Recording Systems

14 Dec 2009 07:16 #1 by Richard Baatsen
To make my life easier I created my own database recording system as I found the off the shelf systems “Recorder” and “MapMate” did not cut the mustard. They were too restrictive they did not allow me to code species in and out. I wanted a multi/bulk input screen and wanted to use abbreviations like “LRP” for Little Ringed Plover” or either. The input is converted into the official BOU name or the one I prefer instead.

Have other BUBO listers had frustrations with recording systems and taken up the challenge and created their own database.

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

15 Dec 2009 11:40 - 15 Dec 2009 11:57 #2 by Mike Prince
Replied by Mike Prince on topic Re:Recording Systems
Hi Richard

I've been through the same process. Many years ago I wrote the "BUBO Bird Recording System" based on an Access database. However I found that I spent too much time developing and updating it for features and taxonomy that I decided to abandon it and take the plunge and buy a package. I went for Wildlife Recorder . Now I don't particularly like using its very dated user interface, and it hasn't developed much in the many years Ive been using it, but one big advantage it does have is that the data entry is quite fast. Another key feature is that the taxonomies are updated regularly (if you pay for them), although you have to stick with world authorities and don't have the option of using BOU for Britain for example. Country-specific checklists are another must: I tried one other system recently but being that I live in India it forced me to use the entire Clements world list for any Indian birding I did - clearly unacceptable to have to trawl through 10000 species each time.

Of course in the UK there is BirdTrack , in North America (and a few other places) eBird and for other countries you can check the Worldbirds portal (although several countries have systems with little support behind them). If you want one single place to record all your world birding though none of these really work well enough.

Many systems do seem to fall down because of slow data entry. I think a good system needs to support efficient methods for individual sighting entry as well as bulk entry. This has been one of the key focuses with BUBO Listing. I think the use of autocompletes (as in the Add Species option) is very good for individual entry and reduces the need for user-defined abbreviations like your LRP: typing "little r" for example gets you there quickly, and just "lit", or "plo", or even "le r" works very well.

Maybe there is a need for an enhanced version of BUBO Listing as a full sightings database? :)

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

16 Dec 2009 07:08 #3 by Andy Musgrove
Replied by Andy Musgrove on topic Re:Recording Systems
I also initially set up my own MS Access system but have now moved to using BirdTrack entirely for my UK bird records. Although it doesn't do everything I want yet, it does has the great advantage that I'm responsible for its development, along with my colleagues at BTO. Therefore, I know what we've got planned for it. Several new features are coming on stream within the next month, and we've got funding to develop it further over the coming years. Our aim is to make it the bird recording system of choice, within the UK at least (although we don't necessarily have to stop there). One of the main advantages of BirdTrack is also that it is widely used by county recorders, who are downloading thousands of records per year from it, so it saves you having to go to the effort of exporting records for county recorders across the country. This is particularly useful if you travel a fair bit and find it difficult (as I have in the past) to remember to submit records to anyone apart from your own home county. Currently, BirdTrack records are also feeding directly into the 2007-11 Bird Atlas project.

This is very much a time of development within BirdTrack, and we (myself and the BirdTrack Organiser Nick Moran) are really keen to hear comments from users and potential users. It's a really good time to be feeding ideas in to us. Just email me or Nick at the BTO (



Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

17 Dec 2009 06:59 #4 by Richard Baatsen
Nick / Andy

I am the County Recorder for Gloucestershire and a Birder.
As a recorder I approve of any initiatives to encourage people to submit their sightings. The ultimate goal would be to have them enter them online and hence in the right format and to only have to do it once. The BirdTrack data set has a number of inherent problems associated with it. The BTO has started to address the issues. One of the most important of these is site definitions the BTO have improved this. However those birders entering sightings find the task of entering sites problematic. This can best be illustrated when you look at records from Slimbridge, the site covers seven 1km grid squares or three tetrads. The same bird is recorded in all the squares in error. It is time consuming for me to weedy out the errors (validating the sites). The fact that the BTO’s standard mapping unit is the 10km means that they appear not to be concerned about these errors. Feeding these amendments back to the BTO is not possible. The BTO has a problem with such amendments as they are promoting BirdTrack as “Your online recording system” by amending records they would natural annoy the person concerned. The Gloucestershire database has two fields “site” and “site quoted” where as BirdTrack system only has one. The golden rule of recording is to always retain the original data. At a county level the data focus needs to be a 1km to be meaningful. A tetrad resolution is OK for distribution and relative density mapping at a county level. The validation of records for the Atlas relies on the original observer amending his or her data.

Identification mistakes and errors within Gloucestershire are heightened by the presence of Slimbridge. Visitors from out of county get confused and are prone to record sightings of birds from the collection they also mix Whooper and Bewick’s. The BirdTrack download contains lots of records for Slimbridge which of no interest as I get full record disclosure from the WWT. As the BTO are promoting BirdTrack as “Your online recording system” by questing the observer’s identification he or she can be alienated. Rare species require descriptions to be submitted to the county recorder, there are validation rules built into BirdTrack that triggers the observer to send a description. If a record is found to be unacceptable the record should be coded as such. It should always be retained and documented.

Because the BirdTrack data set is dynamic that is to say that the observer may amend or delete a record sighting at any time. This requires the county database to be updated and amended. This is very time consuming task.

Enough of BirdTrack

These are a few ideas for the “best birding dbase” money can’t buy
1/ Easy to use (intuitive that’s to say that it doesn’t require a manual the size of BWP)
2/ Well thought out and look nice. (Aesthetically pleasing)
3/ Flexible, an example of which would be I am able code out escapes
4/ Personalised front end screen (the ability to stamp your personality on it)
5/ the ability to store digital photographs and field description (sound recordings)
6/ Life lists that cover different geographical areas include non UK regions.
7/ Ability to create report submission reports in various formats so the data can be passed onto recorders.
8/ Mapping capability
9/ Include BTO / standardised breeding codes
10/ Include non bird species (ie true field notebook approach)
11/ updated with the latest species ie Black-bellied Storm Petrel. These should be coded as appending acceptance by the BOU (Oh no “can of worms”, be careful opening this one.)
12/ the ability to base lists on various authorities, BOU, Birding World, UK400 etc
13/ Validation checks to avoid typos
14/ I insist that I have seen a Great Auk ! it not on the list.
15/ I believe that the Griffin Vulture that I saw is of wild origin and I wish to count it but none of the authorities list the species as occurring in a wild state in the UK.
16/ Comparing lists (like BUBO)
17/ I have been birding when I should have been at work I do not this information passed on to my employer.
18/ Site definition has to easy. Pre-load all tetrads in the county and maybe all 1km squares. As a birder I am happy to just put Portland. But this is not acceptable as a recorder.
19/extreme dates, first and last dates (with the ability to code out the odd winter record)
20/ Field to record who I went birding with on that day
21/ the ability to swop between taxonomic list ie Voous to new BOU or Clements
22/ Include all sub-species.
23/ Continuous improvement
24/ Free!
25/ The ability to contribute to knowledge set and conservation. This is extremely important to certain individuals
26/ Quick (Minimal key strokes)
27/ Integrate with PDA / Phone. Download and upload data to an application. “Portal”
28/ Key contacts (friends, recorders, flight numbers etc)
29/ Trip reports, include narratives
30/ Report new species to me year and graph them

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

17 Dec 2009 14:20 #5 by Mike Prince
Replied by Mike Prince on topic Re:Recording Systems
Hi Richard

Some interesting comments there. I'll copy this to Nick Moran who is the BTO's BirdTrack Organiser - although I did spend some time working for the BTO on BirdTrack, Nick is the better person to respond. I would add though that BirdTrack is in the difficult position of trying to be as user-friendly a system for birdwatchers to use to keep all their records, as well as ensuring that it captures sufficient detail to make records useful for analysis and conservation purposes. Site information is the best example of the difficulty of balancing this. I'm not sure what you mean by "standard mapping unit", but BirdTrack allows sites to be "defined" at 1km, 2km (tetrad), 10km or greater levels. This is an attempt to define the accuracy of records so that they can be used for different purposes, including local atlases which often need to know which 1km square a species observation was from. It's an extra step for the user to define a site, which detracts from the simplicity of use, but can add enormous value to the records collated. However it isn't really an option for BirdTrack to insist that birdwatchers change their own way of recording too much. For example, I rarely visit Slimbridge but when I do I'm not going to want to record birds in their individual 1km squares - I'm happy for my personal records just to have a Slimbridge site that may or may not straddle various square boundaries - it's not of interest to me as a casual visitor. That means my Slimbridge records are not of much use to you as a county recorder. If I was forced to make them more useful by recording more detail I'd be likely to take the easier option for me and not bother! I presume your various Slimbridge records involve scenarios like this, with different observers defining the site differently and based on different grid references. To some extent this will always be the case, but I know that BirdTrack has some developments in the pipeline to try to ease this situation.

I've rambled on longer than I meant to on this! As I said I've passed this to Nick and I'm sure he'll continue the discussion by email.

Your list of features for an online recording system is very comprehensive and I pretty much agree on all of them, with varying priorities of course. If I were to see a system with all this on then I would certainly be very happy to compromise on point 24 :)

All the best

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.