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Get a Guide On Your Smartphone

People are getting outside more these days for lots of good reasons -- it's safer, for one. Some of us have more time for a leisurely walk in the woods. Or we're going for a run on a trail instead of a treadmill at the gym. Or we're homeschooling kids.

Or maybe we've just come to value the restorative nature of nature.

Either way, a lot of us are suddenly outdoors and may want to learn more about what we see around us.

That's where your smartphone comes in handy. There are dozens of free apps that help you identify flora, fauna, and more, and here are a few of our favorites.

PICTURE THIS is a remarkable tool which enables you to snap a photo of a plant and view the plant name, more photos at different seasons, and all kinds of information that can help you steer clear of beautiful wildflowers that just happen to be poisonous to pets, for example.

MERLIN, produced by the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology, lets you do the same thing with bird identification. You have the choice of either uploading a photo (even a blurry one works), or walking through a series of five questions about your sighting and it will give you likely choices given your location and the time of year.

35 Rosebrook is one of the best places around for stargazing and STAR WALK is a family of apps that will help you understand the night sky. Star Walk Kids is "a stargazing guide for the little astronomers" with a cartoon interface, while for a very small fee, Star Walk 2 "combines astronomical data with premium technology to deliver an effortless journey through thousands of stars, comets, and constellations."

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