Topic: New bird dataset on ALS

Hi Dave, thanks for starting to put up some of the dataset BTO provided last year. I thought I'd use this forum to jot down observations as I checked through. First questions:

1. Why does the site fail to work so frequently? Over the last few weeks it seems that on about 50% of occasions, when I type in the search box on the home page, I fail to get any suggested names presented, and then when I hit enter I get "this site can't be reached". I can't find any pattern around when it works and when it doesn't. Any clues?

2. When I did briefly get in, I see the rendering of the records to grid squares is still wrong for Shetland and Orkney (as it was when we had the data on the test site back in the summer). Hopefully a quick fix?

More when I manage to get back in....


Andy Musgrove


Re: New bird dataset on ALS

Hi Andy,

We've not heard of anyone else having issues with the site not working, and none of the NBN Secretariat staff have noticed any stability problems. Could you let me or Dave know via email next time that this happens, and what you're trying to access so that we can look into it, please?

Thanks for pointing out the grid rendering issues with Orkney and Shetland. It looks like its just affecting the rendering of 10km grid squares, which is what you get zoomed out. When zooming in past 10km grids, it is currently working ok. Dave is now aware of this and will address this issue shortly.



Re: New bird dataset on ALS

OK thanks Ella, will email you direct with the issue.


Re: New bird dataset on ALS

OK, next batch of observations from playing with the bird records on ALS.

1. The map view at records.als.scot/occurrences/search?q= is, I find, quite a good simple tool, and far less intimidating than the spatial portal. But unless I’m missing something it’s hidden away. You seem to be able to get to it from species.als.scot/species/ overview, beneath the map click ‘view records’ then on the next page you have to click the map tab. Very easy to overlook. Alternatively, you can (non-intuitively) get there from the ‘search results’ page, e.g. species.als.scot/search q=Great+Northern+Diver then at top right you can click on ‘Occurrence records’ (despite having not chosen which search result you want yet) and that gets you to the map. I’m a bit confused as to why this map is so hidden away from view. Unless I’m missing an obvious link somewhere?

2. When I drill into individual records that we’ve provided, each one says it has ‘data resource’ = ‘Birdtrack’. We’ve changed this for the dataset as a whole to ‘Combined biological records from BTO+partners (mostly birds)’ which is admittedly not snappy but is correct. Individual records should not be referred to as Birdtrack records, as the majority of them are not from Birdtrack.

3. Looks like some progress has been made on sorting the rendering of Orkney dots to grids, but still some issues in Shetland. For example, look at Shetland on records.als.scot/occurrences/search?q=data_resource_uid:dr512#tab_mapView and toggle between grids and points.

4. I can’t currently find any records of Black-throated Diver, Slavonian Grebe, Black-necked Grebe. Could this relate to SNH’s sensitive records filter perhaps? For Red-throated Diver I can see dots on the map on species.als.scot but not on the other two maps (records.als.scot/occurrences and spatial portal)

5. On the species page/records tab – the habitat pie chart for Great Northern Diver is bizarre.  This is not a bird of agriculturally improved grassland! How on earth has this graph been generated?!

Also, some wider observations that relate to the system as a whole, not to this dataset.

6. General point. The search boxes return non-sensical suggestions very frequently. This is annoying or even amusing to the experienced user but it will be highly confusing for the beginner. At the very least, I’d suggest that all search-box drop-downs should be in descending order of the number of records in the system, so you get the common/likely stuff at the top. This will reduce confusion.

7. Minor but annoying point. Capitalisation following hyphenation of English names of birds is generallywrong. The generally accepted form is Red-throated Diver, not Red-Throated Diver. NBN Gateway / NHM Species Dictionary have this right. Has it got re-capitalised on import? Clearly this is low priority but it will rankle with many potential users.

8. On species.als.scot/species/, the general info text is potentially useful but sadly it’s (inevitably) Americanised. As such can be highly offputting to British reader. Great Northern Diver is not known here as Common Loon. Sorry to be parochial, but this will annoy people continually. Not sure what you can do about this though.

9. Not massively convinced of the point of having the ‘sequences’ tab here; I can’t imagine anyone wanting genetic information would be accessing it via this route. The literature tab also seems an unnecessary distraction IMHO.

Right, I'd better pack my bags and get the train to Edinburgh - see some of you there...