The app is a field guide to the plants and animals of the bay watershed, complete with a location service that tells you which species are found where you're standing. The guide was announced Tuesday by the Chesapeake Bay Trust, the grant-making nonprofit funded primarily by Maryland's special bay license plates and an income tax checkoff.
Besides photos, the guide also has recordings of bird calls, maps showing the range of various species, and diagrams showing characteristics that can be used to identify species. The free guide is currently available for iPhones and other Apple devices through Apple's online app store, and the trust hopes to expand offerings to other smartphones and devices, said Allen Hance, the trust's executive director.
Birdwatchers and others interested in wildlife in the region are expected to download the app, he said.
"I'm a guy who has a bunch of tattered old field guides in my truck and I love them, but I'm going to use this. I really am, because it's so handy," Hance said.
The listing for the Baltimore Checkerspot butterfly, for example, shows a photo of black butterfly with orange and white spots, and the description says it ranges in size between 1 5/8 inches to 2 1/2 inches and its habitat is wet meadows in Northeast woodlands; sphagnum bogs in Lake States and hillsides and drier ridges in the Ozarks. The Sika deer, meanwhile, can be distinguished from the white-tailed deer, which is somewhat larger and not spotted as an adult.
And the Acadian Flycatcher has a call that sounds like a dog chewing on a squeaky toy.
Hance said that while the trust is known for giving out more than 400 grants a year totaling more than $4 million, the app will help the organization fulfill its mission of encouraging bay stewardship by educating the public about wildlife in the watershed.
Tom McGuire, who developed the program for the trust at eNature.com, said the app is the first mobile guide it has developed.
"Since our primary purpose for doing these sorts of guides is to help folks get in touch with nature (and then get interested in conserving it) we're hoping for big numbers," McGuire said, adding he was encouraged by the popularity of the iPhone and other Apple devices, which increases the pool of potential downloaders.