I love to use the most.
All Trails is a relatively new one to us. A website as well as an app, it suggests walks and hikes at varying levels of difficulty based on where you are looking to get out and about. It has trails mapped out globally, so wherever you are it should have some great suggestions for you. I find it particularly useful for checking the elevation gain of walks, and it has really comprehensive preference filtering so you can leave out steep slopes or difficult terrain should you wish.
Billed as ‘shazam for birdsong’, chirp-o-matic is fascinating and so easy to use, you literally just point the phone at the source of the song and it tells you what bird is making it. It’s surprising just how quickly you become familiar with the songs of your local birds, a delightful little app for taking with you on woodland strolls.
The app that started it all…. British Tree Identification by the Woodland Trust is an interactive tree identifier. You answer a series of questions based on the specimen you’re looking at and it guides you to finding the correct classification. A lovely app that you can use without any signal and even lets you keep a list of trees you’ve found and the locations you found them. A firm fave.
This is a little bit more sophisticated than the tree identification app as it attempts to do its classifying automatically using the photographs you feed into it. Wild Flower ID is just as addictive, especially when walking in more remote areas where it seems like nothing could ever grow. I love figuring out what type the hardiest of wild flowers are.
This app is your opportunity to learn and contribute to scientific research in the process. In comparison to bugs, birds, flowers and trees, the habitats of mammals of the British Isles are under researched soMammal Mapper is aiming to rebalance things. You can keep records of where, when and what you saw, alongside photos and mini reports – it’s a joy to use and fun to know you are helping with some real wildlife research.
If you happen to still be out on your walk when the sun goes down, or you are out camping and sleeping under the stars, these apps are fascinating. I loved the first Star Walk, when it came out years ago it was nothing short of revolutionary and I spent hours on it. Star Walk 2 is a paid app but an augmented experience with many more bells and whistles, plus it will help you identify celestial happenings in real time. A delight!
Okay, this is not strictly a nature app but it does encourage me in my outdoor pursuits. Both me and my husband have been playing Pokemon Go since it launched in 2016, we’ve always been casual players, and will open the game if we are going somewhere new or there’s a community day. Since we’ve been walking more, I personally have found that opening up the app, catching Pokemon and collecting candy for distance travelled is an incentive to keep me going when otherwise I may have bailed and headed home.
This list is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the top nature apps for outdoor pursuits! There are so many others I could have included; mostly I love the classification apps and I’m on the lookout for a good one for bugs and mushrooms. Whatever you need to seek, collect or plan in order to get outdoors more there will be an app to help you… I guarantee it!