29 January 2008

An Aid to Birdstackers

I apologize in advance for what may be a very technical post. A brand-spanking new FREE listing website is now available to birders: Birdstack. Like I said, it's new, so there may be some adjusting for new users, but I'm game. It was the first time I was able to register on a site under my own name not myownname47 or something. What I like about Birdstack is its RSS feed to your lifelist (check out my sidebar--I haven't uploaded all my sightings yet, so what's on there now is not my completed lifelist), and the fact that unlike eBird it's a worldwide listing website (not that I've ever birded out of the US, but you never know...). Things I don't like about it are the fact that you can't enter multiple birds at once and its painstaking upload process. I mean, one species at a time? really? Anyways, I don't know if anyone wants or needs this information, but here are the steps that I've found to be the least complicated to transfer sightings from eBird to Birdstack. Disclaimer: I'm not sure how this will work for everyone, I use a Mac running OS 10.2.8, I think most calculators are more advanced than my computer now. I'm lucky enough to have a copy of Microsoft Excel for Mac, otherwise I'm not sure if I could do this through AppleWorks. Update: I just checked, my AppleWorks 6.2.4 won't open the spreadsheet file from eBird. Maybe newer versions do. My apologies if I seem to spell out each little step, but in the chance that someone doesn't know "Copy" and "Paste" yet, I put that in here. Everyone's gotta learn sometime, right? Okay, here we go:

1) Sign on to eBird, and click on "My eBird". On the right-hand side, click on "Manage My Observations". All your observations should come up. If you want to show all, by all means click on "Show All". A minor point, Birdstack's RSS lifelist only goes by the observation most recently entered, apparently, NOT by the date you enter on the submission. So if you want to be anal about how your lifelist appears on an RSS feed (guilty) click on "Date" in eBird until your very first observation is on the top line, and transfer all the data chronologically.

2) Most eBird observations don't take up a lot of space, but transferring each one individually takes a lot of time, so I've been transferring one-month chunks. You can use your discretion as to how many you want to transfer. Note, there is a limit on file size once we get to the Birdstack side of things, so don't go too crazy. eBird's files tend to be ~ 4kb, or at least mine are, if you want to use that as a guide. Still on "Manage My Observations"? Go to the first one and click "View or edit". Once there, click "Download report". Repeat the downloading process for as many observations as you like. You're done with the eBird end!

3) Open up one of the downloaded reports. You'll get a spreadsheet with a bunch of columns and your recognizable data. Now we have to move the data from the other downloaded observations to this one. Open up the next report and highlight the first box under "Species" should be box A2. Drag the highlight down to the last species in column A and then to the right to either column E "Observation date" or column F "Start time" if there's anything in column F. You should have a rectangle highlighted now. Hit control-C or Apple-C or go up to the Edit menu and click on "Copy". Close this report. Go to the first report (you can keep it open in the back this whole time) and click on the first empty box in column A. Hit Control-V or Apple-V or go up to the Edit menu and click on "Paste". Repeat the copy and paste steps for each other report. At the end, you should have your first report with a lot of columns, and every other report with only the first five or six columns all on one spreadsheet.

4) Now we have to manipulate the spreadsheet into something that Birdstack will recognize. Column A "Species" needs to be renamed "English name", without the quotes, though. "Number reported" becomes "Number observed". (Thanks to drewweber on the Birdstack forums, any field with an X in it is all set to be uploaded to Birdstack now.) Skip over "Location" to "Observation type" and click on the D above it. This should highlight the whole column. Go up to Edit and click on Delete. That should move the other columns over one (E becomes D, F becomes E, etc.). New column D, "Observation date", needs to be renamed "MDY date", which stands for Month-Day-Year. Again, click on the D at the top of the column, and go up to the Format menu and click Cells (this step might be different for Windows users). A little window should pop up with a menu of items to choose from, you want "Date". A new menu, will pop up, scroll to the entry that looks like 02/28/2008, or MM/DD/YYYY, and click on it. All of the dates in that column should automatically change to that format. The next column, "Start time" needs to be changed to "12-hour time". Any entries with a "N/A" in it will have to be changed so that it's blank. Click on the word "Duration" at the top of the next column and drag down to the bottommost entry, then right to last column that has anything in it, so that you get another big rectangle. Go up to Edit and then Clear the contents. The last step to prepare the spreadsheet: go to File, then Save As, and then Format "CSV" (maybe with the phrase "comma delimited"). Hit Save, quick!

?) Phew! I forgot what number I was on. Now go to Birdstack and register, if you haven't, or sign on, if you aren't. Click "Record an observation", then "import observations in bulk". Click "upload a file" and then Browse the folder for your spreadsheet from the last step, which should end in ".csv". If everything went well, after you hit Continue your screen will say "Validate file and continue". If something's still wrong, it will give you an error in red, perhaps something like "column not recognized: start time". In that case you need to open your .csv file and change whatever the problem is. Once everything's fixed (believe me, I went through this a lot: that's why I thought I might post instructions) and validated, you'll get a list of each species on the spreadsheet. Click "Save and continue". Every recognized species is now added to your Birdstack account. If you have any species it questions (European Starling, e.g., or any eBird spuhs) it will be in green and you'll have to click on it to correct it. In the case of the starling, Birdstack recognizes a different common name, the Common Starling. In the case of any spuhs ("Lesser/Greater Scaup" or "buteo sp."), Birdstack doesn't recognize them and you'll just have to delete them. And guess what? You're done!

Again, I apologize for the length of the directions. I just tried a dry run of another month's worth of data, and it only took about five minutes. Once all the observations are in you can edit the location in Birdstack or whatever else you'd like. Of course, Birdstack is changing a lot since it's the beginning, these directions will probably be obsolete in another few hours, but I hope it helps someone.

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