23 March 2020

We are constantly looking at ways Birdata can be improved – how to make it easier for you to record, store and explore our birdlife, and how to best collect the information needed to protect our native birds and their habitats. It has taken a bit of time but the first of a number of big updates is now online and ready for you to use!

The main changes are:

  • Quick overview of most recent surveys undertaken
  • Clickable surveys, allowing users to see where and when a survey was undertaken as well as a survey summary (though not observer information and survey details remain subject to species sensitivity)
  • Introduction of Private survey option
  • All existing (and some new!) filters available on all data pages
  • Quick toggle to switch data on and off when selecting months
  • Downloadable graphs for each species
  • New admin features, including implementation of a sensitive area layer, enabling Birdata to set different sensitivity levels for protected or restricted areas.
  • The Explore tab now features all and more of the functionality of the (now-defunct) Programs & Regions tab. The latter will be redeveloped over the coming months.

The main Explore page now shows a colour-coded indicator where surveys have been undertaken in the last 14 days (blue) or older (red) (see figure below).

This functionality applies to individual species as well, allowing you to see where a particular species has been seen recently (see figure below). Hover your mouse over a map symbol to reveal how many surveys have been undertaken in a given area.

Much like before, survey information in Explore is displayed on a grid until you zoom in far enough, at which point individual survey points become visible. Survey locations that show up in yellow at that point indicate these are surveys where sensitive species have been recorded and for which exact coordinates are de-sensitised. You can now also turn all data on/off or specify individual months at the click of a button.

As of this update you will be able to click on individual survey points to see what has been recorded there and when (see figures below). Clicking on the date in the pop up provides an overview of that survey list. The site name also has a quick link to Google Maps, allowing you to check out the wider area quickly. This provides a more convenient way for you to explore the birdwatching locations near you.

However, the flipside of this is that it will change the way your data is displayed on Birdata, and what elements of it are visible to others. We take your privacy very seriously, which is part of the reason why we are notifying you of these changes. Note that regardless of these changes, observer names are not visible to general users.

Clickable survey functionality naturally opens up a can of worms when it comes to where sensitive species are found. To balance sensitivity and the ability to explore data, sensitive records allow inspection of survey date and type, but not currently the survey summary (see example below where the user is looking at Powerful Owl records).

You will notice that when you Record Surveys on the web portal, when on the Details page, you now have the option to make surveys private. This will hide both the survey location and species list from other users. For example, you might want to make a survey private when you are on private land or conducting surveys as part of your work or you are using your own street address for regular surveys. If you have existing surveys that you prefer be private, you can also use the Edit function on the My Data to make those changes. However, don’t forget that one of the aims of Birdata is to Explore current and historic data for all users and as such we hope individual users apply the ‘private’ option with some restraint. If you have more than a few past surveys that should be made private we can help you out.

Most things won’t change as a result of clickable surveys – information from private surveys will remain stored on the Birdata platform – we do not pass on your personal information. They will still be accessible to you like the rest of your data and most definitely are valuable to us as we work to monitor and protect our birds. But the specifics of these private surveys just won’t be visible to other users.

Note that surveys that already contain sensitive data – observations of endangered species and breeding birds will still have the same protections they always have: i.e. there is a shortlist of species of conservation concern for which coordinates are by default de-sensitised to different spatial levels and breeding records for parrot and cockatoo species sensitive to poaching continue to be hidden altogether. Where we pass on species lists to publicly accessible third-party platforms such as the Atlas of Living Australia we only provide de-sensitised data for sensitive species. In other words: the private option is not a replacement of Birdata’s sensitivity policy.

Reporting rate graph & download (click here)

In Explore, when selecting a particular species you will now see 3 different graphs appear: the already existing annual and seasonal graphs as well as a reporting rate graph (see example below).

As these are essentially raw reporting rates we have put some limits to these to avoid hugely superfluous results. Reporting rates are based on structured surveys only (i.e. excluding bird lists and incidentals) and are only calculated for a given year if a minimum of 30 surveys is present in the area the user is looking at. Note that at best reporting rate trends are high level indicative and do not necessarily reflect exact population trends – results should be treated with caution.

Through using different filters (e.g. KBAs, area layers, LGAs) all graphs are automatically recalculated. Hovering your mouse over a graph will download the graph data, enabling users to recreate these for their own purposes.

We've made a few changes to the layout of the Birdata portal. For one, you'll notice the old Programs and Regions tab has disappeared. However, all the things you could do on that tab you can now do on the Explore page. You'll also notice that all the ways you can filter the data (i.e. by month, by species, or by applying a some different geographical layers) can be made on both the My Data and Explore pages. Also, a small change, but one that has been requested often is a filter to check your species lists at the LGA level. Just go to the Area Layer dropdown, select Local Government Areas and start typing the LGA name.

Quite possibly less exciting to the general user, but adding another layer of sensible management of sensitive areas and species is the admin-only introduction of a sensitive area layer, allowing Birdata to set sensitivity levels for areas such as indigenous lands, particular reserves, airports, military zones etcetera. In conjunction with existing policy surrounding sensitive data and the new private survey option we feel we are doing everything we can to both allow people to engage in birding, monitoring and bird conservation while at the same time making sure data access does not lead to unfettered access of key locations in important areas or sensitive species in general.

If you have any questions about these or any other changes or you spot any bugs, please contact birdata@birdlife.org.au
Thanks for your amazing contributions in getting out there and making your birding count!

Happy birding,
The Birdata team


The Tony & Lisette
Lewis Foundation
through a WildlifeLink
grant funded the
Birdata app and
the original Birdata