How to be a Birder part 15
Hint #15 Use a birding database on your computer
Most birders have traditionally kept extensive diaries or notebooks of their birding observations. There is nothing wrong with this approach. It is cheap Ã¢â‚¬â€œ a notebook costs only a few dollars Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and it creates a permanent record. This is necessary, because if you are anything like me, your memory may be fine Ã¢â‚¬â€œ up to a point. Actually, I suspect itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s my forgettery that is at fault. Or perhaps my memory bank is full. Whatever.
I still keep extensive records in little notebooks in the field. I buy the type that fits easily into my shirt pocket. That way it is in easy reach and I always know where it is. Find whatever system works for you.
Back at home base I then transfer these notes to my computer. I use a database dedicated to birding called BirdInfo developed by Canberra birder Simon Bennett in the early 1990s. This database has gone through many versions and is ideal for my needs. I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone wanting to go down this path. There are available, however, many other databases dedicated to birding. Search on the internet or look in birding magazines. If you are a computer whiz and have the time, you could develop your own specialised database using something like Microsoft Windows Excel or Access.
BirdInfo enables me to record all my observations in an easy to use and retrieve format. Each observation takes only several key strokes. I can record the date, the place, the map coordinates, the species name, number, breeding and several other fields as well.
Retrieving data is just as easy with many different reports easily generated. For example, in seconds I can search and find a list of birds I saw in my garden in 1988. I can just as easily find the record of the first time I saw a Yellow Billed Spoonbill, or how many times I have seen a Mallee Fowl, and where, and how many. This is just a few of the examples of many uses I find for the database.
Entering many years of records from notebooks and diaries into a computer database can be a very daunting task taking many hours of typing. It is not for everyone. Think carefully how you are going to use it before launching out. I find it very interesting and useful. Some might find it burdensome and pointless.
ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s your hobby, so pursue it in your own way.
To read more hints about how to be a birder click here.
For information about BirdInfo for Windows click here.
I started out using a free program called J-bird. It’s quite good once you understand how it works, but I later decided to store my sightings online at http://www.eremaea.com. I figure that they’re safer from data loss there, and more use to the community as anyone can access them.
I also considered using Eremaea but seeing I already had a well established database of my own it seemed doubling up meant extra work. My data is backed up daily to a separate hard drive. I am also about to buy a second back up drive to keep in a safe place away from the house.
I also submit most of my records to the Atlas as well, so my sightings are on the public record anyway. (Though I must admit I am several years behind with my submissions to the Atlas.)