Friday, 11 December 2009

Ring-necked Parakeets (in Britain)

Researchers at Imperial College are starting a study into Ring-necked Parakeets in Britain. They are first compiling a list of roosts and would especially like to hear from you if you know of any roosts, and they are also looking for volunteers to take part in a Parakeet count on 3rd January. If you can't make that date, maybe you'd like to be involved in a count later in the year. I've pasted the details of Project Parakeet below, and you'll find a contact email address at the end.

Parakeet Population Census : Call for volunteers

We are a research group at the Biology Department of Imperial College London. We have recently begun a four year study into the effects of the ring-necked parakeet on native bird species in the UK. As part of this work it is essential for us to have accurate estimates of the current population size of the ring-necked parakeet in the UK, and its growth rate. The last census was carried out in 2001/2, and current estimates of population size are based on this data and the growth rates that they estimated at the time. This gives a current estimate of 20,000-50,000 individuals.

In order to estimate the current population size we intend to co-ordinate a large scale roost count. The first count will take place on Sunday 3rd January 2010, and will be simultaneous across as many known roosts as possible, using the same methods at all sites. If the count is successful we intend to repeat the count every three months to enable us to estimate the population growth rate and any changes in roost usage. We are now seeking volunteers who would be willing to assist with two elements of this project:

1) Compiling a list of all known roost sites

2) Assisting with the first roost count on Sunday 3rd January 2010.

Counts will begin two hours before sunset (14:04 on Jan 3rd) and will continue for half an hour after sunset (16:34) to allow for any individuals arriving in the residual light of dusk. The intention is to have several people counting at each site in order to control for individual error and allow us to cover all entry routes into the roost. No experience is necessary to assist with the count as we will provide a full, clear protocol to follow, along with data collection sheets. The data that we collect during these counts will be prepared for publication in relevant journals and will be widely publicised.

If you know of any roost locations or are interested in assisting with the count on Jan 3rd (or for any future counts), please contact us at:

Friday, 4 December 2009

Chirp! is one year old!

Exactly one year ago Chirp! was released into the AppStore! It's been a very exciting year - things move at breakneck speed in the iPhone app world and for much of the year things have rushed past in a blur. Chirp! became Chirp! Europe, Chirp! USA was released, various Lite versions have come and gone, new features have been added, and many extra birds have been added. But Chirp! still isn't nearly at the place I want it to be - so many features I still want to add, so many birds that can be added. So many other countries that could be covered!

Highlights of the year include:
* Reaching #1 in the Education section in Switzerland shortly after launch, and staying there for ages. The Swiss were our first big fans, giving us our first taste of success.
* Discovering that my favourite radio presenter, Simon Mayo, is a fan. I listen to his show every afternoon so it was so exciting when he asked for the Bittern to be added. (Was that Chirp! I heard when he played a Magpie sound to a guest last week?)
* Good sales throughout the summer in Europe and the US, staying in the top 20 in most of the countries that Chirp! covers.
* Getting into the top 100 of all apps in the Netherlands, and the top 50 of all apps in Switzerland.
* The most recent highlight, is seeing Chirp! Europe featured on the Apple website in Britain, France and Germany.
* And finally, throughout the year, meeting so any nice people - through email, Twitter and Facebook - thank you all for the encouragment, the excellent suggestions and general feedback. It really is due to you all that we have worked so hard at improving Chirp!

What a great year for a simple bird song app!

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Latest news

It's been very quiet here on the blog recently, as well as on Twitter and Facebook. This is because we have been working flat out on our ambitious new project - a bird guide for Britain. For a long time I wasn't sure if this bird guide would ever become a reality, but I realised today that it won't be much longer before it will be ready for release! There are already a few bird guides available for the UK, but most are rather small and none make use of the iPhone's features, so we hope that ours will be a success.

I'll be glad when it is released and we can get back to working full-time on Chirp! There are so many new features we want to add! Now that the number of birds in each app has increased so much, we really need to add a search feature, and we've also been asked for a way of marking favourites. We also have a exciting new feature halfway done, but it isn't quite right yet - I am really looking forward to adding this feature as I think it will be great for the dark winter days when birds are silent..... ;).

New updates are due out for Chirp any time now - they are with Apple and we are just waiting for them to be released. The Chirp! USA update is a Thanksgiving special, so I hope it is released in time!

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Simon Mayo and the Bittern

As I have mentioned before I am a huge fan of Simon Mayo, the BBC radio presenter, and am thrilled that he is a fan of Chirp! So when he requested the Bittern as an addition, I rushed to the sound files (and the translators) to add it straight away. It is a great sound and a fascinating bird, but what I hadn't taken into account is that because the Bittern's call is so low in frequency, it is very hard to hear it through the small speakers of the iPhone or iPod. The deep booming call, that can carry for half a mile or more in the wild, sounds great on the computer but when I added it into Chirp and tried it out on the iPod it was completely inaudible, and if I increased the volume it simply distorted. Ho hum. After much experimentation I think I have an acceptable sound and it is in the latest update of Chirp! Europe. But you may just need to turn the volume up.....

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Current state of play

Rather alarmingly, the summer is almost over and I'm reviewing how much we've achieved. Updates have been very slow over the past couple of months - Apple are routinely taking longer than they used to, so the days of the weekly updates are over, and on top of that we had all the problems with the Wikipedia link.

But we have managed to get some new features and new birds in. I'm pleased to say that the Corncrake has now been added to the European version - what a great sound. The US version now includes 110 birds, and the next update will add a new feature - sorting by song style. This groups the sounds into categories such as Hoots and Coos, High Pitched, or Long and tuneful. This will be coming to the European version soon.

Don't forget to let us know what you think of the new features and continue to ask for new birds!

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Wiki woes

It's been a long time since my last post, and even longer since the last updates to Chirp!. I submitted updates to both versions of Chirp at the beginning of July, as soon as the previous updates were accepted, but quickly ran into problems with both apps because of Apple's new ratings system and Wikipedia access.

About a week after submission of each update, I received an email from Apple's reviewer saying that the update was rejected due to being incorrectly rated. The apps allow "unfiltered access to, where content with mature or suggestive themes can be accessed". Unfortunately no further advice or guidance has been given from Apple, and my requests for clarification have not been answered.

The Wiki button in each app links to a specific wiki page about a bird. It is theoretically possible that from this starting point one could access mature and suggestive themes, but then it is also theoretically possible that much worse content could be accessed. So what rating would Apple like me to submit the apps? I don't know and they won't say.

I added a setting which would allow parents to hide the Wiki button, but Apple can't tell me if this will help.
I have just resubmitted the updates at a 9+ rating, with a button to hide the Wiki button, so I hope this will be enough to satisfy the reviewer. Let's hope that both updates will be out in another week.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Update news

I've had a couple of queries about the lack of updates recently, so I'd just like to reassure everyone that more updates are on the way. Either due to a change of policy or due to the distractions of the new iPhone launch, Apple's approval time for updates has increased from 4-7 days to around 14 days. Updates to both the USA version and the European version have been with them for over a week so I hope they will be in the store sometime next week. If the interval between updates has to be longer, I hope to compensate by adding more birds each time.

The next European update includes:
• a new Dutch translation
* bird names available in Finnish
* new birds: Kingfisher, Curlew, Lapwing and Herring Gull

The next USA update includes:
• changes to the quiz
• new birds: Eastern Wood-Pewee, Western Wood-Pewee, Eastern Meadowlark, Western Meadowlark, Yellow Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler

More birds are waiting to be added so I hope the updates will go through soon!

Monday, 15 June 2009

Age range

I've had a couple of nice emails recently which give an idea of the age range of Chirp! users. First was a link to a family video showing 23 month old George and his amazing skills at bird recognition - apparently he has liked birds since he was old enough to point :). You can see the video and read George's dad's blog here:

As for grown-up users, I know there are several that are older-than- the-average-iPhone-user. It's interesting how an interest in technology isn't so much linked to age, but to attitude. When people ask me what I do, I often have to explain what an iPhone is - almost always to anyone over 50 but even to a 20-year old on one occasion. Yet today I received an email from an 80 year old Chirp user :). Nice.

Saturday, 30 May 2009


Summer seems to have arrived - the swifts are screaming through the air and we've eaten our first home-grown strawberry. The collared doves that live outside our bedroom window are still trying to nest on a thin cable (cute but daft), the pond is full of newts and the insect life is getting going.

Meanwhile, back at the computer, updates to Chirp! Europe and USA are continuing to be released. Apple sneaked the last one out without telling me, so this time I'm checking the status of the updates every few hours in case they do the same thing again. The USA update is going to be a nice one - it adds five species of Oriole to the app and they are such beautiful birds. I have some great birds ready for Europe too as soon as the translations are done.

And finally:
"Great app" - Simon Mayo
What's that? Yes, it's true, Simon Mayo, who I consider to be the best BBC radio presenter, tweeted on Twitter that he thinks Chirp is a great app :D.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Update news

I've been busy for the past few weeks working on our next apps (more on this later!), as well as the usual updates for Chirp! and Chirp! USA. The updates should be out any day now -  they have been with Apple for a week already so it shouldn't take much longer. The last update to Chirp! Europe added the wonderful Golden Oriole and Hoopoe, both birds of southern Europe, so this time, to help balance things out, we are adding the Barn Owl and Little Owl, both relatively common in the UK, France and Germany. I would really like to add some more birds for Scandinavian countries but I need suggestions!

The update to Chirp! USA adds a link to the Macauley Lab of Ornithology "All About Birds" website, probably the best source for information on US birds - identification, life history, distribution maps and 'cool facts'. I've wanted to add this link for some time and I'm really pleased to have it in the app at  last - now, when you hear a bird and find out what it is, you can access all this information about the bird without leaving the app (as long as you have an internet connection).

And finally, Chirp! is now on Facebook! I hope the Facebook page will become a convenient way of keeping in touch, so please become a fan! If you are not on Facebook, don't forget you can follow us on Twitter, post below, or simply email :).

Friday, 24 April 2009

New feature: Change language!

This week's update introduces a nice new feature, one I've often been asked for, especially by Dutch speakers. I've added a setting so that the language of the bird names can be different from the main language of the iPhone/iPod, so that for example, the device can be set to English, but the bird names, song descriptions and wiki link can be in Dutch.

To change the language of the bird names, go to the Settings of the iPhone/iPod and scroll down until you see the settings for Chirp! There you can choose from the range of languages available - German, Dutch, French, Norwegian, Swedish, and also partial translations into Danish and Irish Gaelic.

Another new feature, but rather more trivial, is that on the Main Menu, shake the device to hear a random bird song!

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Easter treats

Happy Easter! Frohe Ostern! I hope you all have good weather and can enjoy the spring season!

More new birds are on the way for Chirp! Europe as we add some birds that have been among the most requested - the Skylark, Buzzard and Chiffchaff. These will be followed next week by the summer-visiting trio of Swallow, Swift and House Martin.

As well as new birds, new features are being added this week and next. The first of these, available now, is a link to Wikipedia so that when you have identified a bird, you can go to the Wiki to check its distribution, size etc and find out more general information about it (as long as you have an internet connection). 

More treats next week - details to follow!

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Update on the update (USA)

"Where's the update?", you may be saying. I'm saying it too. There's a black hole at Apple headquarters and I think Chirp! USA fell into it. I'm going to resubmit it this evening and with luck it will appear at the end of this week.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Our new banner

Our new banner has a bit of a Swiss look about it - we want to say thank you to the Swiss who are consistently our best customers. Vielen Danke! Merci beaucoup!

Monday, 9 March 2009

New icon, more birds

The Chirp! USA update is in with Apple and should be available by the end of the week! Ten new birds have been added including Pileated Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Red-breasted Woodpecker, Evening Grosbeak and the gorgeous Rose-breasted Grosbeak. There seems to have been some confusion between the US version of Chirp! and the European version, so the US icon has been changed.

Friday, 27 February 2009

NEW! Chirp! USA

It's been a busy day! At long last, after months of work, Chirp! USA arrived in the AppStore, and the new version of Chirp! Europe was also released.

So now we need to plan for adding more birds to each app. This is not a straightforward job in Europe, as Chirp! is now in 6 languages, thanks to Erik Myklebust, who provided a full translation into Norwegian. It is only fair to the translators to have the bird song descriptions translated in batches, so decisions need to be made in advance as to which birds will be included each week. We have chosen birds for the next few weeks from the feedback we've been having, so please keep sending suggestions!

For the USA, it is much simpler, so we intend to add birds as quickly as we can, choosing from feedback emails whenever possible. Suggestions so far for next week include the Pileated Woodpecker, one of the Grosbeaks (Red-breasted Grosbeak image above by Flickr's rjones0856) and the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Please send more suggestions!

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Chirp! v2 coming soon!

At last! Version 2 of Chirp! should be available by the end of next week, depending on how long Apple take to check it. The most obvious new feature is a map that allows you to compare the commonest birds in the different countries covered by the app, from Sweden down to Switzerland, and from Ireland in the west, across to Germany. 

And even more exciting is that the behind-the-scenes changes will allow us to start including more birds! Already there may be birds that you did not see previously - the 'crunching marbles' sound of the Black Redstart (shown above) and the 'piece of cheeeese' of the Yellowhammer were not previously available if the app was running in Britain. As well as this we are intending to add one bird each week as we move into spring. The birds will be chosen from your feedback so let us know what you would like us to include - use the email button on Chirp!'s Info screen, post a comment below, click the link from the iSpiny website, send by pigeon post... just let us know!

Saturday, 7 February 2009


Thanks to the excellent Bo Bernvill, Chirp! will soon be fully translated into Swedish! Thanks Bo, and thanks also to Mícheál Ó Caoinleain for introducing us.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Great Indie Bake Off Results

The Great Indie Bake Off 2008 Results are in! We didn't win, but our cake came second, got a special mention and was declared the "true champion" by organizer Gavin Bowman of Antair Games :D. The winners, Appy Entertainment, had outsourced their cake to the local bakers and had requested to be in a category of their own. So although they were the overall winners, we share their glory! (Drat, should have reminded more friends to vote ;)). Thanks again to Gavin at Antair, 148Apps and everyone else involved for a fun contest.

To celebrate this occasion, we are giving away promotional codes for free copies of Chirp! Remember that they are only redeemable in the US store, and it's an app about European birds ;). Email if you'd like a code.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Update, update

Last week's update added an info screen and an email link to Chirp!, as well as updating some of the bird data. I'm trying to keep updates to a minimum while we prepare our major update to version 2.0, but that is still a while away, so next up is another small upgrade to add Irish Gaelic names and comments! Huge thanks to Mícheál Ó Caoinleain for the hard work he put in on this. 

Here's a taste of the new translation. This is about the Starling:
Tá ceol na Druide fíor-ilchineálach agus cuimsíonn sé aithrisí ar an uile shaghas fuaime, mar shampla; ceiliúr éan eile is aláraim ghluaisteáin. Éist an clic-clic sciobtha a dhéanann sí lena gob.

It's a shame that it can't be a full translation of the whole interface but it looks as though the limitations of the iPhone prevent that at the moment. I hope someone will let me know if there is a way around this.

In other news, it seems to be official that we have sold Chirp! to every Swiss iPod-owning bird lover! Sales there have dropped sharply and we've lost our #1 spot in Education. Oh well, we knew it was inevitable, and at least we are still in the Education Top 20 in several countries.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Time for cake :)

We've been busy over the past few days making our entry for the Great Indie Bake Off, held by Antair Games. Memories of the last time we made anything in icing had faded, and we thought "That'll be fun!". Heh, we'd forgotten how difficult it is to mould fondant into shapes before it dries/crumbles/gets too soft/falls off/snaps etc. The birds are cute though - made and painted by Miranda. :). 

Thursday, 1 January 2009

2009 begins well

What a nice way to start the New Year - Chirp! is #1 app in the Education category in Switzerland!