Saturday, October 26, 2019

Scythebill 14.7.4 - eBird import is fixed, and better Multiple Observer support

Scythebill 14.7.4 is now available, with some critical fixes to get eBird imports working once more and an improvement to Multiple Observer support.  As always, download here, and let me know if you have any problems, either on Facebook or by email.

eBird import fixes

At some point in the last week or so, eBird changed the name of the column header containing species comments in both their Checklist and MyData export formats.  This broke Scythebill, which relies on those column header names to find the data.

(Scythebill should also have given a better error message than it did, instead of just saying the .csv file might not be valid.)

This has been fixed, so new files (and old files) should import cleanly.

Multiple Observer improvement

Scythebill added support for recording sightings for multiple observers in a single .bsxm file back in 14.0.0.  If you've never seen it - and want to use it - you can check out the section in the Scythebill manual that explains it.  (If you don't need this feature, don't worry about it - it's well-hidden, and none of it appears at all unless you go to the Scythebill Preferences page and turn it on.)

New to 14.7.4, though, is a quick way to toggle between those observers for all the reporting Scythebill gives you.  Now, just to the right of the Taxonomy chooser up top, is an Observer field, where you can pick a single observer:

As soon as you've done so, all the sightings will automatically be filtered to just that one observer - whether you're in Show reports, Browse by location, Browse by species, any of the Special reports, or even the "Remembered" reports whose totals show up on the main menu page.  You can always leave it blank to get a report for all the observers in your file.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Scythebill 14.7.2 - bug fixes and Trip Reports improvements

Scythebill 14.7.2 is now available, with a variety of small bug fixes and a few improvements to Trip Reports.  As always, download here, and let me know if you have any problems, either on Facebook or by email

Update: Scythebill 14.7.3 had one bug fix beyond 14.7.2.  No need to update if you already have 14.7.2 and it's working for you.

One point of caution for MacOS users:  this version is the first MacOS release that is "notarized" by Apple. This should make it much more likely for Scythebill to work properly on MacOS Catalina - though I have not yet tested with that version! - but also makes it possible that it might not work on some older versions.  I expect that any issues would happen as soon as you try to open Scythebill, so if it opens, you're good.  Please let me know if you encounter any issues.

And for Windows users - Scythebill will now warn you when your .bsxm file is in your Scythebill application directory (at least, if you install in the default location).  Doing so works sometimes, and sometimes makes Windows very unhappy, generating errors and generally making user's lives difficult.  It is recommended that you put .bsxm files in your Documents directory, or in cloud-based storage.

Trip Reports improvements

Trip Reports support two new options.

First, Include species from other taxonomies - which will generate an extra species list for all the other taxonomies where you recorded any observations, one per taxonomy.  (The species table is only for the current taxonomy.) 

Second, Include favorite photos (experimental) - which will take any photos that you have starred to mark as favorites and include them in the species list.  This has a few restrictions
  • It won't work for RAW photos
  • It will only work for photos stored as files, not on a website.
  • Also (and this is the most important reason for marking this as "experimental") when pasting into word processors, results are very inconsistent.  Most drop the photos altogether.

Bug fixes

  • If you upgraded to 14.7 or 14.7.1 and then tried to run with an older version of Scythebill, you got a cryptic error message.  Once you upgrade to 14.7.2, running with older versions should give a clear error message.
  • Wildlife Recorder importing is now much, much better.
  • The "Add sighting..." button (in Browse by species) no longer jumps the list of species back to the top in some cases.
  • Family reports might have better results when pasted into spreadsheet software, depending on the software.  (It's better in Numbers, unchanged in LibreOffice, and I haven't tested Excel.
  • Scythebill should no longer generate incorrect warnings that you can't see all of the content of your windows when you have multiple screens.
  • MacOS Numbers in a Chinese locale couldn't view dates in spreadsheets created from Show reports.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Scythebill 14.7 - eBird/Clements update, German, and more

Update: Scythebill 14.7.1 was released on August 28, 2019.  Most importantly, it fixes a bug that broke all "save as spreadsheet" features.  It's also got some small improvements to checklists and the new German translation.

Original post: Scythebill 14.7.0 is now available, with the brand-new eBird/Clements 2019 taxonomy, translation into German, continent checklists, "tick" maps, and more.  As always, download here, and let me know if you have any problems, either on Facebook or by email

eBird/Clements 2019 taxonomy

This taxonomy was released two days ago, and it's a big one with more than 80 splits (some of them into as many as six ways, and 12 lumps.  Do you love White-eyes?  If you do, you'll love this update!  (If you've been using the IOC taxonomy, many of these will be old news to you - but it's excellent that these two taxonomies are now a fair bit closer.)

If you're interested in knowing more about what happened, I strongly recommend the (inherently lengthy) overview on the eBird website, especially if you need guidance with some of the more complicated changes (again, White-eyes!).   

As always, Scythebill will work hard to automate as much of the update as possible.  And when you've updated, visit Special reports, then Splits and lumps, to see just what happened.  (I got 17 armchair ticks, and lost one.)

German translation, and more Spanish translations

Scythebill is now available with a translation into German!  As is still the case with the Spanish translation, I need all the help I can get cleaning it up to use proper German.  If you speak German, and see anything off, please let me know.

Also, the Spanish translation is now more complete - in particular, there's translations for all the continent and country names, and a few pieces of text I'd missed in my previous efforts.

Continent and region checklists

Scythebill finally supports automatic checklists for each of its built-in regions (North America, West Indies, Pacific Ocean, Europe, etc.).  This means you can finally get answers to things like "what West Indies endemics have I seen?  which haven't I seen?".  These checklists work with the Family report too.

As a critical part of this, Scythebill now has separate checklists for European and Asian Russia, and Asian and Australasian Indonesia.

Country and state "tick" maps

The "Total ticks" special report has a new trick:  you can see color-coded maps of countries or states of the world, and how much you've seen in each place.  Just visit Special reports, then Total ticks, and click the new Total ticks map button.  Here's a country map (you can use a small menu at the upper-left to zoom in on various regions):

It's pretty clear that I need to spend a lot more time in Africa and Asia!

And if you switch from "Country" to "State" total ticks, and click that Total ticks map button again, you can look at your total ticks at the state level (switching between countries with that menu in the upper-left).  Here's Brazil:

I'd really love to visit Paraná or Rio Grande do Sul!

Total tick maps are not supported for county ticks, unfortunately.  (They also don't show up for states in a few countries, like Kenya, Indonesia, or the UK).

Trip report improvements

There's a few subtle improvements in Trip Reports.
  • The itinerary is now much smarter about ordering and merging visits to the same location on consecutive days
  • The trip report title will now include the year (if all visits were in a single year)
  • Pasting the species table into a plain-text editor (one that doesn't support fancy styling) will now give you a nicely aligned table (at least with a monospace font like Courier)

"Wings" imports

Wings was birding software for MacOS (and perhaps Windows too?).  It's been defunct for some time, but Scythebill can now import directly from its exports. To prepare the exports from Wings, you'll need to do a series of exports, all in XML format:

  • All your sightings
  • ... and all seven kinds of locations (from Continent down to Station)
From there, go to Imports in Scythebill, choose Wings imports, and in the file chooser that opens, select all eight XML files that you produced in Wings.  (I wish Wings had chosen to support a simpler export format for its locations, but alas it did not!)

Smaller fixes

  • Scythebill will try to warn you when you've got the same file open (and are editing it) on two difference machines.  This should make it much safer to save Scythebill's .bsxm files in the cloud.
  • The Windows installer will now recommend that you quit Scythebill before it installs, which was always a good idea.
  • Macedonia and Swaziland are now listed as North Macedonia and eSwatini, respectively, matching their official names.
  • A long-standing bug in Browse by location has been fixed: editing a location name (at the bottom of the window) would drop latitude/longitude and location descriptions.
  • An occasional error message when dragging sightings between taxa has at last been tracked down, and a couple of other sometimes-reported error messages have been cleaned up.
  • The usual checklist updates have been made.  In addition, the 100-or-so most commonly reported "escaped" species from eBird have been added to checklists as escapees, meaning that when you enter those as sightings they'll automatically be considered uncountable.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Scythebill 14.6.0 - IOC 9.2, trip and family reports, and more

Scythebill 14.6.0 is now available, with the brand-new IOC 9.2 taxonomy, new trip and family reports, favorite photos, and more.  As always, download here, and let me know if you have any problems, either on Facebook or by email

IOC 9.2

The IOC 9.2 taxonomy - just released - is now supported.  There's some higher-level taxonomic changes, like a few new families, and the usual suite of splits and lumps.  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! (I gained five new species.)

Family reports

If you pay attention to recording species families, you'll be pretty interested in this. The "Show reports" screen has a new option in the "Export..." menu at the bottom left - "as a family report".  It's pretty simple - you'll get a few options, then a screen with a list of families, how many are possible, and how many you've recorded:

You can display these in three ways:
  • Taxonomic order: starting from ostriches, continuing through the passerines at the end
  • Most recorded: ordered based on how many you've recorded (most at the top), secondarily by number of possibilities (starting with fewest possibilities at the top).  That screenshot above uses this order.
  • Greatest fraction: ordered based on what percentage of possibilities you've recorded, secondarily by number of possibilities (starting with the most possibilities at the top).  This makes it easy to see all the monotypic families (in two blocks - one with all the recorded monotypic families, another will all the not-yet recorded ones).
The window that opens automatically puts all the text in the clipboard, so you can take all the text and paste - with formatting intact -  it into Word, Pages, OpenOffice, or even GMail.

Trip reports

Yet another new option in the "Export..." menu is "as a trip report".  This lets you get a quick start on writing a report for an entire trip - pick a report like "Location" is in "Brazil" and "Date" is in "2010", then create the trip report.  This feature is early, and I'm extremely interested to hear about whether it's useful for you, and if you have ideas for how to improve it!  The report is made to be copied and pasted into an editor so you can format or clean it up.

Trip reports have up to three sections;  each is optional:
  • An itinerary
  • A species table
  • A species list
The itinerary shows, day-by-day, where you visited:

(If you enter "start times" for visits, the itinerary is ordered correctly within each day.)
After each first appearance of a location name, there's an abbreviation for that location (which gets used in the species list).  If you had comments attached to a visit, they'll be included in this itinerary.

The species table shows a table with one row for every species, and one column for every day.  A number shows how many individuals were seen, "X" means seen without any specific number, and "(H)" means heard-only.

Finally, a species list shows all species seen, using the location name abbreviations (if the species was recorded at more than three locations, locations are omitted).

If there's just one sighting, and there's sighting notes, the sighting notes are included.
Lifers will be bolded if you add a "First records (lifers)" ... should be "highlighted" to your report parameters.

The window that opens with the trip report automatically puts all the text in the clipboard, so you can take all the text and paste it - with formatting intact - into Word, Pages, OpenOffice, or even GMail.

"Favorite" photos

Photos now have a star icon next to them - click it to mark the photo as a "favorite".

The "Photographed" reporting option now has two new options:
  • "has a favorite": includes sightings that have at least one photo marked as a favorite
  • "has no favorites": includes sightings that don't have any photo marked as a favorite.
Huge thanks to user drewbenn for implementing this feature.

Smaller features and bug fixes

  • The "AOU" reporting region has been renamed to the "AOS Area North" region (in keeping with the ABA Listing Areas).  And Scythebill's added the "AOS Area South" region.
  • The import code for "my eBird Data" (eBird exports of all of your sighting) had some bugs introduced in 14.5.1 that would result in imports failing.  These are fixed.
  • The combination of photos for a sighting and sighting notes meant that extra blank lines and spaces would get added to the sighting notes every time you saved!  Thanks to user drewbenn for drawing attention to this.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Scythebill 14.5 (and 14.5.1) - Spanish language and more

Scythebill 14.5.1 is now available, with a full translation into Spanish and a bunch of small features.  As always, download here, and let me know if you have any problems, either on Facebook or by email

(I forgot to put up a blog post for Scythebill 14.5.0, so this one covers both versions.  This page says which feature and fix went in which version.)

Spanish translation!

Scythebill (as of 14.5.0) will now display its entire user interface in Spanish if that's your preferred language!

A lot of this comes from automatic online translation.  While the technology has improved dramatically in recent years, it's still far, far from a perfect translation.  If you speak Spanish, and see any mistakes or areas for improvement in Scythebill's translations, please let me know!  Or: Si habla español y ve algún error o área de mejora en las traducciones de Scythebill, ¡hágamelo saber!

Better re-importing of eBird "Download my Data"

Scythebill is now a lot better at letting you re-import the eBird "Download my Data" export, which is pretty useful when you've entered a bunch of new checklists into eBird.  You'll get some (hopefully) clearer text about just what's going to happen.

For example, I've been a bit lazy about consistently importing my eBird mobile app outings back into Scythebill.  With 14.5.1, I can export all my eBird data, import it, and just click "yes" on this alert to get just my new sightings cleanly imported.


This feature is currently restricted just to eBird "Download my Data", but if any of you have a need to reimport a full set of data from another piece of software, let me know - this can easily be extended to other import types.

Small features

  • 14.5.1: Reports have two small new rules: you can request sightings where either the Location or Date "is not set".
  • 14.5.1: The species information pane atop Enter Sightings is more consistent and cleaner with how it displays common and scientific names for subspecies.
  • 14.5.0: There's a new "Download updates..." option in the Help menu, as a shortcut for visiting the Scythebill download page.  There's also a "Download taxonomies..." button on the "Manage taxonomies" page to open up a browser and download new extended taxonomies.

Bugs fixed

  • 14.5.1: A long-standing bug could have resulted in losing Visit Data information;  to trigger it, you had to start from Browse by location, find a visit, click Edit sightings..., then click "Back".
  • 14.5.1: The Extended Taxonomy CSV format now uses "Taxonomy ID" as the first column header instead of just "ID", because Excel is Very Very Silly.
  • 14.5.1: Every time Scythebill included an IOC taxonomic update, and you had to do any species resolution, Scythebill forced you into viewing your records with the IOC taxonomy, and you had to manually switch back to eBird/Clements if that's what you want.  That's fixed.
  • 14.5.1: Remembered reports using a combination of "Never" and "Heard only" showed wrong totals on the main Scythebill page.
  • 14.5.0: Scythebill is once again able to use eBird's APIs to find hotspots. 

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.)