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Rack ’em, Stack ’em

January 25, 2008
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New globe-trotting I and the Bird at Trevor’s Birding. Check it out.

I’m a lister. In various incarnations of my birding life I’ve kept track of that list in different ways. When I first began birding my list consisted of hand-written notes I kept on loose leaf paper in a hard binder. Later I jotted stuff down on whatever was handy and now I have all my lists as an excel file on my desktop. The worry that an untimely computer crash will set me in the dark on my entire birding career is a real concern. In fact a recent computer scare at home left me wishing there was a better way.

Well, now that way may be here in bird blogger Dave Ringer’s new venture, Birdstack. Dave’s software allows you to sort your life history of sightings from anywhere in the world in a simple user-friendly way. Especially interesting is the added feature of geocoding your sightings using Google Earth. I had been doing this myself for the last year or so and have enjoyed putting that point on the map with every bird on my North American life list. Unfortunately, computer issues have had me re-adding the same birds over and over. No more with Birdstack, this is probably my favorite feature.

Another interesting sidenote is Birdstack’s use of the IOC recommended English names for all bird species. To whit, Black-bellied Plover becomes Grey Plover and Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrow mercifully is shortened to Nelson’s Sparrow. One of the issues with the IOC’s recent suggestions is that unless they are regularly used by birders around the world, it’s unlikely that they will catch on. If Birdstack ends up being successful (and it looks good), then there use of these universal names will go a long way towards normalization of english-language taxonomy. This was a good decision by Birdstack’s creators. Kudos, Dave.

In the end it’s just fun to have a site that allows for accumulation of lists rather than reporting of sightings. In my opinion, that’s something that eBird lacks somewhat. While I like to use eBird for calculating what I get in the field on any given day, it hasn’t caught on for me as a clearinghouse for my personal birding stats over the long haul. They certainly both have their place and eventual collaboration between to the two is an exciting proposition and I look forward to seeing what they come up with.

For now I’m slowly transferring my excel Life List spreadsheet into Birdstack, you can never have too many places to keep that stuff.

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