Saturday, April 24, 2021

Scythebill 15.2 - BirdTrack support, browsing and import improvements, and more

Scythebill 15.2.0 is now available, with many improvements across the application, including BirdTrack support and several browsing and import improvements.  As always, download here, and let me know if you have any problems, either on Facebook or by email.

Update: 15.2.1 was released on April 26 with two bug fixes - one for eBird MyData imports containing records from "January 1, 1900" (which eBird uses for dateless records), and a second for correctly setting the "Photographed" field when adding photos in one missing case.

Browsing improvements


Browse by location, has two improvements, both of which you can see in the screenshot below (though you may have to squint).  First, you can now select a single visit and immediately see the list of species from that visit - this is a November 23, 2006 visit of mine to Iberá Marshes in Argentina:


Previously, you could only see the visit data when you selected a single visit (things like visit comments, the eBird observation type, etc.).  That's still accessible, with one more click - select "Visit data..." - but now you can see all the species observed (and edit them) immediately.

You can also see an "Only visited locations?" checkbox at the top, toward right.  Instead of showing all the countries and states/provinces of the world, as was the case in earlier versions, if you select this, you'll only see locations where you've recorded at least one observation.  So, I've got just the six countries in South America visible, and you can probably guess that I'd really like to visit Colombia!  This option is "sticky" - Scythebill will remember its setting as you leave and come back to this window.

Similarly, Browse by species has a new "Only encountered species?" checkbox, which will hide all the species you've never encountered.

BirdTrack support


Scythebill now supports importing from and exporting to BirdTrack, a very popular website and mobile application for recording bird sightings in the British Isles and Ireland.  As with any other new import format, when it's new, it's likely to have a few rough edges.  If you encounter any of them, please let me know!

BirdTrack imports happen in the usual way in Scythebill.  From any page, use "Import sightings" in the File menu, and then choose importing from BirdTrack.

To export to BirdTrack, go to Show reports, then in the bottom left select "Export sightings..." and choose  "... to BirdTrack".

Other import improvements


When you get done with an import, you also now get an accounting of what new species you recorded at a site.  For example, in this recent trip to a local site, I had 13 species which I hadn't yet recorded from that site, and 40 species that were new for my year list:


If an import gives you world lifers, or new birds for your country, state, or county lists, you'll get that here too.  You've always gotten this sort of information when entering sightings directly in Scythebill, but now you get it from imports as well!

As part of adding BirdTrack imports, Scythebill can now look at a lat/long point and identify the country (and sometimes state) without asking Google or eBird.  This has been used to make Wildlife Recorder and HBW imports significantly easier - large imports that used to require manually resolving hundreds of locations to a country can now import in one go.  You do need to have entered location names in the original application (this is important for Wildlife Recorder users!).

Importing did a poor job of letting you resolve an imported location to one you'd already recorded in some cases.  This should would much better in all cases now.

Finally, you can now use import from eBird even when you're not in a bird taxonomy.  This never happens for eBird, of course. But BirdJournal can create eBird-style imports for taxa other than birds, and these can now be imported into Scythebill.

Reconcile "sp's" against checklists

    The Scythebill taxonomy upgrade has long let you reconcile splits using its checklists. But up until now, there wasn't any way to redo this process once you left it.  You can now, at any time, use a new "Reconcile sp.'s automatically" option in the File menu.  You'll get a dialog that tells you what will happen before you click "Yes".  Here's the results of me going back in time and grabbing my list as it existed in 2016:
    The next time you run a taxonomic upgrade, you'll also get this improved information - instead of just telling you how many sightings will be resolved, it'll tell you what species changes come of it.

    You can do this with either the Clements/eBird or IOC taxonomies - it'll run with the current taxonomy in either case.

    Small improvements


    • Scythebill is now "signed" on Windows.  For now, this won't change much - though when Windows gives you warnings about an "unrecognized app", you'll see my name as the publisher.  But as people install and use Scythebill, the installation warning will eventually disappear.
    • When using Enter sightings, the "New for" column will also tell you if you have new species for your "year" list (though only for your world year list - if you're tracking multiple year lists, this doesn't quite do what you need).
    • The BOU names for the IOC taxonomy are updated for some recent changes, most but not all of which align better with widespread non-British usage (for example, Greater and Lesser Canada Goose are now just Canada and Cackling Goose).
    • Scythebill automatically uses its checklists to simplify data entry when you're typing abbreviated species names.  It now prioritizes regular species over rarities - for example, the first "D" in England is now Dartford Warbler and not Dark-eyed Junco.
    • There is now a new preference to let you choose the language for Scythebill.  If you don't want to use the system language, you can explicitly choose from English, German, or Spanish.
    • As always, a bevy of recent first records are incorporated into the checklists.  The rarity list is fixed for Oregon and British Columbia, and the Armenia checklist is much improved.

    Fixed bugs


    • When entering sightings, if you quit Scythebill or asked to import sightings before clicking "Done", you'd lose your work!  You now get a warning, and you can also use "Save" in the file menu during species entry to immediately save without leaving.
    • Some of the keyboard shortcuts when entering sightings - like "H" to toggle on Heard Only - would not always get saved
    • When entering sightings and moving to or from the IOC taxonomy, the table might not correctly display species counts and other information. (The data was always present.)
    • The IUCN Redlist status for endangered species wouldn't appear in "Browse by species" if the species only had a scientific name.  This just affected extended taxonomies.
    • An error dialog that sometimes appeared on MacOS when plugging in or plugging monitors should no longer appear.

    Sunday, January 24, 2021

    Scythebill 15.1 - IOC 11.1, easier Sp. and Hybrid entry

    Scythebill 15.1 is now available, with the IOC 11.1 taxonomy, improvements to sp. and hybrid entry, and more.  As always, download here, and let me know if you have any problems, either on Facebook or by email.

    IOC 11.1

    The IOC 11.1 taxonomy was just released, and when you download this version of Scythebill, you'll be immediately updated to it.

    You can get the full list of species changes here (mostly South America), or after updating you can go to Special reports, then Splits and lumps, and see just what you gained and lost.  For me, it's 6 splits, 2 lumps:



    As always, checklists have been updated.  To be honest, the wintering range and vagrancy patterns of the new Lesser Short-toed Lark split (Mediterranean and Turkestan Short-toed Lark) seems poorly understood, and these ranges should be taken with caution.  I've largely guessed with respect to European records.  (If anyone has insight into this and can suggest corrections, please do!)

    Better sp. and hybrid entry

    Scythebill's always made it easy to entry "sp." and hybrids from the "Enter sightings" page, but it's always been much more annoying to correct a sighting after the fact.

    This came to a head for me when this bird showed up in (literally) my own backyard:




    At first, it seemed like a clear Costa's Hummingbird, a good bird for my neck of the woods.  But after close inspection, a lot more photos, recordings of calls, and weighing-in by some of the heavy hitters of hummingbird identification here in the US, it's been re-identified as a hybrid with Anna's Hummingbird (and maybe an F2 backcross!)

    Now, when you visit a sighting anywhere in Scythebill - in Browse by species, Browse by location - there's a "Sp/Hyb." button that lets you change the species into either a "Sp." (a bird that could be one of two species) or a hybrid.



    Click the button, and you'll see this dialog:

    ... where you can choose the second species in the "Sp." or hybrid.

    Other changes and fixes

    • Checklist spreadsheets created from Browse by location have supported a "Lifers in bold" option, which did the obvious thing.  That option now does one more thing, which shows species that you haven't seen in that location in italics.
    • Checklist spreadsheets in Browse by location no longer include not-yet-established (common escapee) species.
    • The Flickr import did not work before creating a sightings file.

    Thursday, December 31, 2020

    15.0 - Flickr Album imports, "Times sighted" reporting, and more

    Scythebill 15.0 is now available, with Flickr Album imports, "Times sighted" reporting, and much more.  As always, download here, and let me know if you have any problems, either on Facebook or by email

    The next version should arrive with the IOC 11.0 update, probably in January 2021.

    (Scythebill 15.0.2 was released almost immediately with a fix for first-time users, and Scythebill 15.0.3 was released on January 4, 2021, with some Flickr import improvements and a fix for Waarnemening.be imports.)

    Flickr Album imports

    Scythebill now supports importing sightings from Flickr Albums, providing a great way for photographers to bootstrap their Scythebill databases.  It looks for bird names (or mammal names, or any other taxonomy) in the description and title of the photo.

    Some recommendations and limitations:
    • It only supports albums - it can't import an entire photostream, for example.
    • It only supports public albums - you can't import private data.  You can flip the album to public for the import and right back to private if needed.
    • It does a better job if you can give it one location - say, a country - for the import.  If you have albums spanning multiple countries, it'll do OK, but for best results use albums organized per-country.
    • Obviously, photos with no title or description cannot import.
    This is a bit new and experimental, and I'm very curious how well it works for all of you Flickr users!

    Reporting improvements - "Times sighted" and "Pacific Ocean (ABA)"

    You can now generate reports that pick species by how many times they've been sighted.  So if you're curious, say, how many birds you've seen in 2020 exactly once, or in California more than 100 times, or anything of that sort, use the new "Times sighted" option in Show reports.

    There's also a "Pacific Ocean (ABA)" reporting region you can use.  There's a few locations that the ABA considers part of the Pacific Ocean region that Scythebill puts in Australasia - most notably New Zealand, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, and the Solomon Islands.  This made Australasian users happy, but meant anyone reporting listing totals to the ABA had their numbers off.


    Other import improvements

    Imports using the pre-split name of a now-split bird ("Black-chinned Laughingthrush") won't arbitrarily pick one species from the list, but will correctly generate "spuh" records of all the plausible forms for the location.

    Importing from eBird "MyData" files now uses "ML Catalog" entries (Macaulay Library) to automatically link to photos you've uploaded to eBird.

    Scythebill now supports importing from the "new" observation.org website's exports.

    Importing from HBW Alive exports should be much more successful now.  In particular, Scythebill should be able to read XSLX files from HBW.

    Wings imports have had a few rough edges polished.  It gives better error messages when locations are missing from the import files, and avoids mapping custom user modifications to the Wings taxonomy to the wrong bird.

    Small new features

    • There's a new "Find checklist rarities..." menu item in the File menu.  It can find any species you've seen that are considered rarities on the Scythebill checklists.  This can just give you a happy memory, but it can also be a sign of identification or import mistakes, or a problem with the Scythebill checklists.
    • The IUCN Red List 2020 updates are now included.
    • Scythebill now includes checklists for the five "High Seas" regions.  Can't say they're perfect (no one officially tracks these as best I can find), but they should be helpful on the rare occasions one is on a boat far, far from land.
    • Scythebill includes new eBird/Clements name translations for the Arabic, Azerbaijani, Basque, Gallician, Korean, Lithuanian, Romanian, Slovakian, and Slovenian languages.
    • The Isle of Man, Guernsey, and Jersey are no longer incorrectly included in the United Kingdom. (They are Crown dependencies instead.)
    • The checklists are, as always, updated - in particular, I did another annual pass comparing all of Scythebill's checklists with eBird records, uncovering a lot of new entries.

    Bugs fixed

    • The Range Summary dialog used when resolving splits or choosing subspecies now works correctly in multi-monitor setups.
    • An error dialog that sometimes popped up when switching taxonomies on the Show reports page should be fixed
    • When entering the second half of a "spuh" or hybrid, alternate names are now available in the species chooser.

    Sunday, July 19, 2020

    14.9.0 - IOC 10.2 taxonomy and a few small fixes

    Scythebill 14.9.0 is now available, with the IOC 10.2 taxonomy and a few small fixes.  As always, download here, and let me know if you have any problems, either on Facebook or by email.


    Reptiles of the World

    It was released a few weeks ago, not as part of this release, but in case you missed it:  you can download an extended taxonomy with all the reptiles of the world, courtesy of Peter Uetz and others at reptile-database.org, with thanks to Abdel Bizid for converting into a format ready for Scythebill.  Thanks all!

    IOC 10.2

    The just-released IOC 10.2 taxonomy is supported, with the usual batch of splits and a handful of lumps, as well as a lot of detailed nitty-gritty taxonomic changes.  For North Americans, the lump of Northwestern Crow is the headline change;  in Europe, the split of Western and Eastern Subalpine Warblers.  (If anyone has solid data on the vagrancy and wintering grounds of these two species, let me know - there's a decent bit of guesswork in my checklists here.)  Borneo has a few new bulbul endemics as well.  There was also a lot of subspecies shuffling in the Hair-crested Drongo complex, especially in the Philippines.

    Also, if I should happen to have any Croatian users, IOC now includes a Croatian translation!

    For the rest of the details, see the IOC species update page, and remember that you can always visit the Splits and Lumps special report to see what happened with your list.

    Small changes and bug fixes

    • In Enter sightings, the species information table is now below the species list instead of above it.  This makes it easier to see species range information when choosing species.
    • Importing from eBird with the "English (BOU)" name preferences selected had issues with some names containing the "Grey" spelling.  This is resolved.
    • With the IOC BOU English names, the auto-complete dropdown menu had some weird display issues with subspecies names.
    • The "Oriental region" list did not include sightings that were in Asian Indonesia but not in one of the built-in states.
    • Exporting in Scythebill CSV format sometimes included unwanted records when using the "Never" report option.

    Thursday, May 7, 2020

    Scythebill 14.8.4 - small features and fixes

    Scythebill 14.8.4 is now available, with a few small features and fixes.  As always, download here, and let me know if you have any problems, either on Facebook or by email.

    This is a small update, with two new features:

    • There's a new "Oriental region" option in reporting - you can choose it as a location name.  It follows the Oriental Bird Club's region as best it can.  It is a bit off in two specific geographic regions.  First, it includes all of Indonesia's Maluku region - but the Aru Islands are not part of the Oriental region.  Second, it includes all Russian districts that are at all east of 90° longitude, when technically those portions west of 90° should not be.
    • There's a new "Signs only" sighting status option, which you can use for times when you've observed signs of a species - an abandoned nest, footprints, mammal spoor - without seeing the species itself.  Such sightings are not countable.
    There's also a few bug fixes:
    • HBW Alive imports are now much more accurate, just in time for HBW Alive to shut down ... (The site is closing on May 11th.)
    • Saved reports that used "Or" or "Never" on the first row wouldn't restore properly - they'd show as "And".
    • Some Linux users were seeing "File has been modified!" warnings very shortly after saving.  These should (hopefully) be resolved.


    Sunday, April 12, 2020

    Scythebill 14.8.3: eleven small fixes

    Scythebill 14.8.3 is now available, with a number of small fixes.  As always, download here, and let me know if you have any problems, either on Facebook or by email.

    Font changes

    Scythebill now uses a font for Windows and Linux that supports Japanese, Chinese, and Korean characters (as well as some other languages) which were not supported before.  There may be some slight visual changes associated with this;  let me know if anything seems markedly worse.

    eBird improvements


    Scythebill now uses the latest eBird breeding bird codes.  Most interestingly, "Singing male" is now "Singing bird" - did you know that in most songbird species, females sing too?  Also, there's new "Used nest" and "Wren/woodpecker nest building" codes..

    Scythebill had a bad habit of importing some eBird groups as "spuhs" - when the scientific name of the group listed two subspecies (like "Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored) - Junco hyemalis hyemalis/carolinensis").  This is fixed.

    Scythebill also now gives a much better error message when it gets a "MyEBirdData" import where the dates are formatted strangely.  This most often happens when users edit this CSV file in Excel.  As a reminder, you can always import an entire MyEBirdData file into Scythebill, and Scythebill will automatically exclude the already-imported sightings.

    Finally, Scythebill Life List imports were largely failing, starting in 14.8.2.


    Other improvements

    Scythebill now tries to save window locations when you quit and restart, so if you'd like to keep your windows on one side of your screen or another, Scythebill will try to keep it there.

    Scythebill, for at least some users, was showing an error screen when dragging images in from Chrome for photos. (You can attach photos from your disk or a website.)

    The File menu looks a bit different in this release.  Most notably, I've moved and renamed the old "New..." and "Open..." menu items;  an occasional user would think that "New..." was the proper way to enter new sightings, which it most definitely is not!  ("New..." creates a new sightings file altogether.)

    German translations are a bit better, thanks to advice from a native speaker.

    Observado imports should now support the French language.

    The Linux installer now asks before putting a shortcut on the desktop.

    Saturday, January 25, 2020

    Scythebill 14.8.0 - IOC 10.1, iNaturalist, editing improvements, and more!

    Scythebill 14.8.0 is now available, with the just-released IOC 10.1 taxonomy, iNaturalist import and export support, and a lot of other smaller improvements and fixes  As always, download here, and let me know if you have any problems, either on Facebook or by email.

    Scythebill 14.8.1 was released on February 18 with a handful of fixes, and 14.8.2 on February 22 with a few more;  please scroll to the bottom section ("Other changes").

    IOC 10.1 taxonomy

    The IOC 10.1 taxonomy was just released, and is now supported.   As always, Scythebill will handle the process of upgrading automatically.  And you can visit the "Splits and lumps" special report after upgrading to see how you did!

    This taxonomy includes the usual set of splits and lumps.  One likely to affect most people is the split of Whimbrel into Eurasian Whimbrel (Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australasia) and Hudsonian Whimbrel (the Americas).  There are a fair number of records of vagrants of each form into the range of the other, which will make it harder for Scythebill to automatically choose which half of the split you've seen.

    Those who've birded in southeast Asia may also encounter a two-species turn into five-species split - Brown and Striated Prinia are now Himalayan, Deignan, Swinhoe's, Burmese, and Annam Prinias.

    Editing improvements

    First, the species table in Enter sightings. has two new columns.  One shows the Number (if any), and the other shows the sighting status (Introduced, Escapee, Dead, etc.): 


    These columns should make it much easier to scan your entered data for important information without tediously expanding each row.

    Second, there is now a "Delete all..." button when you've selected a visit in Browse by location.  This makes it much faster to clean up improperly entered or duplicate data.

    Backups - please turn them on!

    Scythebill has long had a feature to back up your data weekly or monthly, but I'd like to see a lot more users turn this on! Over the years, I've had messages from several users who've lost track of their .bsxm files, and while I've been able to help some of them find their data and get back on track, others have lost everything. This is painful to me.

    Scythebill 14.8 will nag you to turn on backups if you haven't.  If you click "Ask me later", it won't nag you again for a week, and you can also tell Scythebill not to ask ever again.  But please do enable backups.  Your data is precious;  take care of it!

    iNaturalist import and export

    Scythebill can now import from and export to iNaturalist, a widely-used website supporting observations across the entire "tree of life".

    To import from iNaturalist, visit https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/export.  Choose a query - probably setting User to your iNaturalist user ID, and choosing a single group of taxa with "Show only", then "Create export". The imports will automatically link Scythebill to any photos you uploaded on iNaturalist.

    To export from Scythebill to iNaturalist, go to Show reports, create a report with the sightings you want, then use Export... (at the bottom left) and ...to iNaturalist.  This will give you a CSV file.  Visit https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/import, click Import from CSV, then choose the CSV file you just created. Note that these imports do not include any photos you have;  you'll have to upload those manually if needed.

    Other import improvements

    A long-standing bug is fixed;  Scythebill imported four "sp." imports to incorrect species.
    • Sitta sp. was imported as Sulphur-billed Nuthatch!
    • Pionus sp. was imported as Scaly-headed Parrot!
    • Dicaeum sp. was imported as Fire-breasted Flowerpecker!
    • Rhipidura sp. was imported as Mindanao Blue-Fantail!
    The underlying cause is a bit embarrassing - it was code in Scythebill that was attempting to gracefully handle small typos interacting poorly with a few very particular three-letter subspecies names.  There's multiple layers of protection against this happening again.

    eBird imports in general no longer ask you to import "sp." entries (e.g "Gull sp."), since these are not supported by Scythebill.  The eBird importer is also more successful at dealing with "eBird" files as generated by Wildlife Recorder.

    As of 14.8.2, eBird checklists that have a latitude and longitude in the name should automatically extract that information for you (and often use it to automatically pick a country and state).

    Wings imports should be successful much more often.

    As of 14.8.1, BirdBase imports now can import to non-bird taxonomies.

    Across all imports (and particularly important for imports of custom data), Scythebill's better at supporting country and state/province abbreviations in place of full names.

    Other changes

    • 14.8.2: The "backup begging" code now pays attention to "Don't ask again", and will only ask once a week if you click "Ask me later".  (It was always supposed to work this way.)
    • 14.8.2: Saving a report as a spreadsheet with subspecies and both a common and scientific name column no longer shows the subspecies name twice.
    • 14.8.1: Family reports don't count undescribed species if that's disabled in Preferences
    • 14.8.1: The new "Number" and "Status" columns also appear for Checklist species entry
    • 14.8.1: The "copy-and-paste magic" way of building custom checklists had some glitches, especially around defaulting statuses, when using the IOC taxonomy.
    • 14.8.1: Checklists saved as spreadsheets would sometimes generate broken files;  this should be fixed.
    • Scythebill has fully incorporated the 2019 IUCN Red List updates.
    • For users with multiple observers, Scythebill 14.7.4 added an Observer field at the top of the window.  A bug with Observer fields and "Lifers"/"Species you've seen" in Browse by location has been fixed.
    • Some reports with a Sighting Status field would fail;  this is fixed.
    • Report spreadsheets used to replace the sighting status ("introduced") with "heard only" for such sightings.  That won't happen anymore:  heard only will either be appended, or put in its own column (when "Show notes" is enabled).
    • The folder you use for exports and imports and reports is now tracked separately from the folder for your .bsxm file.
    • For MacOS users, Scythebill is now fully "notarized" for MacOS Catalina. 
    • As always, there's the usual set of checklist updates.  Most notably, I think, I'd had omitted Square-tailed Drongo-Cuckoo from the Bhutan checklist - while Fork-tailed Drongo-Cuckoo does appear to be present too, Square-tailed Drongo-Cuckoo seems the far more commonly reported species.