Is There a Nature App for That?

6 November 2013 · 4 comments

in Digital & ICT Outdoors, Literacy Outdoors, Science Outdoors, Technologies

Last May I bought myself a mini iPad. I made a deal with myself that I was to actively make an effort to use it properly and with that, I knew I needed to find out more about nature reference apps. I use the term broadly to include useful ones which enable me to access greenspaces too.

Below is a list of ones which I’m finding that I’m using. It is not exhaustive and I hope that over the coming months and years I’ll be able to update this post with good finds. I think the search facility on the App Store is poor. Thus it is likely that I am missing some gems – in which case let me know. I have some reference apps which I have not put up, simply because I’m not managing to find them easy enough to use. Also I have focused on apps for Apple products. Please do add recommendations if you use an Android smartphone or tablet.

What makes a good reference app? Here’s some features I like:

  • Decent graphics
  • Designed for the iPad as well as an iPhone. I don’t like squinting at an iPhone.
  • Good value – what can the app offer that a decent reference book cannot?
  • Simple and easy to use. I want to be able to find the information I need quickly. I want children to be able to use the app too.

Generally, I am interested in “big apps.” By this I mean ones which have lots of different species or information. I am happy to pay a lot for a good app, given how much a decent reference book can cost. Lite versions can be useful for a taster or simply to avoid overwhelming a child.

In no particular order, here are the ones I’m using with a little bit of added detail. I do have other apps, but I’m not sufficiently impressed as to give them a mention.

1) Birds of Britain and Ireland

This app is the gold standard. It is clean, simple and has information about resident birds including  songs, calls and plumage. The frustration is that other apps do not measure up to this one. It is expensive but I am finding that this is my best used and favourite one of all.

British Birds

2) Naturetale

If you work with children and your knowledge about nature is limited then this app is a godsend. It has common flowers and berries which can be found within the UK. Each plant comes with a photo and then lots of information about its uses, origins of the name, how animals use it, cultural information, literacy associations, etc. It is written in a friendly style. If you can’t work out what plant you are looking at, you can take a photo and email it to the website where someone will respond and give you their opinion. The one downside is that it is only available for iPhones.

Nature Tale

3) Tree ID and  Winter TreeID

The graphics on these apps are stunning. They cover the basic native trees to the UK and a few non-native ones and this is my main grumble. I’d like more species on the one app. The Winter Tree ID has the buds as the key starting point. In their favour, both apps have a fun quick quiz which is good for refreshing one’s knowledge and tree recognition skills.

Tree ID

4) Scotland’s Nature

This app is free and created by Scottish Natural Heritage. It is a collection of just 12 quintessential landscapes and 13 animals which can be found in Scotland. However the photos are stunning. It is great for any Scottish project and a lovely celebration of 2013 – Year of Natural Scotland.

SNH app

5) Tides Near Me

This is exactly what this app provides. You pick your location and with one click you get the current tide times. There is a lite version of this app but I went for the paid version so that I can check out tides in the UK and all over the world.

Tide Tables

6) Moon Calendar

This is another app which does what it says on the packet. You get the moon calendar  – a month-by-month guide.

Moon Calendar

7) Pocket Universe – Virtual Astronomy

This app is one of the oldest astronomy apps available and the first to use augmented reality. Once the app knows your location, you can point your iPad or iPhone and the sky and the constellations will be layered over what you see, so that you can work out which is which.

Astonomy app 2



The arrival of the iPad has also impacted on my teaching and professional practice. Again, I’ve also blogged lots about different iPad apps. All these can be picked up from the Digital and ICT page on this website.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Coombemill November 9, 2013 at 21:51

I really ought to look for a tides app. That would be really handy here for hitting the beach at the right time!


Erin - The Usual Mayhem November 12, 2013 at 17:17

It’s great nature apps like this that almost make me sorry I don’t own an iPhone! Sharing, because I’m sure a bunch of my followers do. 🙂 Thanks for linking up at the Outdoor Play Party – hope to see you again next time!


Magic and Mayhem November 22, 2013 at 12:02

Those look so neat! If you happen upon US versions of the plant ones, I’d love to know them. I have a round-up of foraging apps for the US that we use with our kids a lot here: I love your site!


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