Birds and Smiles with Binoculars in the Amazon

(Part of our mission at BirdsEye is to support grass-roots, conservation efforts like the Amazon Binocular Project)

by Phil Kahler (Tualatin Valley Academy)

BirdsEye is a proud supporter of the Amazon Binocular ProjectIt is a beautiful July morning under the warmth of the equatorial sun when I find myself following a group of happy and enthusiastic children along a foot path through the village, across a log that bridges a muddy creek to the edge of the rainforest.  Tugging on my arm, Segundo stops me and points up into a nearby tree.  Segundo, a young Maijuna boy around 11-12 years old has spotted a Black-fronted Nunbird and doesn’t want me to miss seeing it.  Both of us focus in on the bird with our binoculars for a fantastic look.  Quietly, with smiles and hand gestures we communicate our shared joy of discovery since neither of us speak a common language.  Segundo is just one of around twenty-four Maijuna children, who for the first time in their lives are using binoculars for a close-up view of birds near their village.  Our group is led by local birding expert, Percy Reyna and several educators from the United States who use the BirdSleuth curriculum developed by Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  Together we spend a joyful hour learning to focus binoculars and chasing after birds.

It is children just like Segundo that motivated us to create the Amazon Binocular Project.  We want to inspire and support the next generation of Amazon birding guides.  Our aim is to develop within these youngsters an interest and love for the rich rainforest biodiversity by giving them access to the tools that will help them better observe and enjoy nature.  Segundo and his friends are in an especially exciting and unique position because they are being raised in one of the Maijuna villages responsible for creating the Maijuna-Kichwa Regional Conservation Area, a huge 977,600-acre wildlife preserve in northern Peru.  These children will eventually inherit the responsibility of managing, protecting, and educating others about this global treasure.

The Amazon Binocular Project grew from the inspiration of Lucio Pando, a gifted Amazon bird guide who loved to work with children.  When Lucio unexpectedly passed away last fall we were determined to carry on his legacy of inspiring young minds in the Amazon.  Percy Reyna and Cesar Sevillano, Lucio’s colleagues enthusiastically stepped up to work with the school children in remote Amazon villages.  Both Percy and Cesar traveled to Cornell Lab of Ornithology in 2016 for training in the BirdSleuth program and are uniquely qualified to continue the work begun by Lucio.

The Amazon Binocular Project webpage became live last November and we began to receive donations of new and used binoculars.  During the school year my 7th and 8th grade students in Oregon helped clean, repair, and pack the binocular donations for transport to the Amazon.  In April an exciting win-win opportunity developed when we learned Amanda Chang’s students in Chicago were planning a trip to the Amazon, but many could not afford their own binoculars.  So, we shipped half of the binoculars to her students to transport, use, and then hand off to Percy and Cesar.  The rest of the binoculars were shipped to Sarah Goodman’s students in North Carolina who volunteered to deliver them during their trip to the Amazon.

Teacher participants in the Educator Academy in the Amazon Rainforest brought additional binoculars and a spotting scope.  In all, a total of twenty-eight pairs of binoculars and one spotting scope completed the optics collection entrusted to the bird guides during the summer of 2017.  We are excited about the binoculars we put into the hands of Amazon children during our first year and are grateful for the generosity and collaborative teamwork of so many people.  We especially want to thank Celestron who helped us find some gently used binoculars to add to the 2017 collection and BirdsEye Nature Apps who helped spread the word about The Amazon Binocular Project.


The author with a student.

Although Percy and Cesar now have a traveling classroom set of binoculars to use with children, the need for more binoculars is still great.  The teacher at the Maijuna village school expressed a strong desire to have binoculars become a permanent part of his bird watching curriculum.  As Percy and Cesar spread enthusiasm for bird watching throughout Amazon village communities we expect demand for binoculars to increase among local educators.  We are thrilled to support these teachers as they encourage young birders like Segundo.

If you have new or used binoculars, spotting scope, tripod, lens caps, or straps to spare, please send them to the Amazon Binocular Project.  See our webpage for details at

The Effects of Light Pollution on Urban Birds

Tis the season for bird migrations in the Northern Hemisphere. You might see more northern birds flying through your neighborhoods and less of your regular local aviary. This is a perfect time to look into bird-finding tips, utilize your Smart Search on Birdseye so you can better identify these new-to-you species, and explore their migrating patterns.

However, each year the migration of birds is hindered by our growing metropolitan areas. Not only is habitat loss a serious issue to the health and nesting of birds, but light pollution is also becoming an issue. Light pollution is defined as the artificial light produced in cities and houses that brighten the dark night to the point of drowning out the stars, throwing off our human circadian rhythm (the mental clock that helps us sleep), and throwing off the migratory pattern of birds.

Most birds migrate during the evening, when the stars can help guide their path. However, as one study discovered, bright lights due to urban light pollution during the nighttime can cause migrating birds to circle and investigate the lit areas, spending more energy without making progress on their journey. This can be damaging to birds that are already expending energy while traveling hundreds of miles every night. Birds were also more likely to collide with light structures, according to the study, and selectively removing light pollution in some cities helped alleviate many of the issues for these migrating species.

However, the strange calling and circling phenomenon was apparent during a September 11th memorial service this year, Tribute in Light: where beams of light were projected into the sky to mimic the Twin Towers of the International Trade Center. These beams of light attracted the birds and, as one researcher noted: “This was a rare opportunity to witness the impact of powerful ground-based lights on nocturnally migrating birds.”

A large group of volunteers was able to record the bird calls, count the number of species present, and utilize technology to better understand the density and movements of the birds present in the area. According to the results of this observed phenomenon:

“…densities of birds over lower Manhattan could reach 60 to 150 times the number that would typically be found in the area at that time. The concentrating effects of the intense light on the birds reached as high as 4 kilometers (2.5 miles). The impact on birds was consistent even on clear nights. (Many previous artificial-light studies focused on nights with poor visibility.) When the light beams were turned off, the birds dispersed within minutes to continue their migrations.”

Unfortunately, these sorts of events aren’t isolated to special spotlights in urban areas. Even in rural towns, bright lights can distract and harm migrating bird species. As our cities and suburban areas expand, the negative impact we have on local species continues to grow.

Luckily, there are some things we can do to help offset some of those negative impacts. It can be as simple as a light switch. Start by turning off any exterior lights on your house, and you can help birds in your area move on with their migrations. Additionally, working alongside your city and local organizations to help create “blackout times” can make your entire neighborhood more nocturnal and bird friendly. This is also known as creating a dark-sky destination for your town.

Making a city into a dark-sky destination can be as simple as utilizing trees to block out neighborhood lights, or placing street lamps with light shields at only important intersections. Two towns in Colorado, the Westcliffe and Silver Cliff neighborhoods, were able to do just that and are now actively fighting against light pollution while saving energy.

Around the globe, urban areas are springing up and growing at a rapid rate. Electricity has becoming a necessity for almost everyone, and light pollution is becoming a real hazard for the environment. In areas where light and electricity are limited or forbidden — such as in the towns in Colorado or even animal sanctuaries like the Galapagos or the Peruvian rainforests — nocturnal animals and migrating birds are able to thrive. If you want to do your part in helping migrating birds this season, simply turn out the lights!

About the author:

Avery T. Phillips is a freelance human being with too much to say. She loves nature and examining human interactions with the world. Comment or tweet her @a_taylorian with any questions or suggestions.

Birds of Peru

Mobile Field Guide to the Birds of Peru

One of the great guides to South America…
… on your iPhone or iPad for $34.99.

Birds of Peru icon

With a spectacular diversity of landscapes, elevations and habitats, the nation of Peru is extremely rich in history, culture, and, of course, birds! Home to over 1800 species of birds, Peru has some of the birdiest places on earth and attracts birders and nature enthusiasts from around the globe.

Peru’s overwhelming diversity of birds has never been easier to navigate with the new Birds of Peru mobile field guide. Created from a collaboration between the Princeton Field Guides and BirdsEye Nature Apps, this application is loaded with in-depth descriptions and easy to use interactive features, including:

  • Detailed species accounts for all of Peru’s +1800 bird species
  • Range maps showing  species distribution in Peru.
  • Songs and/or calls for 1510 species
  • Gorgeous illustrations for every species, many with multiple plumages or geographic variation
  • Interactive Smart Search tool helps narrow down birds by region, color, size and/or habitat
  • Integrated listing to easily track your sightings as you go

The brilliance of Peru’s birds has been an integral part of the nation’s history, and plays an important part in the nation’s cultures and peoples of today. Birds of Peru is an important and must-have tool for all birders and travelers in Peru, and is also useful in Colombia, Ecuador, the Brazilian Amazon, and Bolivia.

The initial release of Birds of Peru will be for the iPhone/iPad/iPod.  We hope to introduce an Android version of the app in the future. Please let us know if you are interested in an Android version and we can add you to our mailing list for status and updates.

Binoculars in the Amazon

By Phil Kahler

AmazonBirders3Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Educator Academy in the Amazon Rainforest have been working with local bird guides and Peruvian teachers to bring the BirdSleuth-International  curriculum into remote schools along the Amazon River.  Lucio Pando, one of several extraordinary guides in the area, enthusiastically shares his knowledge and love of birds with adults and children alike.  He admits to watching birds even during his off time at home, he just can’t help himself.  Like many of us who are addicted to watching birds, Lucio’s binoculars are a permanent fixture around his neck.  While talking with Lucio I learned he does not have adequate access to binoculars and field guides needed for teaching students in local villages.  So last spring I was overjoyed when one of my former students donated several pairs of gently used binoculars.

OAmazonBirders1n July 8, 2015 twenty Peruvian teachers arrived at the Amazon Library in small motorized boats to attend a BirdSleuth workshop presented by Lilly Briggs from Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  The Amazon Library is run by CONAPAC, a Peruvian non-profit organization that leads conservation and sustainable development projects in the Amazon.  During this workshop Lilly, Lucio and I took these teachers on a short bird walk along the bank of the Amazon River.  The teachers were all smiles and filled with excitement as they took turns looking for birds.  Having never used binoculars before, they got great looks at some most cooperative birds.  As the teachers listened to Lucio share his extensive knowledge they wanted to know how he became such an expert.  For Lucio it was a deeply meaningful opportunity to inspire fellow countrymen and women to take a closer look at the incredible bird diversity found all around them.  After the workshop I handed the binoculars off to a very grateful Lucio, who is now using the binoculars with the teachers and their students.

AmazonBirders2We want to support Lucio and his colleagues in their important work training up the next generation of Peruvian naturalists and bird guides.  Your donation of gently used waterproof optics will greatly help Lucio’s efforts.  So if you have an extra pair of binoculars please consider saving them for this project.  Watch for more information and shipping instructions coming this fall in the BirdsEye newsletter.  Teacher participants in the 2017 Educator Academy in the Amazon Rainforest will personally deliver your binocular donation to Lucio and the teachers he works with along the Peruvian Amazon.

CA Rattlesnake App

App for California Rattlesnakes

Red Diamond Rattlesnake (Crotalus ruber)Warm temperatures have returned to California, causing the native snakes to become active and many outdoor enthusiasts will encounter snakes during their outings. One key to safely coexisting with California snakes is to be able to reliably distinguish a rattlesnake from the many harmless snakes of the region. There is now a field guide app for California rattlesnakes available for Apple and Android devices that covers the rattlesnakes of California (and Oregon, Washingon, and Nevada). This 99-cent app is optimized for smart phones to provide a portable guide for the field. It does not require Internet connectivity, but additional features are available with an Internet connection. This smart phone app provides the following information for these iconic creatures:

  • How to distinguish a rattlesnake from other snakes (even if you cannot see or hear the rattle)
  • How to identify the rattlesnake species and subspecies of the state
  • Other tips on how to safely coexist with an encountered rattlesnake
  • Field guide information including range maps
  • Field first aid information in the event of a bite
  • Search feature to assist with identification
  • Technical terms that link to the glossary to provide definitions
  • Favorites feature to track a life or trip list, or a list of targets
  • Many great photos of each species and subspecies

Rattlesnakes are an important and fascinating part of California’s wildlife. For those that work or play outdoors in the Golden State, this inexpensive app could literally save your life. The text was written and the images were compiled by Todd Battey. Programming for the app was provided by Donald Becker.

Front End Web Developer

Front End Web Developer

Birds in the Hand, work location flexible

About Birds in the Hand

Birds in the Hand is a leader in the nature app space for iOS and Android platforms. Our app portfolio includes BirdsEye, BirdLog (now eBird Mobile), Merlin Bird ID, Daily Bird, and BirdsEye Hotspots.  We are a small, dedicated group of scientists and naturalists passionate about technologies that support citizen science. We are expanding into new citizen science projects that will require additional apps, and building out websites to capture and communicate data for these projects.  We looking for a part-time web developer who can create a great site from scratch and is also passionate about citizen science. The work location and hours are quite flexible.

Skills Required:

  • Strong WordPress, PHP, SQL development skills
  • Experience working with/building custom databases
  • Strong analytical and problem solving skills
  • Strong written and verbal communication skills
  • Ability to interact and communicate professionally with all levels of staff and management
  • Able to work independently in an efficient manner


  • Develop new websites that allow users to report sightings for different flora and fauna through the use of maps and manual entry of location information.
  • Capture information in existing and to-be-developed databases.
  • Provide user friendly, robust, and visually appealing front ends using WordPress and other CMS
  • Perform maintenance and implement new features for the various websites
  • Work with our team to identify problems and correct issues
  • Create time estimates for projects assigned to you
  • Implement and document features that support both basic and power users
  • Work independently and with little supervision. Some interactions with other development, marketing and operations team members
  • Develop and optimize front-end UI functionality to ensure web applications are rendered consistently and efficiently in cross-browser environment
  • Follow industry trends with regard to front-end technologies and techniques


  • 2 more years of front-end programming with a proven track record of building and maintaining complex javascript front-ends.
  • Experience building excellent, consumer web application interfaces
  • Expert Javascript/HTML5/CSS3/AJAX coding skills
  • Strong command of web standards, CSS-based design, cross-browser compatibility
  • A passion for good documentation and code standards
  • Quick learner with a drive to learn more
  • Great organizational skills, and an attention to detail, consistency, and simplicity
  • Logical team-player, with excellent communication skills and ability to work effectively on multiple projects under a tight schedule
  • Strong understanding and experience using WordPress and other content management systems.
  • Strong understanding of SQL including the MySQL and MS SQL flavors
  • Experience with PHP a plus
  • Love and interest of nature a plus and probably required in order to be happy with the relative low pay of the position.

Desired Qualities:

  • Experience with libraries (such as jQuery or Prototype)
  • Experience with CSS frameworks (such as LESS or Sass)

This is a part time position at a relatively low wage that will provide immense satisfaction and great flexibility.  There are no medical/dental benefits, PTO, 401k or paid holidays.

Birds in the Hand is an equal opportunity employer.

To Apply:

Please send resume and cover letter to

Coming Soon: OdeLog – The Dragonfly & Damselfly Checklist App

Mobile logging of your dragonfly and damselfly sightings!

The Dragonfly ID App is off to a good start thanks to many generous donations and support from OdonataCentral, the Xerces Society, the Dragonfly Society of America. Many of you have emailed us to ask for an update. Our partnership with OdonataCentral continues!  The OdonataCentral Mobile App, or OdeLog for short, will allow you to record checklists of odes you observe in the field.

Banded Pennant

Banded Pennant by Michael Moore

The goal of this project is simple: hundreds if not thousands of people keep extensive records of the odes they observe in notebooks, Excel spreadsheets or homemade databases. Unfortunately, only a tiny fraction of these potentially important observations make there way into a common database that can be used for citizen science – iNaturalist, Odonata Central, the MDP database or into print. Our goal is to make this valuable information available to the public – hobbyists, enthusiasts, and scientists.

As early supporters of eBird, we believe that it is an excellent model of how to set up a citizen science project. Not only is eBird fun and easy to use, perhaps most importantly, the data are useful to scientists for large-scale population monitoring of population, seasonality and distribution.

To accomplish our goal of building the “eBird for Odes”, we will follow these guiding principles:


Flame Skimmer by Jeff Harding

  1. All the observations will go into OdonataCentral/MDP.We don’t believe it makes sense to create another separate citizen science database. Instead we would prefer to see our efforts go towards improving an already excellent database. Note that OdonataCentral and the MIgratory Dragonfly Partnership share an underlying database.
  2. Our goal is to maintain three types of data. One type will be the Odonata Central records that have passed their careful vetting process. These will mostly consist of rare sightings or difficult to identify species. Second will be publicly shared data that can be accessed by all users that go through a less rigorous automatic vetting process (under development) and will consist of more common species. Finally all your personal records will be maintained in the database regardless of their vetting status so you can always access your own data and maintain your own lists. You will be able to filter the data to only see the data type you want.
  3. Users will be encouraged to enter complete checklists of the odes observed in a specified time and location, including counts.Our goal is not only to focus on recording sightings of rare species but to also encourage sightings of common species, because this information is the most valuable in understanding the long term trends for the health of ode populations and their habitats.
  4. Checklists should be associated with an observation protocolThe observation protocol indicates the type and level of effort that went into recording the sightings. Protocol encompasses things like distance traveled, time spent, area surveyed, etc.
  5. Users should be encouraged and enabled to identify dragonflies to the best of their ability, but not beyond.We will provide the option to report things like: “Northern/Boreal Bluet”, “Bluet sp.”, Libellula sp. or even just “Dragonfly sp.” If users aren’t sure, we don’t’ want to force them to guess.Users should be encouraged and able to report odes in all of their life stages.

You can help make this happen! This project is not expected to earn money. Everyone involved in thisdonate now button project is doing it out of a sense of just how valuable (and awesomely fun!) it would be to have this tool available for ourselves and other nature lovers. If you are interested in helping as a tester, as a user, as a contributor of text or photos, or financially please get in touch!  Click the “donate now” button or email us at

More details: Our goal is to make this simple first step available this summer, and we hope it will be before the peak of the dragonfly & damselfly season in most of the US and Canada. Here is a very rough outline:

  • Odonoata_Central_logoIt will connect with the OdonataCentral / Migratory Dragonfly Partnership database. Submissions will be tied to OdonataCentral user accounts. New users will need to set up OC accounts to submit sightings.
  • Currently we don’t have funding for several critical features including the interface to submit of photos from the app
  • The app will be based on BirdLog (on both Android and iOS). We plan to roll out iOS first and then Android. Note: Last year, when we transferred BirdLog to Cornell it was arguably the most successful nature-related citizen science app in the world!
  • Clearly the data will be of a different type than the 100% vouchered data currently in OC and in that sense will be more like MDP data. We do not want to (pick your favorite pejorative) “dilute” that data with unvetted submissions . On the other hand, we do believe that this new data will be valuable and should be available through the OC website. So we will find ways to allow users to view just traditional OC data, this new OC data or both together.
  • Migratory_Dragonfly_partershipInitially it will only be possible to submit data through the Dragonfly Checklist app, but we plan to build out the portions of the OC website that will allow OC users to submit observations online as well. There will be many significant limitations to the system when it is first rolled out as you might expect for any new system.

Educators Take BirdsEye to the Amazon

BirdsEye users in the Amazon

Educators in the Amazon


Phil Kahler 
Tualatin Valley Academy 
Science Department 
21975 SW Baseline Road 
Hillsboro, OR 97123

In a collaborative effort BirdsEye, BirdSleuth (K-12 educational outreach of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology), and the Educator Academy in the Amazon Rainforest worked to put the BirdsEye bird finding app into the hands of thirty K-12 educators who participated in a ten day workshop exploring the Amazon Rainforest in Peru this past July. During a pre-trip webinar participants were encouraged to install the app on their phones and instructed to download content for offline use in the field. Giving educators the tools and training they need to become effective citizen scientists is an important goal of both BirdSleuth and the Educator Academy.

Each morning teachers were loaded onto small boats with local guides and teaching staff for an hour of intense rapid fire birding. It is a bit overwhelming keeping an accurate list of bird sightings when 2-3 species are being pointed out on opposite sides of the boat simultaneously. Data collection had to become a group effort, so teachers got together at the end of each day to create master lists. We were careful not to leave any of our new birders behind and gave them plenty of encouragement and helpful tips. The Bird Sounds of Peru was also a hit when we got a Common Potoo and a Spectacled Owl to answer!  The sound recordings also helped us narrow down a few tricky ID’s.  Several of the teachers used BirdLog SA or the eBird app to upload checklists to their eBird accounts. Overall our teacher group reported 221 species to eBird during our workshop.

Kirsten Franklin, one of the teacher participants now says, “I have been taking bird counts with eBird at my house 2-3 times a week. I have used BirdsEye to help me identify some of the birds by looking at the lists and photos of what other people in my area have posted. It’s been very enjoyable and now I am frustrated by the realization that there are a lot of birds that I really don’t know yet. But I will keep plugging away!”

If you are an educator who would like to participate in future trips please visit Educator Academy in the Amazon Rainforest at BirdSleuth is planning a special birding trip for educators in 2017. For more information visit

Smart Search for Android

Smart Search now in BirdsEye for Android

Focus in on Color, Size, and Habitat

With the latest BirdsEye update for Android, ver. 1.2, we’re happy to tell you of a new feature called Smart Search. Smart Search is a collection of intelligent filters that allow you to choose color, size, and habitat to narrow down the possible species.

Whether you’re looking for dragonflies or birds, BirdsEye Nature Apps are the best apps to learn what’s being seen nearby. BirdsEye is great in helping you identify what you are actually seeing.  Smart Search goes a step further to help you focus on likely birds as soon as you start entering information –   the list is filtered as enter information and sorts the species how well they match the criteria.

So, welcome to Smart Search…we think you’ll really like it.  We find it especially helpful when away from our home turf, and it’s really helpful for the budding birder or orniphile.

You can access Smart Search from the main menu, or under Nearby Birds or when searching a specific location.  Just look for the icon that looks like a magnifying glass with a ‘plus’ sign.

Smart Search is now available in both Android and iOS versions of BirdsEye.

Traveling? No matter where you are in the world, Smart Search will help you get more out of your birding. A couple quick taps combined with BirdsEye’s knowledge of the species in your area will let you spend more time enjoying the birds, and less time looking at the screen.

Birding a new area? You’ll appreciate the ability of Smart Search to sort the local species by abundance to narrow your options to the most likely species in the area.

New to birding? Smart Search is easy to use and a great way to narrow down the list of possibilites to just the species birds that match the one you are looking at.



Help us with the Dragonfly ID app!

The new Dragonfly ID app is a collaborative effort made possible through contributions of time, effort and money from hundreds of people. A project like this is by its nature a work in progress. Our immediate goal is to be able to provide users with high quality text and at least one good photo for every species in North America.


Would you be willing to contribute text for a common species in your area? Or maybe a photo of a missing species? Thanks to John Abbott who has generously offered to review and edit contributed text. Let’s keep him busy!

Description and ID text

Species text should be a minimum of a couple of paragraphs. There is really no upper limit to how much text the app can handle, but in general we should try to keep it brief enough that users in the field can quickly find the information they need.

Our goal is to have text for every species of around 50-200 words for each of the following sections:

Description: include a description of each of the field-identifiable adult forms
Identification: include a description of differentiating this species from similar species
Habitat: especially information that will help a user in the field find this species
Natural History:
(Optional) Seasonality and Distribution
(If applicable) Taxonomic or Nomenclatural notes

A great place to start is by reviewing Odonata Central’s “Identification pages” such as this one for Vivid Dancer. Note that the text on the Odonata Central “Identification pages” were originally targeted to the southwestern US, and so sections such as comparison species and range descriptions are not adequate for an app targeting all of North America.

It would be great to get some text contributions in French and Spanish as well. Or, if you are interested in helping with translating into these languages, please get in touch.

Of course, we would credit you in the app and anytime your text was used. The credits will look something like this (Note that this example is made up!)

Contributed: Dan Tallman Aug 30, 2015
Expanded: John Garrett Aug 31, 2015
Edited: John C. Abbott Sept 5, 2015
Revised and expanded: John C. Abbott Sept 30, 2015

So, if you’re interested head to dragonfly text submission form where you can find instructions to submit the text. If you have friends or colleague who might be interested please share this information with them and encourage them to get in touch with us. Everyone who contributes text for at least one species will also be eligible (if they wish) to participate in beta testing.

Thanks in advance,

The Dragonfly ID team