There's a cool, dry breeze coming in from the north. What few deciduous trees there are around here have begun to shed leaves by the bagful. Shadows are getting longer and disappearing sooner.
All of it can only mean one thing, Fall has finally fallen here in central Florida, and I love it. Being a Baltimore native, the change of seasons is a need in me and while Florida's seasonal changes are slight and mild compared to that in the Mid Atlantic states, it can be enough, often just, to assuage that need.
I'm an outdoors type of guy by nature. I feel equally at home in forested or concrete canyons, but this time of year makes me want to be out among the trees. It's not any one thing that draws me, it's the combination of light and shadows, sounds and silences, colors and grays, cool and warmth, and how they are all naturally juxtaposed to create moments, vistas, and emotions that can make your heart ache.
My friend, Carmen, is a New England native and may feel this time of year more keenly than I. A restless soul by nature, she becomes even more prone to wander when the leaves begin to fall. At any given moment you may find her hiking a wooded trail, kayaking a local lake, or just wandering and listening to migratory birds call to each other.
So, when I was stuck for something to write about this week it was only reasonable for her to suggest something outdoorsy.
"What about an app that will identify a bird species by a photo or record of its call, or one that helps you ID a paw print?"
Not a bad idea, right? Something useful while out among the trees.
Unfortunately, while there are lots of apps that can provide those types of services, few are free, and that's what I write about here. Still, I did manage to scare up a few freebies, so let's get to it.
Backyard Scat and Tracks of North America [7.3 MB, all iOS devices iOS 3.1.3 or later, Maker: Natural Guides, LLC]
When wandering local woods you've likely come across animal tracks and wondered what might have left them. Bear? Beaver? Bobcat?
Or maybe you've wondered if what you've just stepped in confirms that old confirmation about where bears do their business. Having a guide with you to help you identify what's on the bottom of your shoe might just come in handy. Enter Backyard Scat and Tracks.
Good info for track ID
As the name implies, this handy iPhone app contains pictures and morphology of tracks and poop piles (scat) of animals you're likely to find in local haunts. The app features only a small handful of animals, but also contains more general info so that you can make an accurate guess about what you've found.
For instance, scat types offer general categorized descriptions so that you'll know that the pile you've just discovered was likely produced by the aforementioned bear or related animal.
And lots of detail on critters you might run across
The animals the app does have are described in detail including range, habitat, signs, and more. Again, the descriptions are general enough so that you'll know if the track in front of you is from a bear rather than a beaver.
There are no ads, the app does not require Internet access to work, and it has a relatively small memory footprint so keeping it on your 8GB iPhone shouldn't be a problem. Backyard Scat and Track of North America is worth a download.
The Mushroom Book [29.6 MB, all iOS devices iOS 4.3 or later, Maker: Dominik Warszewski]
I'm a fan of mushrooms. Love them sautéed on a nice steak or freshly sliced in a savory salad. Like most folks, I buy my 'shrooms from the local market. I would never trust fungi picked from the wild, but I'd be tempted to with The Mushroom Book with me.
Avoid the yellow and red shrooms
This cool little app can help you identify 72 of the more common fungi varieties and, most importantly, which are edible and which are poisonous. Be aware that this free version provides complete descriptions of only 15 fungi. Pictures of the other 57 are provided, but you'll have to pay a buck to get the details on those. A nice thing is that you can tell if a shroom is bad for you by identifying it by picture and checking the color of the icon in the listing. If it's red or yellow you probably should avoid it. Also the names can be a clue to whether the fungus is edible.
Good to know. Note the skull. Do not eat!
For instance, while I might nibble on Summer Truffle, I'd run from something called Vomiting Russula or Death Cap.
No ads and no internet needed to enjoy this app so whether or not you intend to eat what you find, The Mushroom Book can be an ideal take-along.
I've Got 1 [79.2 MB, all iOS devices iOS 6.1 or later, Maker: Charles T. Bargeron]
Invasive plants and animals are a big problem anywhere, but Florida's subtropical climate makes the problem more pressing. It was smart of state and federal services to use the public to help locate and identify species that can and often do harm local ecosystems, and that what they've done with I've Got 1.
I've Got 1 lets you figure out what it is you've seen then report it, complete with location and description, directly to the agency that tracks invasive species.
The app includes a huge list of invasive flora and fauna, complete with photos. Don't worry if you're not completely sure if what you're looking at is a native or invasive species. The report you send gets vetted by experts.
Check, Map, and report all in one app
The point here is to get as many eyes on the problem so that it can be tracked and controlled.
If you plan on visiting Florida any time soon make sure you grab this app and use it. You never know what you might find and you'd be doing us a big favor.
That's a wrap for this week.
Before you go make sure you grab this week's Free App of the Week, Figure. It's a super-cool music making app that's as addictive as it is fun. This week's Free Single is Dear No One from Tori Kelly. Good stuff.