Marked Birds Database – BirdRing import: automatically creating new birds (phase 1)

With the Marked Birds Database version 1.12.0 and higher, it is possible to automatically create new birds and observations by importing data from the BirdRing app.

Compared to adding birds and/or observations manually, it can save a lot of time.

This feature is part of the project to eventually support wader-type projects (multiple (un)coded rings and flags).

This blog post describes in detail how this feature works.

Note: the article describes a relatively old version of the database; some changes may exist. However, the principle is the same.

What it does

In previous versions of the Marked Birds Database it was already possible to import observations for birds that existed in the system. With the new improvement it is now also possible to automatically create new birds.

While testing this on a ring reading trip to France recently during which we read around 70 ringed gulls each day, this turned out to be a huge time saver compared to manually adding these birds and observations. At the end of each day, all birds (most of them new) and their observations were imported into the database in a very short time: on average the whole process took about 45 minutes; this is less than a minute per bird and because entering most of the data was done in the BirdRing app, the chance of making mistakes was greatly reduced.

How it works

In short, the process works as follows:

  1. You import the CSV file that is generated by the BirdRing app. A a check is automatically done to see which of the birds already exist in the system. If a match is found, full details of this bird are shown.
  2. Where needed, you add additional information about the rings and/or observation.
  3. If needed, you can manually match a bird in the import with a specific bird in the system (various scenarios exist for doing this, as explained below).
  4. You import the birds and/or observations into the system.
  5. You check the results.

Note the following: when the CSV file contains the same bird more than once and that bird does not yet exist in the database, the bird is added as many times as it exists in the CSV file. Make sure therefore to always check the results.

Tip: To avoid such scenarios, send yourself the CSV file at the end of each day, clear the list in the BirdRing app and import each file one by one.

For a demonstration of this feature, watch this video:

Note: the video shows a relatively old version of the database; some changes may exist. However, the principle is the same.

Supported BirdRing forms

Currently, creating new birds only works when the ‘Leg ring’ form has been used in the BirdRing app. This form is used for birds that are fitted with one color ring or one metal ring only. Support for other forms will be added later.

BirdRing-legring-form

This means that this feature is similar to using the form in the database for adding metal rings or the form for adding medium color rings, but that this process is now automated.

add-bird-metal-ring-only

pre-validate-button

In other words: any bird that is fitted with a single metal ring or fitted with one color ring and an additional metal ring that can be added by using these forms can now also be automatically added using BirdRing data.

Before you begin

To make this feature work properly and in parts make it work automatically, some preparation is needed.

1. Euring codes for bird species

When selecting a bird species in the BirdRing app (probably in your own language), a code that represents this species is also stored. This code is used by the database to identify the species. It is therefore important that these codes are set up in the database.

Do this by going to Manage MBDB > Bird Species and opening the window for all species that you regularly observe (add it if it does not exist yet). Fill in the code in the ‘Euring Code’ field. A link to the page where you can get the codes from on the Internet is available next to the field.

bird-species-euring-code

2. Ringing station

When entering an observation in the BirdRing app for a bird that is fitted with a color ring, it is very likely that the bird is also fitted with a metal ring. However, the BirdRing form only allows you to set the details for the color ring.

To make it possible to properly create the metal ring when the bird is added to the database, the details for the metal ring can be set after the BirdRing file is imported.

To save time, you can have the ringing station automatically set when choosing the ringer (one of the other fields that can be set for a bird).

Do this by defining a default ringing station for the ringer by going to Manage MBDB > Observers/Ringers and opening the  window for a ringer. Fill in the ringing station in the ‘Default ringing station’ field.

ringer-default-ringing-station

Importing, step-by-step

The import process is split into 5 steps:

  1. Import the BirdRing file.
  2. Update the bird and/or observation details.
  3. Run the import.
  4. Check the results.

1. Importing the BirdRing file

Important: due to the working of the import, it is advised to import CSV files that contain observations for one day only. When observations for multiple days are imported which contain the same bird that do not exist yet in the system, it will be created as new for each day. Best practice therefore is to send yourself the CSV file at the end of each day and clear the list in the BirdRing app before starting the next day.

Step 1. From the BirdRing app, send the observations to yourself by e-mail.

Step 2. Save the received attachment from the e-mail to your system somewhere. It will be a file with the extension ‘.csv’.

Step 3. In the Marked Birds Database, go to the Bird Overview layout and at the bottom of the screen click on ‘Add a Bird with Markers’.

The screen appears where you can choose the different methods of adding a bird.

Step 4. Click on any of the available ‘BirdRing import’ buttons. (Each one of them will bring you to the same BirdRing screen.)

If you are using this feature for the first time, you will see the main screen appear:

mbdb-1.12.0-birdring-import-main-screen-empty

Step 5. Click ‘Browse for CSV file’, go to the BirdRing file that you saved and double-click it.

The file is loaded into the Marked Birds Database. A check is automatically done to see if any of the birds already exist. When completed, a summary is shown.

Each bird is shown in its own screen. Use the navigation tools in the top left corner of the screen to view each bird.

birdring-import-after-csv-loading.jpg

Troubleshooting: The species is shown as ‘Unknown’

This happens when the bird species is not set up in the database or when it is set up without the Euring code.

You can type the species manually in the field but it is recommended to go to Manage MBDB > Bird Species and to make sure that the species is added including its Euring code (see instructions above). The next time you import a CSV file with this species it will be correctly shown.

2. Update bird and/or observation details

After running the check to see if there any matching birds exist, one of the following scenarios can occur:

  1. The bird does not exist yet. When running the import it will be added as new.
  2. One matching bird has been found. When running the import, the observation will be added to this bird. You can choose to match the bird with another bird or choose to add the bird as new.
  3. More than one matching bird has been found. You can choose to which of the found birds the observation should be added, match it with another existing bird or choose to add the bird as new.
  4. No matching bird has been found but a form was used in the BirdRing app which is currently not supported. You can manually match it with an existing bird so that the observation will be added to that bird. If not, the bird will not be imported.

For each bird you can also choose to exclude the bird from being imported by selecting the option ‘Exclude from import’ on the left side of the screen.

1. The bird does not exist yet

In this scenario, you will see the following status shown in blue:

No matching bird found – When importing, this bird and observation will be created.

All fields for the color ring and optionally the metal ring are shown, together with fields for the observation. Update them as needed.

birdring-import-no-match-found

2. One matching bird has been found

In this scenario, you will see the following status shown in green:

Matching bird found – When importing, the observation will be added to this bird.

The details for the matching bird are shown so that you can verify that it is matched with the correct bird.

birdring-import-match-found.jpg

To see the ringing details for this bird, click the info icon when the display showing the ring positions is shown.

To see the observations for this bird, click the ‘Preview Observations’ button.

Should the found bird not be the correct bird, do one of the following:

  • Click ‘Search for Bird in MBDB’ to match the bird with another existing bird in the database.
  • Select the option ‘Add as new bird’. All fields for setting the ringing details will then be shown.

3. More than one matching bird has been found

In this scenario, you will see the following status shown in red:

2 matching birds found. Select a match, search for another bird, or add the bird as new.

This can occur when more than one bird is found that has the same combination of ring color and code fitted.

Note that when searching for a match, the database does not search on bird species. Even though this might give strange results where birds of completely different species are found, this will prevent a bird from being added when it already exists as a sub-species.

Example: a Lesser Black-backed Gull is entered in the BirdRing app but exists in the database as a Nordic Lesser Black-backed Gull or Baltic Gull. If the search would include the species, it would not find the Nordic or Baltic Gull and would incorrectly add the bird as new.

birdring-import-more-than-one-match-found.jpg

Do one of the following:

  • To choose one of the found matches, click ‘Show Matching Birds’. In the list that appears, click ‘Use this Bird’ for the bird that you want to match with.
  • To match the bird with another bird in the database, click ‘Search for Bird in MBDB’. For the found bird, click ‘Use this Bird’ for the bird that you want to match with.
  • To add the bird as new, select the option ‘Add as new bird’ on the left side of the screen. All fields for setting the ringing details will then be shown.

4. No matching bird found but an unsupported form was used

In this scenario, you will see the following status shown in red:

No matching bird has been found but a form was used in the BirdRing app which is currently not supported.

Not all forms that are available in the BirdRing app can currently be used for creating birds in the Marked Birds Database. When for this scenario the bird does exist, click ”Search for Bird in MBDB’ to match the bird with an existing bird in the database so that the observation will be added to it.

birdring-import-unsupported-form-used.jpg

Searching

The Search option can be used to quickly find a bird that you are about to import or to search for all birds with a particular status such as ‘Matching bird found’.

More tips for speeding up the process

The following tips will help in filling various fields automatically, thereby saving even more time.

Location names

If you are at a location that is also stored in the database (Manage MBDB > Locations): make sure to enter this same name as the location name in the BirdRing app. When importing the BirdRing file, all details for this location (country, province and coordinates) will be automatically filled.

Metal ring position

As mentioned above, when entering an observation for a color ring, the details for the metal ring cannot be set.

As a shortcut for setting the position of the metal ring, add one of the following codes to the beginning of the remarks field (in other words, the first 3 characters should be one of the following codes):

LBM
RBM
LAM
RAM

When importing the BirdRing file, these codes will be used to set the position of the metal ring as follows:

  • LBM: left below metal = left tarsus
  • RBM: right below metal = right tarsus
  • LAM: left above metal = left tibia
  • RAM: right above metal = right tiba

During the import of the BirdRing file, the codes are automatically removed from the remarks field.

When many new birds are to be imported, setting the ringer and ringing station for them can be easily done by clicking ‘Batch action: Set ringers’ (only available on a screen for a bird that is added as new).

3. Run the import

When all data is set for each bird, click Import into MBDB.

The import process will start. When completed, a summary is shown.

4. Check the results

Check to see if everything is imported satisfactorily by showing the results in the Bird Overview screen.

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