Posts in Category: Birding

eBird Express Version 1.0.5

Posted Sep 18th, 2011 at 5:53 pm in Birding, Technology | Comments Off

A new version of eBird Express is now available on the downloads page.

Important Note about Taxonomy and Templates

Due to the new taxonomy changes in eBird, old templates may no longer validate in eBird Express. (As one example, if you have a template with “Common Moorhen” included, the new name is now “Common Gallinule.”) If you previously created your own templates, such as a state or county template, you will need to recreate them to use the newest taxonomy. Refer to the instructions on the downloads page for information about creating templates. It’s not hard! Remember that you can use the Verify Taxonomy function to find species with outdated English or scientific names.

New Features

  • The verify taxonomy function has been updated to use the latest global taxonomy from eBird.
  • A new preference (turned off by default) has been added that allows users to reset the formatting of checklist automatically before processing. This can be helpful if you regularly paste information that has different formatting from another program into an eBird Express checklist.

Bug Fixes

  • Comments longer than 4,000 characters no longer cause eBird Express to crash when validation is run.

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Green Violetear in Abilene, TX

Posted Jul 8th, 2011 at 10:59 pm in Birding, Photography | 8 Comments

Today I saw and photographed a Green Violetear at my father’s house in Abilene, TX. It was a little surreal to look out the window expecting to see a Black-chinned Hummingbird and be greeted instead with this colorful monster. This was a first for me in Texas and the United States. I’ve previously only seen the bird in the Mexico, Costa Rica, and Ecuador. It was also a life bird for my wife. Not bad for a day when I wasn’t officially birding.

Anyway, I thought I’d post pictures online before heading off to bed, since I know many people are considering chasing the bird.

Green Violetear

Green Violetear

Green Violetear

eBird Express Version 1.0.4

Posted May 5th, 2010 at 8:54 am in Birding, Technology | Comments Off

A new version of eBird Express is now available on the downloads page.

New Features

  • You can now provide only one name for a species — either the English name or scientific name — and the verify taxonomy function will fill in the missing names for you.

Bug Fixes

  • The Reset Formatting function is now more robust and thorough.
  • Fixed a rare problem related to referencing cells in A1 vs. R1C1 row/column format. (If you don’t know what A1 or R1C1 is, don’t worry. This is a user preference in Excel and either setting should work now.)

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eBird Express Version 1.0.3

Posted Jan 31st, 2010 at 6:59 pm in Birding, Technology | 1 Comment

A new version of eBird Express is now available on the downloads page. For those who really pay attention, I’ve made the version numbers a little simpler going forward by using 1.0.3 instead of 1.0.0.3. (I don’t think I’ll run out of numbers with three digits anytime soon.)

New Features

  • Support for eBird’s new random protocol.
  • Added a user preference (turned off by default) to delete the original data file after processing for eBird. (You can always recover this file from the recycle bin if you see that you need it again.)

Bug Fixes

  • White space characters like tabs and carriage returns in the checklist notes and comments for an individual bird could cause a .csv file to fail when uploading to eBird.
  • Number of observers and duration are now required for all but casual checklists.

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Birding in Hyde Park

Posted Jul 11th, 2009 at 8:14 am in Birding, Traveling About | 4 Comments

I wanted to share a little more about the birding we’ve been able to do thus far. We went to Hyde Park the other day, as seen in these pictures which I mentioned previously.

I didn’t bring the big lens for bird photography. It’s too darn heavy for a whole day’s trip, and it’s best to photograph birds in small doses if Amy’s with me, as being a spectator quickly gets boring.

There were a few birds however that were extremely cooperative, such as this immature Great Crested Grebe that came up close enough to get a picture even without the big lens.

Great Crested Grebe

Pigeon, It’s Whats for Dinner

Rock Pigeons

We did witness one of the most spectacular events of predation I have ever seen. A Yellow-legged Gull (our life bird) was standing amongst a group of Rock Pigeons that were being fed by tourists. The gull had a small wad of feathers in its bill, which struck me as odd. I asked Amy, “Is that gull hunting pigeons?” Seconds later the gull grabbed a Rock Pigeon in it’s bill, getting a hold of it by the top of the wing near the pigeon’s body, and flew out to the lake where he proceeded to drown the pigeon and ultimately eat it. The struggle took a good five to minutes before the pigeon finally succumbed. It was utterly amazing if a little hard to watch.

Habitat is Key

As any birder can tell you, habitat is the key to finding a diversity of different species, and as one might expect, London itself doesn’t have many open spaces. Hyde Park is great though. Even if a little manicured in places, it has lots of big trees and vegetation along Serpentine Lake that sits in the heart of the park.

Trees like this really gave one the feeling of being in England, sneaking around on the King’s land despite the penalty of death. Of course England has changed in the last 600 years, so such fears were entirely imagined.

Forest at Hyde Park, London Read the rest of this entry »

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eBird Express Goes “Live”

Posted Jun 3rd, 2009 at 10:30 pm in Birding, Technology | Comments Off

eBird itself has now published a lengthy writeup on eBird Express, with a number of kind words directed my way.

Over the last few months, I’ve had a number of conversations with the good folks at eBird about eBird Express and how it should work. I want to give a big thank you to them as well, for I certainly couldn’t have made the tool as good as it (hopefully) is without their feedback.

One of the helpful tidbits they’ve provided in their post is another way to quickly download a list of species suitable for making your own template.

One quick and easy way to build a template species list for your area is to download the bar chart. Did you know that any bar chart you generate can be downloaded to a spreadsheet with a single click? Simply look for the “Download Historgram Data” at the bottom right portion of any eBird bar chart. By clicking this link you download the species list from the bar chart with weekly frequency values. If you are a wiz at excel, you can use the frequency values to pare the list down to the more frequent species in your area (try summing the frequencies and then sorting by that value). But regardless, it provides a quick way to generate a species list for your area with species names that correspond perfectly to eBird!

While I had suggested using Avibase in my tutorials as a source for bird checklists, eBird’s method is another great alternative.

New Template Repository

And speaking of templates, I’ve now added a page to download templates from. The nice thing is that I’m using an installer for these templates, so that when you download them, they will get put in the right directory automatically so that Excel can see them.

I also need your help. If you have additional templates which aren’t on this page, I’ve made a form for submitting them. All templates should be for national or state / province level checklists. Please do not send regional templates such as county checklists or park checklists.

I hope everyone enjoys using eBird Express, and if you have any questions or problems, let me know.

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eBird Express Version 1.0.0.2

Posted May 19th, 2009 at 11:24 pm in Birding, Technology | Comments Off

A new version of eBird Express is now available on the downloads page.

Bug Fixes

  • A bug was fixed that caused errors when trying to process a spreadsheet where data was entered into the 50th column.

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Overrun by Nightjars!

Posted Apr 21st, 2009 at 6:57 pm in Birding, Photography | 2 Comments

Don’t you just hate it when your carport gets overrun with an infestation of nightjars? I know I do.

But this is just what happened when I stepped out to the car this morning. The poor thing had gotten confused and was flying upwards, encountering only the hazy image of the world outside through the fiberglass windows.

Common Poorwill

I knew it wasn’t a Chuck-will’s-widow (they’re insanely large1), but I needed to be certain it wasn’t a Whip-poor-will (a find indeed for west Texas). A quick look in the book (with the bird in hand no less!), and I was satisfied that it was the more expected of the three — Common Poorwill. (Though not my best picture ever.)

Unable to find a box, a frantic search for a suitable transport container ensued. I settled on a T-shirt strategically folded to close the openings. After a short drive through residential streets (forgetting no more than one stop sign), I released it under the bushes at a local cemetery.

Common Poorwill

1 I was once on a pelagic trip 80 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico when we saw a large dark bird flying low over the water’s surface. For a moment we thought it was a shearwater, but it never glided and no one could figure out what it was. When we finally got close enough, it turns out it was a Chuck-will’s-widow.

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eBird Express Version 1.0.0.1

Posted Apr 12th, 2009 at 10:25 pm in Birding, Technology | Comments Off

The next version of eBird Express is now available on the downloads page. I’ve setup a whole section on the site for eBird Express. You can find it in the navigation.

If You Downloaded Version 1.0

If you’re using the version 1.0 of eBird Express, please read carefully.

I offer a thousand apologies, but this first version cannot be updated properly. You’ll need to first process any remaining checklists for uploading into eBird. Then the installer will remove any existing templates before installing the new version. (It’ll ask you first and won’t proceed without your permission.) You’ll need to view the install instructions again as they have changed.

I assure you that with the new version, updates to eBird Express will be painless. You’ll just download the new version, double click, and that’s it. All of your templates and checklists will now be separate from the eBird Express code so that updates can be delivered as often as needed. Again, I apologize for any inconvenience.

New Features

  • eBird Express is now visible on the ribbon in Excel 2007 or as a custom menu in Excel 2003 and older, but only if you’re working with an eBird Express template or unprocessed checklist.
  • Setting user preferences can now be done through a screen in Excel.
  • You can validate the taxonomy of a checklist against the taxonomy that eBird uses.
  • Supplemental eBird documents are installed into a sub folder inside your Bird Notes directory as handy reference. These include a copy of the current eBird taxonomy, the protocol descriptions, and the state and country codes. These will be replaced as newer versions are released by eBird.

Changes / Improvements

  • The eBird Express code is now totally separated from user templates and documents. This allows for a much easier installation on the part of the user and means that the code can be updated as needed without having to modify or remove user files.
  • Duration can now be manually entered on any checklists where you do not want to calculate the duration from the start and end time.
  • Start time is now required if protocol is anything but casual.
  • Text fields are now checked to ensure they are not too long.
  • The second column of scientific names is no longer hidden to make it clear to users that it exists. It’s given a narrow width to not be obtrusive. You may hide the column yourself in your templates if you prefer.
  • Scientific names are now deleted from the CSV file that you upload into eBird. (They’re still preserved in the local archive file.) The reason is that eBird uses the scientific name regardless of the common name if you upload a CSV file with both. Thus if you added or changed species and accidently left an old scientific name, eBird would ignore the English name and your records would be entered incorrectly.

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Introducing eBird Express – the Ultimate eBird Data Input Tool

Posted Mar 26th, 2009 at 1:14 am in Birding, Technology | Comments Off

Unless you’re a birder who’s been living under a rock, you’ve no doubt heard about eBird. It’s an amazing service that allows birders to enter their notes online and then query their records by species, date, or location. It’s also a great tool to learn about bird distributions, since you can explore the entire database. Scientists hope to benefit from the massive dataset as well.

While one can enter notes into eBird directly through any web browser, one of its better features is the ability to upload sightings straight from an Excel like file called CSV format1. I’ve found this method to be much faster when entering data, especially multiple checklists at a time.

My eBird Annoyances

As good as this is however, there were several things about eBird that bugged me. In the true festivus tradition2, here’s my airing of grievances.

  • Location names and GPS coordinates. Once you have a named location in the system, all future use of that location will inherit the original GPS coordinates, even if you add new coordinates. So “The Park” that’s given the coordinates 30.1234, -99.1234 will always have those coordinates, even if you try to upload another location called “The Park” with different coordinates.
  • When you look at locations on the eBird website, you can’t see their GPS coordinates.
  • eBird wants a start time and the duration, but I’m lazy and quickly became frustrated when trying to calculate the number of minutes between 7:37 am and 12:23 pm.

I further wanted an easy way to fill out a checklist in Excel without having to enter in the full names of the birds every time. And while eBird lets you download a file with your sightings, if I’m already entering them on my computer, it would be nice to create my backup locally so I’d never have to download anything and still have backups of all my checklists.

The Solution

To solve all these problems, I’ve created a little tool that I call eBird Express. I use an Excel template to get me a blank checklist with all the birds already on it. I just have to fill it out.

I’ve set up a section of the site just for eBird Express, where you can see more of it’s features and screenshots, download it, view video tutorials that explain how to use it, and send feedback.

1 comma separated value

2 If you don’t know what festivus is, you should. It’s hilarious.

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