Conceptual Overview

Do NOT skip this section! Time spent reading this section in its entirety will reward you significantly in gaining a handle on Birder’s Diary.

Before you can cook a meal, you need to know what a skillet is; the difference between a cup of flour and a teaspoon of salt. You need to know how to use a stove and when you might use it as opposed to an oven. Without this basic knowledge, it is hard to get started on your first meal.

The same is true when learning a new computer application. It’s the basics. Without them, all the text in the world will just seem like Greek (unless you’re from Greece!). This section gives you a short overview of the concepts that Birder’s Diary is based on. With this information, the rest of this help file should digest much easier so that you are not tripping over concepts and terminology that doesn’t allow you to comprehend as quickly as you would with them.

The Sighting

The sighting is the central entity in Birder’s Diary and most all functions in Birder’s Diary are centered around a sighting.

A sighting consists of a few required parameters: Observer, Date, Location, Thing sighted, Counts.

And several optional parameters attached to each Sighting: Time of Day, Comments, Trip, User-defined fields, Photos, videos, audio files, documents, etc.

For example, a sighting might be 4 Blue Jays seen in Colorado, on March 1, 2007 by myself. That is a sighting.

The Observer

All sightings must be attached to an observer. If you specify more than one observer during an entry session, two sightings records are created for each entry, one for each observer.

Birder’s Diary comes with a Sample Observer already created. You will use this observer in the following tutorials to create and edit sightings. But, you can create an unlimited number of observers to record sightings against. Your first, in a later tutorial will be for yourself. You can also create an observer for family members, your bird club, and so on. Use the Sample Observer or create other test observers to practice features while exploring Birder’s Diary.


A thing is what you record sightings against. It may be a bird, snake, tree, butterfly, etc. This would be a specific taxon (df== a taxonomic group of any rank, such as a species, subspecies, Family, etc.) for any taxonomic list in your database. E.g. a species, subspecies, etc.

Taxonomic Lists

Taxonomic lists serve to classify, name and sort things among related things in the list. For example, one taxonomic list may classify a bird as Dendroica coronata, name it Yellow-rumped Warbler and sort it after D. caerulescens. While another may classify it as D. coronata auduboni, name it Audubon’s Warbler and sort it somewhere else amongst the other birds. That is the purpose of all taxonomic lists. Out of this, depending on which taxonomy we use, we get the list and number of species defined, their common names and their scientific names (e.g. classification).

Most features in Birder’s Diary require that you select a taxonomic list to use with the feature. For example, to produce a Life List report you must tell Birder’s Diary which taxonomic list to use. Different taxonomic lists will produce different Life List reports. Why? Because taxonomies differ in what they define as species versus subspecies. Birder’s Diary correctly stores your sightings and maps things across taxonomic lists so that each report produces the correct results based on which taxonomy is chosen.


Location, location, location! Birder’s Diary comes with all countries and most state/provinces already defined. In addition, Birder’s Diary will automatically add all counties for US states if you like. It can also add all regions and subregions for most countries in the World. They are defined in a hierarchical nature that is best described as contained by. For example, Canada is contained by North America. However, the United States of America is NOT contained by North America. Don’t forget about Hawaii. So, in the Location Tree, you will see that the USA is a child of, or contained by, the location “World”. You will see that the USA is made up of the following children:

  • Continental United States
  • Hawaii


And that the Continental United States is also contained by North America!


With this dual parenting of Continental United States, it is a child of both United States of America and North America. When you report on North America, for example, you will properly get all sightings from within the Continental United States and all descendants thereof.

You can create unlimited number of additional locations, edit existing locations, add new parents or children with no limits. This is extremely powerful.

Checklist Data

Most people use the term checklist synonymously with the term taxonomic list. In Birder’s Diary, a checklist is used to associate a thing with a location. You’ve read above, what purpose a taxonomic list serves. So, in Birder’s Diary, checklist data is a set of data which associates things with locations.


Trips in Birder’s Diary are optional. But they can be another powerful reporting tool. Trips can serve to group together multiple sightings, at multiple locations, over multiple days. For example, suppose you are going on a 3 day excursion to multiple locations in your state. You record your sightings at these multiple locations over the span of 3 days. You want to report on the entire trip, instead of just one location or one day. Define a trip with begin and end dates; add comments and photos of the group you were with. When adding the sightings, assign the defined trip to each sighting. If you want to create the trip after you have already entered your sightings, simply do so and then assign the trip to the sightings from those 3 days using View/Edit in one quick move. Now you can run a report on the entire trip if you like, or just on one day or location of the trip by further filtering on date or location.

User-defined Fields

Also referred to as User-defined Data, UDFs or UDDs (for short). Birder’s Diary allows you to create unlimited extra data fields to any/all sightings. These can be Text, Yes/No, Date and/or Time, List, Integer (whole number, e.g. 1,2,3), Floating Point (fractional number, e.g. 3.14159). Examples might be anything you want to record about your sighting such as: breeding code, sex, plumage, heard-only, dead, etc.

Now  let’s move on to using Birder’s Diary and performing some of the basic functions that you will use over and over.

Please go to the next topic in this Quick Start guide.