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.

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