It’s spring time!

Okay, maybe not today with the cold front that just crawled through and snow and ice in the forecast, but the calendar say it’s spring. And whether you have kids at home who need something to do, or you just need some time away from Zoom, there are some great apps that can help you explore your backyard!

iNaturalist – This is one of my favorite apps. I use it when I’m hiking and find cool things, but I’ve also started using it at home. The website and app are a partnership between the California Academy of Science and National Geographic. It does use location data, but it will show you things that have been spotted in and around your location. I recently used it to learn that the enormous squirrels in Omaha are not weird mutant red squirrels, but in fact fox squirrels, the largest species of squirrel in North America.  This app is available for both iOS and Android.

Seek by iNaturalist – If you’re looking for a more kid-friendly version of iNaturalist, Seek has some of the same features of iNaturalist but it doesn’t require registration. This app is available for both iOS and Android.

Picture This – Plant Identification – This app allows you to snap photos and walk you through a series of questions to identify what that funky flower that keeps coming up in your yard every year is. Thanks to this app I recently learned that the pretty little white flowers that come up in my yard every year are not native wild flowers like we thought, but bulbs native to Asia that can be naturalized here in Nebraska. This app is available for both iOS and Android.

The Audubon Bird Guide – When I was 12 I asked for the Audobon Bird Guide for my birthday. It was a thick book then, with wonderful photos of all of the birds of North America, where they lived, and how to identify them. Now that thick book lives in this app. This app helps you identify birds, share sightings with other folks, and keeps a list of all of the birds you’ve seen. This app is available for both iOS and Android.

Audubon also gets an honorable mention for their kid’s program. It’s not an app, but it’s a great list of lessons and activities about birds.

Ebird – Similar to the Audubon app, this app will help you identify birds and keep lists of birds that you’ve identified. This app is bolstered by access to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s extensive database of bird calls. So not only can you identify birds by sight, you can identify them by sound as well. This app is available for both iOS and Android.

Star Walk – We’re in that perfect few weeks where being outside at night only requires a hoodie, but we don’t have to contend with mosquitos yet. It’s the perfect time to go stargazing, but unless you live outside of the Omaha metro area, there probably aren’t a lot of stars to be seen because of light pollution. Star Walk is the perfect app to help resolve that. It uses AR (augmented reality) to help you browse the night sky. This app is available for both iOS and Android.


Pokemon Go – If these apps fail to get you outside exploring your backyard, well, you can always dust off your Pokemon Go account. Niantic, the developers, have recently made changes to the app that make it easier to “catch’em all” from the safety of your backyard. Your squirtle probably misses you.

About Author
Brie Alsbury, Community Learning Specialist
Brie is a Community Learning Specialist with degrees in art from UNO and Iowa State University. When she's not working with computers, she writes and draws comics.