How I use apps like Google Lens to get closer to nature

I have to look for that in my book, Dada would say. “It’s” a plant he encountered. The book was The tree and shrub specialist by Dr. DG Hessayon.

He loved knowing the names of things and recently so did I. It’s been a journey. Stage 1 was the ceasefire with the dandelions. I say ceasefire but the dandelions always win. I would shoot them and the dandelion would say, “Ok, ok, I give up. You win.” And you would say, “Really?” and the dandelion would say, “HAHAH NO! I left a root there for two weeks.” But my whole view of weeds changed. they are essential.

But other than knowing that dandelions were good for early bees, I didn’t really know the names of plants that I no longer liked.

In the meantime, the Search The Internet With A Picture technology has improved considerably, and I have heard of an application. ‘Imagine this’. It cost a few bobs but it was a cheap gift in the end. He changed EVERYTHING. If you walk with me now it might be frustrating because I stop and take a picture of the plant, the app creates a whirring shape and tells me yes it’s a dock leaf.

But over time my repertoire expanded a bit to camas, cleavers, mercury, yarrow, scab – it looks like you’d see it on a metalworker’s sleeveless T-shirt – hemlock, sea anemone wood, cuckoo flowers, buttebur, vetch. Just big names that would previously have been family names in Lord of the Rings.

Usually it takes about four times for the name to stick. But now I’m THAT GUY who can say “oh that’s speedwell” with confidence. Maybe you’ll avoid me.

Every once in a while, the app will launch an ominous one. Invasive. Japanese knotweed, rhododendron, Himalayan balsam – it’s like having the second line on the antigen now.

Google Lens also works. I use it for insects, especially butterflies. If the hours stand still. Butterflies are a good sign that a habitat is still okay. Previously, it was orange ‘one stuck in the curtains’. But now they are a little turtle shell. I found a peacock butterfly and a speckled wood and was delighted with myself. I’m not camped out in the Gobi watching rare leopards prey on it, but my bit of nature is just as valid.

And more recently, another breakthrough. birdsong. I know there are other ways to identify them. Possibly a thin leather-bound volume by retired Major Cromwell Fitzchurchill On Observations Taken Between Pheasant Shoots In Homelandshire and Its Environs. But my lazy 21st century brain still needed an app to get me going. I downloaded Birdnet for free “from the K. Lisa Yang Center for Conservation Bioacoustics at Cornell Lab and Chemnitz University of Technology”. You hold it in front of the planet…um…and it records the birdsong it hears and tells you what they are. The first time there were too many people around who didn’t want to close their holes, so the app correctly parsed it as Homo Sapiens, but the next ones were perfect. A house sparrow somewhere outside the eaves, Passer Domesticus to his friends. A goldfinch on the way to school – Carduelis Carduelis, So good they named him twice. For the first time, I heard a robin before seeing one.

We must value the monotonous nature that surrounds us. It’s not a Royal Rumble between a crocodile, a wildebeest and a lion in the Serengeti. It’s just a liverwort. But it’s just as important. He has a place. Everything is natural. And when we know his name, he’ll be more real to us and we’ll be less likely to make pure shit out of him.

And when I know a little more, in honor of Dada, then I’ll go buy the book.

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