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.

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