Well I received the software yesterday and have had a chance to look over it and ......it looks great!
The software is manufactured by PDA Solutions in conjunction with Struik, publishers of the well-known Sasol Birds of Southern Africa book. I've had the paper book for a couple of years and have preferred it to any other SA bird book I've seen. I am not a full-on twitcher, but each visit to the KNP and SA has increased my interest in avian life. I do have difficulties identifying birds as the families are often very different from the birds seen in Europe but this software has a cunning tool which helps plug that hole in my knowledge! More about that later...
All the components of the software are held on the SD card it is supplied on and, apart from a few basic files and the bird log, nothing is reserved in the memory of the PDA.
The main menu page is very simple in design and easy to use.
My main frustration in trying to ID a bird from a book is getting to the right page quickly. This software enables you to do that from clicking on Family Search or (more likely to be accessed by me due to above mentioned reasons) Family Pictures.
Tapping on either the description or the picture is the equivalent of getting to the right section of the book and, from there, you can scroll through all the birds in that family. At the foot of each page there are links to maps of where the bird is likely to be found, an example of its call (hallelujah!! That's something a book can't provide, and can make the difference between a positive and indifferent ID), information about it, as per a normal bird book, and an opportunity to log a sighting.
If you're not confident about searching purely by family type, select the Smart-Search option from the main menu. In my opinion, this is where this software comes into its own.
Firstly a map of Southern Africa, covering SA, Namibia, Botswana, a bit of Zambia, Zimbabwe, and most of Mozambique appears on the screen. You simply scroll to the area you are in and touch the screen to select location. This is the first stage in narrowing down the list of potential birds (461 birds are displayed for Pretoriuskop, for example). If you still don't know what you're looking for, tap on "next" and a useful set of bird head profiles appears on the screen:
Click on the beak-type to highlight it then "next" and the list is reduced further. Still no idea? Click "next" again and select the approximate size of the winged thingy. That, again, narrows the selection. At any point, you can choose one of the birds from a list and scroll through the similar birds around it.
There is a logging facility which allows you to add your sightings and save them to your PDA memory as a .txt file should you choose. Data you can log is restricted to Bird name, date, location and comments. Your logs can be grouped by Bird name or location. One thing I am not sure about here is whether when you export your log to your hard-drive it should wipe it off your SD card. My instinct it to export often, just in case a fault should develop with the SD card, but that does not mean I don't want to see my logs on the SD card any more! I'll have to look into that one. Whatever, the fact that the logs are a .txt file also means that you should be able to export them to a laptop or desktop computer and keep a "master" file as a backup.
Another useful feature is the Old/New names section from where I have found out that W@H's Black-bellied Bustard is the new name for my Blackbellied Korhaan, and GP's Plumcoloured Starling is now, in fact, called the Violet-backed Starling. Probably won't help you ID a bird any the better, but all useful information.
You can search for the Afrikaans names of birds, but all the descriptions etc are in English. Not a problem for me, but perhaps for those more comfortable with Afrikaans as a main language. Also, I must admit that I sometimes find it useful in a bird book to be able to look at several birds in a book at the same time to compare. For example, starlings would all be grouped together in a book with several on a page. By using the smart-search facility, you will bring them all up but they may not be adjacent to each other in the listings which would necessitate going back to the main menu and searching by family.
Saying that, I reckon that the Smart-Search is a facility which I will not want to be without from now on and carrying a little SD card is so much easier that carting about a weighty bird book (eating into my baggage allowance!) and a notebook for logging sightings! It gets my thumbs up all round - just can't wait to test it in the field (*ahem* sorry, BUSH!) now.
The main downside is the cost: you could probably buy 4 books for the cost of this software and this will, certainly, deter some people from buying it. No specialised PDA software is cheap, however, and this package must have taken a huge amount of cost and effort to develop. I like it!
Apologies for the extreme length of this post, but hopefully someone will find it useful! The pics are rubbish as they were taken with my camcorder at close range - the larger files should show more clearly! If anyone wants to see any more screenshots, please PM me.