Thursday, April 21, 2016

Scythebill 12.9 - IOC 6.2, Avisys field notes, and eBird/Clements international names

UPDATE (May 1, 2016): I released Scythebill 12.9.1 with a few additions and tweaks:

  • The "Print..." option in "Show Reports" has a new "Compact print?" option, which displays species lists in a much denser, 3 column form.  My life list required 131 pages the old way, but "only" takes 34 pages this way.  (I've seen a lot...)
  • County locations are more clearly marked throughout Scythebill, which helps disambiguate "Los Angeles" (the city) from "Los Angeles" (the county), and so forth.
  • I've fixed up a couple of IOC mappings, most particularly for the "poensis" subspecies of Western Barn Owl.
  • There's the usual batch of checklist tweaks, most particularly for Mauritania.
  • ... and some smaller things you might not notice.


ORIGINAL NOTE: Scythebill 12.9 is here! As always, download here, and let me know if you have any problems, either on Google+Facebook, or by email

This version includes the just-released IOC 6.2 taxonomy, support for importing Avisys Field Notes, international names for the eBird/Clements taxonomy, and more!


IOC 6.2

The IOC 6.2 taxonomy was finalized yesterday, and Scythebill already supports it, including updates to all Scythebill checklists!  You can get a full list of species-level changes - mostly splits in Cuckoo-Doves and (Australasian) Catbirds.  They've also mercifully restored "Diademed Sandpiper-Plover" to its rightful full name and made a lot of passerine subspecies changes.

Avisys field notes

Avisys let users store "field notes" - free-form text like Scythebill's "Notes' field.  But those notes never made it to the exports file, so Scythebill has been blind to them.

New in 12.9, Scythebill lets you import Field Notes too.  The process is a bit more involved (five more steps than an import without them), since you need to make Avisys produce a second file containing the field notes, then give both files to Scythebill.  The Scythebill manual has already been updated.

Please let me know if you have any problems with this new feature, or if the directions are at all unclear!

eBird/Clements international names

Scythebill 11 added support for international names in the IOC taxonomy.  Scythebill 12.9 adds support for international names in the eBird/Clements taxonomy!  You can now pick from 42 different sets of international IOC names, including 6 different English options and 11 different Spanish options.  Visit the eBird page about Common Name Translations in eBird to find out more.  To set this, just visit the Preferences page and choose the new Species names (eBird/Clements) preference.

Smaller features

When entering sightings, you'll get a running total of the species count in the upper-right. (It ignores hybrids and "sp's" and only counts multiple subspecies once.)

There's now a checklist for Kosovo, courtesy of courtesy of Qenan Maxhuni!  There's also a bunch of first-country records, many courtesy of the new Facebook Global Rare Bird Alert group.

Scythebill will now detect and warn you if you've set the Scythebill font size large enough that critical parts of the page are offscreen.

Scythebill now has a number of additional "- in part" alternate names;  as a practical effect, this helps Scythebill do a better job importing some recent splits, e.g. it can automatically import "Common Kestrel" in South Africa as Rock Kestrel.

There's also now a new "magic" location in Show reports - "Ireland (Island of)" - which will include sightings in either the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Scythebill 12.8.3 - UK names, and better world support for lat/long


Scythebill 12.8.3 is here! As always, download here, and let me know if you have any problems, either on Google+Facebook, or by email

This is largely a bug-fix release, though the specific bug is one that's lately been a thorn in the side of many of Scythebill's users.  If you write lat/long coordinates as "37.7833 -122.4167", you've been fine.  But if you write them as "37,7833 -122,4167" (with commas as decimal separators), you've likely run into any number of problems, with error dialogs, or location maps not loading, or "Search nearby" failing...  These should all be resolved, though (of course) let me know if you're still seeing problems.

Scythebill also now includes an "English (United Kingdom)" preference for IOC bird names.  When chosen, Scythebill will use names the Queen herself would approve of - Arctic Skua (not Parasitic Jaeger), Guillemot (not Common Murre), and a simple Robin, Wren, Swallow, Goldfinch, etc.  These alternate names are only available for species on the British list;  for the rest of the world, you'll have to put up with the standard IOC names.   Also, this only affects naming, not taxonomy.  So Bean Goose is still split, "Hudsonian Whimbrel" is still lumped, and so forth.

Other changes include:
  • The Western Australia checklist is now in agreement with an official one, thanks to Martin Cake.
  • A wide variety of first-country records from around the world have been added, as well as some simpler errors (like Spot-flanked Gallinule's presence in Bolivia).
  • When adding a "remembered" report, you can overwrite a report with an existing name instead of being forced to choose a different name.
  • BirdLasser imports are a bit more aggressive at merging sightings into a single "visit".
  • Scythebill gives a more informative error if saving should fail.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Scythebill 12.8.2 - easier subspecies editing

Scythebill 12.8.2 is here! As always, download here, and let me know if you have any problems, either on Google+Facebook, or by email

This version was largely released to fix a bug that affected first-time users, but while in, I've fixed a few other things and added some small new features.

Easier subspecies editing

Previously, the only straightforward way to allocate sightings to subspecies after initial data entry was to visit Browse by species and manually drag species onto the desired subspecies.

Now, any time you've selected one (or more) sightings (from any page), you'll see a new menu:



You can use this menu to move that sighting (or sightings) to a new subspecies.  The range of each subspecies will appear when selected;  but if you'd like to see all the ranges at once, click (range summary...) and you'll get an overview of just that:



And if you're a true obsessive for subspecies entry, there's a new option in Show reports.  Ask for "subspecies" "is not allocated", and you'll get all the sightings that are not yet assigned to subspecies (but could be - monotypic species are not included).

Better multiple-file support

If multiple people want to keep lists with Scythebill on the same computer, they need to create multiple .bsxm files.  That works fine - but each time it's opened, Scythebill has only re-opened one of those files (the last one opened).

Now, Scythebill will re-open all the files, each time.

Bugs fixed

Scythebill 12.8.0 introduced a bug that affected first-time users;  those that imported directly from the first screen could fail with an error.  That's fixed (and that's the reason for this release coming when it does).

Observado/Waarnemingen imports now correctly support provinces identified like "Bruxelles/Brussel".

The "Verify against checklists..." report now properly ignores sightings marked as "Domestic".

The country code "ZO" is now supported for Avisys imports as "South Polar Region".

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Scythebill 12.8 - IOC 6.1, and even better imports

Note:  I released Scythebill 12.8.1 for a couple of changes that just missed the first release.  First, there's now a Delete all... button inside Show reports -> Bulk edit... which lets you delete a slew of entries all at once.  Second, there's a couple of bug fixes for the "First records (Lifers)" report option.

Original note: Scythebill 12.8 is here! As always, download here, and let me know if you have any problems, either on Google+Facebook, or by email

This release features the just-released IOC 6.1 checklist, and makes import (of all sorts!) even more effortless.


IOC 6.1 checklist

The IOC 6.1 checklist was released just yesterday, and Scythebill's already upgraded.  For the world listers out there, highlights include splits to Sedge Wren, Striolated Puffbird, and Snowy-browed Flycatcher.  All the details are on the IOC website.

Imports are even easier

Scythebill has, historically, taken the English and scientific names of birds in your imports very literally.  This meant that splits and lumps could leave you with old sightings still attached to old species boundaries.  Scythebill now does a much better job, by using a wealth of alternate names (many pre-existing, and many newly added) and combining those with the Scythebill checklists to give you much better results.

For example, if you had asked Scythebill to import:


Common, Country, DateBlack-shouldered Kite,South Africa,Black-shouldered Kite,Australia,Purple Swamphen,New Zealand,Purple Swamphen,Philippines,Purple Swamphen,United States,Purple Swamphen,Spain,Purple Swamphen,Kenya,Purple Swamphen,Thailand,
... then earlier versions would have given you two sightings of the Australian "Black-shouldered Kite", and 6 sightings of "Western Swamphen".

Scythebill will now correctly assign the South African kite sighting to Black-winged Kite, the New Zealand swamphen to Australasian Swamphen, the Kenyan swamphen to African Swamphen, and so forth.  

It'll even assign the Thailand swamphen to a "spuh" - Grey-headed/Black-backed Swamphen - and take you to a window after import to pick which one was seen (if you want).

This should make getting started with Scythebill even easier, and applies to all imports - Avisys, BirdBase, Scythebill, BirdLasser, etc.  Let me know if you have any problems - there's still certainly many more alternate names to add, so if you find imports failing to choose a reasonable species, I'd like to hear about it.

Other fixes

BirdLasser imports were always importing sightings as January!  Thankfully, this is now fixed prior to February's arrival.

I've fixed how I package the MacOS download;  opening the .dmg file should automatically pop open a window, instead of forcing you to hunt for the mounted disk.  (Or, in other words, installing on MacOS is now easier.)

"Verify against checklists" used to produce corrections that bounced around the world at random;  it now outputs in a fairly predictable, sane order.

As always, some small improvements were made to checklists:
  • The Western Sahara checklist is substantially improved.
  • Smaller changes were made for Tanzania, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia.
  • A number of recent "firsts" for countries in the Western Palearctic and US states are added.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Scythebill 12.7 - "Search nearby", BirdLasser, and more

Update: I've released Scythebill 12.7.1, with two small fixes.  The new BirdLasser import failed for some date formats;  it now should reliably import.  Also, location detection would sometimes fail to detect the state/province of a location (only finding the country);  it should now be more reliable.

Original note: Scythebill 12.7 is here! As always, download here, and let me know if you have any problems, either on Google+Facebook, or by email.  

This release adds a few relatively small features that you've been requesting:

  • Improvements in finding eBird hotspots
  • Easier access to visit data
  • "Domestic" forms of species
  • BirdLasser imports

Location entry improvements


When you were entering a new location, Scythebill previously would first show you a latitude and longitude from a Google service.  If you wanted to get information from eBird, you had to click another button ("Ignore Google result?") to get to it.   Now Scythebill will load from both simultaneously, so it's much easier to get to eBird results.

Also, once you have a latitude and longitude entered, Scythebill will show you a new Search nearby button.  This will look for eBird and Google results near that location.  This makes it much easier to pick eBird hotspots.

Easier access to visit data


Visit data - like comments, distance covered, duration, eBird protocol - used to be fairly buried, hidden away in Browse by location.  It's still there - but it's now much easier to get to.  Any time you're looking at a single sighting, you'll have a Visit data... button:

Click that button, and you'll get a dialog where you can see (and edit) the visit data for that visit.

Visit data's also more useful, as you can now create reports based on Visit comments text from Show reports:



Domestic forms

Scythebill now has explicit "domestic" forms of Mallard, Greylag Goose, Swan Goose, Muscovy Duck, Helmeted Guineafowl, Indian Peafowl, Red Junglefowl (aka "Chicken"), Wild Turkey, Budgerigar, African ("Ringed") Turtle Dove, and Cockatiel, as well as a feral form of Muscovy Duck (for the fully wild Florida population that is derived from domestic birds).

Domestic forms are never countable - they're used for those flocks of domestic ducks (and others) that might have some wild genes remaining, but are genetically not the same as wild individuals, even if they are established, breeding populations.  They are, nonetheless, very much part of the eBird taxonomy, and this will make it much easier to export to (and import from) eBird when you've recorded these individuals.

You can store domestic sightings of any other species as well, with the new Domestic sighting status option.

BirdLasser imports

Scythebill now supports imports from BirdLasser, an Android and iOS app for recording South African bird sightings.  This support is somewhat experimental, as BirdLasser has a very different location model (latitude/longitude for each sighting) from Scythebill;  Scythebill will do what it can to automatically find nearby locations using eBird and Google.   Let me know how this works if you can try it!


Other import improvements

Some eBird checklists wouldn't import (as they had a hitherto-unknown-to-me date format); that's now fixed.

Avisys exports now proceed smoothly even when most of the rightmost columns have been removed.

New features


There's a new Backup now... button on the preferences page, if you want to force an immediate backup after lots of data entry.

The "Complete list of sightings?" checkbox was far too easy to overlook when entering sightings.  I've added another place to select that option on the prior page, where the rest of the visit information is entered.

Scythebill now allows you to enter "Dead" as a sighting status, for those unfortunate occasions when you record a deceased bird.  Such sightings will never be counted as lifers or any other species totals, but will be included in eBird exports.

Finally, there's a new Location description field in Scythebill CSV exports and imports.

Checklist improvements

This time around, there's a number of small improvements to the checklists of the Azores, France, Sulawesi, Mauritania, Morocco, Uruguay, Ecuador, Colombia, Mexico, and New Zealand, as well as a number of first country records from the Western Palearctic and first provincial records from Canada.

Bugs fixed

The built-in state checklists for Indonesian states will now be available even if you've rearranged the built-in locations a bit (moving Indonesia to an "Oriental Region" or something similar).

Bulk date editing would fail if you only entered a partial date (e.g. changing the year of a large number of records).  That's fixed.

If you dragged photos into Scythebill on MacOS, those photos might fail to display when later clicked-on.  That's fixed too.

A couple of uncommon (and harmless but annoying) cases where error dialogs would appear have been fixed.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Scythebill 12.6 - IOC 5.4 and more

Scythebill 12.6 is here! As always, download here, and let me know if you have any problems, either on Google+Facebook, or by email.  

The highlight for the world taxonomy crowd will likely be the IOC 5.4 world list, released just a couple of days ago.  But there's more:

  • You can view species range maps with a single click.
  • Correcting the dates and locations of your visits is now much easier.
  • States now list their endemics - and multi-state generation has improved to go along with it.
  • There's new checklists for each of the seven main Indonesian regions, and one for the Åland Islands.
  • Some long-necessary cleanup for the Scythebill state and province lists has completed, most noticeably changing Ireland, the Philippines, and Sudan.

IOC 5.4

The new IOC 5.4 taxonomy is available, and Scythebill already supports it!   Taxonomic highlights include a swarm of kingfisher splits and a three-way Paradise Flycatcher split, but you can see the full list of changes on the IOC website.

Some smaller features

Scythebill now lets you view species range maps at a click.  When you see the word Range underlined - either entering species, or in Browse by taxon, click, and you'll get a map like this one, which not only show you the world range, country by country, but also let you zoom into regions of the world, and even the per-state maps in the United States, Canada, and Australia. (Look for the menu at the top-left of the map.)  These maps are limited - they only show distribution at the country (and sometimes state) level - but they do provide a very quick way to get a feel for a bird's range (and, sometimes, to spot mistakes in the Scythebill checklists).

When you select a single visit in Browse by location, you can now change the date and location of that visit right from that page without leaving it.

There's a new Save a copy as... menu item in the File menu, which will save a second copy of the Scythebill ".bsxm" file (especially useful for moving your list to a second machine or manually backing up).  Hopefully, this will make it a little clearer to users that "

State endemics

Scythebill has long identified the per-country endemics, but it now also identifies bird species that are globally endemic to a single state, like Yellow-billed Magpie in California or Rockwarbler in New South Wales, etc.

And the trivial multi-state-or-country checklist generation added in Scythebill 12.5 goes along for the ride.  So you can now even generate a checklist combining - for example - California and Mexico - and see the global endemics shared between them!

Indonesian improvements

Scythebill now has checklists for the seven main eBird regions of Indonesia:
  • Sumatera (Sumatra)
  • Jawa (Java, but not Bali)
  • Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo)
  • Nusa Tenggara (Bali and the Lesser Sundas)
  • Maluku (Moluccas, including Wetar and the Aru Islands)
  • Papua (the Indonesian half of New Guinea)
  • Sulawesi
Geolocation was also slightly tweaked so that Google-identified locations now will map to these regions.

Checklist improvements

  • As mentioned above, there's now checklists for each of the Indonesian states
  • There's also a new checklist for the Åland Islands.
  • I've done a lot of cleanup for the US state checklists.
  • The range of Caspian Gull had not followed taxonomic changes - it's now a monotypic form, with "barabensis" moved to Lesser Black-backed Gull, and "mongolicus" moved to Vega Gull (Herring Gull in eBird/Clements).  It's now changed accordingly - I'd recommend checking your records!
  • Abdel B. contributed some improvements for Tunisia and Hong Kong.

State and province cleanup

Scythebill tries to hold to the eBird location organization.  (It's fairly close to the standard ISO-3166 arrangement, for those who care about such details.)  But it's missed some of the changes made in the last few years.  In most cases, these were trivial (some simple name changes), but there were a few major issues that would have made eBird importing difficult.
  • eBird no longer uses the 26 counties of Ireland as "states", instead using the 4 Irish provinces.  Scythebill now puts all of the above in its proper place, automatically.
  • Scythebill still had the out-of-date Sudanese states prior to the split-off of South Sudan.  Those who bravely bird this part of the world will be happy that Scythebill automatically moves sightings from the old Sudanese provinces into South Sudan where necessary.
  • eBird (and now Scythebill) use the 82 provinces of the Philippines instead of the 15 regions.
Additionally:
  • Scythebill now includes the 23 districts of the Seychelles, 7 districts of the Cayman Islands, 5 divisions of French Polynesia, and 4 municipalties of the Northern Mariana Islands, as well as multiple added regions of (deep breath now) Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Chile, Colombia, Congo, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, India, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Libya, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Moldova, Morocco, Mozambique, Nepal, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Romania, Saint Lucia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Sudan, Taiwan Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Vietnam, and Yemen.   (Phew.)
  • Scythebill had the wrong codes for the Yukon Territory of Canada and Maluku province of Indonesia, which would have made importing into eBird unnecessarily difficult.

Other fixes

  • BirdBase imports now correctly import species counts.
  • eBird "geocoding" (finding latitude/longitude based on a location name) was broken for location names with accents.  (eBird changed their API's encoding, Scythebill had to change to match.)
  • eBird "life list" CSV files with accented characters will now be correctly imported.


Sunday, September 20, 2015

Scythebill 12.5 - backups, multi-country checklists, and more!

Update (Sept. 22): I've released Scythebill 12.5.1, mostly to fix a bug when entering sightings for a new location.  Thanks to Robert M. for the report!  In addition, this version has further improvements for importing from Observado.org and Waarnemingen.be/.nl.

Original note: Scythebill 12.5 is here! As always, download here, and let me know if you have any problems, either on Google+Facebook, or by email.  I'd been planning on holding this release for the IOC 5.4 checklist update (which will likely come late in October), but there were just too many goodies to hold back:
  • Scythebill now supports automatic weekly or monthly backups of your sightings.
  • Scythebill can trivially generate checklists for multiple countries together.
  • Observado.org and Birdbase importing is improved.
  • Clicking on maps makes it easy to tweak latitude and longitude.
  • Data entry is even faster!
  • And more...
A note, perhaps on the negative side for some.  With this release, I've stopped including the "Snow Leopard" version for MacOS.  MacOS Snow Leopard was last updated 4 years ago, and hasn't been getting security updates for almost two years.  The Snow Leopard version of Scythebill has been getting very few downloads, and at least some of those appear to be accidental.  This isn't an irrevocable decision, so if there's some of you out there who depend on the Snow Leopard version, please let me know.

Automatic backups

The preferences page now has a new option - you can choose whether you'd like weekly or monthly backups, and where you'd like those backups stored!


I strongly recommend that users choose a backup directory using a cloud provider like DropBox or Google Drive.  These services are free and will keep your data safe (and secure);  storing your backups on your local drive will not help you if your disk crashes or something worse happens.

Checklist for multiple countries

If you're taking a trip to more than one state or country, this is the feature for you.  Say you're visiting South Africa and Namibia.  You could print two checklists, and find out that South Africa has 18 endemics, and Namibia 1, but now just select both South Africa and Namibia (control-click on Windows/Linux, command-click on MacOS), and you get a combined checklist:


With that combined checklist, you get all the usual Scythebill features - saving as a spreadsheet, finding lifers, and so forth - and you can see that the combined region has 35 endemics.  And you can select as many locations as you want (add in Lesotho and Swaziland, and you're up to 61 shared endemics.)

Did you know that Africa has 1,606 endemics, and South America (only 60% as big) has an amazing 2,383 endemics?  I didn't before, but now it's easy to find out.

Even faster data entry

Here's an old feature you may not know about:  just after clicking "Add species" when entering sightings, try typing a number.  The cursor will immediately jump to the Number field for that species, and you can enter a count;  hit Enter, and you'll jump right back to the species name field.

Now, it's even better.  With Scythebill 12.5, after you've typed the number, hit any of the "h", "p", "i", "f", or "m" keys, and you'll immediately toggle:
  • Heard only
  • Photographed
  • Immature
  • Female
  • Male
That's all there is to it!

Import improvements

Observado.org (and Waarneming.nl) imports are now a lot better, with a slew of improvements:
  • Location names will import more cleanly
  • Dutch column names are now supported (in addition to English)
  • "Plumage", "certain", and "exotic" settings are all successfully imported
  • "activity" will be imported as breeding bird codes, where possible (English only)
  • Sighting remarks no longer have bonus quotes around each entry
  • Numbers are imported correctly
I'd still describe the support here as beta-level;  in particular, Observado.org seems to be a work-in-progress with changing values (the meaning of the "simple CSV" checkbox changed in the last week), but it's definitely useable now.  Please let me know if you have any suggestions for improvements or find any problems!

Birdbase imports got one tweak.  Birdbase sightings saved as "uncertain" will now be imported into Scythebill as "Uncertain ID".  (Scythebill supports a richer set of "uncertain" statuses, like "Not established" and "Not accepted", so you might want to edit after importing.)

Finally, Scythebill-style imports got an important bugfix.  For the last couple of releases, imports failed if they didn't have a "Location 1" column - it could be an empty column, but it had to be there.  That's a bug, which is now fixed.


Fine-tuning of latitude and longitude, made easy

Scythebill has been able to automatically find the latitude and longitude of your birding spots using Google and eBird since Scythebill 12.0.  But when that feature wasn't quite right, with the selected highlight not exactly where you meant, there wasn't an easy way to fix it.

Now, clicking anywhere the map will update the latitude/longitude, and there's a new Zoom In button (a plus sign) to let you fine-tune that location, and a Zoom Out button (a minus sign) to double-check the location for relatively featureless parts of the world.

Checklist improvements (and some removals too)

I've cleaned up the Australian state checklists to the extent possible with online resources (Victoria and Northern Territory are still a bit sketchy, as I could not find official checklists).

On the other hand, I have entirely removed all of the checklists for the counties of the United Kingdom and Ireland.  These checklists contained many errors, and I saw no straightforward way to clean them up with available resources.  My apologies to anyone who found these useful;  I'd rather limit the officially supported checklists to those whose accuracy I can vouch for.

Speaking of custom checklists - earlier versions refused to update custom checklists that had been saved with an old taxonomy.   Now, they'll get upgraded automatically when they're opened.

Other checklist improvements include:
  • East Asian corrections, courtesy of Yann M.
  • Southern African corrections, courtesy of Niall P.
  • Some cleanup of the Guadeloupe and Martinique checklists

Other improvements

Those are the big items, but there's a bunch of smaller items too:

  • In "Browse by location", when you've selected a single visit, there's a new "Edit species..." button.  Clicking that will take you right into the "Enter sightings" flow for that visit to the full list of species, so you quickly edit what you saw.
  • In "Enter sightings", there's been a "New for" column for a long while which tells you if a sighting is a lifer, or a new bird for your country, state, or county lists.  Now, it'll even tell you if it's new for the very location you're visiting (as long as you've been to that location at least twice before.)
  • eBird exports now include the start time in the default name, which makes it easier if you're visiting the same site multiple times in a day.
  • In "Browse by location", Scythebill will now tell you how many of a country (or multiple country) endemics you've seen.
  • The total count of families in "Show reports" did not pay attention to "Count heard only?" or "Count introduced?" preferences.
  • The "choose-your-own-abbreviation" feature had problems with apostrophes.  For example, "blyths" should have matched all the names starting with "Blyth's", but only matched "Blyth's Swift" and "Blyth's Shrike-Babbler".  That's fixed.
Nearly all of these smaller improvements (and some of the bigger ones) came from ideas that started with users.  Thank you, and keep those ideas coming!