Five great apps for the modern naturalist

Times are changing, and whether you welcome the shift towards a more technologically advanced age of wildlife-recording, or not, apps are fast becoming an invaluable addition to the would-be naturalist’s toolkit.  They allow you to expand your knowledge base, submit valuable records and, in some cases, have fun; while most are free and easily downloaded at the touch of a button. Below are six examples of apps that I, personally, use frequently, and ones which I thought may be of use to NHSN members.


An incredibly useful app brought to you by the British Trust for Ornithology, Birdtrack allows users to record sightings of the birds they have seen – either in the form of complete lists, or casual observations. With the data recorded feeding directly into the BTO database and providing researchers with useful information on everything from species abundance and migration times to breeding activity. This app also comes with the added bonus of allowing you to view which bird species have been recorded in your local area; while also serving as a notebook, of sorts, condensing your sightings into easily viewable lists to be revisited whenever you see fit. It is also very user-friendly.

Tree ID

Brought to you by the Woodland Trust, this attractive and easy to use app allows users to identify trees by their leaves, fruit and bark, and provides no end of useful information with regards to the species seen on rural (or urban) walks. It comes complete with a handy A-Z for easy identification and presents users with useful information relating to the status of our tree species, the threats they face and, in some cases, the folklore and historical uses associated with our trees. It is free to download on both Apple and Android devices and really is worth considering if, like me, you wish to learn more about our trees and refresh yourself on how to identify them.

Big Butterfly Count

The Big Butterfly Count app brought to you by Butterfly Conservation does exactly what it says on the tin. It allows you to submit valuable records to the annual census of British butterflies in the form of an easy to use recording sheet, complete with simple checkboxes to yet the BC team know more about your particular count. This app uses GPS to track your location on the move and, as such, is perfect for recording spontaneous counts on the go, or when time limitations leave you unable to sit down at a computer to enter data. Additionally, this app also allows users to contribute to one of the most exciting and important citizen science projects of our age and is definitely one to consider for those boasting a penchant for Lepidoptera.

Nature Finder

A useful app for those seeking some wild respite, the Wildlife Trust’s Nature Finder application allows users to easily locate WT nature reserves across the length and breadth of the UK. It provides information with regards to the wildlife to be seen at specific sites and highlights upcoming events in your area; while also giving more generic information about myriad species and habitats that exist within the UK. This is the perfect app should you find yourself in need of some time in nature, or for those keen to explore and discover new places, both in your local area or further afield. Like the other apps on this list, Nature Finder is available on both Apple and Android devices.

Collins Bird Guide

The Collins bird guide in its traditional, paper-based form has long provided an indispensable resource for birders, both amateur and experienced alike, to identify the species they see in the field. It is a great book and one which I recommend everyone purchase, though did you know said book has also been transformed into a rather nifty app? The Collins app is easy to use, cheap and provides a whole manner of information with regards to bird identification and distribution, as well as boasting a handy call feature which allows users to ID birds based on sound, as well as sight. It also comes complete with fantastic artwork and in-depth maps and is highly recommended for those with an interest in avian pursuits.

Those mentioned above represent only a handful of the fantastic applications available for nature lovers to use in the field. There are, of course, many more out there and, should time allow, I will cover these in a later blog post. For now, however, why not try something new today and download one of these for yourself?

James Common, Communications Officer