The scientific way to get fit

23rd March 2013

I came across an app from the University of Exeter in an issue of BBC Wildlife –, this does exactly what it says on the tin. So whenever  I’m out and about and spot a magpie I press a big green button and it records the position via GPS.

The University are using this data to determine how wild birds use rural and urban habitats and how people value their presence.

I get most of my magpies when I’m running, this isn’t because I cover thousands of miles but more the fact that in my need for a taste of the country I veer towards London’s many parks which make for good corvid habitat.

Running is a great way to survey, you cover a lot of ground over a short period of time and sometimes to a set route.

I recorded eight magpies on today’s 4.5 mile loop of Hyde Park, I’m sure many of them are individuals I’ve previously recorded as there appear to be regular locations where you know there will be a bird or two.

Using the app whilst running is easy, for starters the magpie is unmistakable with its distinctive markings, floaty flight, its hopping and cackling call so they’re easy to spot no matter how much your eyes sting with sweat.

If you see more than one magpie the drop down box is a little fiddly whilst on the hoof but the giant green GPS button is fail safe and gives you great satisfaction when you record another magpie for the data set.

The only downside about being a ‘running citizen scientist’ is that it’s knocked my average pace down by 15secs per mile.

Magpie Mapper is a citizen science apps from the University of Exeter’s Environment and Sustainability Institute who are carrying out cutting-edge research into how wild birds use the urban and rural habitats and how people value having birds in their environment.