Saturday, November 1, 2014

Scythebill 10.6.3 - IOC 4.4 checklist

Scythebill 10.6.3 is here!  Download it here, and please follow Scythebill on Google+ or Facebook for updates.

This release includes the new IOC 4.4 world checklist, released just this week.  The taxonomic highlights are listed here.

Beyond that, there are a few small improvements to the checklists.  And MacOS users that have upgraded to Yosemite will find a font more consistent with the rest of the system.

Bigger features are in the works... but my day job has been a bit more hectic than usual.  Stay tuned!

As always, please let me know if you have any problems, either on Google+,Facebook, or by email.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Scythebill 10.6.2 - bug fixes

Scythebill 10.6.2 is here!  Download it here, and please follow Scythebill on Google+ or Facebook for updates.

This release includes two important bug fixes.

First, a few users have seen errors when upgrading from 10.5 ("Taxa list too small for multiple").  If you've upgraded to 10.6.0 or 10.6.1 and haven't seen this, then you're entirely unaffected.  This was partly fixed in 10.6.1, but not all the way.  It should be fixed now - but if you're still having any problems, please get in touch with me!

Second, imports in the Scythebill format have been failing to read "Location 1", "Location 2", etc. columns.  This has been broken since 10.5.0.   Huge thanks to Keith M. and Stuart T. for the bug report.

There's also a few modest improvements to the checklists:

  • The Singapore checklist has been reconciled, and now includes rarities.
  • Massachusetts, South Carolina, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Utah, and Vermont checklists have been cleaned up by Scythebill users Zack W. and Bill D.

As always, please let me know if you have any problems, either on Google+,Facebook, or by email.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Fast sighting count entry - new in Scythebill 10.6

Entering sightings counts in Scythebill has been a bit tedious, but a new feature in Scythebill 10.6 makes it easy and fast.

This quick video explains how it works:

Monday, September 1, 2014

Scythebill 10.6 - eBird/Clements 6.9, and lots of checklist improvements

Scythebill 10.6.0 is here!  Download it here, and please follow Scythebill on Google+ or Facebook for updates.

(A small update, to 10.6.1, was released a couple of days later.  It fixes one bug that triggered only during upgrade, and only if you had seen a species that was split in the new eBird/Clements list in a location not covered by a Scythebill checklist.  If you upgraded to 10.6.0 already, and didn't get an error message, you weren't affected by the bug, and don't need 10.6.1.)

eBird/Clements 6.9

The big ticket item in this release is an upgrade to the eBird/Clements 6.9 checklist.  This checklist was released a couple of weeks ago, in mid-August;  that's a little slower than my usual upgrade, but there's significant improvements in the upgrade process since the last upgrade.

In particular, Scythebill now uses its built-in checklists to automate much of the work in upgrading to a new taxonomy.  If you've seen King Rail anywhere in the United States, it knows that can't be Aztec Rail - so it'll automatically be assigned. If you've seen Clapper Rail in California, that's got to be Ridgway's Rail.  Or, for a more complicated example, take the massive 16-way split of Red-bellied Pitta!  

  • If you'd seen Red-bellied Pitta in Australia, Scythebill can determine that you've seen Papuan Pitta.
  • If you'd seen it in the Philippines, then you've seen either Blue-breasted Pitta or Sulu Pitta.  (Most of Scythebill's checklists are at the country level, so it can't know more than that, even though only a few birders have reached the home of the Sulu Pitta.)
  • And if you've seen it in Indonesia, well, that could be any of 9 species!

If you've entered subspecies for your sightings, this won't be as important - those sightings will automatically be assigned to species in the face of splits, just as they were in earlier Scythebill upgrades.

Once Scythebill has simplified the upgrade with its checklists, if there's anything left to clean up, you'l visit the standard Scythebill taxonomy upgrade page, where you can quickly clean up what's left.

Also as part of this release, I've preemptively added two species in the eBird/Clements revision to the IOC checklist - Omani Owl and Cryptic Treehunter.  A bit presumptive of me, but I expect one or both of these to appear in the IOC list in the near future, and this simplified life in the upgrade.

Checklist improvements

Scythebill's checklist data has had many improvements since the last release.  I'd highly recommend using Verify against checklists... again with this release, even if you have already done so before, especially if you've birded in South America at all.  I got an armchair tick out of doing so! (Mato Grosso Swift, aka Amazonian Swift, split from Chapman's Swift.)

Improvements include:
  • All of South America has been reconciled  (including the Falkland and Galapagos Islands checklists), including rarities.  These are the largest checklists in the world, so this took some doing..
  • New checklists are provided for
    • American Samoa
    • Anguilla
    • Cook Islands
    • Guam
    • Kiribati
    • Montserrat
    • Northern Marianas
    • Palau
    • Pitcairn Islands
    • St. Barthélemy
    • Tristan de Cunha
  • Rarities are now accurately provided for the US states of Minnesota, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North and South Carolina, North Dakota, Texas, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
  • Further corrections are made to the checklists for the Federated States of Micronesia as well as "Saint Helena, Ascension, and Tristan da Cunha".
  • The ranges of Tropical and Audubon's Shearwater have been clarified.

Some small eBird things

eBird exports now default the Protocol and "All birds observed" fields.  They're set to "Incidental" and "N", because at this point Scythebill doesn't give users a way to set these fields otherwise.  (Letting users set all of the eBird fields is a top priority for the next release.)  Scythebill also sets the number field in eBird exports to "X" (instead of leaving it blank) when there is no number.

One more feature...

There's one more feature I'll hold for its own post.  It's small, but a real timesaver.

As always, please let me know if you have any problems, either on Google+Facebook, or by email.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Scythebill 10.5.1 - IOC 4.3 release!

Scythebill 10.5.1 is here!  Download it here, and please follow Scythebill on Google+ or Facebook for updates.

This release is out today to get the release of the IOC 4.3 world taxonomy into your hands.  This taxonomy was only released today!

Feral Rock Pigeons

Scythebill now lets you enter feral and wild Rock Pigeons separately.   In Clements, this takes the form of two new groups ("Feral" and "Wild");  in IOC, just a single subspecies ("f. domestica") is added.  Scythebill will also export these forms to eBird correctly. Thanks to Frederik K. for the idea!

More eBird improvements

In addition to supporting "Feral" Rock Pigeon, two more things:
  • Scythebill exports containing eBird groups - like "Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)" - should now import into smoothly into eBird.
  • Scythebill now supports importing life list files downloaded from eBird when your eBird settings for "Species name display" is set to "Both common and scientific".

Checklist improvements

A number of checklists have been improved - and increasingly, a few dedicated users are helping out.  Specific thanks to Zack W., Richard S., Niall P., and particularly Bill D.!  The specific improvments;
  • In North America, Kansas, Iowa, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Nevada, and South Dakota, as well as Nova Scotia have been cleaned up, including rarities.
  • There's now an Aruba checklist!
  • Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil have all been reconciled, including rarities.  Bhutan has also been cleaned up (albeit without rarities)
  • A number of corrections have been made to Africa.

    IOC 4.3 update details

    For world birders, the highlight of this release is some new families:
    • Elachuridae: a single species, once known as Spotted Wren-Babbler but now known as a basal passerine with no close relatives.
    • Rhagologidae: a single species, Mottled Whistler.  (Hint:  it's not a whistler!)
    • Melampittidae: the two Melampittas of New Guinea
    • Ifritidae: the Blue-capped Ifrit, also of New Guinea
    • Eulacestomidae: the Wattled Ploughbill, also of New Guinea (noticing a pattern?)
    • Oreoicidae: three species, two from New Guinea, and a third (Crested Bellbird) from Australia
    So, if you haven't visited New Guinea, there's 5 new reasons to do so!

    With the IOC 4.3 release, I've made a change to the Clements/eBird treatment of Streaky-headed Seedeater.  Subspecies montanorum and elgonensis have been moved from the "Streaky-headed" group to the "West African" group.  (I try to avoid making these changes, but a small number of them have made switching between IOC and Clements vastly simpler.)

    As always, please let me know if you have any problems, either on Google+,Facebook, or by email.

    Saturday, July 19, 2014

    Scythebill 10.5 - a manual, better checklists, reporting, and more!

    Scythebill 10.5 is finally here!  Download it here, and please follow Scythebill on Google+ or Facebook for updates.

    It's taken a bit longer than I expected to ready (life and work have intruded!)  A huge thanks to all the users that sent in bug reports and lots of great ideas for new features.  If I didn't get to your requests in this release, rest assured I haven't forgotten you, I just had to draw the line somewhere.

    Scythebill, now with a manual

    I'm very happy to announce that Scythebill, at long last, has a user manual.  You can access it from the help menu, or just by visiting  The manual is a Google document, but you don't need a Google account to view it.  If you do have a Google account, then you can comment on it in-place.  Anything that's unclear or confusing or missing, please let me know!  (This is an experiment - I'm assuming this won't be a spam or phishing vector.  If it proves to be, I'll have to use more conventional techniques for receiving feedback.)

    I'm proud of how many users have been able to learn and use Scythebill without any sort of a manual, but I'm sure even the most adventuresome users will find something they didn't know existed.

    Checklist improvements

    Scythebill's checklists, first made available in 10.0, are even better in Scythebill 10.5.

    First, something a lot of you have asked for - checklist entry!  Whenever you visit Enter sightings for a location that has a checklist (built-in or custom), you'll see a new option near the top of the screen - Use <location> checklist?  Set that to Yes, and a full checklist will appear.  You can then rapidly key through and select species:

    Checklists also support a new status code: "Rarity".   This will be set species requiring rarity committee documentation.  This has to be manually reconciled, list by list, with authoritative sources - which don't exist in many countries! - so it'll be a long time before it can provide significant coverage.  That said, this release does list rarities for the United States, Canada, Mexico, Great Britain, Ireland, Australia and South Africa.  (State and provincial checklists generally have rarities naively derived from the country, but rarities have been explicitly set for 12 US states, with more to come.)

    Checklists have been reconciled with the official lists in Mexico, Panama, South Africa, and the United Arab Emirates, as well as the US states of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, and Oklahoma.  (Thanks in particular to Bill D. for help here with several of those states.)  There's also lots of African corrections from Joël R. and Niall P., and Tanzanian and Australian corrections from Steve C.

    Finally, you can now send me corrections to built-in checklists in a form I can easily incorporate back into Scythebill.  Read about it here in the manual.  If you're wondering how you can contribute to Scythebill, this is a great way to help out.

    Reporting improvements

    Scythebill now lets you generate more complex report conditions.  Before, you could only choose between satisfying "All" rules or "Any" one of the rules.  Now, each rule can either be marked as And or Or.  All of the "And" rules must be satisfied, and at least one of the "Or" rules.  This lets you build rules like year lists for more than one location - ("And", Date is 2000, "Or" Location is in Peru, "Or" Location is in Ecuador).  (Thanks to Joël R for the idea.)

    It's also now easy to answer questions like:

    •  What are the earliest and latest Spring migrants to arrive?
    •  What are the last species to depart in the winter?
    •  What was your 500th or 2000th or 5000th lifer?
    •  What species have you gone the longest without seeing?

    Just Export to a spreadsheet from the reports page, and choose one of the new Sort by options.  (Thanks to Angela B. and Joël R. for this idea.)

    But wait... there's more!

    • There's a new Southern Africa region for the African listers out there.
    • You can now query for female/male/adult/immature sightings
    • Reports looking at the notes field are now case-insensitive (by default - you can get case-sensitivity if you want)
    • Ever tried to issue a report for wintering birds, say, sightings between December and March?  It didn't work.  It does now.  (Thanks to Yann M. for pointing this out.)
    • You can now bulk edit locations in a report, so if you accidentally put a few hundred records in Swaziland instead of Switzerland, it's easy to fix.

    Importing improvements

    The Scythebill import format has proven useful for getting data into Scythebill.  Users have taken advantage of it to get data out of Wings or custom Access databases.  And it's even easier to use now.  In particular, almost all of the columns are now optional.   You can import with a mere three columns of data!

    • One (or both) of "Common" or "Scientific"
    • "Date"
    • "Country"

    and "Date" can even be blank!  

    It also knows to ignore blank lines (which previously did some odd things), and can re-import Scythebill exports containing hybrids and "sp." records without any manual entry.  (Thanks to Dave C. for pushing on these imports!)

    Odds and ends

    Scythebill's now greatly improved at keyboard interaction, particularly when entering sightings.  Tabbing is much more predictable, keyboard focus should be visible in many places it was not, and keyboard focus doesn't disappear in annoying ways after adding species or changing subspecies.  And species entry is much better at keeping the field you're working with entirely on-screen.  There's even keyboard shortcuts to simplify moving around the table.

    The count field had issues;  they've been fixed. In some circumstances, numbers might not be saved.  And deleting a number that was inadvertently added was much harder than it should be.  (Thanks to Susan M. for the bug report.)

    Scythebill's also better at keeping windows sizes, instead of constantly snapping down to the minimum needed size (the main window snaps down, but others don't).  (Thanks to Philip F. for this request.)

    Some rarer (and harmless) bugs reported by Melissa H., Harry R., and Peter W. have been expunged.

    What's next?

    Barring the discovery of any particularly interesting bugs, the next update is likely to be for the IOC 4.3 release.  And I think the feature at the top of my stack is per-report  fields - protocol, start-time, duration, and comments.  Long missing, much needed.

    As always, please let me know if you have any problems, either on Google+, Facebook, or by email.

    Tuesday, April 22, 2014

    Scythebill 10.4 - IOC 4.2 support!

    Scythebill 10.4 is now available!  Download it here, and please follow Scythebill on Google+ or Facebook for updates.

    Scythebill 10.4 includes the IOC 4.2 checklist and a few small tweaks and bug fixes.

    IOC 4.2 list support

    The IOC World Bird List version 4.2 was released last week, and is now available in Scythebill.  If you're wondering what's been split or lumped, you can see here.  Gory details follow...

    Scythebill makes some modest additions to the IOC list to support interoperability with Clements/eBird - in particular, to support a number of the species described by Handbook of Birds of the World.  Those additions were also made in Scythebill's IOC 4.1, but a number have now been demoted to subspecies status to align with SACC decisions (or an apparent trend in such decisions):
    • "Western Puffbird" is demoted to ssp. obamai of Striolated Puffbird.
    • "Xingu Woodcreeper" is demoted to ssp. retentus of Amazonian Barred Woodcreeper.
    • "Tupana" and "Tapajós" Scythebills are demoted to ssps gyldenstopei and cardosoi of Curve-billed Scythebill
    • "Bamboo Antwren" is demoted to ssp. oreni of Ihering's Antwren.
    The following HBW descriptions are retained as full species pending a clearer resolution within SACC and IOC:
    • Inambari Woodcreeper
    • Roosevelt Antwren
    • Sucunduri Flatbill
    • Campina Jay
    • Inambari Gnatcatcher 
    In addition, I've preemptively added Tropeiro Seedeater to the Clements/eBird taxonomy (and the Brazil checklist), as this newly described species in IOC 4.2 will almost certainly be added in the next revision of Clements/eBird.

    Other bug fixes

    A couple of small issues in Browse by location were resolved - a particularly dangerous one allowed users to inadvertently add "sightings" of families, which led to a variety of problems.

    Small checklist improvements were made to Serbia, Spain, and Brunei.

    As always, please let me know if you have any problems, either on Google+, Facebook, or by email.