Sound recording for ecologists and naturalists

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Bioacoustic recording is a valuable method of surveying animal populations for research and conservation, as the sounds made by many animals are unique to the species or individual. The collection and preservation of such sounds have also become an art form for many amateur naturalists.

In comparison to music or voice recording, capturing the sounds of nature in the outdoors poses a number of challenges. These include dealing with the complications of wind and other ambient noises as well as subjects which can be extremely quiet and that may need to be recorded from a distance. Having suitable equipment and understanding the best ways to use it can go a long way to minimising these issues.

The key items of equipment required for wildlife sound recording are a microphone and a portable recorder. For recording a single animal, a shotgun microphone is ideal, and for animals recorded from a significant distance, a parabolic mic is recommended. For recording multiple animals, such as the dawn chorus, a single or matched pair of condenser microphones can be used.

A portable recorder will allow you to save your recordings onto an SD card, and many offer a range of on-board editing functions as well as a triggered recording option. In situations where the noise of the recorder is significant or when a microphone extension cable is being used, a preamplifier can improve the quality of your recordings.

For those involved in bioacoustic surveying, the addition of a software package can help you analyse your recording, and figure out the exact species that you have captured.

Sonogram to go with chaffinch

 

NHBS stocks a wide range of sound recording equipment, including recorders, microphones, hydrophones and preamplifiers, as well as headphones, tripods and all the cables you need to connect the equipment together. Take a look at the website or our catalogue to see what’s available.

 

New range of Bushnell trail cameras now available

Bushnell Blog Photo

Bushnell Trail Cameras are rapidly becoming the cameras of choice for researchers, conservationists and amateur naturalists around the world. Their ability to let you monitor a survey site or capture the action in your garden when you’re not around makes them a great tool for anyone interested in wildlife and animal behaviour. This spring sees the release of a new range of Bushnell cameras with a model available to suit every application and budget.

The Trophy Cam line now includes the entry level Essential HD as well as the Aggressor HD which has higher resolution, a faster trigger speed and a choice of no glow or low glow LEDs. The brand new Trophy Cam Wireless (coming soon) completes the range and allows you to send images directly to your phone, tablet or computer.

The popular NatureView camera is now available in two models: The affordable HD Essential and the HD Live View (both coming soon). The HD Live View comes with two additional close focus lenses for great close-up images of wildlife.

The new Surveillance Cam is equally suitable for monitoring a survey site near your home or for security purposes. It utilises a WiFi capable SD card (included) to transmit images or videos to a nearby phone or computer up to a distance of 24m.

All Bushnell cameras are available as a starter bundle which contains batteries and an SD card; everything you need to get started capturing great images and videos. Other accessories include security cases and cable locks to keep your camera safe in the field, a tree bracket for easy positioning and a solar panel, which will extend the battery life.

 

Update for Wildlife Acoustics bat detector users

Wildlife Acoustics have made some upgrades to their ultrasonic microphones this year – read on to understand what this means for you.

SMX-U1

SM2BAT+ user
An entirely new microphone is now available for SM2BAT+ users – the SMX-U1. This microphone is different in every respect from the original SMX-US microphone. The microphone element has been upgraded to a Knowles FG element which is more resistant to moisture but has greater sensitivity and a flatter frequency response so you will record more bats. The old foam windscreen has been replaced with a new and improved weatherproof membrane that will not hold water, and the microphone body is now slimmer and stronger. The old SMX-US microphone is still available in limited quantities if needed to provide continuity on a long term survey – please contact customer.services@nhbs.com to check availability before ordering.

SMM-U1

SM3BAT+ or SMZC user
The new SMM-U1 is electronically identical to the old SM3-U1 microphone and will give very similar results. The new model differs from the old version in two ways – the casing is now smaller and stronger and the old windscreen has been replaced by a new weatherproof membrane that will not hold water.

EM3+ (with optional external microphone) user
The EM3+ cannot be used with either of the new microphones. NHBS will continue to hold stock of the SMX-US and SMX-UT microphones for as long as possible for use as an external microphone for the EM3+ – pick up a spare if these are critical to your workflow.

More information
Here’s Wildlife Acoustics microphone guide showing all models, compatibility and microphone type.

wa_mic_guide

New firmware and software for SM3, SM3BAT, SM3M and SMZC:
Latest SM3 related software and firmware packages
Latest SMZC related software and firmware packages
Latest versions of documentation

 

 

The Week in Review – 12th December

Dragonfly
Dragonfly use neurological calculations which allow them to actually predict the movements of their prey. Photo by John Flannery.

News from outside the nest

This week…we learned why pufferfish build sandcastles and how it has taken us such a long time to observe this particular behaviour.

A study published this week in Nature showed us how dragonflies go beyond mere reflexive responses and actually predict the movements of their prey as they are hunting.

This short guide helped us to address the most common questions posed by “climate change challengers”.

We discovered the OceanAdapt website which lets members of the public search and download geographic data of more than 650 species of fish and invertebrates and track how these have changed over time…a hugely valuable resource for fishermen and scientists.

Camouflage in the natural world is incredibly common and well understood. However, a paper published this week by the Royal Society revealed a new kind of camouflage exhibited by the beautiful harlequin filefish: smell camouflage.

And finally…we were amazed by this extraordinary bird that disguises itself as a caterpillar.

New arrivals at the warehouse

Useful and fun: these cute animal head torches are a great stocking filler for young outdoor enthusiasts.

 

 

The Week in Review – 5th December

Trawler
The Global Fishing Watch Project has made satellite data from fishing vessels freely available online to raise citizen awareness of overfishing. Image by Winky.

 

News from outside the nest

This week…we read a great article about the “Send us your Skeletons” project and learned about the power of citizen science in gathering valuable data.

We also learned about the importance of citizen awareness in the Global Fishing Watch project. This amazing new scheme uses satellite data to make global issues of overfishing much more transparent, as well as making huge quantities of fisheries science data available to researchers.

These beautiful images hosted by Rough Guide showed us some incredible views of forests around the world.

With temperatures in 2014 now reported to be the hottest on record, we took a look at how different places around the world have experienced these heatwaves.

We learned about the feeding behaviour of the aptly named killer whale – and discovered why they are suddenly preying on humpbacks.

And finally…Martin Litton, one of the great pioneers of the environmental movement, sadly died on Sunday. In this article from the National Geographic we read about his life and legacy.

New arrivals at the warehouse

The 5th edition of the Field Guide to the Dragonflies and Damselflies of Great Britain and Ireland contains stunning illustrations and photographs. It also features descriptions, distribution maps and site guides alongside a whole host of other great information.

The Barnacle Goose, the new Poyser Monograph, contains more than 25 years worth of research on these fascinating and sociable birds.

These Haglof Increment Borers are made from high quality Swedish steel – just the job for all your tree core sampling needs.

 

The Week in Review – 28th November

SNOWstorm - a research project monitoring the breeding grounds of snowy owls
Project SNOWstorm has been monitoring breeding snowy owls in the Canadian Arctic since the 1980s. Image by Erin Kohlenberg.

 

News from outside the nest

This week…we were fascinated by the intelligence and dexterity displayed by this octopus gathering and storing a coconut shell to use for protection.

We caught up on project SNOWstorm – a research endeavour which monitors the summer breeding areas of snowy owls in the Canadian Arctic.

We discovered how the flight of hummingbirds is more similar to that of insects than that of other birds.

November was Manatee Awareness Month: This vulnerable species, long time provider of fuel for mermaid myths, now number less than 10,000 in the wild.

The mystery of large numbers of dead porpoises washing up on the Netherlands coast was finally solved, with grey seals proving to be the surprising culprit.

A PhD student at Brunel University, London, created an ingenious DIY microscope to measure cell motility, saving himself hundreds of thousands of pounds.

And finally…a unique way of dealing with invasive species: The first beer made from invasive pond weed and zebra mussels went on sale in Minnosota.

New arrivals at the warehouse

Irish Bats in the 21st Century summarises the considerable body of bat research and surveillance that has been undertaken in Ireland in the 21st century, much of it by citizen scientists.

Mammals of Mexico is the first English language reference on the 500+ species of mammals found in diverse Mexican habitats – from the Sonoran desert to the Chiapas cloud forests.

The Ridgid SeeSnake CA-25 is an affordable endoscope with a 17mm waterproof camera head.

This Ultra High Resolution Nest Box Camera from Gardenature comes with a nestbox designed to BTO and RSPB guidelines and contains everything you need to start watching straight away.

 

How to choose the trail camera that’s right for you

Bushnell Dipper
This video of a dipper was taken with a Bushnell Trophy Cam and is a great example of what can be captured with an entry level camera.

Trail camera technology is developing all the time and the range of products on the market constantly expanding. While this is exciting, it can also be incredibly confusing, especially when you’re trying to choose which model is best suited to your needs.

Here are six things you should consider when trying to choose the trail camera that’s right for you:

1. Type of LEDs

The infrared LEDs on a trail camera provide the illumination needed to take pictures at night. Generally speaking, these come in two types: standard or low glow. Standard LEDs have a shorter wavelength which means that they will emit a small amount of visible light when activated. This will be seen as a small red flash. Low glow LEDs, having a longer wavelength, do not produce this tell-tale red glow so have obvious benefits for wildlife photography. Low glow types, however, will have a shorter range than standard LEDs. All models in the Ltl Acorn range come with a choice of standard or low-glow illumination.

2. Trigger speed

Trigger speed is the time taken for an image or video to be recorded after the infrared motion sensor has been triggered. If your subject is fast moving then a quicker trigger speed will help to ensure you capture great images. Fastest trigger speeds are currently around 0.2 seconds (e.g. the Reconyx HyperFire).

3. Picture and video resolution

As with any type of camera, image and video resolution are important, and the image quality you require will depend on what you will be using your footage for, along with your budget. Most trail cameras will give you the option to alter the resolution using compression or interpolation methods. This can be useful if you are deploying your camera for long periods, when memory card capacity may become an issue. It also means, however, that you should check the resolution of the camera image sensor as the advertised megapixel value often relates to the interpolated resolution (* see note below for a definition of interpolation).

4. Does it have a viewing screen?

Having an image preview screen in your trail camera is beneficial in two ways: Firstly, it allows you to quickly check the images that you have recorded without having to remove the SD card or plug it into a laptop. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it lets you take a few test images. By walking (or running) in front of the camera and checking the image captured, you can be assured that your camera angle and position is exactly right. The Bushnell NatureView HD Max and Minox DTC 1000 both have a good sized viewing screen.

5. Camera settings

All trail cameras will give you some control over the capture settings. Most will allow you to change the number of images taken per trigger as well as the length of video recorded. It is usually possible, as well, to specify the delay between photos and/or trigger events. Time lapse options allow you to take photographs at regular intervals between hours of your choice, and some cameras, such as those in the Bushnell range, can be set with two separate time lapse windows. This is useful if you are interested in both dusk and dawn activities.

6. Wireless functionality

Cameras with wireless functionality will send images directly to your mobile phone or email account. This offers huge time saving benefits, as well as reducing the amount of disturbance at your survey site. Several cameras now have wireless capabilities, and some will even allow you to alter your camera settings remotely. An activated SIM card is required to use these features. The Spypoint Mini-Live camera is just one example of a camera that will let you access your photos remotely.

 * Interpolation is where the software inside the camera produces a larger image by adding pixels. These extra pixels are created by application of an algorithm which uses adjacent pixels to create the most likely colour. 
 

The Week in Review – 21st November

Sea turtles
Six of the world’s seven species of sea turtle are now endangered, making rehabilitation of injured individuals extremely important. Image by Dominic Scaglioni.

News from outside the nest

This week we learned all about…

The importance of protected areas for conserving the planet’s diversity. Many of our reserves are failing to live up to their promised potential through poor management

The strange wasting syndrome that is affecting many important species of starfish and the scientists that are working to manage this problem.

Rehabilitation of sea turtles over 400 miles from the ocean. At the Second Chance Program, located in Pittsburgh, injured turtles are prepared for reintroduction to the wild.

A new theory which suggests that life could exist on planets in the absence of water, thriving instead on supercritical carbon dioxide.

Flying under the influence: A drunk tank for birds, situated in the Yukon territory, opens for business.

And finally…the UK’s first number two bus (quite literally). Powered entirely by human sewage and food waste, this bus is now in service between Bristol and Bath.

New arrivals at the warehouse

This new Programmable Heated Bat Box lets you set maximum and minimum daily temperatures for each month of the year, as well as letting you set up and monitor up to four boxes remotely via an online interface.

The Nest Box Camera Starter Kit contains everything you need to start filming birds in your garden. It includes an FSC timber bird box pre-fitted with a camera and 30m cable. Simply plug into your TV and start watching the action.

The long awaited new addition of Docks and Knotweeds of Britain and Ireland features additional hybrids and adventives, new distribution maps and keys, as well as 67 outstanding illustrations by Anne Farrer.

Animal Weapons by Douglas Emlen lets us take a look at the extreme weapons of the natural world: teeth, horns and claws, alongside the weapons developed by humans since battle began.

 

Five ecology questions you can answer with a Nikon Forestry Pro Rangefinder

The Nikon Forestry Pro Rangefinder is a hypsometer – a combination of clinometer and laser rangefinder (jump straight to our video explaining how to use it). They are incredibly useful for ecologists and field biologists – here are five commonly encountered survey measurements you can quickly and accurately use a Forestry Pro to answer:

Nikon Forestry Pro
The Nikon Forestry Pro Laser Rangefinder and Clinometer

 

1. How tall is that tree?

Foresters, or forest/woodland surveyors, commonly use a clinometer to measure the height of trees. This data can provide important information on tree growth rates, habitat structure, and timber volume.

2. How high is that bat roost entrance?

For bat workers and researchers, determining the location and height of roost entrances is a vital part of surveying the location of colonies, along with preferred habitat characteristics. The height of a bat box or artificial roost may also need to be measured, and the clinometer makes this possible without the need for a ladder and tape measure.

3. What is the slope of that hill?

You can use the clinometer function to determine the height and slope of an area of land such as a hill or mountain. They can also be useful for marine biologists and oceanographers for measuring changes in slope on beaches and dunes.

4. What’s the distance between these [two things]?

The laser rangefinder function can be used to measure distances between e.g. a hedge and windturbine or a house and a treeline. It is a particularly useful way of taking a measurement from Point A (where you are) to a Point B that you have a line of sight to but can’t directly access.

6. How tall is my colleague?

Ok, so maybe this isn’t something that you are likely to need (or want) to measure. But we wanted to see how the Forestry Pro managed with relatively modest heights and close distance (are the cows small or far away?). At its minimum operating distance of 10m it had no problem measuring a height of 150cm, demonstrating that this combined clinometer and laser rangefinder is suitable for measuring even small differences in height and inclination.

Why not take a look at the Forestry Pro in action?

Forestry Pro

The week in review – 14th November

This week we studied the formation of snowflakes
The complex and beautiful shapes formed by snowflakes are caused by the specific conditions experienced during their formation. Photo by bkaree1.

News from outside the nest

The Convention on Migratory Species in Ecuador, which closed on Sunday, approved greater protection measures for 31 species. These included the much loved polar bear, currently at risk from a warming arctic climate.

The world’s first solar bike lane, connecting the Amsterdam suburbs of Krommenie and Wormerveer, opened in the Netherlands.

In this documentary by William Douglas McMaster, we learned all about the man that single-handedly created a forest.

A study released this week showed that European bird species are declining at an alarming rate. This is a loss both for our world and in our hearts.

We took a look at the new trend for urban farming projects in Los Angeles.

A new antibiotic found in a mushroom living on horse dung may help to provide valuable information on antibiotic resistance.

And finally…with winter rapidly approaching (for us folk in the northern hemisphere) we discovered the fascinating world of snowflakes.

New arrivals at the warehouse

The Book of Beetles offers glorious lifesize photographs of six hundred beetle species along with distribution maps and other important information for each.

This new Bradt Guide to the Wildlife of Madagascar celebrates the unique fauna of a marvellous island.

These Sapphire ED Binoculars from Hawke Optics are winners of the Best Birding Binoculars 2013 Award.

The EasyLog Mini USB Temperature Logger is pocket-sized and affordable and will log temperatures for up to a month with one battery.