Discovering your environment with appealing apps!

By Rebecca Willison.

At this point in social and physical distancing, you’re probably tired of seeing the inside of your house. The mild spring weather means it’s a great time to get outdoors and connect with your property, perhaps with a view you’ve never had before!

Do you know what plants and animals are found on your property or in your neighbourhood? It can be difficult to tell different bird or shrub species apart, but there are some great apps that can help. Once you become familiar with the common species around you, you’ll start to notice the less common ones as well, and once the veil is lifted, it’s like seeing a whole new world right in front of you!

We’ve put together a list of apps that will help you identify the environment around you, as well as some apps that allow you to report what you are seeing, contributing to a growing database of nature observations.

Plants – a fascinating app for identifying plants is PictureThis. It has a great database of both native and ornamental species from all across Canada and beyond. Once you snap a photo and it’s identified, the app provides additional information about the plant.

Birds – The Merlin Bird ID app can help you identify birds with a photo or by answering five simple questions. The app includes ID tips as well as bird calls to help you improve your birdwatching skills. You can also keep track of the birds you’ve seen and report your bird sightings using the eBird app.

Reptiles and Amphibians – Learn to identify frogs, turtles, snakes and more with the Toronto Zoo’s Adopt-A-Pond app. You can join the Adopt-A-Pond program and report your sightings through the app, or you can contribute to an Ontario-wide database by reporting your sightings to the “Herps of Ontario” section on the iNaturalist app.

Bumble Bees – Pollinator species like bumble bees are in trouble, and you can help scientists collect information about bee populations with the Bumble Bee Watch app. The app will help you identify what bee species you are looking at using a Smart Search tool and allow you to submit your sightings to a growing North American database.

Whatever app you use to identify your species, you can keep track of your sightings and build a list of everything you’ve seen on the iNaturalist app. Can you find and identify 10 species on your property? 50? 100? Create a nature list for your property and add to it every time you discover something new!