NHBS In the Field – BAR-LT Bioacoustic Recorder

 

BAR-LT Bioacoustic Recorder

The BAR-LT is a bioacoustic recorder manufactured by Frontier Labs. The recorder is designed to be deployed in the field over extended periods and can be programmed to record for set times. This type of acoustic recorder is ideal for monitoring bird song, frog calls, or even wolves. This kind of monitoring is often referred to as passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) and is becoming increasingly popular in biodiversity studies across the globe. Not only are these growing libraries of soundscapes important for current research and survey, but they also provide invaluable references for future research into both global and local scale biodiversity change.

The BAR-LT is a professional two-channel audio recorder designed specifically for long-term autonomous field deployments. It comes in a  waterproof, lockable enclosure made from tough UV resistant plastic. It has space for four SD cards, each with up to 512GB storage capacity, meaning vast amounts of data can be recorded over one deployment. It is powered by 1-6 rechargeable 18650 batteries, providing 100-600 hours of recording time, and can also be powered using an external 6V or 12V power input. There are two microphone configuration options available: Standard (two-channels; one mic pointing left, one pointing downwards) and Left/Right. The omnidirectional microphones are highly sensitive and ultra-low noise, producing clear, crisp recordings.

We took the standard BAR-LT out to the field to record the dawn chorus.

How We Tested

We loaded the BAR-LT with a single memory card and four rechargeable 18650 batteries. We set a simple sunrise-based schedule, asking the recorder to record from an hour before sunrise to an hour after. The recorder then did the rest, using its in-built GPS to determine where in the world we were and therefore what time the sunrise was, basing start and stop times on this. We took the recorder to a nearby spot of woodland and fixed it to a tree using the included strap and a python cable lock (available separately) looped through the metal mounting plate at the back of the recorder. 

What We Found

Although we could have left the BAR-LT out for an extended period of time, we only left it out for a single night on this occasion. When we collected it, the two-hour recording had successfully been completed, with minimal battery or memory drain. Upon listening to the dawn chorus, the audio was wonderfully clear, and the microphones were very sensitive. Some examples of audio and sonograms are below.

Chiffchaff
Low frequency crow call over robin calls
Blackbird alarm call
Call and answer

Our Opinion

The BAR-LT was very simple to set up and, although the scheduling capabilities are powerful, the settings are logical and easy to navigate. The battery life and memory capacity were outstanding, making the unit a really great piece of kit for any long-term deployments or for use in very remote locations where access is infrequent. We were also particularly impressed with the handy battery removal tool that came with the kit – it saved a lot of time fiddling with the batteries and also demonstrated how well-thought-out the kit is. The only part of the design that we weren’t so keen on was the metal backplate for mounting the unit, which is slightly larger than the unit itself and doesn’t have any grip teeth like most trail cameras do. The tree we were mounting the unit to was relatively small, meaning the backplate got in the way a bit, and only just fit a python padlock after a bit of a squeeze. 

The recordings that the BAR-LT produced provided a wonderful soundscape and we were impressed with the quality of the recordings. There was very little ‘noise’ and the clarity of the recordings was evident, both when listening to the audio and when viewing the sonogram. The microphones picked up the sounds of the road surprisingly well, even though we thought we were far enough away to exclude them, demonstrating their impressive sensitivity.

We feel that the BAR-LT would be a great detector for conservationists and researchers who are looking to capture soundscapes for both current and future research. It performed well for bird song, but we think it would be equally as valuable to those wishing to record any terrestrial call. If you are interested in recording aquatic or low-frequency calls with the BAR-LT, please get in touch with us on customer.services@nhbs.com.


The BAR-LT is available through the NHBS website.

To view our full range of sound recorders and microphones, visit www.nhbs.com. If you have any questions on wildlife recording or would like some advice on the microphone for you then please contact us via email at customer.services@nhbs.com or phone on 01803 865913

NHBS: In The Field – Hi-Sound Stereo Parabolic Microphone

Hi-Sound Stereo Parabolic Microphone

Parabolic microphone dishes are a great tool for wildlife recording. They offer directional recording by isolating and amplifying sounds within a narrow band (in front of the microphone) without the addition of excessive self-noise (the noise created by the microphone when sounds are artificially amplified). This means that even very quiet sounds can be heard clearly from a distance. These systems are particularly popular for pinpointing birdsong and producing clear and sharp recordings, although they can be used to record any wildlife.

The Hi-Sound is a parabolic dish ideal for wildlife recording

We tested the Hi-Sound Stereo Parabolic Microphone which features a set microphone sensors separated by a baffle to create stereo recordings. Stereo recordings are more immersive and realistic than mono recordings as they accurately reproduce sounds coming from different directions. Each microphone sensor has excellent performance and increases the gain (volume) of recordings whilst keeping the self-noise low, meaning your recordings will remain clean and crisp.

Hi-Sound setup diagram

Setting Up

The Hi-Sound is easy to put together and is powered through plug-in-power (where the power is supplied through an attached recording device). We paired the Hi-Sound with the Tascam DR-05X portable handheld recorder and a pair of standard, good quality headphones. Our settings on the Tascam were:

Mic Power: On (very important! If your recording device does not detect the microphone, double-check this setting is on)

Low Cut: 80Hz (this removes some of the inherent noise at the lower frequencies)

Pre Rec: Off (you may want this on if you are recording wildlife that you might miss. When on, the Tascam will record the previous two seconds before ‘record’ was pressed)

Auto Tone: Off

We chose a still, dry day to test this microphone. For optimal recording, it is useful to go somewhere away from roads or background noise. For example, we took the Hi-Sound into a bird hide and although it picked up a wader call beautifully, it also picked up the floorboard creaks, coat ruffles and binocular case velcro from everybody else in the hide. You’ll be amazed at how much background sound there is in what you thought was a quiet setting!

We tested the Hi-Sound along a riverside walk to record the sounds of the water and how different noises could be pinpointed by aiming the parabolic dish. We also went to some quieter locations to record birdsong and compared recordings between using the Hi-Sound and just using the inbuilt Tascam microphone showing the benefits of this parabolic dish.

What we found

The Hi-Sound produced much cleaner, crisper sound and made recording specific bird calls a lot easier. Aiming the parabolic dish correctly took a bit of practice but once mastered, it was incredibly useful for pinpointing a bird, even if we weren’t able to see it. The clear plastic dish helped with this as without it, most of our view would have been obstructed. The stereo aspect of the recordings also made it a lot easier to track birds if they moved. 

It was fascinating to aim the Hi-sound at different points along a river in order to pinpoint different sounds. This demonstrated how good the dish was at isolating sounds from the narrow band in front of the microphone.

Our Opinion

The Hi-Sound is a fantastic piece of kit for wildlife recording. Although the cost of a parabolic microphone can be a significant leap from a standard handheld recorder, their performance and ability to isolate calls and sounds make the investment well worth it.

The Hi-Sound was particularly good at amplifying very quiet calls or calls from a long distance away without adding noise or compromising on recording quality. This is something that the Tascam just wasn’t able to do by itself. The microphone is easy to use, although perhaps not as easy to transport due to its size and shape. 

We feel that the Hi-Sound will impress both the wildlife recording beginner and the entry-level professional.  The Hi-Sound completely transforms a walk through nature, providing a whole new element to bird watching. If you have never thought about wildlife recording before, I would urge you strongly to do so. It is a rewarding and captivating hobby that is definitely enhanced with the use of a parabolic microphone such as the Hi-Sound. If you are a professional who regularly records, then the Hi-Sound would be valuable to refine your recordings and produce excellent quality audio.


The Hi-Sound Stereo Parabolic Microphone is available through the NHBS website.

To view our full range of sound recorders and microphones, visit www.nhbs.com. If you have any questions on wildlife recording or would like some advice on the microphone for you then please contact us via email at customer.services@nhbs.com or phone on 01803 865913

NHBS: In The Field – SiOnyx Aurora and Aurora SPORT

SiOnyx Aurora

The SiOnyx Aurora and Aurora Sport are two new night vision monoculars that offer ‘colour night vision’ – something new to night vision technology. A night vision scope is a handy tool for both the professional ecologist and the keen naturalist, especially at this time of year as the evenings draw in and the light levels fall. We wanted to test the Aurora’s night vision capabilities, along with the other features it offered to see if it lived up to expectations.

We tested the Aurora and the Aurora Sport. Both use an Ultra Low-Light CMOS sensor and should perform the same in low light settings. The main difference between the two models is that the Aurora has a built-in GPS, accelerometer and compass, and comes with an extra year warranty, whereas the Aurora SPORT is a budget version without these features and a 1 year warranty. Both cameras have up to 2 hours of battery life on a fully charged internal battery and records in 60 frames per second in either 360p or 720p resolution. The cameras also have a host of extra features including burst mode, time-lapse, panoramic view, self-timer, loop mode, slow-mo (shutter control) and HDR (High Dynamic Range) mode.

The SiOnyx Aurora SPORT (pictured left) and the SiOnyx Aurora (pictured right)

Setting Up

We ventured out to test the Aurora in daylight, twilight, and night conditions to see how the camera performed. The Aurora was very simple to use with each setting requiring a simple twist of a dial. Even the accompanying smartphone app was intuitive and quick to set up, allowing multiple users to easily view and record footage without needing to look through the device itself. The camera also had a tripod mount thread which was useful when wanting steady shots.

What we found

The Aurora was most impressive at dusk. Even at light levels when a phone or digital camera is no longer any use, the Aurora’s Day Mode footage is still surprisingly bright, if a bit noisy. Once switching to Twilight mode, the reduction in visual noise and clarity of bright footage was outstanding and is where we think this camera really excels.

The night mode would have been more useful if used with an IR illuminator, something that we would recommend if you are looking to use this camera in complete darkness, but it is still a very useful tool for when your own low-light vision starts to fail you. For example when watching deer, only a slight silhouette of a single deer could be made out by our own eyesight, and it was only with the use of the Aurora that we were alerted to the presence of the rest of the herd.

Our Opinion

The SiOnyx Aurora and Aurora Sport are two great night vision cameras. We were surprised at how easy the camera was to use and we were impressed by its low-light capabilities. The video and photo quality is at a lower level than most camera technology currently, but it is respectable for a night vision recorder. It is also worth noting that when viewed through the view-finder, the footage looked clear and crisp.

The app was a great feature when walking with other people as it meant everyone could see what the camera could view without fumbling around to pass the camera amongst each other in the dark. For watching more timid wildlife, the app was too bright and the camera’s start-up chime needed to be turned off avoid spooking animals.

Our favourite mode was definitely Twilight Mode. This was especially useful when we could see subjects with our own eyes, but details were hard to make out and ordinary spotting scopes or cameras were struggling. The night mode was best when our eyesight began to fail and the camera highlighted subjects we would otherwise have missed. Without using an illuminator, the camera was ineffective as it became completely dark. An illuminator would greatly improve the performance of the scope in Night Mode and we would highly recommend one if you are thinking of using the camera as both a low light and night vision camera.


The SiOnyx Aurora and the SiOnyx Aurora Sport are available through the NHBS website.

To view our full range of night vision and thermal cameras, visit www.nhbs.com. If you have any questions on night vision or would like some advice on the best camera/scope for you then please contact us via email at customer.services@nhbs.com or phone on 01803 865913

Watching Wildlife – Our New and Favourite Camera Kits

The Hedgehog camera kit

Our brand new Hedgehog Camera Kit includes a high-quality wooden hedgehog nest box, designed and tested by the Hedgehog Preservation Society. It also includes a tiny camera that can easily be screwed to the roof or side of the box with no modifications required. The camera then transmits footage from inside the hedgehog box to your TV or smartphone (3 versions are available) for you to view your hedgehogs from the comfort of your home. With the use of a USB Capture device (sold separately), you can also view footage on your computer/laptop and set the camera to record with motion detection, meaning you won’t miss a thing overnight.

If you already have a wooden hedgehog nest box and would like to attach a camera to it, please feel free to contact us for advice on 01803 865913 or at customer.services@nhbs.com.

Nest Box Camera Kit – Wired Camera

The Wired Nest Box Camera kit is a great choice if you haven’t used a nest box camera before. The kit comes with everything you need to get started, including a camera-ready nestbox. A wired camera produces reliable footage and is easy to set up following the step-by-step instructions.

 

IP Nest Box Camera

For those who have used nest box cameras before, or want more from their camera, an IP nest box camera is a good next step. With a bit of setup, you can livestream the footage from this camera to anywhere in the world.

 

Bushnell NatureView Live View

A NatureView Live View is a great camera for garden wildlife. It features a plug-in screen that helps you get your camera positioned correctly when setting up, and also comes with 3 close focus lenses for when you would like to record smaller animals such as birds or small mammals. It features a quick 0.2 second trigger speed and takes 14MP with 1920 x 1080p footage.

 

Browning Dark Ops Pro X 20MP

Browning’s Dark Ops Pro X 20MP is another great trail camera with some impressive specifications for its price. It records HD videos (1600 x 900 HD+) and 20MP images and has a 0.22 second trigger speed – great for capturing faster wildlife such as foxes or deer. It also features a built in viewing screen for easy setup and No-Glow IR LEDs that are invisible to humans or wildlife.

Starter Bundles

If you are looking to buy a trail camera and want to start capturing images and videos as soon as it arrives, then you may want to take a look at our starter bundle options. These bundles come with a memory card and batteries to ensure you have everything you need to get started.

Would you like some more advice on which trail camera or nest box camera is most suitable for you? Contact us on +44 (0)1803 865913 or email customer.services@nhbs.com . Alternatively, reply below and we will get back to you.

NHBS: In The Field – Bushnell CORE DS Low Glow

Bushnell CORE DS Low Glow

Bushnell trail cameras have always been popular among ecologists and researchers alike, but their famous Aggressor range of cameras has become outdated as trail camera technology has advanced. New for 2019, the Bushnell CORE range features four high specification trail cameras with the latest technology (more about the differences between the four cameras can be found here). We wanted to test one of these new cameras to see how it performed.  

We tested the Bushnell CORE DS Low Glow Trail Camera (DS standing for ‘dual-sensor’). Bushnell’s dual sensor system promises better day and night photos/videos, with one sensor dedicated to each. A 30MP image size and 920×1080 HD videos also indicate sharp, high-quality footage, but this is not always the case. The best way to see the true image/ video quality is to view sample footage from the camera.

Setting Up

We set the CORE up at a badger latrine in a wood in Devon. The camera was simple to set up, and the colour viewing screen came in very handy when trying to get the best angle. Without this feature, it can be very difficult to ensure that the camera is pointing in the right direction. The screen also displays a simple and user-friendly settings menu which was easy to navigate and check. The settings we used in this instance are as follows:

Mode: Video
Video Size: 1920×1080 (30fps)
Video Length:  15 seconds (the videos below are trimmed from originals)
Interval:3 seconds
TimeStamp: On
Video Sound: On
Sensor Level: Auto
Camera Mode: 24 hrs

As we were leaving the camera in a public woodland, we secured it in place with a compatible Python cable lock. The No Glow equivalent might also be a camera to consider if you are setting a camera up on public land and you want extra security.

What we found

The Bushnell CORE caught several videos over the one evening that it was set up. These clips can be viewed in the video below. The black and white IR footage was very impressive. We found it beautifully clear and very smooth, even at 30 fps (the camera has an option of 60fps). The IR flash illuminated the subject without any wash-out whilst remaining bright enough to reveal plenty of detail.  The low-light and day colour footage wasn’t as crisp but was still lovely and smooth. The fast trigger speed was especially apparent in a clip showing a herd of deer running across the river. The first deer are barely halfway across the screen before the video starts, despite the speed at which they were running. 

Our Opinion

We were impressed with the Bushnell CORE DS Low Glow Trail Camera, especially with the night videos. The front-facing colour screen was a key feature that made set-up and camera positioning much easier and is something that we think can either make or break a filming session. The dual sensor is definitely worth the price difference for the night videos. The colour videos were not as crisp but the camera is still excellent quality with an outstanding trigger speed and perfectly suitable for the needs of most researchers and ecologists.

 


The Bushnell CORE DS Low Glow is available on the NHBS website.

To view the full range of Bushnell CORE cameras, along with other ranges of trail cameras, visit www.nhbs.com. If you have any questions on camera trapping or would like some advice on the best camera for you then please contact us via email at customer.services@nhbs.com or phone on 01803 865913.

The NHBS Guide to Bat Detecting for Beginners

How to watch bats

Watching bats can be a fascinating and rewarding hobby. If you want to go out and watch bats yourself, you may not have to travel as far as you think. Bats live all over the UK in the countryside, towns and cities. Head down to your local patch of woodland, park or even your own back garden around sunset and watch the sky. Some bats fly quite high in the sky around the tops of trees, others fly lower, even at eye level. If you have a large pond, river or lake nearby, watch the surface of the water and you might see a Daubenton’s bat skim across the surface catching insects. Warm, dry and relatively still nights are best when it comes to bat watching. You are more likely to see bats around sunset and sunrise and they can be seen between March and October. 

An Introduction to Bat Detectors

To really immerse yourself in the world of bats, it is worth using a bat detector.

Bats use calls for communication, navigation and hunting but these are at frequencies above that of most human hearing. So even if you’re watching dozens of bats above you, you’re unlikely to be able to hear their calls. Bat detectors are devices that convert these ultrasonic calls into audible sounds and because different bat species call at different frequencies, bat detectors can even help you identify which bat is calling. Bat detectors are great fun to use and can help you learn a lot about bats. There are several different types of bat detectors on the market, at varying prices and with varying features. We’ve highlighted some of our favourite, entry-level bat detectors below.

Magenta 4 & Magenta 5 – Heterodyne

Our most popular range of beginner detectors are the Magentas. The Magentas are incredibly easy to use with a frequency dial to allow you to tune to a certain frequency, a front-facing speaker so that you can hear the converted bat calls, and a volume dial. They use a method of call processing called Heterodyne which works by tuning to one frequency at a time. The only difference between the Magenta 4 and the Magenta 5 is that the 5 has a digital display of the frequency that you are tuned to whereas the 4 has the frequencies on the tuning wheel which is lit by a small light. You can use Magentas with headphones and even record the outputted calls with a recorder (available separately).

Batscanner – Super-Heterodyne

The Batscanner is one of the easiest detectors to use, automatically scanning the whole frequency range and adjusting accordingly when it detects a bat, displaying the peak frequency on the digital display. This means you don’t have to tune anything and you won’t miss a bat because you’re tuned to the wrong frequency. The call output is clear and the Batscanner intelligently filters out non-bat low frequency calls giving you a clean, noise-free output.

Baton & Duet – Frequency Division

The BatBox Baton is perhaps even more simple to use than the Magentas, with just 1 button operation – the on/off button. You do not need to tune this detector – it will automatically detect all frequencies simultaneously as it works through ‘frequency division’, where all ultrasonic calls are divided by a factor of 10, pushing them into the human hearing range. Audio is played through the front facing speaker and when the Baton is plugged into a computer, you can see sonograms (visual representation of bat call) on the software included with the Baton.

The BatBox Duet is a similar but more sophisticated detector that is great if you want to take your bat detecting to the next level. It used two modes of call processing: with heterodyne, you can tune the detector with the frequency dial and this is displayed on the backlit screen, much like a Magenta, but the detector also processes the ultrasonic sounds in frequency division mode and this can be captured using an audio recorder (available separately).

Echo Meter – Full Spectrum

The EchoMeter is a completely different type of bat detector but one that is very popular and has many amazing features, ideal for all levels of bat enthusiasts. It plugs into a compatible phone or tablet and with the help of a free app, turns your phone/tablet into a fully functional bat detector. The app displays live sonograms of bats and an intelligent algorithm identifies the most likely bat species based on the calls, all in real-time. The app can GPS tag your sightings and you can record, replay and download bat calls.

How can I help bats?

It is easy to encourage bats into your garden and there are many things you can do to help your neighborhood bats. Changing the way you garden and putting up a bat box can help tremendously. Have a read of our guide to helping your local bats for some ideas and inspiration.

Other useful equipment and books

Listed below are some great kit and books to get you started or develop your knowledge on bat detecting and bat watching:

DIY bat detector
£24.98
If you have some basic soldering skills and fancy having a go at a DIY project, our DIY Bat Detector Kit has everything you need to build your own, simple heterodyne bat detector.

 

Zoom Handy Recorder: H1n
£95.00
This small, handheld audio recorder is ideal for plugging into your bat detector and recording the bat calls you are hearing. Recordings are stored on an SD card and can then be viewed on a computer to analyze further.

 

Petzl Tikkina Headtorch
£19.99
This handy headtorch will keep your hands free when you’re trying to change settings or navigate in the dark. The Petzl Tikkina has a bright, clean 250 lumen beam and has a simple, one-button operation.

 

A Guide to British Bats
£3.50
FSC’s ‘A Guide to British Bats’ is a fold out, laminated guide to help you identify bats through physical appearance and call frequency.

 

British Bat Calls: A Guide to Species Identification
£31.99
This practical guide is perfect for learning more about bat detectors and bat species identification. It covers topics such as how bats use sound, bat detection methods,  analysis software, recording techniques and call analysis.

 

The Bat Detective: A Field Guide to Bat Detection
£24.99
This field guide is perfect for beginners wanting to start learning how to identify bats from their calls. As each topic is explained references are given to the relevant tracks on the CD. The 48 tracks found here are the first ever compilation of British bat recordings on CD.

NHBS Guide to small mammal survey equipment

Small mammals are common and widespread across many of our terrestrial ecosystems. They play a crucial role in ecosystem food-webs as key prey species for many carnivores and are also useful as indicator species for agricultural change and development. Consequently, surveys of small mammal populations can be a useful tool for ecologists, researchers, and conservationists alike.

Small mammals are most commonly monitored through the use of live traps. These allow a range of species to be monitored simultaneously and also allow biometric data such as weight and sex to be collected. In addition, estimates of population size and structure can be calculated using capture-mark-recapture (CMR) techniques. However, other more passive monitoring techniques such as dormouse nest tubes, hair tube, and footprint tunnels are also available. Below we will take a look at some of the most popular small mammal survey equipment.

Longworth Traps

Longworth traps have been widely used in the UK for many years. They are made from lightweight yet durable aluminium and have been consistently well documented in scientific literature and ecological reports.

The trap consists of two parts: a tunnel which contains the door tripping mechanism, and a nest box, which is attached to the back of the tunnel. The nest box provides a large space for food and bedding material to ensure that the trapped animal is comfortable until release. The sensitivity of the trigger mechanism can be adjusted depending on the target species, although Pygmy shrews have been known to be too light to trigger the mechanism. The door can be locked open for pre-baiting for ease of use.

The Longworth trap comes as two options: with a shrew hole or without a shrew hole (Please note that shrews are a protected species so ensure you are aware of the relevant laws in the country in which you are trapping).

Sherman Traps

Sherman Trap

Sherman traps are another popular live-trap which can be folded flat for ease of transport and storage. They work by a trigger platform which causes the entrance door to shut when an animal runs into the trap. Sherman traps are formed of one compartment and because of this, it can be difficult to add food/bedding into the trap without interfering with the trigger platform. The traps may also distort over time with repeated folding. Sherman traps come in a variety of sizes and lengths so that you can find a trap to best suit your target species and can be purchased as either an aluminium or galvanised version which is more resistant to rusting.

Lifetrap

The Lifetrap (also known as the Heslinga) has a similar set-up to a Longworth trap – with a tunnel and nest-box – but with a slightly different tripping mechanism. All the openings have been kept as narrow as possible to avoid damage from the gnawing of trapped animals. The trap is made from lightweight aluminium with a green powder-coating for effective camouflage in the field.

NHBS Water Vole Trap

 

If you are looking to trap and survey water voles, we offer a water vole trap that comprises an extra-large (XLK) Sherman trap with its rear door removed and an attached nesting compartment. This trap is suitable for water vole survey, such as capture, mark, recapture studies, as well as water vole relocation projects.

 

Footprint Tunnel

Footprint tunnels are a less invasive method of surveying small mammals. Species presence/absence can be determined by examining the footprints made by mammals that have walked over an ink pad to reach the bait left in the tunnel. This method is especially useful for determining the presence of hedgehogs that are not otherwise easily ‘trapped’. The tunnel comes with a UK mammal footprint identification sheet; however it can be difficult to distinguish between some species of smaller mammals.

Squirrel Hair Traps

Squirrel hair traps are another non-invasive survey method that is designed for red squirrel survey. When squirrels pass through the baited trap, their hair is collected on sticky tabs within the tube. These hairs can then be analysed to determine the presence of red squirrels in the area.

 

Dormouse Tubes

Dormouse nest tubes are a cheap, easy and very popular method of determining the presence of dormice within a habitat. The tubes consist of a wooden tray and a nesting tube. Dormice make nests in the tubes and it is these that are used as indicators of their presence in the habitat. Dormice are legally protected in the UK and must not be handled unless you have a licence to do so. Nest tubes can be set up and checked without a licence until the first evidence of dormouse activity is found. After that, only a licensed handler can check them.

Dormouse Footprint Tunnel

Dormouse Footprint Tunnels offer a very low disturbance method of detecting dormouse presence in a habitat. Dormice passing through the tunnel cross over inked pads which causes them to leave characteristic footprints on the card or paper inserts. The Suffolk Wildlife Trust and CIEEM have suggested that footprint tunnels may be a more effective survey tool within scrub and hedgerow habitats than dormouse tubes, and equally as effective in high canopy woodland.

Accessories

Listed below are some of the essential accessories which are required for surveying small mammals:

Small Mammal Holding Bag
£3.60

Pesola Light-Line Spring Scales
From £35.99

Pesola PTS3000 Electronic Scale
£126.00

Heavy Duty Extra-Large Polythene Sample Bags
£0.70 per bag

Animal Handling Gloves
£5.69 5.99

Marking Flags
£2.75 for 10

Field Guides and Books

There are many excellent field guides and books available which can greatly assist with reliably identifying and surveying small mammals in the UK.


Atlas of the Mammals of Great Britain and Ireland
Hardback| Mar 2020| £34.99
The most up-to-date records of mammal distributions in Great Britain and Ireland. Fully illustrated with photographs and high-resolution distribution maps and details of species identification.

Live Trapping of Small Mammals
Paperback| Jul 2019| £7.99
Published by  The Mammal Society, this compact guide is the essential text for anybody looking to survey small mammals in the UK. It contains detailed practical instructions on survey methodology, complemented by colour photographs and illustrations.

Britain’s Mammals
Paperback| Apr 2017| £17.99
The perfect companion for anyone interested in watching mammals. This field guide combines concise descriptions of species life-history and distribution along with detailed colour photographs to help you reliably identify the mammals of Britain and Ireland.

The Analysis of Owl Pellets
Paperback| Apr 2009| £4.99
This handy booklet provides information on how to identify and analyse the undigested small mammal remains found in owl pellets.

 

A note on licensing

Please note that some small mammal species are protected by law (e.g. shrews and dormice in the UK) and you must obtain a license from Natural England, Scottish Natural Heritage or the Natural Resources Wales if you set traps with the intention of trapping any species of shrew. Please ensure you are aware of and meet the requirements of any relevant laws in the country in which you are trapping. Please visit https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/survey-or-research-licence-for-protected-species for more information.

New bird, bat and bee boxes for 2019

Providing nesting and roosting spaces for our wildlife is increasingly important as natural habitats and nest spaces are diminishing. Luckily, with the huge range available today, boxes for birds, bats and even bees can be sited almost anywhere from a tree in your garden, to within the walls of a new building and even free-standing. Below we will take a look at some of our newest bird, bat and bee boxes and what they can be used for.

introducing the Integrated Boxes by Green & Blue

The Bat Block

Green & Blue have just released two brand new products ready for this Spring.  Designed to be simple and easy to fit within the framework of new builds, the new Swift block and Bat block are sleek and made from recycled materials from the Cornish china clay industry. Both are standard UK block size and have slightly protruding entrances.

The Swift Block

Green & Blue BestSellers

As well as their new swift and bat boxes, Green & Blue also sell a range of blocks for bees. The blocks are made of 75% waste materials from the Cornish china clay industry and features small holes that appeal to a range of solitary bee species. The blocks range from small, brick-shaped blocks that can be built into walls or buildings, to large, stylish posts reaching 2.3m high, to plant pots that have space for you to plant bee-friendly flowers next to the solitary bee nesting holes.

New additions to the Eco Range

The ‘Eco’ range of boxes has recently expanded to feature a new Eco Bat Shelter and an Eco Tawny Owl Nest Box. These boxes are made of recycled plastic and the bat shelter comes in both a standard black and a brick-red colour. The bat shelter features a ceramic insert that helps to stabilize the internal temperature and is self-cleaning. The tawny owl nest box contains an FSC certified wooden nesting chamber which features built-in drainage holes meaning maintenance can be kept to a minimum. 

Aside from the new bat shelter and Tawny Owl nest box, the Eco range also includes a variety of boxes to cater for a wide range of bat and bird species. All of which are made from 100% recycled plastic and FSC certified wood and wood composite internal chambers. Click the images below to find out more.

Eco Range Bestsellers

Eco Barn Owl Nest Box
Eco Kent Bat Box
Eco Robin Nest Box
Eco Sparrow Tower

Integrated Habibat 003 Blended Box

The Habibat 003 is based upon the original Habibat box but features a blended facing to allow it to fit more seamlessly in building where the brickwork is built using stretcher/blended bond. The box provides the same internal roost space with insulating concrete and comes in a choice of three popular colours: smooth blue, smooth red or buff. If you have a more specific brick requirement or would like the box to match exactly your batch of bricks, the 003 is available with a custom facing where you can send your own bricks to be used or provide your brick code for the manufacturers to use on your box.

more information

If you would like some more advice on choosing bird or bat boxes, take a look at our previous blogs listed below or contact us via email at customer.services@nhbs.com or phone on 01803 865913.

Best Bird Boxes for Different Species 

Top 10 Bat Boxes for New Builds and Developments

Top 10 Bird Boxes for New Builds and Developments   

Top 10 Bat Boxes for Walls and Fences

Top 10 Bird Boxes for Walls and Fences

Top 10 Bat Boxes for Trees and Woodland  

Top 10 Bird Boxes for Trees and Woodland

The Importance of Nest Sites for Birds and Bees

Continue reading “New bird, bat and bee boxes for 2019”

NHBS Guide: How to choose a Trail Camera

As we enter the warmer spring months many of the UK’s mammals become more active as they establish territories, build nests and find mates. Despite all this activity, observing and surveying these animals is often a challenging task. Trail cameras offer an easy, effective and non-invasive solution in many of these situations, earning their place as an essential kit piece for any ecologist or wildlife enthusiast.

Listed below are a selection of new models and old favourites from each of our trail camera ranges. The primary features we find useful to distinguish between models are:
–  whether the camera has a colour viewing screen for reviewing footage in the field
– whether the camera has low glow LEDs (better flash range and video quality) or no glow LEDs (totally invisible to the human eye)
– trigger speed (how quickly the camera takes a still image once the infrared is triggered
– recovery speed (if known, how quickly the camera takes a second picture)
– video quality and framerate (video footage at 60fps is noticeably smoother)

Browning trail cameras

Browning trail cameras boast a fantastic quality of workmanship, designed and developed in the US they are deservedly popular and very reliable. A key feature of this brand is the ‘Smart IR technology’ which automatically adjusts the IR flash, ensuring crisp quality night photos.

The video below was captured on a Browning Strike Force Pro X. It demonstrates the fantastic quality of these cameras.

Image by Browning Trail Cameras

Command Ops Pro 16MP
An excellent entry-level camera with an impressive picture and audio quality at an economic price.

Command Ops Pro 16MP

 

* 16MP images
* 1280 x 720p HD videos with audio
* Low glow LEDs
* LCD Text display
* 21m Flash range

 

 


Strike Force HD Pro X
This compact mid-range camera has a fast trigger speed and an excellent picture/video quality ensuring you capture every moment in fantastic quality.

Strike Force HD Pro X

 

* 20MP images
* 1600 x 900p HD videos with audio
* Low glow LEDs
* Full-colour 1.5-inch LCD screen
* 37m Flash range
* Fast trigger speed of 0.22s

 

 

Browning Recon Force Edge
A high-end camera with excellent images and video quality thanks to a framerate of 60fps.

Recon Force Edge

 

*20 MP images
* 1920 x 1080p HD videos at 60fps with audio
* Low glow LEDs
* Full-colour 2-inch LCD screen
* 37m Flash range
* Adjustable 0.2s – 0.7s trigger speed

 

 


Recon Force Edge 4K
This high-end model can take some of the highest quality pictures and videos on the market.

Recon Force Edge 4K

 

* 32MP images
* 4K UHD videos with audio
* Low glow LEDs
* Full-colour 2-inch LCD screen
* 30m Flash range
* Adjustable trigger speed and detection range

 

Bushnell Cameras

With an extensive history and a range of professional and entry-level models available, Bushnell trail cameras offer a reliable choice for quality and durability.

Bushnell Trophy Cam Essential E3
A fantastic entry-camera with an impressive trigger speed.

Trophy Cam Aggressor HD Low Glow 20MP Tan
Trophy Cam Essential E3

 

* 16MP images
* 1280 x 720p HD videos with audio
* Low glow LEDs
* LCD Text display
* 30m Flash range
* Fast trigger speed of 0.3s

 

 

Bushnell CORE DS Low-Glow
This high-end camera has a fantastic trigger speed and recovery speed, as well as an extremely high picture and video quality. It uses two sensors, one for day and one for night conditions, which together ensure footage is always sharp.

Bushnell DS CORE Low-Glow

 

* 30MP images
* 1920×1080p HD video with audio
* Low glow LEDs
* Front-facing Colour display
* 30m Flash range
* Fast trigger speed of 0.2s
* Dual Sensor for day and night recordings
* Also available as a no-glow model

SpyPoint Cameras

Renowned for their lightning fast trigger speeds and recovery speeds, SpyPoint cameras ensure you never miss a wildlife moment.

SpyPoint Force-Dark
A robust and compact mid-range camera with a wealth of adjustable settings so you can take the best footage possible.

SpyPoint Force-Dark


* 12MP images
* 1280 x 720p HD videos with audio
* No glow LEDs
* Full-colour 2-inch LCD screen
* 27m Flash range
* Fast trigger speed of 0.07s
* 16GB SD card and card reader included

 

SpyPoint Solar-Dark
Builds on the Force-Dark by adding a solar panel which allows you to gather footage indefinitely when placed in sufficient sunlight.

SpyPoint Solar-Dark

 

* 12MP images
* 1280 x 720p HD videos with audio
* No glow LEDs
* Full-colour 2-inch LCD screen
* 27m Flash range
* Fast trigger speed of 0.07s
* 16GB SD card and card reader included
* Compact solar panel attached to the top

 


SpyPoint Link-Dark
This high-end camera builds on the Force series by adding network functionality, allowing photos to be transmitted to a mobile phone.

SpyPoint Link-Dark

 

* 12MP images
* 1280 x 720p HD videos with audio
* Low glow LEDs
* Full-colour 2-inch LCD screen
* 30m Flash range
* Fast trigger speed of 0.07s
* GPS geotag
* Network unit with preactivated SIM

Ltl Acorn Cameras

These compact cameras utilise three different motion sensors to ensure footage is taken at the optimum moment. They also feature a cellular module which when used with a SIM card allows you to receive captured images to a mobile or email address.

Ltl Acorn 5310
A great mid-range camera with excellent picture and video quality

Ltl Acorn 5310

 

* 12MP images
* 1920 x 1080p HD videos with audio
* No glow LEDs
* 15m Flash range
* Trigger speed 0.6s
* Colour LCD screen

Reconyx Trail Cameras

These high-end trail cameras are a benchmark of high-quality and reliability.

Reconyx UltraFire XR6 Trail Camera
A robust camera with excellent video quality and a number of impressive features.

Reconyx UltraFire XR6 Trail Camera

 

* 8MP images
* 1920 x 1080p HD videos with stereo audio
* No glow LEDs
* Full colour LCD screen
* 25m Flash range
* Compatible with Buckview Advanced Software, to organise and map stored images.

 

Accessories

A number of accessories can be bought to help mount and secure your trail camera your camera in the perfect position.

Python Mini Cable Lock

Python Mini Cable Lock
Compatible with all of our retailed trail cameras. This versatile lock has been designed to be extremely resilient to damage and picking, protecting your camera from any potential theft.

Security Boxes
Many of our trail cameras can be contained within a matching security box which provides maximum protection when in the field. All of our security boxes can be locked using a standard padlock or python cable. Make sure when purchasing a security box that it will fit the intended trail camera.

See our full range of Security Boxes on our website.

Batteries
The batteries you use in your trail camera can influence its performance in the field. Lithium-ion batteries are one of the most popular choices because they produce a high voltage per cell (1.6v) giving a brighter LED flash and a greater flash range. Rechargeable alkaline batteries offer a more economical and environmentally friendly alternative, however, when in use their voltage decreases over time and they produce proportionately darker LED flashes and consequently, photographs/videos are less illuminated. Standard alkaline batteries are also a suitable economic alternative.

SanDisk Class Cards
Ensuring you use a high read-write speed SanDisk Class card is highly advised for all of our trail cameras. Be sure to check the maximum SD or SDXC card capacity for your intended camera as these can vary between models and brands.

Solar panels
Where sufficient sun is available, the addition of a solar panel to your trail camera can extend its recording life indefinitely. Bushnell, SpyPoint and Ltl Acorn all offer compatible solar panels for their trail cameras.

All of our trail cameras can be purchased as starter bundles which include an SD card and all the batteries you need to power the camera. The complete trail camera range can be found at www.nhbs.com

Can’t decide which camera you need? Why not take a look at our guide on choosing the camera that’s right for you.

Continue reading “NHBS Guide: How to choose a Trail Camera”

NHBS Guide to Bat Survey Equipment

Common Pipistrelle by Meneer Zjeroen on Flickr

With Spring around the corner and the bat survey season fast approaching, it is a great time to make sure you have everything ready for the busy months ahead. Over the winter we have been busy reviewing our current products and cataloguing new ones. Here, we have picked out some exciting new products as well as some old favourites to take a look at.

The NHBS Harp Trap

Designed and built on-site at our workshop in Totnes, our three-bank Harp Trap features some innovative designs such as a winding line carrier and anti-tangling system that makes assembly and disassembly, easy and efficient. Made mostly from aluminium, the trap is surprisingly lightweight at just 15kg, whilst remaining sturdy and durable during use. The harp trap is 190cm long and has a catch area of about 4m². The catch bag is approximately 60cm deep and its entrance is about 39cm wide. When collapsed, the catch bag wraps around the disassembled frame and is held tightly with Velcro straps so that it can be neatly stored and carried in its bag. Initial feedback on its design and function has been very positive and we are excited to develop our design based upon suggestions from professional bat workers. Our standard trap will be a three bank, but if you would like a bespoke two or four bank trap, please contact us so that we can discuss your requirements.

BTHK Tree-Roost Net

Based on the design by Henry Andrews from the Bat Tree Habitat Key (BTHK) project, the BTHK Tree-Roost net is uniquely designed for trapping bats as they emerge from tree roost sites. The net is set up against a roost site prior to dusk so that it will catch any bats that emerge, keeping them safely in the bag ready for identification, measuring and ringing. The diamond shape of the net head can pivot and collapse inwards to ensure that the net fits flush against any tree, making it safer for bats and easier for surveyors. The net bag is made from fine woven nylon mesh that is soft and will not damage the delicate wings or feet of bats. The net bag can be easily removed for cleaning and features a clear plastic rim that fits around the collar and prevents bats from climbing up and out of the net when it is in place. The length of the handle is 4 meters (breaks down into 3 sections for ease of transport) and the depth of the bag is 1 metre. You may also be interested in the book Bat Roosts in Trees which is a guide to finding tree roosts.

Song Meter Mini Bat Detector

Wildlife Acoustics’ newest bat detector – the Song Meter Mini – is a more lightweight and affordable alternative to the SM4BAT (see below). Their smallest detector yet – weighing only 290g including batteries – the Mini allows you to set up and schedule your recordings using your mobile device and a free, simple-to-use app. The detector performs full-spectrum and zero-crossing recording and can record for up to 30 nights using four AA batteries. An optional acoustic microphone allows you to record birds and other wildlife when not recording bats. For more details, see our dedicated blog post where we test this new detector in the field.

Anabat Scout

The Anabat Scout is the latest bat detector by Titley Scientific.  The Scout was designed with UK and European bat biologists in mind and is tailored for active bat surveying. It can record both full spectrum and zero crossing files and stores them on a SD card with every file geo-tagged. The Scout has heterodyne, auto-heterodyne and frequency division audio that can be played through earphones or its own built-in speaker. The in/out bat counter is ideal for emergence surveys and will automatically timestamp and geo-tag every count. The small OLED screen displays crucial information without being too bright or distracting and the Anabat Scout will be compatible with Anabat’s free Anabat Insight software for viewing and analysing your data. 

Elekon Batlogger M

The Elekon Batlogger M is great for active surveying and full spectrum recording. The weatherproof FG Knowles microphone has a range of 10–150kHz and can record in 16-bit full spectrum. The Batlogger M also logs the GPS coordinates (via an integrated GPS receiver), and environmental temperature at the time of recording. Different recording settings (scheduled, permanent, or triggered), and different trigger thresholds (for call identification) can be set up and the device comes with its own powerful but user-friendly call analysis software package

Echo Meter Touch 2 Pro

The Echo Meter Touch 2 lets you record, listen to, and identify bat calls in real-time on your iOS or Android device. All you need is your Android or Apple device (see the nhbs.com website for compatible models), your Echo Meter Touch 2 Pro, and the Echo Meter Touch App which is a free download from the iTunes Store or Google Play Store. When plugged in, the Echo Meter Touch 2 enables you to listen to bats in real time, view live sonograms in full colour, record onto your device and identify calls to species level in seconds. If your device has GPS functionality, the Echo Meter Touch will also log the recording location and path of the recording session. There are two versions available in both an iOS version and Android version. Both versions allow you to listen to calls in real time expansion and heterodyne and you can playback in real time expansion, heterodyne or time expansion modes. The trigger sensitivity and sample rate are adjustable and three gain settings allowing users to optimise their detector to their target bat species and ambient conditions.

SM4BAT FS

The SM4BAT FS is a full spectrum detector for passive surveying use. Robust and weatherproof, it will record 16-bit full spectrum calls and can store up to 512GB of data. A versatile scheduling function allows you to set when you want to record and the battery can last up to 450 hours. The SM4BAT FS is easy to fit to a tree or post and is compatible with a variety of accessories such as GPS unit and microphone extension cables. The SMM-U2 ultrasonic microphone is available with the SM4BAT FS and is a highly sensitive microphone that produces high quality, low noise bat recordings over long distances. Easy to set up and producing detailed call recordings for analysis, the SM4BAT FS is ideal for unattended use in the field.

Anabat Swift

The Anabat Swift from Titley Scientific is based on the excellent design of the Anabat Express, but has the advantage of recording in full-spectrum, as well as zero crossing. Users can choose between sample rates of 320 or 500kHz and data is saved onto an SD card. Two SD card slots are available, allowing you to save more bat calls without changing cards. The Swift also has a built-in GPS receiver that automatically sets the clock, calculates sunset and sunrise times and records the location of the device. It will also record automatically from sunrise to sunset every night (based on GPS coordinates) as one of the automatic recording settings.

BatLure

The BatLure can be used as a lure to improve catch rates of bats for survey or research, to attract bats to new artificial roosts such as bat boxes or constructed hibernacula, with bat detectors at training events or prior to bat walks and for calibration of bat detectors. The Batlure can playback sounds with frequencies of up to 100kHz and is capable of playing both real time and time expanded recordings of bat vocalisations. It is very compact and robust and has a tripod attachment mount, making it easy to set-up in your desired location. It plays sounds from an SD card which is supplied complete with several pre-loaded recordings. Users can also add their own recordings onto the card.

Ecotone Ultra Thin Series M mist net for bats

The Ecotone Ultra Thin Series M is ideal for catching bats and is available in 2 mesh sizes. Both are made from nylon (0.8mm monofilament) and have 4 shelves. Available in lengths from 3m to 21m, you can pick the mesh size and length that best suits your survey and situation.

 

Explorer Premium Digital Endoscope Camera

The Explorer Premium Digital Endoscope is lightweight and easy to operate. It can record still images or video on to a microSD / microSDHC card (not included). The screen can be detached whilst the camera is in operation and viewed up to 10m away. The camera head has a diameter of 9mm and the cable is 91cm long, giving easy access to nest boxes, burrows, nests, crevices etc. Lighting levels can be adjusted to minimise disturbance to animals.

Accessories

Below are some accessories that may come in use when surveying bats:

Petzl Actik Headtorch
£39.95

Stainless Steel Hand-Held Counter
£7.99

Animal Handling Gloves
£5.69 5.99

dialMax Vernier Dial Caliper
£42.95

ETI Hygro-Thermo Pocket Sized Hygrometer
£21.95 26.99

Small Mammal Holding Bag
£3.60

Telescopic Inspection Mirror
£14.99 16.99

High Flier Mist Net Support System (for Bats)
 from £695.00

Further Reading

Below are some books that may come in use when surveying bats:

Bat Roosts in Trees£39.99
British Bat Calls £34.99
Bat Surveys for Professional Ecologists£29.99
The Bat Worker’s Manual£29.99

A note on licensing

Please note that in the UK, all bats and their resting or breeding places are protected by law. Any bat survey work must be undertaken by a licensed bat ecologist and when purchasing certain products, we ask you to confirm your license or give an appropriate reference. For more information, please visit https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/bat-licences.