Sunday, July 23, 2023

Scythebill 15.9 - the IOC 13.2 taxonomy, Butterflies of the World taxonomy, and more

Scythebill 15.9 is now available!  Its main feature is the new IOC 13.1 taxonomy, but it also includes a number of smaller improvements.  As always, download here, and let me know if you have any problems, either on Facebook or by email.

IOC 13.2 taxonomy

IOC 13.2 is just released, and is already supported by Scythebill.  It's got 42 splits and 21 lumps - to see which affect you, visit the Splits and lumps special report.  (This report shows what has changed from one older taxonomy to today's taxonomy - so for just the changes in 13.2, you want to look at what's changed since 13.1)

My "splits and lumps" report;  only net plus-two, alas!

Butterflies of the World taxonomy

There is also a brand new Butterflies of the World taxonomy!  It's a separate download, but it does take advantage of some newly added features (see below).  And you may have missed it, but there's also Reptiles of the World and Odonates of the World released back in March, and there's also new updates for both of these taxonomies today.

If you want to upgrade from one of the older butterfly taxonomies covering just part of the world, it's a few quick steps:
  1. Switch to the older taxonomy.
  2. From "Show reports", use "Export sightings..." and " Scythebill CSV".
  3. Switch to the newer taxonomy
  4. From Import, use "Import from Scythebill"
Once you're satisfied with the results, you can delete the old taxonomy altogether (which will delete all your records for the old taxonomy).

This taxonomy comes from iNaturalist data (also true of the Reptiles and Odonates of the World taxonomies).  That data is pretty good, but not as mature as the data for birds - both in taxonomy and in checklists, birds are in way better shape.  If you find issues with these taxonomies, and you have access to quality, modern data, you can visit the iNaturalist site and make adjustments.

If it's a problem with the underlying taxonomy, you can add a "flag" to a taxon to get a curator to look at it.   If it's a problem with the checklists, you can add species to a country's checklist directly.  But, in any case, please only do so if you have some expertise or access to up-to-date resources.  (For example, "I've got a 2001 field guide" might not be a good enough resource by itself, as taxonomy in these areas changes quite a lot.)

Species account links

In both the eBird/Clements and the Butterflies, Odonates, and Reptiles of the World taxonomies, when you select a species in "Browse by species" and other parts of Scythebill, you'll see a new link - "eBird page" or "iNaturalist page".  These links will open up a browser on the associated pages, letting you quickly learn more about each species.

New "eBird page" link!

Range and lifer maps for extended taxonomies

For "extended taxonomies" which include checklists - like the new Butterflies of the World checklist, or many of the other recently released world taxonomies - you can now click Range links and get a world map.  You can also use the "World lifers map" to see where you might have the most possible targets.

And you thought Brazil had a lot of birds...  there's over 2,500 butterflies!

Fixing photo directories in bulk

Previously, if you moved photos from one directory to another, you'd have to click each one to point Scythebill at the new location.  This was tedious, to say the least!

Now, if you fix one photo, Scythebill will see if it can find an analogous change to apply to the rest of your photos to fix them all at once.

Other changes

There's two new sighting statuses: "Better view desired" and "Unsatisfactory views".  "Better view desired" is always countable, "Unsatisfactory views" is not.  It is entirely your choice which of these statuses you want to use (or if you want to use them at all!)

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Scythebill 15.8: the IOC 13.1 taxonomy, and lots of other improvements

Scythebill 15.8 is now available!  Its main feature is the new IOC 13.1 taxonomy, but it also includes a number of smaller improvements.  As always, download here, and let me know if you have any problems, either on Facebook or by email.

Important! Scythebill now has an email list - you can join online at

Scythebill 15.8.1 was released on March 4: it fixes eBird imports from the "year list" and "life list" pages, adds support for 11 new IOC languages, and some other small improvements.

IOC 13.1

IOC 13.1 is just released, and is already supported by Scythebill.  It's got 43 splits and 12 lumps - to see which affect you, visit the Splits and lumps special report.  (This report shows what has changed from one older taxonomy to today's taxonomy - so for just the splits here, you want to look at what's changed since 12.2)

Import improvements

BirdLasser imports should be working again - the column header names changed.

eBird checklist imports will now automatically try to fetch the county for your sighting.  It can only do so for hotspots, not private locations.

eBird imports to Scythebill will automatically drop entries like "gull sp." (not supported by Scythebill), and tell you how many such entries were dropped.  Scythebill also lets you automatically trim "My Data" eBird imports to just new dates.  These two features did not play well together!  They do now.

Data entry improvements

After entering a species, earlier versions of Scythebill would let you change a single-species sighting to a "sp." or a hybrid, and let you change "sp." sightings back to single species.  You can now make any change among these options - hybrid back to single species, "sp." to hybrid, and hybrid to sp.

Browse by location now supports a Remove sighting... button.  (This is actually a bug fix, not a new feature - this button accidentally disappeared a couple of years ago.)

Total ticks improvements

The total ticks report is now much less spartan.  Instead of just presenting you with a total number and putting all the details in the spreadsheet, you now get a sorted list of all the locations and their totals, and you can browse species lists (and even edit!).

Extended taxonomy improvements

Extended taxonomies added support for per-country checklists in 15.5.0.  This has been enhanced to support per-country status (introduced, escapee, rarity, and extinct).  There aren't yet any taxonomies that take advantage of this feature, but I needed to support it in Scythebill first!

Extended taxonomy country checklists also now support Indonesia and Russia.

Other improvements

  • The "Reconcile sp.'s automatically..." menu item now lets you - optionally - take advantage of rarity information.  For example, a Whimbrel (in the eBird taxonomy) that you saw in California could be a Eurasian Whimbrel (in the IOC taxonomy), but that'd be a rarity.  It's much more likely that it was a Hudsonian Whimbrel. 
  • Scythebill's a bit better at handling backups to Cloud storage - in particular, re-trying automatically (and quietly) when your Cloud storage isn't available at the moment.
  • The World Lifers map now honors your countability preferences (so, for instance, if you don't count introduced birds, it won't include those in its count of possible lifers).
  • I've added Greek, Ecuadorian and Peruvian Spanish, Albanian, Armenian, Persian, and Marathi as eBird/Clements international names.
  • Sri Lanka, Oman, and Russia have updated lists of "states".
  • The second IUCN 2022 Redlist updates have been incorporated.
  • The Big Day special report summary should now look better on Linux.
  • As always, a variety of first country and state records are included in the checklists.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Scythebill 15.7.5 - eBird/Clements 2022 update is here!

Scythebill 15.7.5 is now available!  Its main feature is the new eBird/Clements 2022 taxonomy.  As always, download here, and let me know if you have any problems, either on Facebook or by email.

Update: 15.7.6 was released on November 9.  It includes a few small improvements, but the most notable change is improved country checklists.  In particular, I'd completely flipped the ranges of Black-faced Bunting and Masked Bunting in 15.7.5, so if Scythebill auto-resolved this split for you, it may have gotten it wrong. You can always use "Verify against checklists..." in the File menu to look for sightings that may have the wrong species.

eBird/Clements 2022

The 2022 update of the eBird/Clements taxonomy is finally here, and it's a big one, with 118 new species from splits (and 41 lumps).  If you're a North American birder, this introduces just the Chihuahuan Meadowlark.  But if you've spent much time birding in the neotropics or southeast Asia, there's a good chance you'll have a lot of armchair ticks awaiting you.

As always, Scythebill will automatically handle the upgrade as much as possible, and use its checklists to automate splits where possible.  When you're done with the upgrade, visit the Splits and Lumps "special report" to see what's changed since 2021.  (For me, I had a whopping 31 gained against just 2 lost.)

There's also been some species where subspecies have been rearranged - moved from one species to another - which may give you some work even if there isn't truly a split.  This year, examples include:
  • Golden-bellied and Golden-crowned Flycatchers
  • Black-throated and Green-breasted Mango
  • Sulawesi and Moluccan Scops-Owl
  • Tropical and Large Scrubwren

Other changes

Other changes in this are fairly minor:
  • I've added over 1300 alternate scientific names to both taxonomies, mostly reflecting changes in genera over the years.  This will help users with imports that only include scientific names.
  • Scythebill should give a better message to Windows users whose file permissions prevent Scythebill from being able to save.

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Scythebill 15.7.4 - IOC 12.2 taxonomy is available

Scythebill 15.7.4 is now available!  Its main feature is the new IOC 12.2 taxonomy.  As always, download here, and let me know if you have any problems, either on Facebook or by email.

IOC 12.2 taxonomy

The IOC 12.2 taxonomy is just released.  It's a comparatively small update in terms of the total number of splits, but it does include the latest AOS changes (like Chihuahuan Meadowlark).  You can see the full list of splits and lumps on the IOC site, or you can visit the "Splits and Lumps" report after installing to see what changed with your list.

Note: If you've seen White-crowned or Mocking Cliff Chats - two African species - and have not assigned subspecies directly, you may have some slightly ugly results here, as subspecies were reassigned in both directions.

Other changes

Other changes in this release are relatively minor - it's been just six weeks since the last release.  But a few other changes are included:

  • I've done a full round of comparison between Scythebill's checklists and eBird, resulting in many checklist additions.
  • IUCN Redlist updates from 2021 and 2022 are now included.
  • A rare exception when editing subspecies from within "Show reports" is fixed.

Saturday, June 11, 2022

Scythebill 15.7 - lat/long improvements and internal upgrades

Scythebill 15.7 is now available!  It's a smaller releases, with some internal upgrades, lat/long improvements, and a few small fixes.  As always, download here, and let me know if you have any problems, either on Facebook or by email.

15.7.1 was released on June 12th with a fix for MacOS only (writing CSVs failed)

15.7.2 was released on June 20th with a few more small fixes;  ABA region reports were broken in 15.7.0 for about half of users, and saving as a spreadsheet failed for MacOS.

15.7.3 was released on July 12th with several more fixes:

  • Non-US MacOS users saw incorrect date formats in some places.
  • The German translation is much improved, thanks to a recent contribution from M. Johanning.
  • Trip reports will now include sighting descriptions even when there are multiple locations for a single species.
  • BirdBase imports should do a far better job of handling descriptions that contain double-quote characters.
  • Observado imports now automatically distinguish between Luxembourg-the-country, and Luxembourg-the-province-of-Belgium.

Java upgrade

Scythebill runs on top of the Java platform.  You don't have to know that - it packages Java internally, so you don't need to install Java.  But it's been awhile since I've updated that internally packaged version, and I've jumped from Java 10 to Java 17.  What does this mean to most of you?  Nothing!  But - it does make me a bit more worried about compatibility problems and odd bugs than I am with most releases.  Please do let me know if you see anything going wrong - especially if you're running an older operating system.

Lat/long improvements

Scythebill is better at loading latitude and longitude for locations from Google's APIs.

Show reports now lets you generate reports within a number of miles or kilometers of another location.  A word of caution:  this only supports locations with latitude and longitude, and assumes that all sightings at that location have exactly that latitude and longitude.

To make this a bit easier, in Browse by location, Scythebill now shows a small green place-marker next to locations that have a latitude and longitude, to make it easier to find locations that should have one but don't.

Smaller fixes

  • Scythebill doesn't support eBird taxa like "Gull sp.", and drops those on import.  It now tells you that it's done so.
  • The IOC checklist substituted "South American" for the abbreviation "SA" more often than it should.  Specifically, SA often meant South Australia;  that mistaken substitution is now fixed.
  • BirdBrain imports that referenced state codes ("AZ" instead of Arizona) are now much better supported.
  • Renaming a location that had an attached custom checklist would inadvertently delete the checklist!
  • An error noticed by a few users after hitting the "Back" button from the "New Location" page during "Enter sightings" has been fixed.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Scythebill 15.6 - IOC 12.1, and a few refinements

Scythebill 15.6 is now available with the just-released IOC 12.1 and a number of small refinements.  As always, download here, and let me know if you have any problems, either on Facebook or by email. 

IOC 12.1

The IOC 12.1 taxonomy was just released.  It's a comparatively small one as far as splits and lumps go, with the majority in Asia and Australasia.  See that list of changes on the IOC site.

This new taxonomy does include, for the first time, bird name translations in Serbian and Turkish;  you can try these out from the Preferences page.

Other changes

Scythebill now offers a "Restrained" sighting status - for birds you see in-hand, or in a mistnet, or similar circumstances.  In North America, the American Birding Association's recording rules require that birds be unrestrained, and by default these sightings will not be considered "countable".  But you can go to the Preferences page and make them countable if you wish.

If you mistyped a year, you might accidentally enter a checklist from the distant past or far future (the years "202" or "2202").  Scythebill will now warn you before proceeding when you enter these years on Enter Sightings.

The "Big day/year" report now properly supports "First sighting" reports.  So you can go, year by year, and see which year (or even day) you had the most lifers.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Scythebill 15.5: a better Mammals of the World, and many other improvements

Scythebill 15.5 is now available with country checklists for extended taxonomies, improvements to reporting, sighting entry, and importing, and more .  As always, download here, and let me know if you have any problems, either on Facebook or by email.

Extended Taxonomy Checklists

It's now possible to create an "extended" taxonomy - mammals, etc. - that comes with built-in checklists.  And taking advantage of this, thanks to Jon Hall at, there's a new version of the mammals of the world taxonomy with country checklists!

That means that you can see checklists in Browse by location (including endemics), use checklists to enter sightings, and that species dropdown lists prioritize species possible in the location you're visiting.

The manual will be updated shortly to explain how this works (if you want to create your own taxonomies), but in the meantime enjoy the new mammal taxonomy.

Reporting features

"Never all" reports

Show reports... has a new "Never all" reporting option (alongside "And", "Or", and "Never").  The old "Never" option let you look for (say) species that you have seen in Oregon but never seen in California -  you'd combine:
  1. "Or" "Location in Oregon"
  2. "Never", "Location in Calfornia"
But when you had multiple "never" things you wanted to enter, it got more complicated.  For a specific example, if you wanted to find out all the birds that you've ever seen in California, but you haven't seen this year in California (because, for example, you're doing a big year), then you might try:

  1. "Or" "Location in California"
  2. "Never", "Location in Calfornia"
  3. "Never", "Date is this year"
But this would give you no sightings ever - because it'll exclude any species that were ever seen in Calfornia (in any year), and any species that you've seen this year (in any location)!  The new "Never all" option lets you choose something different:
  1. "Or" "Location in California"
  2. "Never all", "Location in Calfornia"
  3. "Never all", "Date is this year"
This gives you exactly what you want - it only excludes species that were seen in California  during this year.

Year Comparison seasonal reports

The Year comparisons report - tucked away under "Special reports" - lets you see, overall and year-by-year, species lists with first arrivals and last departures.  Those arrivals and departure dates can be very interesting for migrants.

But a first arrival of January 1 and departure date of December 31st isn't particular interesting for a northern hemisphere overwinterer (or a southern hemisphere breeder).  And April 20 to October 15 doesn't tell you when a passage migrant might stop appearing in the northern spring/southern fall, or start coming back in the northern fall/southern spring!

Year comparisons now offer a "Split years in two?" option, which divides the year into two halves and reports separately on them.  So now I can easily see that for the local migrating Black-headed Grosbeaks, in my home town, I've seen them between April 17 and June 13 in the spring, and August 14 to September 26 in the fall.  While Hermit Thrushes (which overwinter here), have shown up as early as September 18, and left by April 30.  If you've got a lot of your own personal data saved in Scythebill, see what insights you can get into your local birds!

"Date is not during"

Date reports now include a new "is not during" option, which makes it simple to produce reports that exclude a single year or month.

Sighting entry improvements

When revisiting Enter sightings, the previous location as well as date will be saved, making it easier to enter multiple sightings for the same location on different days.

It's now possible to enter three-way "spuhs" - very useful for some particularly thorny identification problems (like Zino's/Fea's/Soft-plumaged Petrel).

Previous versions of Scythebill showed "Not on the checklist!" warnings whenever you entered "spuhs", hybrids, or domestic-form birds.  These false warnings no longer appear.

Importing improvements

eBird checklist improvements will now automatically identify the country and state of the checklist, meaning that they can usually be imported without any manual effort to pick a location.

eBird likes to have location names like "Golden Gate Park--North Lake", where a larger location (like Golden Gate Park) has many birding hotspots (like North Lake).  This is an annoyance if you like to group locations together to get better reporting.  Now, if you create a parent location like "Golden Gate Park", Scythebill will automatically slot those eBird locations inside the parent location (as long it's named exactly right).

Scythebill also will automatically abbreviate these names, so instead of getting "Golden Gate Park, Golden Gate Park--North Lake", as you did before, you'll get a simple "Golden Gate Park, North Lake".

In BirdBrain, Scythebill now supports imports that use dash-delimited dates (12-23-2021) instead of slash-delimited dates (12/23/2021).

Imports would sometimes create new but unused locations.  This happened if you cancelled an import partway, or if you did a big bulk import of "MyEBirdData" and dropped duplicates.  It won't do this anymore.

Private locations

If you have locations that you do not want uploaded to eBird, BirdTrack, or iNaturalist, like your home or another private birding patch, you can now make it private.  Just select the "Private location?" checkbox whenever you're creating a location, or visit Browse by location, find the location, and click Edit... to get the option to make an existing location private.

Other changes

  • You can now click the "Backup now" button multiple times in a single day, and each will produce a new backup file with a numbered suffix.
  • An error has been fixed that could appear while creating or editing locations in Browse by locations when "Only visited locations?" is selected.
  • It's now possible to disable multiple observers altogether from the Preferences screen;  if you enabled this feature but don't actually use it, just click "Disable multiple observers".
    Some other subtle problems with the multiple observers feature have been fixed.
  • Scythebill includes updated IOC multilingual names, with major changes to Portuguese, Swedish, and Dutch names.
  • As always, many checklist improvements were made, especially an overhaul of the Bangladesh list thanks to the checklist from Chowdhury and Thompson.