Artificial Intelligence

Not sure if this is worthy of a new thread but I was reading an article on the Leicestershire site about AI aids to identifying nature. It seems, on the face of it, to be a good overview. See
Perhaps people who have used these apps could give some feedback?
I’ve never used Merlin - I only recently got a phone that could cope with it. I think I am pretty good on visual ID of birds but my hearing is poor and my memory for sounds and sound recognition aren’t great. So I might experiment with the Merlin sound facility. The one drawback is that I won’t be able to evaluate the ‘answers’ that Merlin comes up with.


SEEK. I tried this app after Lavateraguy mentioned in a Forum the BSBI article

I have been generally impressed for the same reasons as Leicestershire. Also, it is the only app reviewed that does not require internet access to operate. It always seems to know where I am and offers plants that are expected in that location.

The BSBI article reviews other plant apps too.

I have used the Merlin sound id quite often, and found it really useful and very accurate, especially if you have 4G. When you don’t have 4G you can get some quite exotic suggestions mixed in with more expected birds. It has enabled me to spot birds, because I knew that they were present, and learn the songs of a few more birds. Saw my first local Blackcap when it came up in Merlin, and has helped in that way on numerous other occasions.

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Thanks, Gulvain. I must try it!

I haven’t used Merlin but I do regularly use BirdNET for bird song and calls. See - it was developed by Cornell University in the US but doesn’t seem to have a US bias. I think I read somewhere that it has been trained on the worldwide Xeno-Canto database of birdsong recordings. I find it really useful to confirm a hunch about what something might be; recently I used it to confirm that the bird I was hearing was a Water Rail, for example (I never saw it!). Like all AI it’s not perfect (it doesn’t cope well with lots of background noise, or mixed songs/calls, e.g. when you are trying to pick out one bird from a load of cooing woodpigeons) but if you get a good clear recording it’s very often right. I’d be interested to know what Merlin is like. I might try it too!

I am home testing Picture Mushroom…It is brilliant Picture Mushroom: AI mushroom expert in your pocket - Picture Mushroom App
I will do some dedicated Observations in the next few days

And, do not underrate PlantNet. I did two dificult tests for it today

I’ve started testing Merlin. I’ll report back later. One of the challenges is that I live under the flightpath to Gatwick - and the birds get drowned out a lot of the time. I need the Eyjafjallajökull volcano to errupt again! (No idea how you pronounce it but you don’t often come across a word with three js in it!)

It’s the wrong time to impress the guys in the pub though

How do they pronounce it in Orkney!?

I have invented a tag that we can use when an App is used in any context during an Observation
AIAPP all caps
It is in this one, so it now clickable (I have REMOVED the plantnet tag)

OK - AIAPP makes sense. If I ever get mine working, I’ll use it.
Agree that a fungal one would be helpful.
I may be the only one…

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Could perhaps try the app on some of the unidentified ispot fungi. Have been saying this for years to see if apps come up with anything the humans can’t. Trouble is that with the vast majority (or possibly all) it is likely the app will give nonsense and a human has to tell that.

I tried a few - it is pretty hopeless (nonsense) because users still don’t understand the single basic requirement!
But why not offer iSpot to the Fungi-App Developers, it will keep them at bay and busy for years!
Plants here do not need AI, Fungi do!

I thought I’d try the Merlin ID app (recognising bird sounds) today. Not sure quite what to make of it. It was registering several species of bird that I couldn’t hear at all, but my hearing is impaired. I could hear a mistle thrush defending its territory and Merlin got that right. But I could also hear a buzzard making that high-pitched begging call that the juveniles do - and Merlin said that it could hear a song thrush! I’m almost certain that it got that one wrong as there was no mention of buzzard by Merlin and I couldn’t hear a hint of a song thrush. (It’s confusing having a raptor name for the app.)

Merlin is by no means perfect, and some birds which you hear it does not pick up, and other times the shortest barely hearable song is picked up in a flash. Like every other tool it has to be used appropriately, and it takes a while to get used to its foibles. I don’t bother to use it on windy days or near running water. Some songs seem to take much longer than others to recognise. As I said before I have found it very useful.

@dejayM @JoC @miked I tested PlantNet for three ZA observations from my PC - thanks to dejay’s advice.
First was Apium prostratum a Naturalized exotic with just my two observations on iSpot

Possible match Apium prostratum Labill. ex Vent.

Prostrate marshwort

Then tried a RARE Cape Peninsula endemic which was incorrectly identified as Roella ciliata

Fair enough if this was the only Roella species in their database.
Roella ciliata L.

My third test was a well known Crassula

Correct match Pl@ntNet
You may be observing this plant : Crassula coccinea L… In order to improve our data, we are missing the following elements: - Flower pictures, - Fruit images, - Leaf images. Feel free to make several observations of this plant and contribute them.
Crassula coccinea L.
Interesting - they had several observations already but like iNat nothing I could see to justify their conclusion.
Hope this helps.
PS Maybe i should add a link to Roella ciliata which is really very different - but at least the same genus


Yes I’ve used Merlín too - mainly for birding in other countries. However, I find both the photo and sound ID to be really accurate. The only problem with the sound ID is getting a recording of just the subject you want to ID as there are often other sounds present - obviously that’s no fault of Merlin though.

And you should try SEEK here