Google Maps Feature Butterflies, English History, San Francisco Hills

Developers are constantly using Google Maps APIs to create all kinds of cool Web pages for interactive fun. Here are some of the latest innovative sites.

tech developer

What do monarch butterflies, history in Portsmouth, England, the soaring hills in San Francisco and the home towns of current Major League Baseball and National Hockey League players have in common?

They're all featured in cool, interesting Websites that use Google Maps APIs to share intriguing content with online visitors. With that in mind, it's time for another eWEEK roundup of some of the coolest sites recently discovered online that incorporate Google Maps APIs and use maps in different ways.

Monarch Butterfly Migrations

Monarch Butterfly Migration Explorer, a fascinating site, uses geo-tagged photos found in searches of online photo-sharing site Flickr to see where people have been spotting monarch butterflies this year and over the past five years. The site, created by software developer John Beales, takes lists of photos captured during the year and adds them to the maps, according to the site.

"The data isn't perfect; for example, Flickr itself has had ups and downs over the past few years, and the number of digital cameras that we've been carrying has been changing quickly, but this should give us some idea of what's going on," wrote Beales on his site, which is still being improved.

One big improvement Beales would like to incorporate, he wrote, is to be able to display the captured images to site visitors, which isn't yet possible. The migration patterns of the butterflies, however, can be seen in the maps generated by the site.

The site uses Google Maps JavaScript API with the Flickr API to create HeatmapLayers of photos tagged as "monarch butterflies," according to a July 25 post on the Google Geo Developers Blog.

"You can see in the 2012 migration season there were many pictures taken of the monarchs all over and many of them made it up to Canada," wrote Mano Marks of the Maps Developer Relations Team, in the post. "And in 2013 that number dropped off considerably, possibly due to the increased use of pesticides."

History of Portsmouth, England, in Maps

Using old and new map images, as well as photo collections and vivid text, the history of old Portsmouth, England, is brought to life—and compared to the same city today—in the Portsmouth History Photo Map.

Visitors start by seeing an1896 map of Portsmouth on top of a Google Map, which can be clicked through to reach a modern map of the city so that changes can be seen up close, according to a July 18 post on the Google Geo Developers Blog. All through the maps, there are clickable images that provide information about the sights and markers of history inside the city.

There are fascinating links for the HMS Victory, The Blitz, Old Portsmouth, Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling, Admiral Lord Nelson and much more.

The Hills of San Francisco

Hill Mapper San Francisco is interesting, especially if you have ever driven or planned to drive up and down the immense hills in this lovely city by the Bay. Using the site, you can plot the steep hills on a map to try to avoid having to create a huge used car lot as you drive and get stuck on a hill.

The map colors display whether the streets go uphill or downhill when you approach them, according to the site. Red streets go uphill, while blue streets go downhill. "The darker the color, the steeper the hill," the map states, while unshaded streets are flat. Flat streets in San Francisco? Yeah, sure.

Birthplaces of Today's MLB and NHL Players

These sites are still crude, but we love the idea that created them. Using these searchable maps, visitors can find the hometowns of today's Major League Baseball (MLB) and National Hockey League (NHL) players so they can feed their sports statistical cravings. The 2012-13 NHL Player Map uses pointers to show the birthplaces of NHL players from around the world, while the 2013 MLB Player Map does the same for today's baseball players.

So far, both maps are pretty bare-bones because they only list the player name and the city name, but the possibilities are intriguing. They'd be even cooler if they'd add more information, such as naming the teams the players play for as well as a player photograph. One thing is amusing as you peruse the maps: It's surprising how many unknown names you see on maps like these. Beyond the superstars, there are lots of players who are not household names, which becomes more apparent as you read the names of lesser-known players.