Technology and birding have always gone hand in hand and birders have always been eager to incorporate new technologies into their hobby.
The star performer the other day on our trip so see the Northern Hawk Owl, was “Nigella”, our new GPS system I bought myself for Christmas (after Christmas, you know when you go out and get what you REALLY want).
All I had to do was log into E-bird or look at the E-bird rare bird gadget on Google for New York, clicked on map and boom I could see that the nearest intersection for the Hawk Owl was Clark and Mannix Road in Peru. I typed said intersection into Nigella and she then proceeded to calculate us a route, estimated time of arrival.
Nigella if you haven’t guessed by now is a GPS unit, a Garmin Nuvi 260 which we bought on sale from Circuit City for about $150 (normally retails for around $200). This particular unit has everything the active birder needs, good maps, good colors, accurate directions and spoken street names, which we found a far more attractive feature, especially when visiting unfamiliar areas.
The true test of it came when on the return trip home, we had decided to celebrate our successful trip we were going to order take out from the Outback in Albany (and appease our kids when we got home). Well I called the one in Albany and got no answer, I called several times but still didnt’ get any answer. Well Nigella came to the rescue. She found us another Outback on the way in Clifton Park (I knew it was there), but it also had the phone number! Which allowed us to still call the order in ahead. Pretty neat.
Like all GPS units its not 100% perfect. It may have an address on the wrong side of the street, it also doesn’ t tell you where in a shopping center a store is located and it can get confused in areas where a lot of roads cross at once (over passes). But again, most units have the same trouble. Also note not all the places it lists as having gas or food aren’t always there anymore, so just another FYI.
So if you are an active birder, who does a lot of traveling after rare birds or visiting new areas, a GPS system I think is a must. With the features in E-bird it is now easier than ever to track birds down, and with the way technology advances it won’t be long until your GPS unit will be connected to e-bird allowing up to down load up to the second locations of birds.