Sunday, March 3, 2019

Scythebill 14.4.5 is now available, with support for importing from HBW Alive and a few small fixes elsewhere.  As always, download here, and let me know if you have any problems, either on Facebook or by email

HBW Alive imports

Scythebill can now import data from the .xls exports in HBW Alive.  This is the eleventh import format supported by Scythebill!

If you've got data there, mouse over the "My Birding" menu, and choose "Sightings".  From there, you should be able to export all your data as an XLS file, and then Scythebill can import it.

As part of this, I've also incorporated the English names used by Scythebill as alternate names for the eBird/Clements taxonomy (often on groups or subspecies), which should make these imports much more accurate.

As with any new import format, I'm eager to hear how it goes - and if you have any problems, please let me know.

Other improvements

Scythebill is also now more forgiving on matching common and scientific names in imports, which should greatly help users that are importing off their own custom spreadsheets.  Specifically, Scythebill's name matching is now case-insensitive.

The states list in Scythebill is now updated to line up with recent eBird changes.  Most of these changes are fairly subtle, with a few new provinces added to match political changes, the Mexican state renamed from "Distrito Federal" to "Ciudad de México" (matching an official change) - and similar changes of that level.

As always, there's some checklist updates.  In particular, gratitude to Mark Smiles for pointing out recent research in the ranges of Asian "Whitethroats", especially affecting our understanding of their distribution in the Middle East.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Scythebill 14.4 - Bird Brain and Birder's Diary imports, and easier navigation

Scythebill 14.4 is now available, with support for importing from Bird Brain, vastly improved Birder's Diary imports, an easy way to jump to a single species in Show reports and Browse by location, and a few small fixes.  As always, download here, and let me know if you have any problems, either on Facebook or by email

Bird Brain imports

Bird Brain is MacOS-only software for bird listing.  Scythebill can now import from its CSV exports, making an even ten supported import formats!  If you're a Bird Brain user, just:
  • "Select Export/Import in CSV format..." from the File menu, and then "Export All Records Data as .csv File"
  • You'll get an "Exported BB7 Sightings.csv" in your Bird Brain folder;  import that into Scythebill. 
As best I know, this only works for Bird Brain 7... it might or might not for earlier versions, and if you happen to use such an earlier version, please let me know one way or the other.

Birder's Diary imports

Birder's Diary imports were added in Scythebill 14.2.  However, it would seem that I added support for a rather old version of Birder's Diary!  Scythebill 14.4 supports modern versions of Birder's Diary, and should do well at importing the latest files from Birder's Diary 5.

"Jump to" species in more places

A number of users have noted that it's a bit tedious to look for a single species in a list in Show reports and Browse by location, especially for long lists.

Scythebill (finally) has a "Type a species name" field near the top of both these two pages, so you can use the same technique from Browse by species.

Show reports

Browse by location

Smaller fixes

Beyond this, only a few changes:
  • Since IOC 8.2, I've been mishandling the "centralis" subspecies of African Grey Woodpecker - it's accidentally been mapped to the "centralis" subspecies of Cardinal Woodpecker. Shouldn't affect many people, but if you've been persistent at choosing subspecies in IOC and bird Africa, you might have stumbled over this.
  • As always, a smattering of changes to checklists, including first county records and status fixes.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Scythebill 14.3 - IOC 9.1, "never" reports, and Splits and Lumps reports

Scythebill 14.3 is now available, with support for the recently released IOC 9.1 taxonomy, a new "never" option in Show reports, a new Splits and Lumps report, and a variety of smaller fixes and improvements.  As always, download here, and let me know if you have any problems, either on Facebook or by email

If you're using Windows, and updating from a version earlier than 14.1, you may run into a "Could not create the Java virtual machine" error after updating.  If so, please re-run the installer as an administrator (by right-clicking on the installer .exe file).  (And if that doesn't work, please get in touch with me.)

IOC 9.1

The IOC 9.1 taxonomy was finalized on January 19th, and Scythebill already supports it!  The big changes here are some major changes to east Asian White-eyes (especially Oriental, Japanese, and Everett's White-eyes), a few species of African White-eyes, and African Drongos, along with a four-way split of White-browed Shortwing.  Several splits familiar to birders from the 2018 eBird/Clements update have also come along, like Chivi Vireo from Red-eyed.

The Asian White-eye changes are particularly involved - Oriental and Japanese White-eye no longer exist! - but Scythebill will still help you clear up any issues with a minimum of fuss.

IOC 9.1 also comes with a new language (Ukrainian).

For a full list of changes, please see the IOC website.

"Never" reports

Scythebill has long supported both "And" and "Or" options when generating reports. Every one of the "And" options must match a sighting for it to be valid for the report.  And at least one of the "Or" options (if there were any) must match a sighting for it to be valid for the report.

These two let you do many things, but people have found a number of reports that you can't generate - like "how do I find species that I've recorded as 'heard only', but never seen"?  Or how can I find species that I've seen in California, but never seen in San Francisco?  "Never" reports do this.

Just choose the "Never" option, and you'll rule out species that ever matched that option.  For example, for "heard only but never seen":

Let me know how this new feature works for you!

Splits and Lumps reports

The Special reports page now has its fifth report!  This one's called "Splits and lumps", and it helps you make sense of how your list has changed in response to taxonomic changes over the years.  For example, this is what it notes for IOC 8.2 vs. the current IOC 9.1 taxonomy, for my list:

With the Splits and lumps report, you can pick IOC versions way back to 5.1 (four years ago), or eBird/Clements versions all the way back to 2010 (a whopping 8 years ago), and see, for each version, how many splits and lumps you've gotten, and what they are!  It's even smart enough to detect "splits" (or lumps) that come from subspecies moving from one species to another.  For example, when in 2018, eBird/Clements moved the subspecies of Whistler found on Lifou Island off New Caledonia from New Caledonian Whistler to Vanuatu Whistler, I picked up a species;  and, sure enough, the report notes that "New Caledonian Whistler (Pachycephala caledonica) is now Vanuatu Whistler (P.chlorura) and New Caledonian Whistler (P.caledonica)"!

Sometimes, there isn't enough information to be sure of whether there's been a lump or not.  For example, in 2015, Caribbean Coot was lumped with American Coot.  But it was lumped without even leaving behind a subspecies, so many of you will see this as a "possible lump" - "Some or all of American Coot (Fulica americana) and Caribbean Coot (F. caribaea) are now American Coot (F.americana)".  Scythebill doesn't have old checklists to note where Caribbean Coot was found, so this will be reported even if you've never been to the range of Caribbean Coot.

You can choose any typical report criteria you want to limit the Splits and lumps report, so if you want to know how splits and lumps have affected your ABA checklist, or only want to see how the 2015 splits affected your list for all sightings in 2015 and earlier, you can do that too.

Smaller changes

Scythebill's now a bit more friendly in how it reports updated versions of Scythebill (or at least, is more friendly after you update to 14.3.0).  Instead of rather cryptic "OK" and "Cancel" buttons, you now get three choices:
  • "Download now" - which does what you'd imagine
  • "Ask me later" - which lets you keep using Scythebill;  it'll ask you again in 5 days
  • "Skip this version" - which tells Scythebill you're not interested in upgrading to this version.  It won't bother you again until there's any even newer version (though you can always go to at any time).
Bulk editing of observers (either adding or removing) now works more consistently.

BirdBase and Avisys imports are now a little better at dealing with taxonomic changes in the "Leeward Islands" of the West Indies, as well as a few other parts of the world.  (It's a subtle change, unlikely to affect many people.)

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Scythebill 14.2 - Birder's Diary imports, Year Comparison reports, and more

Scythebill 14.2 is now available, with support for importing from Birder's Diary, a new "Year Comparison" report, and a variety of smaller fixes and improvements.  As always, download here, and let me know if you have any problems, either on Google+Facebook, or by email

If you're using Windows, and updating from a version earlier than 14.1, you may run into a "Could not create the Java virtual machine" error after updating.  If so, please re-run the installer as an administrator (by right-clicking on the installer .exe file).  (And if that doesn't work, please get in touch with me.)

(14.2.1 was released - it added a few bug fixes, in particular one affecting first-time users.  If you've updated to 14.2.0 and all is well, you're fine.)

Import improvements

Scythebill 14.2 adds support for importing from Birder's Diary native CSV exports, which should be far easier than using Birder's Diary's eBird exports as an intermediate step.  If you have Birder's Diary (I do not), and give this a try, please let me know how it goes!

With that addition, the "one big button for each type of import" has gotten too big, and the UI will now have a few types up top with a drop-down menu for all the other types.  Scythebill will remember which types of imports you use and add buttons for those, so you'll have an easier time seeing only the imports you care about.

Also, imports will now automatically detect if one of Scythebill's many internationalized name sets (42 options for eBird/Clements, 26 for IOC) would be a better fit for the import.  For example, if your import contains "White Heron", Scythebill might automatically suggest switching to "English (New Zealand)" names - what's known as "Great Egret" in much of the world is called "White Heron" there.

  • eBird checklists with location names containing non-English characters should import better.
  • Scythebill will do a better job of preventing duplicates when importing against the IOC taxonomy.
  • BirdBase imports that put records in the United States but without a state were getting added to United States (West Indies) instead of United States (North America).  This is fixed.
  • BirdBase and Avisys imports for Quebec and the Netherlands Antilles weren't being handled correctly.
  • BirdBase imports no longer (typically) add "BirdBase Region" and "BirdBase Local" locations.

Year comparison reports

Scythebill's "Special reports" page has a new option - "Year comparisons".  These reports let you look at how things have changed year-by-year at a location, so you can see:
  • How many species you've recorded, in total, year by year
  • Which species you've recorded (or missed) in each year
  • First and last recorded dates within each year (and overall) for each species
  • Frequency of observations

Excluding "undescribed species"

Scythebill includes 44 undescribed species - ones that do not yet have a scientific name.  If you're reporting species totals to the ABA, you may not want to include these.  Towards that end, the "Preferences" page now has an option to disable "Count undescribed species".  A small feature, but if you're a stickler for rules, a useful one!

Smaller changes

  • "Browse by location..." is now "sticky" - it will keep the selected location as you leave and return.
  • One user reported a failure to Print, display range maps, etc... - everything where Scythebill uses a web browser.  This release has a possible fix.
  • During taxonomic upgrades, Scythebill will create a backup file automatically.  If the backup can't be created, Scythebill was dead in the water, and the user couldn't open their file at all!  This is fixed.
  • As always, a variety of checklist corrections and updates are included.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Scythebill 14.1 - the 2018 eBird/Clements taxonomy is now available!

Scythebill 14.1 is now available with support for the new eBird/Clements 2018 taxonomy and a few smaller features and bug fixes.  As always, download here, and let me know if you have any problems, either on Google+Facebook, or by email.  (This is Scythebill 14.1.1;  14.1.0 was not released publicly.)

This version of Scythebill does carry some new system requirements for MacOS and Linux;  please see below.  I do not expect these requirements to affect many users, and hope that they affect none of you!

eBird/Clements 2018 taxonomy

The eBird/Clements 2018 taxonomy update was released earlier this month, and Scythebill fully supports it in this version.

For a full list of all of the changes, see this page.

Some individual changes are rather less obvious than the usual splits and lumps.  Subspecies have moved from one species.  If you're the sort of birder that always allocates sightings to subspecies, Scythebill will automatically do everything without you lifting a finger.  If you're not, then Scythebill will let you know that you need to perform some taxonomic updates.  But Scythebill can use its checklists to automate this in many cases. See the Scythebill manual for more information.
  • "Southern Gray Shrike" is now Iberian Gray Shrike, limited to just one subspecies, a non-migratory population in Portugal, Spain, and France.  In the rest of its range, and all other subspecies, this is once again Great Gray Shrike.  (IOC made a similar change in 8.2)
  • One subspecies of Black-backed Swamphen - viridis - has moved into Gray-headed Swamphen.  This means that southeast Asian sightings have largely moved into Black-backed Swamphen.
There's some even subtler tweaks in species like New Caledonian Whistler and Kloss's Leaf Warbler which will affect the more internationally prolific travelers among you.  Please see the link above for all the information.

One particularly difficult split in this version is Chivi Vireo, split off Red-eyed Vireo.  If you've spent any time in South America during the northern winter, and have recorded "Red-eyed" Vireo there without any further details, it is unfortunately the case that you'll likely not be able to decide which species you've seen, as these species largely overlap in range and identification is extremely difficult. (If you've visited when Red-eyed Vireos are all back in North America, then life is much simpler.)

With this taxonomy, there's also five new internationalized name sets - Czech, Faroese, Italian, Mongolian, and French Canadian.

Changed system requirements

Scythebill on MacOS now requires MacOS 10.10 ("Yosemite") or later;  this version was released back in 2014.

On Linux, Scythebill no longer supports 32-bit installations.  If you don't know, you are probably using a 64-bit version.

(Scythebill also now requires a 64-bit installation of Windows;  from what I can tell, this should not be an issue for the vast majority of users.  If you don't know, you are probably using a 64-bit version.)

Bug fixes and smaller features

  • Scythebill spreadsheets saved in Browse by location now include a column with species numbers.
  • As always, there've been a number of improvements and corrections to the Scythebill country and state checklists.  Specifically, the eBird/Clements and IOC checklists are now explicitly separate, which makes it possible to fix some subtle but long-standing pain points (like the range of Plain-backed vs Buffy Pipits).
  • A number of issues that made importing eBird files containing group names have been resolved, and these should import far more consistently.
  • If you've enabled "multiple observers", sightings entry has a new column with a list of observer abbreviations.
  • Scythebill has updated its internal libraries, and it is possible that this will significantly improve behavior on Windows machines with high-resolution displays.  On the other hand, users that had manually made their font sizes much larger (with the View menu) may need to make the font sizes smaller again.
  • Scythebill was, for reasons not entirely understood but hopefully fixed, generating empty location names in some Birdlasser imports.  These empty location names will automatically be changed to "Unnamed".
  • The "About" screen now has a scrollable area with information about all the extended taxonomies (previously, these might push off the bottom of the screen if you'd installed many of them!)

Monday, July 2, 2018

Scythebill 14.0.2 - the IOC 8.2 taxonomy is available

Scythebill 14.0.2 is now available with support for the new IOC 8.2 taxonomy and a few smaller bug fixes.  As always, download here, and let me know if you have any problems, either on Google+Facebook, or by email

IOC 8.2

The IOC taxonomy (now released twice a year) has its usual batch of changes.  Those affecting the largest number of birders will doubtless be:
  • A five-way split of Eurasian Magpie, some easy-to-see (Oriental Magpie), some extremely difficult (Asir Magpie, a Saudi Arabian endemic!).
  • A two-way split of Western Whipbird (an Australian species)
  • A two-way split of White-collared Seedeater
There's more splits and lumps;  you can see all the changes, including the dreaded lumps, at the IOC website.

Other changes of some interest, depending on one's interest in these sorts of things:
  • One wide-ranging subspecies of Japanese Bush Warbler (canturians) has moved into Manchurian Bush Warbler.  If you've seen Japanese Bush Warbler, you may need to be re-evaluate which species you've really seen.
  • Two enigmatic species - Madanga (endemic to the Indonesian island of Buru) and Sao Tome Shorttail (no prize for guessing which island it's found on) - have both been proven to belong to the Pipit and Wagtail family, Motacillidae!
  • Vangidae (formerly just the Madagascar Vangas) now includes Helmetshrikes, Wattle-eyes, Batises, and more.

Other changes

A few other changes snuck into Scythebill 14.0.2.

  • IOC 8.2 now includes names in the "Northern Sami" language of Scandinavia.  If you're one of its ~25,000 speakers, you're in luck!
  • Show Reports is now more consistent about showing sighting flags, like "uncertain identification" with (?) or "dead" with (†).
  • In Browse by location, the list of visits is now sorted most-recent-first, to be consistent with other parts of Scythebill.  And for places you've visited frequently, clicking a location selects (by default) the list of visits, and not the first species.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Scythebill 14 (Beta) - multiple observers now supported!

Scythebill 14.0.0 is now available.  This version adds a long-requested feature - you can now store sightings for multiple observers in a single .bsxm file!  This is a new enough feature that I'm calling it a beta.  I've tested it as I can, as always, but I wouldn't be surprised if there isn't a glitch here or there.  (There's enough features now that testing all combinations is getting increasingly hard.)

I could really use your help  - even if you don't use this feature - in testing it out and letting me know if things are working or not!  And if you do use the feature, please let me know if any part of it is confusing or just doesn't work the way you'd expect it to.  I'm sure there'll be things to improve!

I also haven't yet updated the manual to describe supporting multiple observers, but this page will include a quick walk-through of the feature.

There's also a bunch of other bug fixes in this version, described below.

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

Using multiple observers

If you want to use multiple observers, visit the Preferences page and click the new "Enable multiple observers" button:

You'll get a window asking you to enter your first observer.  Enter a name, and click OK:

Scythebill will automatically pick an abbreviation for you, though you can choose your own if you want.  And Scythebill will give you the choice to add this first observer to all existing sightings automatically.

After that, you can add more observers with the "Add..." button on the Preferences pane:

(You'll need to use bulk editing in Show reports... if you want to add a second, third, etc. observer to more sightings.)

From this point on, when you're adding sightings, you'll get a chance to choose the "Who?" in addition to "When?" and Where?"  (If you don't enable multiple observers, you won't see this box, or any of the other changes.)

(To add entirely new observers, you currently have to go to the Preferences window;  here, you add observers already entered in Preferences.  That might be a confusing choice on my part... let me know!)

Choose the set of observers to add by entering observer names in the new box up top and click add, and remove observers by clicking the red X.  This lets you choose a default set of observers for the sightings, but you can choose a different set of observers for a single sighting too (if someone missed a bird, or only one person got on a bird, etc.):

Beyond that, there's:
  • A new "Observers" reporting rule for choosing reports with specific observers
  • New "Observer names" and "Observers" columns in Scythebill exports and imports
  • Wildlife Recorder import support for observers
  • Support for choosing the observers for all other sorts of imports
  • Bulk edit support for adding or removing observers
I'll be updating the manual to fully describe this feature, but this should be enough to get most of you started.

Again, I'd enormously appreciate any feedback you have on this feature - what works well, and what doesn't work for you.

Other fixes

Imports should be better at dealing with data where common names have been updated for splits, but scientific names not fixed (or vice versa).  For example, an import of "Lesson's Motmot", "Momotus momota" (that's not the right scientific name!) in Lesson's Motmot's range will ignore the scientific name, but in Amazonian Motmot's range will ignore the common name.

If you add a lot of photos to a sighting, the later ones would become invisible.  Those now pack a bit more tightly into the screen and a scrollbar appears if you have a lot.

"Save a copy as..." will now ensure that you have a file name ending in .bsxm.

Google geocoding was sometimes picking latitudes and longitudes for the entirely wrong state/province (for example, "Springfield" in the United States was always the lat-long of the city of that name in Massachusetts!).

Scythebill should do a better job of choosing decent fonts on Linux.

eBird/Clements once again supports Hebrew names.

Locations with a slash in their names gave unexpected results when exporting to CSVs or spreadsheets on MacOS or Linux.