Saturday, December 25, 2021

Scythebill 15.5: a better Mammals of the World, and many other improvements

Scythebill 15.5 is now available with country checklists for extended taxonomies, improvements to reporting, sighting entry, and importing, and more .  As always, download here, and let me know if you have any problems, either on Facebook or by email.

Extended Taxonomy Checklists

It's now possible to create an "extended" taxonomy - mammals, etc. - that comes with built-in checklists.  And taking advantage of this, thanks to Jon Hall at, there's a new version of the mammals of the world taxonomy with country checklists!

That means that you can see checklists in Browse by location (including endemics), use checklists to enter sightings, and that species dropdown lists prioritize species possible in the location you're visiting.

The manual will be updated shortly to explain how this works (if you want to create your own taxonomies), but in the meantime enjoy the new mammal taxonomy.

Reporting features

"Never all" reports

Show reports... has a new "Never all" reporting option (alongside "And", "Or", and "Never").  The old "Never" option let you look for (say) species that you have seen in Oregon but never seen in California -  you'd combine:
  1. "Or" "Location in Oregon"
  2. "Never", "Location in Calfornia"
But when you had multiple "never" things you wanted to enter, it got more complicated.  For a specific example, if you wanted to find out all the birds that you've ever seen in California, but you haven't seen this year in California (because, for example, you're doing a big year), then you might try:

  1. "Or" "Location in California"
  2. "Never", "Location in Calfornia"
  3. "Never", "Date is this year"
But this would give you no sightings ever - because it'll exclude any species that were ever seen in Calfornia (in any year), and any species that you've seen this year (in any location)!  The new "Never all" option lets you choose something different:
  1. "Or" "Location in California"
  2. "Never all", "Location in Calfornia"
  3. "Never all", "Date is this year"
This gives you exactly what you want - it only excludes species that were seen in California  during this year.

Year Comparison seasonal reports

The Year comparisons report - tucked away under "Special reports" - lets you see, overall and year-by-year, species lists with first arrivals and last departures.  Those arrivals and departure dates can be very interesting for migrants.

But a first arrival of January 1 and departure date of December 31st isn't particular interesting for a northern hemisphere overwinterer (or a southern hemisphere breeder).  And April 20 to October 15 doesn't tell you when a passage migrant might stop appearing in the northern spring/southern fall, or start coming back in the northern fall/southern spring!

Year comparisons now offer a "Split years in two?" option, which divides the year into two halves and reports separately on them.  So now I can easily see that for the local migrating Black-headed Grosbeaks, in my home town, I've seen them between April 17 and June 13 in the spring, and August 14 to September 26 in the fall.  While Hermit Thrushes (which overwinter here), have shown up as early as September 18, and left by April 30.  If you've got a lot of your own personal data saved in Scythebill, see what insights you can get into your local birds!

"Date is not during"

Date reports now include a new "is not during" option, which makes it simple to produce reports that exclude a single year or month.

Sighting entry improvements

When revisiting Enter sightings, the previous location as well as date will be saved, making it easier to enter multiple sightings for the same location on different days.

It's now possible to enter three-way "spuhs" - very useful for some particularly thorny identification problems (like Zino's/Fea's/Soft-plumaged Petrel).

Previous versions of Scythebill showed "Not on the checklist!" warnings whenever you entered "spuhs", hybrids, or domestic-form birds.  These false warnings no longer appear.

Importing improvements

eBird checklist improvements will now automatically identify the country and state of the checklist, meaning that they can usually be imported without any manual effort to pick a location.

eBird likes to have location names like "Golden Gate Park--North Lake", where a larger location (like Golden Gate Park) has many birding hotspots (like North Lake).  This is an annoyance if you like to group locations together to get better reporting.  Now, if you create a parent location like "Golden Gate Park", Scythebill will automatically slot those eBird locations inside the parent location (as long it's named exactly right).

Scythebill also will automatically abbreviate these names, so instead of getting "Golden Gate Park, Golden Gate Park--North Lake", as you did before, you'll get a simple "Golden Gate Park, North Lake".

In BirdBrain, Scythebill now supports imports that use dash-delimited dates (12-23-2021) instead of slash-delimited dates (12/23/2021).

Imports would sometimes create new but unused locations.  This happened if you cancelled an import partway, or if you did a big bulk import of "MyEBirdData" and dropped duplicates.  It won't do this anymore.

Private locations

If you have locations that you do not want uploaded to eBird, BirdTrack, or iNaturalist, like your home or another private birding patch, you can now make it private.  Just select the "Private location?" checkbox whenever you're creating a location, or visit Browse by location, find the location, and click Edit... to get the option to make an existing location private.

Other changes

  • You can now click the "Backup now" button multiple times in a single day, and each will produce a new backup file with a numbered suffix.
  • An error has been fixed that could appear while creating or editing locations in Browse by locations when "Only visited locations?" is selected.
  • It's now possible to disable multiple observers altogether from the Preferences screen;  if you enabled this feature but don't actually use it, just click "Disable multiple observers".
    Some other subtle problems with the multiple observers feature have been fixed.
  • Scythebill includes updated IOC multilingual names, with major changes to Portuguese, Swedish, and Dutch names.
  • As always, many checklist improvements were made, especially an overhaul of the Bangladesh list thanks to the checklist from Chowdhury and Thompson.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Scythebill 15.4 - the eBird/Clements 2021 taxonomy is now available!

Scythebill 15.4 is now available with the eBird/Clements 2021 taxonomy.  As always, download here, and let me know if you have any problems, either on Facebook or by email.

 eBird/Clements 2021

It's been two years since eBird has been able to update their taxonomy, and accordingly - this is is a big one!  There's 70 different splits from around the world (and 8 lumps), and one of those 70 is a whopping 13-way split of Rufous Antpitta!  There's even 11 species new to science!

As always, Scythebill works hard to make this as easy a process as possible, using updated country checklists to simplify the choices as much as possible - and sometimes doing all the work for you.

Some of the splits likely affect a lot of birders. To name just a few:
  • Northern hemisphere birders probably have seen Mew Gull;  that is now Short-billed Gull and Common Gull.  If you're in Europe or Asia, it's overwhelmingly likely that you've seen Common Gull.  If you're in the western part of North America, those are (almost) all Short-billed Gulls.  Somewhere in-between?  It's a hard ID problem!
  • In Asia, Siberian Stonechat is now split to Siberian and Amur Stonechat.  This is another hard identification problem, though Amur is largely restricted to easternmost Asia, but in Southeast Asia this gets complicated!  And if you saw a vagrant, and no one thought to collect DNA samples, you might need to live with it as a Siberian/Amur Stonechat "sp."
  • Elsewhere in the Palearctic, Subalpine Warbler, Black-eared Wheatear, and Lesser Short-toed Lark have each been split in two, mostly west vs. east, though again vagrant records are a challenge.
But there's so much more - visit the eBird site to get the full description, or skim the Appendix down below for a quick form of the list.

And after you've updated, visit the Splits and lumps report in "Special reports" to see a recap of everything that happened affecting your list.  (I gained 24, and lost 3.  Not bad for a pandemic year when I haven't made it more than 100 kilometers from home!)

Other changes

It's only been six weeks since the last release (when IOC 11.1 was released), so there hasn't been much time to get in other changes alongside the big taxonomic update, but here's a few changes that are worth noting:
  • eBird also changed their date format in downloaded checklists, which broke import - that's been fixed.
  • eBird locations with lat-long in their name are now handled more consistently (with the lat-long automatically extracted from their name)
  • Wildlife Recorder imports now will use either IOC or eBird/Clements depending on the current bird taxonomy, instead of just assuming the imports are always eBird/Clements.
  • Scythebill will tell you, on an import, what birds are new for your year list, but it used to so oddly when importing records from years other than the current one.  Now it always reports based on the current year.

Appendix - the whole list

  1. Variable Chachalaca->Variable/Chestnut-headed Chachalaca
  2. Dusky-legged Guan->Dusky-legged/Yungas Guan
  3. Crested Argus->Vietnamese/Malayan Crested Argus
  4. Vaux's Swift->Vaux's/Ashy-tailed Swift
  5. African Palm-Swift->African/Malagasy Palm-Swift
  6. Festive Coquette->Butterfly/Festive Coquette
  7. Broad-billed Hummingbird->Broad-billed/Turquoise-crowned Hummingbird
  8. Gray-breasted Sabrewing->Gray-breasted/Diamantina Sabrewing
  9. Kentish Plover->Kentish/White-faced Plover
  10. South American Snipe->Paraguayan/Magellanic Snipe
  11. Mew Gull->Common/Short-billed Gull
  12. Royal Tern->Royal/West African Crested Tern
  13. Eurasian Scops-Owl->Eurasian/Cyprus Scops-Owl
  14. Spotted Eagle-Owl->Arabian/Spotted Eagle-Owl
  15. Collared Owlet->Collared/Sunda Owlet
  16. Tawny Owl->Tawny/Maghreb Owl
  17. Barred Owl->Barred/Cinereous Owl
  18. Southern Boobook->Southern/Rote/Timor/Alor Boobook
  19. Hantu Boobook->Seram/Buru Boobook
  20. Yellow-and-green Lorikeet->Yellow-cheeked/Sula Lorikeet
  21. Blue-winged Parrotlet->Turquoise-winged/Riparian/Cobalt-rumped Parrotlet
  22. Elegant Pitta->Ornate/Elegant/Banda Sea Pitta
  23. Rufous-winged Antwren->Rusty-winged/Rufous-margined Antwren
  24. White-backed Fire-eye->Western/Tapajos/East Amazonian Fire-eye
  25. Rufous Antpitta->Sierra Nevada/Perija/Muisca/Urubamba/Puno/Bolivian/Chami/Equatorial/Cajamarca/Chachapoyas/Panao/Junin Antpitta
  26. Chestnut Antpitta->Oxapampa/Ayacucho/Chestnut Antpitta
  27. Paramo Tapaculo->Loja/Paramo Tapaculo
  28. Blackish Tapaculo->Utcubamba/Blackish Tapaculo
  29. Black-faced Antthrush->Mayan/Black-faced Antthrush
  30. Tawny-throated Leaftosser->Middle/South American Leaftosser
  31. Red-billed Woodcreeper->Red-billed/Uniform Woodcreeper
  32. Necklaced Spinetail->Necklaced/Chinchipe Spinetail
  33. McConnell's Flycatcher->McConnell's/Sierra de Lema Flycatcher
  34. Tawny-crowned Pygmy-Tyrant->Fulvous-headed/Rufous-crowned Pygmy-Tyrant
  35. Vermilion Flycatcher->Vermilion/Brujo Flycatcher
  36. Graceful Honeyeater->Graceful/Cryptic Honeyeater
  37. Little Shrikethrush->Variable/Waigeo/Mamberamo/Sepik-Ramu/Arafura/Tagula/Rufous Shrikethrush
  38. Chinese Gray Shrike->Chinese Gray/Giant Shrike
  39. Dunn's Lark->Dunn's/Arabian Lark
  40. Lesser Short-toed Lark->Mediterranean/Turkestan Short-toed Lark
  41. Striated/Brown Prinia->Himalayan/Striped/Burmese/Annam/Brown Prinia
  42. Graceful Prinia->Graceful/Delicate Prinia
  43. Chestnut-backed Bush Warbler->Sulawesi/Seram/Buru Bush Warbler
  44. Little Rush-Warbler->Little/Highland Rush Warbler
  45. Gray-cheeked Bulbul->Gray-cheeked/Brown-cheeked Bulbul
  46. Ochraceous Bulbul->Penan/Ochraceous Bulbul
  47. Island Leaf Warbler->Island/Numfor/Biak Leaf Warbler
  48. Subalpine Warbler->Western/Eastern Subalpine Warbler
  49. Abyssinian White-eye->Abyssinian/Socotra White-eye
  50. African Yellow White-eye->Forest/Green/Northern Yellow/Southern Yellow White-eye
  51. Lemon-bellied White-eye->Lemon-bellied/Wakatobi White-eye
  52. Solomons White-eye->Solomons/Dark-eyed White-eye
  53. Limestone Wren-Babbler->Annam/Rufous/Variable Limestone Babbler
  54. Brown-headed Nuthatch->Brown-headed/Bahama Nuthatch
  55. Tropical Gnatcatcher->Tropical/White-browed Gnatcatcher
  56. Sedge Wren->Sedge/Grass Wren
  57. Spotted Nightingale-Thrush->Yellow-throated/Speckled Nightingale-Thrush
  58. Hill Blue Flycatcher->Hill/Javan/Dayak Blue Flycatcher
  59. Narcissus Flycatcher->Narcissus/Ryuku Flycatcher
  60. Siberian Stonechat->Siberian/Amur Stonechat
  61. Black-eared Wheatear->Western/Eastern Black-eared Wheatear
  62. Streak-headed Munia->Streak-headed/White-spotted Munia
  63. Long-billed Pipit->Long-billed/Nicholson's Pipit
  64. Scrub Euphonia->West Mexican/Scrub Euphonia
  65. Gray-headed Bullfinch->Gray-headed/Taiwan Bullfinch
  66. Stripe-capped Sparrow->Yungas/Chaco Sparrow
  67. Saffron-billed Sparrow->Moss-backed/Saffron-billed Sparrow
  68. Rufous-capped Warbler->Rufous-capped/Chestnut-capped Warbler
  69. Puerto Rican Bullfinch->Puerto Rican/St. Kitts Bullfinch
  70. Grayish Saltator->Olivaceous/Cinnamon-bellied/Blue-gray Saltator
  1. Eurasian/Vaurie's Nightjar->Eurasian Nightjar
  2. Chapman's/Amazonian Swift->Chapman's Swift
  3. Scarce/Schouteden's Swift->Scarce Swift
  4. Tawny/Ochraceous Piculet->Ochraceous Piculet
  5. Crested/Southern Caracara->Crested Caracara
  6. Rondonia/Layard's Woodcreeper->Dusky-capped Woodcreeper
  7. Pilbara/Sandhill Grasswren->Rufous Grasswren
  8. American/Northwestern Crow->American Crow

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Scythebill 15.3 - IOC 11.2 now available!

Scythebill 15.3 is now available with the just-released IOC 11.2 taxonomy.  As always, download here, and let me know if you have any problems, either on Facebook or by email.

Note: Scythebill 15.3.1 was released on July 19th, and fixes how the IOC White-spotted and Streak-headed Mannikins are handled.

IOC 11.2

IOC 11.2 was just released, and it's a big one!  By my accounting, there's 82 different splits (and, yes, 1 lump), including the absolutely mega 12-way split of Rufous Antpitta, as well as a 3-way split of Green Bee-eater, the Mew Gull split into Common and Short-billed Gulls, and a whole lot more - especially for those of you who've birded southeast Asia extensively.

After updating, head to Special reports, then Splits and lumps, and see just what you gained and lost.  Just 14 new for me:

As always, checklists have been updated.  Ranges of some of the migratory species (Atlas Wheatear, Siberian House Martin) are a bit speculative - let me know if you spot anything off.

Other changes

It's been just a week or so since the last version of Scythebill was released (15.2.4), so there's not a lot new beyond that.  (Though definitely check out the 15.2 blog post if you skipped that release for everything that happened there.) 

One change may help users that have added their own custom checklists - Scythebill can now show combined custom checklists, not just combined built-in checklists.  Just control-click (or command-click on MacOS) any two locations in "Browse by location" and Scythebill will generate an on-the-fly combined checklist.

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.

15.2.3 was released on May 22 with some substantial improvements to Ornitho imports and a fix for eBird "domestic" taxa not always importing correctly.

15.2.4 included a number of small fixes, most importantly one that could cause Scythebill to freeze during sighting editing.  More fixes are noted below.

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.
    • 15.2.4: the menu showing locations in "Search nearby" now is wide enough on Windows to show very long location names (common in eBird).

    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.
    • 15.2.4: Flickr imports and "copy-and-paste auto-magic" checklists would fail to find species when their name was followed by a single-letter word.
    • 15.2.4: the Family report output would appear as one line on Windows.
    • 15.2.4: it's now possible in Browse by location to cut and paste sightings between "visits" (to change the location or date or both)

    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.