Nature Apps

By Mack Swenson on June 17, 2022 in Blog

While a good field guide or trail map just can't be substituted, you can keep a surprising amount of nature knowledge right in your pocket in the form of an app. We asked staff members which nature-related apps are their personal favorites.

Birding Apps

Merlin Bird ID

Merlin Bird ID App

“My current favorite is Merlin Bird ID. The Sound ID option lets me turn on the microphone and it will tell me what birds are nearby. It saves the recordings and provides vocal samples, so I can continue to learn the calls. When out visiting an INHF property in May, I learned the call of American Redstart and Great Crested Flycatcher!”

- Lisa Hein, Senior Director for Conservation Programs

“Merlin is handy because of its ability to record audio to try and identify birds, as often you hear them before seeing them. It also can identify multiple bird sounds and it gives a variety of examples which encompass multiple songs which some birds sing. Really great for new birders who are trying to get their start in birding!

- Ross Baxter, Land Projects Director

iBird Pro

iBird Pro App

"My favorite is iBird Pro. This one costs money, but it’s worth it. Basically a digital field guide, It provides great information about a bird’s ecology – everything from the color of their eggs to multiple recordings of their calls & songs. Other good bird apps include eBird, used to document what you see in the field and to locate nearby birding hotspots.”

- Erica Place, Communications Specialist

Trails Apps



“I use AllTrails quite a bit to find trails, skill level/kid friendly, trail length and there’s also user comments and photos.”

- Erin Van Waus, Conservation Easement Director

“My favorite app is AllTrails! I use AllTrails to find hiking trails near me when I travel around Iowa and other states. The reviews are a great way to hear from locals and other outdoor enthusiasts what trails fit what I want to experience. The pro version is even better because you can download maps for offline navigation!”

- Emily Martin, Conservation Programs Coordinator

OnX Maps

OnX Maps App

“It shows me all of the public lands in the state that I can enjoy.”

- Kody Wohlers, Loess Hills Land Stewardship Director



Seek App

“I really like to use the Seek App, associated with iNaturalist. With Seek, all you have to do is open the app and take a photo for it to start IDing the species you are trying to ID. It’s not always super accurate, but it’s great when you are in a pinch and/or want to take a photo to ID later. The great thing with Seek is that it can connect directly to your iNaturalist account and you can upload photos to a specific project to be ID’d by other naturalist peers. PLUS you’re contributing to data that can be used by scientist to track certain species and locations around the world.”

- Melanie Schmidt, Volunteer Coordinator

“I like that it can provide an awesome data source and engage the general public in plant and wildlife observations. ”

- Ryan Schmidt, Central Iowa Land Stewardship Director

“As far as apps go, I basically only use Seek by iNaturalist. I definitely love Seek, but I always try and double check any id with a dichotomous key if I’m able. Many observations are right, but nothing is ever completely foolproof!”

- Bill Kohler, Eastern Iowa Land Stewardship Director