In The Field: Batbox Baton Bat Detector

The Batbox Baton is an economical and user-friendly bat detector ideal for newcomers to bat detecting and bat detecting enthusiasts alike. The Baton is perhaps one of the most simple and easy-to-use bat detectors on the market, so simple that it can be operated with a single button. With simplicity often comes sacrifice, but not in the case of the Baton. This device uses technology called frequency division which enables the user to monitor all ultrasonic frequencies between 20kHz and 120kHz at once by dividing the frequency by a factor of 10. If a bat calls at 50kHz, for example, a 5kHz form will be played through the speakers. This means no tuning is required and the user is not at risk of missing any bats by being tuned to the wrong frequency.

We took out a Batbox Baton to a rural lake in Hampshire at dusk on a dry August evening. The detector comes preloaded with a battery, and with a flick of the single On/Off button we were listening to bat calls in a matter of seconds. The detector is extremely lightweight, ergonomic and compact, making it easy to carry into the field. The calls of (what we believe were) Soprano Pipistrelles were divided down to an audible frequency and we could hear multiple individuals calling and hunting above us. It is worth noting that species identification can be more difficult without a frequency display screen, especially if the user has less experience in hearing calls in frequency division or if they are unable to compare with other bat calls. We found the Baton a very useful tool for listening to bats for pleasure and the lack of a screen or tuning dials means you can focus your eyes above and watch the bats as they fly and hunt. 

Should the user wish to get a bit more out of their bat detecting experience, however, the Baton does provide options. The Baton has a ‘Line Out’ socket, and when connected to a laptop with a soundcard via a stereo lead, and used in conjunction with the free BatScan analysis software compatible with Windows only, real-time sonograms can be viewed in the field allowing detailed analysis and species identification. 

The Baton’s Line Out socket can also be used with a digital audio recorder, such as a H1n Handy Recorder, and calls can be recorded for future analysis using the same BatScan software. It should be noted that if the user wishes to listen to calls through headphones, this cannot be done through the detector itself but only via the audio recorder. The use of a recorder and further analysis with BatScan software allows the user to gain a detailed understanding of call structure and species identification, and further their enjoyment of bat detecting. 

Whether you have been enjoying bat detecting for years, or you are just looking to start out, the Batbox Baton will have something for you. It is an economic and versatile option that we would not hesitate to recommend.


The Batbox Baton Bat Detector can be found here. Our full range of bat detectors can be found here.

If you have any questions about our range or would like some advice on the right product for you then please contact us via email at customer.services@nhbs.com or phone on 01803 865913.

Watching Wildlife – How to choose the right Trail Camera

This is part one of a two-part series that will look into different ways of filming wildlife in your back garden. In this part, we will take a look at trail cameras and what to look out for when buying one. 


The variety of trail cameras on offer can be overwhelming, here are a few key things to look out for:

Type of LEDs

In order to capture videos or images in the dark, camera traps use infrared LEDs to illuminate the subject with little to no visible light used. There are two main types of LED flash systems that trail cameras use. These are No Glow and Low Glow. No Glow LEDs produce very little visible light and so are almost completely undetectable by the subject. Low Glow LEDs produce a faint red glow and so are not completely invisible, which can sometimes alert animals such as deer and foxes. However, they do have the benefit of being able to illuminate better over a longer distance.

Red Fox Bushnell Trail Camera
Red Fox captured on Bushnell Trail Camera
Trigger Speed

Trigger speed is the time taken for the camera to take a photo once it has detected movement. If you are aiming to capture a fast-moving subject, then a quicker trigger speed (below 0.3 seconds) will enable you to achieve these photos before your subject has moved out of frame. 

Recovery Time

Recovery time is the time taken for the camera to process an image and become ready to take a second photo. If you want to capture multiple images of a subject as it comes into view of your camera, then a shorter recovery time will allow for this.

Badger photo Ltl Acorn Trail Camera
Badger photo captured on Ltl Acorn Trail Camera  ©Bryony James
Hybrid Mode

Hybrid mode allows the camera to take videos and photos simultaneously. A camera with this capability may be useful if you want to get as much footage as possible of anything that falls into frame of the camera. If you are more interested in capturing only photographs or only videos, this mode may not be an important feature.

Resolution and Interpolation

The quality of the images and videos that your trail camera can take will depend on its resolution. Most cameras have settings that can alter the resolution either, decreasing it through compression, or increasing it through interpolation. Compression is useful if you want to deploy your camera for a long time and memory card capacity may become an issue, whereas interpolation can produce a larger image by adding pixels. The best way to compare the quality of images between cameras is to look at sample photos and videos. The displayed megapixel value is often resolution as a result of interpolation. The true resolution of the image sensor can usually be found in the specifications as the true sensor resolution.

Screen

Many trail cameras come with built-in viewing screens allowing you to view your photos and videos in the field. This is particularly useful if you want to take a few test shots to check the positioning of the camera.

Our Suggestions

Browning Strike Force Full HD

If you’re looking for a good entry-level camera, then take a look at the Browning Strike Force Full HD. It takes high quality images and videos for a very affordable price.
LED type: Low Glow
Trigger speed: 0.135-0.7s
Recovery time:  0.5s
Hybrid: No
Resolution: 22MP
Viewing Screen: Small screen showing text only

 

Browning Dark Ops HD Pro X

For the next step up, the mid-range  Browning Dark Ops HD Pro X is one of our most popular trail cameras. With No Glow LEDs and a impressively quick trigger speed, this is a great all-round option.
LED type: No Glow
Trigger speed: 0.22s
Recovery time: 0.6s
Hybrid: No
Resolution: 20MP
Viewing Screen: 3.8cm colour screen

 

Bushnell Core DS No Glow

If the hybrid mode is an important feature for your work, a Bushnell Core DS No Glow may be the one for you. Dual sensors target day and night in order to provide the best quality images, no matter the light conditions.
LED type: No Glow
Trigger speed: 0.2s
Recovery time: 0.7s
Hybrid: Yes
Resolution: 30MP
Viewing Screen: 5.08cm colour screen

 

Browning Spec Ops Elite HP5

If the subject of your trail camera photos or videos is particularly fast, it may be worth taking a look at the Browning Spec Ops Elite HP5 whose adjustable trigger speed starts from 0.1 seconds is one of the fastest on the market.
LED type: No Glow
Trigger speed: 0.1-0.7s
Recovery time: 0.5s
Hybrid: No
Resolution: 24MP
Viewing Screen: 5cm colour screen

Accessories

There are a selection of accessories that you may want pair with your camera to get the best out of your camera-trapping experience.
If you are worried about leaving an expensive piece of kit outside and unattended, then you may want to invest in a Python Lock. This cable lock will fit most trail cameras and and will give you piece of mind that your camera is secured in place. Here you can watch how to set up this lock with your own trail camera. You also may be interested in a security case that is compatible with your trail camera. These cases house your camera and secure with a padlock, which helps prevent vandalism and theft.

SD Cards

All cameras need a memory card to store your photos and videos on. Make sure to check what SD card capacity your camera needs, this is usually found in the specifications section. Browse our selection of SD cards to order alongside your camera so that you can get snapping as soon as possible.

Power Options

Most cameras are powered by batteries. We recommend you use Lithium Ion batteries with your trail camera to ensure maximum trigger speeds and longer battery life. Make sure to check how many batteries your camera needs. Some trail cameras are also compatible with solar panels which will allow you to extend the battery life of your camera. This is especially useful if you want to leave your camera outside for extended periods of time.

Starter Bundles
Browning Strike Force Starter Bundle

If you are looking to buy a trail camera and want to make sure you will be able to get out and start capturing 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 that are right for your camera to ensure you have everything you need to get started.

To see more trail cameras available, take a look at our range here

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 . 

An Evening at Sharpham – Bat and insect survey

The lengthening evenings of late Spring or early Summer are an ideal time for an evening wildlife walk. Now the vegetation has become more lush and the air has become warmer, the insects form in thicker clouds and the bats are now on the wing.

The Sharpham estate is a 550-acre area which runs alongside the River Dart just outside Totnes. This historic landscape is home to the Sharpham Trust, an educational charity whose Wild for People project aims to rewild areas of the estate and enhance biodiversity in the region. To read more about the history of the Sharpham Estate and the launch of their Wild for People project, click here.

A few of us from NHBS walked up to the Sharpham estate where we met a group of Ambios’s conservation volunteers and trainees for an evening wildlife walk. We brought a selection of bat detectors with us and explained the differences between our most popular professional detectors. We distributed any active bat detectors among the volunteers and showed them how each type worked. We then left the farm just as dusk was settling with detectors armed and ready.

As we wandered the footpaths and fields of the estate, we watched several Noctule and Leisler’s bats commute high above the fields, along with some Common and Soprano pipistrelles zipping along the hedgeline foraging.

We then cut across a field to a dead tree where NHBS Wildlife Equipment Specialist Josh had previously set some insect bait traps. The traps were baited with a mix of banana and beer and had been set in the hopes of catching saproxylic beetles emerging from dead wood.

Josh has also been monitoring the beetle diversity of Sharpham through a series of pitfall traps placed across the estate, although prior to our walk they had unfortunately been closed due to heavy rain. Unfortunately no beetles were found in the traps this time, but we did spot a variety of species scurrying along the field and forest paths including Anchomenus dorsalis, Dromius agilis and Staphylinus dimidiaticornis, along with the very common Nebria brevicollis (gazelle beetle) and Pterostichus madidus (black clock beetle).

Once it was much darker, on our way back up to the farm, we also had the pleasure of listening to the alien-like call of a sitting Lesser Horseshoe bat that was perched just meters away from the group. It made for an exciting end to the walk and we hope to detect even more bat species through passive detector recordings.


See the full range of bat detectors and insect survey equipment on the NHBS website.

To find out more about Ambios and the work of Lower Sharpham Farm, please visit https://www.ambios.net/.

Devon Badger Group: Interview with Chair, Jenny Pike

Formed in 2010, the core aim of the Devon Badger Group is to protect badgers and their habitats. Funded by membership, donations and fundraising events around Devon, they run a free 24/7 helpline for sick or injured badgers and other badger-related issues.

We recently had the opportunity to chat with Jenny Pike, Chair of the Devon Badger Group, about the group’s important work, their successes and challenges, and how Covid-19 has affected their lives over the past year.


Firstly, can you give us a brief introduction to the Devon Badger Group and your role within the group?

My name is Jenny Pike and I am Chair of the Devon Badger Group (DBG). In a nutshell, the purpose of the DBG is to protect badgers and their habitat, record their activity, educate and further the public’s understanding of badgers, and to encourage tolerance, appreciation and respect for all wildlife. We also work with the police and RSPCA, and respond to any activities that could be detrimental to the welfare of badgers.

What do you consider to be the main threats to badgers in the UK?

Sadly there are many threats to badgers and, despite gaining legal protection in 1992, badger persecution is on the increase. In England, one of the biggest threats badgers face is the government licenced badger cull. Since the cull began in England in 2013, a total of 140,991 badgers have been killed, 30,345 of which have been in Devon.

Other serious threats are housing developments where, even if setts are protected with appropriate mitigation measures, a significant amount of foraging ground can be lost. New roads can also impact badgers if appropriate badger tunnels are not installed or are installed in the wrong place. Hunts sometimes block badger setts to prevent foxes escaping down them and, as already mentioned, illegal badger persecution is on the rise along with other forms of organised wildlife crime such as dog fighting.

I am sure everyone will have seen many badgers dead on the side of the road. No one knows exactly how many badgers are killed by vehicles each year – one estimate has it at 50,000.

What are your main goals as a group?

Our main aims are to protect badgers, their setts, and their habitats. But we feel that if we can increase the public’s understanding of badgers and dispel some of the myths, people will feel more encouraged to protect them. Sadly, most people we talk to have never seen a live badger. This is why, whenever we are contacted by members of the public who think they have badgers visiting their gardens, we offer to put up a trail camera so they can actually watch visiting badgers go about their business, which is usually looking for earthworms and other invertebrates. This often has a very positive effect and has changed people’s view of badgers.

What would you consider to be your greatest success as a group?

In 2019, through some very generous grants and donations, the DBG was able to fund two members to train to become licenced lay vaccinators. I was lucky enough to be one of them. Since then, we have worked in collaboration with the Somerset Badger Group to vaccinate badgers in Devon and Somerset, which has allowed us to gain valuable experience. We hope this will continue and expand in the future. 

Covid-19 has caused difficulties and presented issues for all of us. How has the pandemic affected the work that the DBG does, and have there been any unforeseen positive effects?

On the positive side, it is possible that less cars on the road in the first lockdown resulted in fewer badgers being killed or injured. Spring is when cubs are still dependent on their mums and when most road casualties occur, and so this would have had a significant effect on badger cub survival rates if mum survived to successfully wean them.

On the negative side, although we were given permission by Devon and Cornwall Police to continue to rescue injured badgers on animal welfare grounds, we were not able to carry out sett surveys, monitor setts which had been targeted previously, or visit homeowners who had contacted us for advice on badger issues. We were also unable to carry out our regular fundraising activities which, in normal circumstances, not only provides much needed funds, but also gives us an important opportunity to engage with the public and answer their questions. This is something I personally have missed a great deal as there is no substitute for face-to-face communication.

Having said that, we have been able to continue our most important work by keeping in regular contact with our committee and members through electronic communication, Zoom and Teams meetings. This has had an unexpected benefit of not only reducing our carbon footprint, but also allowing us to engage with our members across the whole of the county (internet permitting!).

You mention that you sometimes use trail cameras in some of your work – could you tell us a bit more about this?

We use trail cameras extensively in the DBG and they have been invaluable in proving setts are active in cases of sett disturbance and sett blocking. They have also been used to great effect when showing school children the wonders of a shy nocturnal animal they would never usually see. I have been using a number of cameras recently on a beaver enclosure to ensure the badgers and other wildlife are able to move freely in and out (except the beavers of course!). I also have my own trail camera and I still maintain that it was the best Christmas present ever. I use it all the time for monitoring the wildlife in my own garden in Plymouth.

In May of last year, the government announced that they hope to shift away from culling and towards badger vaccination to help in the fight to eradicate bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in England. What does this mean for the group and will the DBG be involved with badger vaccination programmes?

The Devon Badger Group is opposed to the badger culls but, of course, recognises the distress and hardship bTB causes for farmers, their families and their animals. We sincerely hope that the government honours its commitment to progressing a vaccine which is much more likely to provide real benefits to farmers and their cattle than the current bTB strategy.

Controlling the spread of bTB is a complex issue that will need a raft of measures to tackle, but they must all be backed up by sound scientific evidence. The role badgers play in bTB transmission is still not fully understood: what limited studies have been carried out to determine the prevalence of bTB in badgers have concluded that approximately 4.5% of badgers tested are infected with bTB. It is now accepted that the vast majority of bTB transmission to cattle is from other cattle, but this was previously unclear due to the poor accuracy of the routinely used skin test. This skin test has been found to be around 50-80% accurate, resulting in up to 1 in 5 infected cattle remaining undetected in the herd to pass on the infection.

With this in mind, and the fact that bTB can live in soil and slurry for many months, there is enough doubt on the role badgers play in disease transmission to compel the government to re-evaluate their bTB strategy for the benefit of farmers and the whole farming industry.

We welcome the government’s commitment to replace badger culling with the more humane badger vaccination and we hope to be involved in any future badger vaccination initiatives. We would be very happy to work with and support Defra and other organisations in delivering on this new initiative until a more effective cattle vaccine can be deployed.

It is obvious that you are very passionate about badgers and love them dearly. What is your favourite fact about badgers?     

As large as they are, their main food source is earthworms and they have to delicately pull them out of the ground without snapping them!

How can people help protect badgers and get involved in their local area?

Please keep an eye on your local area, especially if you have any setts near you. If you would like help on identifying signs of badgers, we would be more than happy to help (Covid-19 permitting).

Report any suspicious activity around badger setts to the police and do also let us know. Please also report dead badgers to us – in spring this is important if it is a lactating female with dependent cubs below ground.

Please consider joining the Devon Badger Group. We are a small but active group but have one of the largest and most rural counties in England to cover.

We can be contacted at devonbadgergroup@gmail.com and on our 24/7 helpline number 07710 971988 or I can be contacted direct on 07791 490572.

 

NHBS In the Field – Song Meter Micro

The Song Meter Micro is the latest in Wildlife Acoustics’ passive recorder range. Building on the success of the Song Meter Mini, Wildlife Acoustics have gone one step further and managed to again reduce the size and cost of their fantastic acoustic recorder. These handy pocket sized recorders are now even more accessible to anybody looking to record wildlife.

The Micro is certainly a technical achievement. It boasts many of the same excellent features available in the Song Meter Mini while coming in at around half the width, 100g lighter and just over half the price. It utilises the same Bluetooth configuration and, with a complement of three AA Alkaline or NiMH batteries, it can continuously record for up to 150 hours. A full comparison of the differences is available from the manufacturer’s website; however, beyond its much smaller dimensions there are a few key ones to note. Chiefly among these is that it has a single built-in microphone and is unable to take an additional microphone, meaning recordings will always be in mono. Another few considerations are that it utilises microSD cards to store recordings and it is recommended when deploying the detector to always include a small amount of fresh desiccant for humidity control within the casing.

We took a Song Meter Micro and deployed it for several nights in early April to gather some recordings and gauge its overall ease of use.

Setting Up

The Song Meter Micro utilises the exact same configuration system as the Song Meter Mini via the free “Mini Configurator” companion app. This app allows you to easily configure the detector’s recording settings before deployment as well as check the status of the detector while it’s in the field, as long as you’re within range.

When powered on, the Micro emits a constant Bluetooth beacon, and when you are within range of this beacon the Configurator app will automatically detect the recorder and display it in the recorders screen of the app. You can then press the status icon on the app and view the current status of the detector, including SD card capacity, battery life, recording mode and number of recordings taken.

For our tests, we decided to choose a preset recording schedule to capture the dawn chorus. This calculates the sunrise and sunset times using your phone’s location data and sets a schedule accordingly. For more information about setting up your Song Meter Micro, watch our set up video below.

What we found

The Micro was quick and simple to set up within the app and the included quickstart guide and tutorial videos on Wildlife Acoustics’ website were useful if we were unsure of anything. The unit itself doesn’t come with a strap, but has various slots and holes that a cable lock, trail camera strap, rope or screw could fit through. Once mounted, and with batteries/SD card inserted, we could check through the configuration on the app, read off the LEDs to check everything was armed and ready for recording, then snap the lid on and walk away.

Upon collecting the unit, very little battery had drained. Once back in the office, we removed the microSD card and loaded the recordings into Kaleidoscope to view the sonograms and listen to the recording quality.

Examples of our recordings can be heard or sonograms viewed below.

Gradual increase of the dawn chorus
Call patterns recorded at peak chorus
Geese flying overhead and calling over songbirds
Our opinion

The Song Meter Micro is an impressive single channel acoustic recorder for its size and price. It was easy to carry into the field in a rucksack – or even a pocket! The set up was simple using the configurator app and we found the array of scheduling options to be thorough. We especially liked the preset recording schedules which offer several commonly required options that are available at the tap of a button. It was useful to be able to see the status of the recorder using the LED lights within the unit itself, especially when we wanted to check the recorder was armed and ready to record still while our phone was out of charge.

The sound quality was impressive considering the tiny size of the in-built microphone. Bird calls were loud and clear and even the sound of the morning trains could be heard from the train line through the woodland over half a kilometre away. The sonograms above demonstrate the low noise of the recordings and the quality is good enough for both sound and visual analysis.

The Song Meter Micro is an excellent addition to the Song Meter range and is ideal for those looking to start recording or audio monitoring. It is particularly useful for researchers looking for a convenient unit that is suitable for wide-scale deployments in remote locations where size and weight are important factors to consider.

We really enjoyed recording the dawn chorus and hearing our local bird song, which is especially spectacular this time of year. With International Dawn Chorus Day (Sunday 2nd May) fast approaching, we would encourage everyone to set up a recorder or get out early to hear their local dawn chorus for themselves.


The Song Meter Micro is available on the NHBS website.
To view the full range of sound recorders, along with other survey equipment, visit nhbs.com. If you have any questions or would like some advice on choosing the right product then please contact us via email at customer.services@nhbs.com or phone on 01803 865913.

 

 

NHBS Guide to Newt Survey Equipment

Great Crested Newt (Triturus cristatus) – CC Leonora (Ellie) Enking via Flickr

Great Crested Newts are the UK’s most strictly protected amphibian, requiring licensed ecological surveys if a development may affect them. As the first signs of spring emerge, ecologists are preparing for the start of this year’s newt survey season. Below, we have compiled a list of the most common newt survey methods and the equipment needed for each, so that you can ensure you have everything you need as the survey season approaches.

Netting
NHBS Traditional Amphibian Net

Netting for adult and larval newts can be a useful tool in both survey and relocation. Here at NHBS, we have designed an amphibian net specifically for the safe and efficient capture of newts. The net bag is attached by a wide velcro collar which prevents newts from becoming caught between the frame and the bag. The bag can also be removed from the frame to be disinfected between sites. The seams have been carefully placed so that they do not come into contact with the front edge of the net, and the material of the bag is a soft 2mm mesh. The net head is 300mm wide and comes with a sturdy, wooden 1.2m handle. We also sell a diamond-shaped amphibian net that comes in either standard depth or deep. Its shape is ideal for easy and safe capture for amphibians and is also available in a collapsible frame for easy transport between sites.

Dewsbury Trapping

The Dewsbury trap is an innovative design of newt refuge trap that is exclusive to NHBS. The clever design of this trap ensures that any trapped newts have access to both fresh air at the top of the trap and a thermally stable refuge at the bottom of the pond. They can be easily deployed from the edge of the pond meaning that not only is this trap safer for newts, but it is also safer and more convenient for surveyors too. In preliminary trials the Dewsbury trap was found to be more effective at catching newts than traditional bottle trapping methods and can be left unattended for up to 24 hours meaning night visits are not necessarily required.

Please note: we recommend that you contact your national licensing authority (Natural England, Natural Resources Wales, Scottish Natural Heritage, etc) before you purchase this trap. The Dewsbury Newt Trap is not included within either the Level 1 or Level 2 Natural England Class Survey Licence and a separate licence is required

Bottle Trapping

Bottle trapping is a popular method of surveying for both detecting and assessing populations. It can, however, become quite labour intensive, especially if you are looking to cut bottles into traps yourself. To save yourself some valuable time, we sell pre-cut bottle traps with the head inverted and ready to deploy. These can be bought in packs of 40 or 120 and are cut from 2L PET bottles with a 28mm neck diameter. Alternatively, we sell the whole bottles if you would rather cut the traps yourself.

Torching

Torching is a less invasive and effective method of counting/observing newts without the need for capturing them. Torches are recommended to be between 500,000 and one million candlepower and need to ideally last several hours at a time. The Cluson CB2 range is very popular among ecologists and provides 1 million candlepower with long lasting battery life and an easy-to-use pistol type grip. For a more lightweight and economical option, the Lifesystems Intensity 370 Torch is a powerful torch that offers up to 370 lumens and an adjustable beam that can last up to 60 hours on a low power setting.

eDNA Monitoring

eDNA or environmental DNA is a powerful and increasingly popular tool for determining the presence of Great Crested Newts in a body of water. The technique is approved by Natural England and causes minimal disturbance to any newts or other wildlife in the area. All that is required to confirm the presence of newts is a water sample, meaning that surveying time is reduced and samples can be collected at any time of day. The survey window specified by Natural England for eDNA sample collection is 15th April to 30th June. NHBS have teamed up with specialist consultancy ADAS to supply Great Crested Newt eDNA kits for the 2022 survey season. There are a variety of analysis services from Non-priority (1 month turnaround) to Super-fast track (2 working days). Collected samples are then sent back to ADAS where the analysis is carried out.

Drift Fencing

Fencing can either be used to temporarily exclude or contain newts in mitigation projects. It can also be used to aid the capture of newts for relocation and is typically a short barrier with the base buried underground. Our Tristar Newt Fencing comes in rolls of 100m, is made of UV stabilised polythene sheeting and tinted green. It is designed to resist weather damage and has a life expectancy of 5 years, making it ideal for temporary mitigation projects during development works. It is easy and simple to put up and can be fixed into place with our soft wood stakes.

Pitfall Traps

Often, pitfall traps are used alongside drift fencing in order to trap and translocate newts in relocation projects. They consist of a container that is buried underground often flush with the edge of drift fencing. Both rectangular buckets and round buckets have been shown to be effective and we supply several options depending on your preferences.

Recommended Accessories

Light & Dry Micro First Aid Kit

Bamboo Canes

dialMax Vernier Dial Caliper

Snowbee Granite PVC Thigh Waders

Snowbee Lightweight Neoprene Gloves

Replacement Amphibian Net Bag

Broad Spectrum Disinfectant Tablets

Breaksafe Thermometer

A note on licensing

Please note that Great Crested Newts and its habitat are protected by law. Any Great Crested Newt survey work must be undertaken by a licensed ecologist. Different levels of license are required for different survey and mitigation methods. For more information, please visit https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/great-crested-newt-licences#great-crested-newt-survey-and-research-licences

NHBS In the Field – Pettersson U-series USB Ultrasonic Microphone

The Pettersson U-series microphone is a powerful ultrasonic USB microphone that is designed to be plugged into a smartphone, tablet or laptop to listen to and record bats. The microphone is available in two options: the u256, which has a sample rate of up to 256kHz and the u384, which has a sample rate of up to 384kHz. Both models use a MEMS ultrasonic microphone for its high sensitivity, low noise and ultra-low power consumption. The units themselves are pocket sized and feature a robust aluminium outer casing, making them ideal for taking out into the field. They connect to your device using a micro-USB connector but can be converted to connect to USB-C, lightning connector, or USB by using an adapter. Once connected, they can then be used alongside a variety of apps for viewing and recording bat calls. 

How We Tested

We tested the Pettersson u384 with a fully charged Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 using the Bat Recorder app from the Play Store. The app instantly recognised the microphone when plugged in using an Arktec Micro USB to USB-C adapter. We took the device out on a warm early September evening around the time of sunset and chose a footpath which included some open areas and some wooded areas to allow the microphone to detect bats as we walked through differing habitats.

What We Found

The Pettersson u384 produced beautifully clear recordings with little noise. The Bat Recorder app worked perfectly with the Pettersson u384 , producing wonderful live sonograms and making it easy to record calls and look back over previous recordings. We recorded noctule, soprano and common pipistrelles on our short bat walk, and it was clear that the microphone was picking them up from at least 15m away when the bat was flying towards us. When listening out loud, we had to ensure the listening mode was on ‘Heterodyne’ rather than ‘Frequency Division’, so as to avoid audio feedback when the volume was high, but listening through headphones was easier and meant there was no risk of feedback. 

Our Opinion

The Pettersson u384 is an excellent quality microphone that produces low-noise, professional recordings. It has the advantage of being small and incredibly easy to transport – working alongside a device that most people already carry with them on surveys and bat walks. The Bat Recorder app was easy to navigate and very well made, although it would have been nice if the £5.49 cost of the app was already incorporated into the cost of the detector, or if the detector came with its own app for convenience, but Pettersson do state that the recorder works with multiple recording apps. We would recommend that live audio is listened to through headphones to avoid interference and help preserve the clean and crisp recordings that the detector was capable of. Overall, the Pettersson u384 is a fantastic USB microphone that would be a great asset to any bat worker or ecologist.


The Pettersson U-Series USB Ultrasonic Microphone is available through the NHBS website.

To view our full range of bat detectors, visit www.nhbs.com. If you have any questions about any of our products or would like some advice then please contact us via email at customer.services@nhbs.com or phone on 01803 865913.

Bat Detecting for International Bat Night

The weekend of the 29th-30th August was the 24th International Bat Night. Organised by Eurobats, this annual celebration of bats saw events taking place all around the world in an effort to educate and inspire people about these fascinating flying mammals.

To mark International Bat Night, a small team from NHBS ventured out to an area of local woodland with a selection of bat detectors. The site we visited has been managed for the past two years by Steve and Tamara Davey, with the aim of maximising biodiversity. They are also ensuring the continued provision of habitat for certain species including seven recorded bat species, Nightjars and Woodcock. (Read more about how they are supporting nature in our recent interview or on the Woodland Wildlife website).

We arrived at the woods just before 7pm and were treated to a brief tour of the woodland as the light faded. Steve showed us the areas where the conifer plantation had been thinned, allowing more light to enter. In these areas there have already been increases in native plants and there were many seedlings present from native trees. He also showed us where he had planted a hedgerow boundary, with the intention of creating more commuting corridors for both bats and other wildlife. The second part of the woodland consisted of immature sitka spruce trees, some of which have now been cleared to make way for native trees, shrubs and plants.

In the two years that Steve and Tamara have been managing the site, the biodiversity of the plot has increased and the area is abundant with birds, small mammals and insects. Following advice from the Devon Greater Horseshoe Bat Project, they have also created three ponds, and this is where we spent most of our time on International Bat Night.

We used a selection of bat detectors including the Song Meter Mini static recorder, which was useful as it could be left to record while we kept our eyes on the skies watching bat movement and behaviour. We also used some handheld detectors including Magenta Bat 5s, an Anabat Scout and an Echo Meter Touch 2 which was extremely popular with the group due to the visual representation of the sound along with the incredibly useful auto-ID function.

During the evening we detected common pipistrelles, soprano pipistrelles, Noctules and Leisler’s as well as a suspected Nathusius’ pipistrelle and a Barbastelle that are awaiting ID confirmation from recorded files. Although the night was chilly, there were lots of moths and other flying insects that the bats were feeding on, and we enjoyed listening to pipistrelle feeding buzzes and watching them hunt and catch insects above us in the tree canopy.

The evening was extremely enjoyable and it was a great opportunity to see the work that Steve and Tamara have been doing on their land. The range of bat species we heard is testament to the quality of habitat that they have created and it was a great place to celebrate the 2020 International Bat Night.

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