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The database has its origins with a project initiated in January 1976 by Bruce Barrett, Bruce Di Labio and Richard Poulin who undertook to produce a birding newsletter called The Shrike. This publication concentrated on current sightings and the analysis seasonal population status. Bruce Barrett was the founding editor, followed by John Sankey, then Tom Hanrahan. The project involved the systematic collection of daily sightings submitted by a number of observers. The data collection was probably less formal at the outset, but by 1981 it had become well-organized with regular observers submitting their daily sightings on tick sheets. The project continued effectively until the end of 1985.
One complete set of these newsletters is in National Archives, a complete set is at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden and another complete set is bound and in the hands of the Club. The main bulk of the basic data sheets submitted by the observers are held in the National Archives. A smaller number of the data sheets are in the paper archives of the Birds Committee. It remains to be confirmed how much of the early data submitted to Bruce Barrett has been retained in these locations.
Starting in 1981, John Sankey and Roger Taylor arranged to have the data key-punched onto computer cards to be read by the VAX computer at the NRC. Programs written by John Sankey were used to produce tables and graphs and of data analysis that were in turn printed in the newsletter.
The digitized database covers the period from January 1981 to the end of May 1986. There are scattered observer sheets in the committee archives that are outside of this timeframe but they have not been entered digitally.
In 1992, Allan Cameron downloaded John Sankey's files from the NRC computer onto IBM PC diskettes. These files included all of the key- punched basic data in ASCII text format and the source code for the programs. The data files are encrypted and the programming code had to be translated.
The information in the data files has now been converted into .CSV format and imported into an Excel spreadsheet.
The data are accurate to the extent that there are no bugs in the programming used to decrypt the NRC files and that there are no errors in the algorithms used to import .CSV into Excel.