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Birdwatcher's Diary User Manual


Basic Concepts

Birdwatcher's Diary is designed first and foremost to record sightings during a day's birding. To do this, there are four concepts to understand:

The master list or checklist is the list of all the possible birds you might see. The software preconfigures itself with a complete United States list. We'll learn later how you can install any list you want, from a complete world list containing 10,000 or more species to your county list containing just a couple hundred species. Lists for all 50 states and dozens of different countries are available, or, as you'll again learn later, you can make your own as well. For now we'll assume you will start with the pre-installed list, but fairly quickly you'll want to load either your state list (if you're in the U.S.) or your country list.

A location is a named place that you bird, and for which you will be recording sightings with the software. It could be as specific as "My Yard", the name of a local park or other birding spot like "Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve" or "Charleston Slough", or a much broader location like the name of a county, a state, or even a country. It's really up to you how specific you want to be in identifying the location of sightings. Each time you record a sighting, the software also records the precise coordinates of the sighting, which is of course also a "location," but we refer to that as the coordinates of the sighting to avoid confusion.

The third concept is your list of active sightings. In typical usage, you will start each day with a clean slate, a checklist with nothing checked. You'll select the location and then start ticking off species. You can tick each species once, if that's all you are interested in, or you can use the software to count the number of birds of each species seen. If you change locations during the day, just select the new location and keep going. If you're counting, of course you'll continue counting at the new location. If you're "just ticking," you have the option of ticking the species you've already seen at previous locations, which will give you a complete list for each location, or you can just tick the new species that you see — it's up to you.

At the end of the day (or at any intermediate time, if you like to be cautious), you'll take advantage of the fourth basic concept of the software — archiving. Archiving means saving a file of information just as you would on a desktop, but on the Android device and/or in "the cloud" instead. Archiving makes your list of sightings permanent, so that you can clear the list to start anew the next time you go birding. If you want to do something else with the list of sightings — upload it to eBird, email it to your local bird list, import it into a desktop database, or just print it out — you can do that as well. A key concept to understand is that archives in Birdwatcher's Diary are designed as daily archives, that is you store all the sightings for one day, no matter how many different locations you visited or even if you went out in the morning and then again in the afternoon, in a single archive. If you go on a multi-day birding trip, each day of the trip has its sightings archived separately. However when you want to review your sightings, you can easily combine more than one archive, so that you can review all your sightings for the trip (or for the year or for your state or a variety of other criteria).

We started this section by saying that the software was designed first and foremost to record new sightings. Of course you can record old sightings as well, but we'll discuss that later.

The Main Screen

Across the top of the main screen are three sets of buttons.

On the top left are two buttons. One, reading All, shows all the species in your current master list on the main screen. The second, which shows a pair of binoculars with green lenses, will display only species on the screen which you have seen or heard. Tapping that button a second time which change the lenses to red, and now the screen will display only those species that you haven't seen or heard (this is useful when you're doing a "big day" and are only interested in species you haven't yet ticked).

In the center of the top of the screen is a button showing the abbreviated name of the location for which you are recording sightings. Tap this button to change the location, including adding new locations if it's the first time you've recorded sightings at a location. The color of the letters of the name are also meaningful — green says that the precision of the GPS recording of the coordinates is as good or better than the desired precision (which you can adjust). Brown says the precision is no worse than 50% poorer than the desired precision, and if the precision is worse than that, the location name is in red. You can still record sightings if you want to when this is the case, or you can wait until the GPS "hones in" to a more precise determination of your coordinates.

On the top right are two more buttons showing a globe, without and with a red pin. When the plain globe on the left is active, sightings are displayed on the screen below for all the locations you have visited in one day. Tapping the globe with the red pin displays only sightings for the location shown on the top of the screen; if you have visited other locations during the day, and recorded sightings there, they won't show.

Across the bottom of the main screen are five buttons:

Recording Sightings

The main part of the main screen is occupied by a scrolling list of the species in your current master list. To record a sighting, simply tap on the name of the species. What happens when you do this is determined by the Recording section of the Settings.

If you have Record Lat/Long checked, as will generally be the case, the latitude and longitude of the sighting will be recorded (unless the GPS precision exceeds the Max. Inaccuracy that you specify, in which case you'll be asked to verify that you want to record the sighting).

If Default to "Present" is checked, the species will simply be "ticked," and a pair of binoculars with green lenses will appear next to the species to indicate that you have seen it. If Default to "Present" is not checked, then the software assumes you are going to count the number of birds of that species, and a "1" will also appear next to the species, indicate your current total count.

If Default to "Heard Only" is checked, instead of a pair of binoculars, an ear icon will appear next to the species, indicating that you heard that species. You can change from seen to heard or heard to seen in two different ways. One is by editing the sighting, which we'll discuss in a different chapter. The second is by tapping the icon (either the binoculars or the ear, depending on the setting of Default to "Heard Only") within one second after first recording the sighting. So if Default to "Heard Only" is unchecked (meaning that your default is "seen"), when you first tick the species the binoculars will appear. Tap the binoculars within one second and they'll change to an ear, indicating "heard only." Conversely, if Default to "Heard Only" is checked (so your default is "heard"), when you first tick the species the ear will appear. Tap the ear within one second and it will change to binoculars, indicating that you did see that species. At any time after one second, tapping the binoculars or the ear icon will instead edit the sighting, discussed in the next chapter.


After the first tick, you can tap again and again to increment the count. If Default to "Present" is checked, the first tap just sets the species to seen (or heard). A second tap will set the count to 1, a third to 2, and so on. If Default to "Present" is unchecked, the first tap sets the count to 1, a second to 2, and so on. These taps can be fairly rapid, so recording a handful of birds is probably most easily done this way. But once the count gets higher, you'll want to use the Calculator. When you tap the species the first time, the species is highlighted (the lines showing the species are highlighted in yellow). Once it is highlighted, tap the calculator icon and the calculator will appear. The calculator gives you options to add (+) or subtract (—) from the count, or just set the count to a desired number. So if you have a count of 3, and want to add 5 more, just tap 5, then +, and the calculator will disappear and the count will be changed to 8.


You can scroll through the list by dragging your finger in the usual way, but Birdwatcher's Diary provides a unique feature called Intelliscroll™ which lets you quickly jump to a desired species. At first, you'll see a one-letter alphabet down the right-hand side of the screen. Note that this alphabet includes only letters which are actuallly part of the list; if there is no species whose name starts with "X", you won't see an "X" in the list, for example. Now suppose you want to record a sighting of a Dark-eyed Junco. Tap J. What you'll see is something unique to Birdwatcher's Diary — the one-letter alphabet has switched to a two-letter alphabet. And because we know that a certain percentage of the time that you try to tap "J" you'll actually miss by one letter, software is smart enough to display all possible two-letter combinations not only involving J, but also I and K as well. Now, as it happens, Dark-eyed Junco will be on the screen, so you can just tick it without worrying about the two-letter alphabet. What if you were searching for House Wren? Tapping "W" will display all two-letter combinations involving "V", "W", and "Y", but House Wren isn't yet on the screen. However tapping "WR" will now skip past all the Warblers and right to the Wrens and let you tick House Wren after those two quick taps.


As an alternative to the 1- and 2-letter Intelliscroll technique described in the previous section, you can also tap the magnifying glass icon on the top of the index to display a search field on the top line of the screen, along with four choices for what to search: First (Name), Last (Name), (Bird Banding) Code, and Latin (Name). Use the keyboard which will appear to enter one or more letters to find species by one of those four criteria. Once you have narrowed down the choices sufficiently to see the desired species, you can tap on it to count it, or tap on the binoculars or ear icon on the left side of the display to edit the sighting. You can then leave the software in search mode to search for another species, or tap Done on the keyboard to exit search mode.

Note that search mode does not just offer you an alternative to Intelliscroll. Intelliscroll only finds species based on the current sort order (see next section). So if the species are sorted by last name, you can use Intelliscroll to quickly find a species by last name, but if instead you want to find the species by first name, bird-banding code, or Latin name, you can only do that using the search method. If you always prefer to find species by one of those criteria, then you should probably change the sort order, as described in the next section.

Display and Sort Order

In the previous section, we assumed the software was in its initial state, in which species are sorted alphabetically by last name, and the species are displayed on the screen that way as well. It turns out there are a multitude of ways you can display species on the screen, and also various ways to sort them, all controlled by the Display area of the Settings. The display area for each species can accomodate either one or two lines of display. You can display just the name, or you can display it in combination with a number of things, including the scientific (Latin) name, the time and location of the sighting (if any), and more. You can also use what we call the "local name" in place of (or in addition to) the proper name of the species. For many of the lists we provide, we include a name in the local language (e.g., Spanish), even languages which use a non-Latin alphabet (e.g., Chinese), and you can have the software display that name (great for conversing with local guides!).

The species are displayed in an order determined by the Sort Order setting. Possible sort orders are First Name, Last Name, Scientific Name, Banding Code (4-letter code), Taxonomic Order, or Sighting Time. The last three require a bit of explanation. Normally, the 4-letter banding code is not displayed on the screen, but if you sort by banding code, it will be (along with the name). Since both Taxonomic Order and Sighting Name are non-alphabetic methods of sorting, the one/two-letter index down the right-hand side of the screen will disappear if you sort in these ways; you need to scroll "manually" in these cases. Taxonomic Order is a poor choice for ticking species, but at the end of the day, if you have to fill out a form for a Christmas Bird Count or something similar, you can switch the sorting to taxonomic order, use the "seen only" mode (green binoculars icon on the upper-left) to display only species that were seen or heard, and fill out the form just by going down the list. Sighting Time has a different purpose. If someone else in your group has been writing down sightings on paper as they occurred, their sightings will be recorded in time order. If you have been ticking them in Birdwatcher's Diary, the easiest way to compare them at the end of the day is for you to switch the sort order to Sighting Time, again, display only seen or heard species, and then you'll be able to go down your list and compare it to the written one. Going over your list of sightings, whether comparing it to a friend or just by yourself, is always a valuable thing to do. Recording sightings with Birdwatcher's Diary is many times faster than doing so on paper, but it is always possible for your finger to "slip" and tick a species you didn't mean to.

One more item is found in the Display section of the settings: Sort "—" as " ". This setting pertains to a species like Black-crowned Night-Heron or Western Scrub-Jay. Where do you expect to find those in the index of a bird book? In some, you'll find the first one under "N" and the second under "S"; in others, you might find them under "H" or "J" (in a rare few you'll find them under both letters). Birdwatcher's Diary gives you a choice of how you want such species listed. If Sort "—" as " " is checked, the "Scrub-Jay" is treated like "Scrub Jay", and "Jay" becomes the last name (and hence it is alphabetized under "J" if you sort by last name). If Sort "—" as " " is unchecked, the "Scrub-Jay" is one word, alphabetized under "S" if you sort by last name (if you sort in any order other than Last Name, this setting has no effect).

Read the other sections of the manual:

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