Friday, 8 February 2013

Birdtrack - The App

At the end of last year I resolved to do more, to try and put a little back. Having joined the BTO for the first time proper and dabbled with Birdtrack in the past, adding records into Birdtrack and hopefully contributing to the science the BTO produces seemed like a no-brainer. Last week with the launch of the Iphone version of the Birdtrack App that got a whole lot easier.

The Android version has been available for many moons and I was keen to avoid the duplication of effort involved with having to copy everything out of the notebook or try and remember all the casual sightings that don't get added to the notebook because you're in the car, or outside school etc.

I'm a week in and I've used the app several times, there are two recording options, 'casual records' and 'add list'. Once you have downloaded a species list for your location, adding records is relatively straightforward, species names are brought up and narrowed down as you type, so 'Bu' brings up a list of Buzzard then Bullfinch, followed by the buntings. A count is optional as is a place name.
whilst the latter may seem odd the app is GPS linked so that it populates a grid reference automatically, great if you're adding in real time (though you need to remember to change it on the map if you've moved away before adding records).

The list option allows you to create a list for a single destination.  There are a couple of options to view 'local species'that have been added to Birdtrack recently, though the definition of local is slightly wider than I expected with records from Barns Ness and Dumfries appearing in my 'local map'.

After a bit of discussion with NTBC Data Manager Dick Myatt the extra benefit to using Birdtrack is that at the end of the month I can download my records on the web in an Excel spreadsheet, remove the dross that won't be of any interest for the bulletin and submit the file once they have been removed. It took me around 10 minutes to produce my records for January which is probably around 20-30 minutes less than it would normally have taken me to extract records and create a spreadsheet.  Win/Win, BTO get my records and getting them to NTBC takes less time. If you're a smartphone user that submits records it is well worth downloading which for Iphone can be done here.


Steve said...

The only downside is there is very little meaningful quality control and the records get sent to county recorders. So records of tricky species that don't require descriptions at county level end up at the county recorder and these are very difficult to identify and filter out. They do, however, give a very inaccurate local picture of the occurrence of scarce birds.

Similarly with RBA archive records etc - anything phoned in is on the record year after year. People then use these archives to assess the status of birds and check past occurrence when half of the birds never existed in the first place.

Alan Tilmouth said...

Not so, as I understand it county recorders extract the data as and when they see fit. Some may not use any of the data viewing it as untrustworthy. Observer details are available to county recorders as part of the extract and I would expect that most if not all can request descriptions even for species that are usually non-description if they think it necessary.
I don't see that this is any different to observers sending in records direct to a county recorder.

Alan Tilmouth said...

Also your assertion that 'half the birds in bird info services archives never existed' is rubbish. Most of the reports published end up being multi-observed and as a result verified notwithstanding the efforts made by the operators of such services to moderate and verify as much as possible prior to publication.