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.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Scythebill 13.9.4 - small bug fixes

Scythebill 13.9.4 is now available!  As always, download here, and let me know if you have any problems, either on Google+Facebook, or by email.  This version includes a number of small bug fixes, including one that will become important in a month!

Bugs fixed

  • Google has changed its policies around Maps and Geolocation APIs - and as a result, as of June 11th, earlier versions of Scythebill will stop displaying location maps or being able to use Google to "geolocate" (find latitude/longitude given a location or vice versa).
  • The "New Location" dialog would have the OK and Cancel buttons hidden off the bottom for users that chose the largest font size.
  • Scythebill now gives a useful warning message if you move or delete a ".bsxm" file, instead of just surprising you with the "New/Open" screen.
  • Scythebill will (I hope) no longer show an odd error message in some rare cases when typing species names (perhaps, in particular, in extended taxonomies?).

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Scythebill 13.9.3 - small changes and fixes

Scythebill 13.9.3 is now available!  As always, download here, and let me know if you have any problems, either on Google+Facebook, or by email.  This version includes a number of small improvements and bug fixes requested by users.

Faster checklist data entry

In non-checklist species entry, you've long been able to type numbers right into the species selection field, and Scythebill would jump you straight into the "count" field for the current species;  and from there you can type letters like "h", "i", "m", and "f" to flip some of the sighting flags;  and then Return jumps you write back to species entry.  Handy!  But not very helpful for checklist entry.  Now it works there too!  You don't even have to tap the space bar to enter a species - just start typing the number of individuals you saw, and it'll add the species to your list, and start entering the number!

Small improvements

  • Scythebill has upgraded to the 2017 IUCN Red List - a list of species conservation status, from Least Concern down to Critically Endangered and Extinct.  The news isn't all bad ... but it's mostly not good.
  • In Show reports and Browse by location, genera are now only abbreviated after the first time they're shown (so Rhea americana and R. pennata, not R. americana and R. pennata).
  • In Browse by species, sightings are now ordered starting with the most recent sightings, with the oldest at the bottom.  (Everything else always behaved that way;  this is a long-standing inconsistency.)
  • As always, this version has a number of smaller range corrections and first-country records.

Bugs fixed

  • On MacOS, dragging photos into Scythebill was broken.  This should now work.
  • BirdLasser imports started behaving very oddly in Scythebill 13.9.1 if you hadn't set an explicit name for each location you entered in BirdLasser.  This should be fixed.
  • Clicking "Add species" in Browse by location in Species you haven't seen here mode showed error dialogs and otherwise behaved oddly.  It should now work.
  • In the Show reports screen, the "Print..." and "Export to a spreadsheet" options now treat "Show threatened status" consistently - anything Vulnerable or worse (so not Least Concern or Near Threatened).

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Scythebill 13.9.1 - IOC 8.1, Wildlife Recorder imports, and more

Scythebill 13.9.1 is now available!  As always, download here, and let me know if you have any problems, either on Google+Facebook, or by email.  This version includes the brand-new IOC 8.1 taxonomy, support for importing from Wildlife Recorder, and a bunch of smaller changes.

Update: Scythebill 13.9.2 is out, largely to fix glitches in Wildlife Recorder imports.  There's also now an "and save..." checkbox when entering sightings, enabled by default, which will save altogether as soon as you click "Done".

IOC 8.1

The IOC 8.1 checklist is now available, and you can update to it just by installing the latest version of Scythebill.  This time around, there's 6 splits from around the world, as well as a couple of lumps.

There's also a couple of subspecies which have moved from one species to another - in particular, the Indochinese subspecies "viridis" has moved from Black-backed Swamphen to Grey-headed Swamphen, which might affect your list.

Wildlife Recorder imports

Scythebill now supports importing Wildlife Recorder "trip" exports.  Please export with headers and coordinates enabled.  This is a beta version - please do let me know if you run into any problems.

Better imports

"Scythebill"-format imports are now a lot more flexible in handling the date column.   I still recommend "yyyy-MM-dd" formats (like 2018-01-27), but most date formats should import cleanly.  Let me know if you hit upon one that doesn't!

Imports from eBird checklists (and Wildlife Recorder imports) should be even less work, as Scythebill now takes advantage of latitude/longitude from existing sightings and eBird's database of birding locales.  (And this should continue to get better in the future.)

Smaller features

Scythebill now supports "Big Months" in addition to "Big Days" and "Big Years".

Scythebill now comes with "United States (Pacific Ocean)" and "United States (West Indies)" checklists.

The "Heard only" indicator - (H) - on sightings in "Browse by species" now comes right after the date, instead of after the date and location.  (It was often scrolled off the screen altogether

You can now generate reports by exact breeding codes (like "Nest Building"), not just categories like "Probable".  There's also a couple of new breeding codes from eBird - "Multiple (7+) singing males" and "Singing Male Present 7+ Days", both of which are considered "Probable" breeding.  You can read the full list of breeding codes and their descriptions on the eBird site.

The "Visits" header inside "Browse by location" now shows the total number of visits to a site (e.g., "Visits (83)").

Bug fixes

In some unusual circumstances, data entry could drop single-digit species counts.