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


Please note we have published an updated guide to choosing a trail camera with up to date information on the latest technology available. Some of the products described in this article may therefore be outdated or unavailable


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.

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 0.07 seconds (e.g. the Spypoint Force-11D).

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 Aggressor range and Spypoint Force-11D all 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. All of the cameras in the Ltl Acorn range are available with wireless capabilities.

 * 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. 

Please note we have published an updated guide to choosing a trail camera with up to date information on the latest technology available. Some of the products described in this article may therefore be outdated or unavailable


 

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.

 

Collecting visual evidence of bats at roost entrances

Aim
Recording bats and their behaviour around roost entrances can be extremely useful for a number of reasons: as evidence to present to a client, to demonstrate or test for a change in behaviour during or after mitigation, and as a back-up system to record the presence of the quieter bats like the brown long-eared. We tested two night vision systems at a lesser horseshoe maternity roost.

Yukon Stringer 5 x 50 Night Vision MonocularPulsar Quantum S Series Thermal Imaging Scope

Methods

We set up two very different night vision video recorders on tripods near the entrance of a large lesser horseshoe roost near Totnes, Devon. The first was the Yukon Stringer 5 x 50 Night Vision Monocular, a very reasonably priced Generation One night vision device with a built-in video recorder. The second was the Pulsar Quantum HD38S Thermal Imaging Scope, a thermal imaging camera with a 30 Hz refresh rate coupled with a Yukon MPR Mobile Player / Recorder. Both were used to film bats as they emerged from the roost entrance and as they flew around the garage within which the roost entrance is sited.

Results
The two videos below demonstrate close-up and distance footage from both the Yukon Stringer and the Pulsar Quantum:

Video: Surveying a bat maternity roost - Close upVideo: Surveying a bat maternity roost - At a distance

Discussion

Image Quality: The Pulsar Quantum produced some very high quality video that was clear and easy to interpret. The results from the Yukon Stringer are slightly less clear but are still of sufficiently high quality for most purposes.

Usability: The Yukon Stringer does have a much narrower depth of field and due to the fixed zoom it proved very hard to get any decent footage of the bats flying around within the garage space.

Battery Life: The only drawback was the short battery life of both the Quantum and the Yukon MPR Mobile Recorder. To get round this we used the EPS5 External Battery on the Pulsar Quantum and changed the batteries of the Yukon MPR regularly – not the ideal solution but the cheapest way we know of to get some really impressive thermal imaging video.

NHBS at Birdfair 2012: our biggest Birdfair yet

This year we are gearing up for our biggest Birdfair yet!

NHBS has a bigger and better stand this year featuring a new workshop area with a full schedule of events all weekend. Come along to find out more about ultrasound bat detecting, pond-dipping, wildlife photography and more. And join us in the main Birdfair Event Marquee daily for a big screen live moth-trapping event with Phil Sterling and Richard Lewington on Friday, and a ‘Virtual Pond Dip’ with Nick Baker on Saturday and Sunday. As always we look forward to meeting you there, out of the office and in person!

Here’s the full ‘NHBS at Birdfair 2012’ line-up – click to enlarge:

NHBS events programme fro Birdfair 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

British Birdfair 2012: Friday 17th – Sunday 19th August, Rutland Water Nature Reserve, Egleton, Rutland, LE15 8BT

Getting started with the SM2BAT+ bat detector

SM2BAT+The Wildlife Acoustics Song Meter SM2BAT+ is a passive ultrasound recorder that can be left out in the field for long periods of time to record ultrasound at frequencies of up to 192 kHz. The SM2BAT+ comes packaged in a plain green weatherproof box making it easy to position discretely without the need for expensive or time consuming efforts to weatherproof/camouflage it. Setting a bat detector up for passive monitoring can be a slightly daunting experience for the first time user so we have produced an annotated internal diagram (see below right – click the image to enlarge) and this blog post describing our experiences getting started with the SM2BAT+. Despite feeling a little scared at Inside the SM2BAT+the sight of circuit boards I am pleased to report that I found the SM2BAT+ to be very user friendly – read on for our idiot’s guide to setting up an SM2BAT+.

Getting started

The first thing you will need to do is insert four D-Cell batteries into the slots. A number of variables affect battery life including the quality/type of the battery, temperature, and the recording mode. The manual produced by Wildlife Acoustics suggests that if high quality Alkaline D-Cells are used at 20oC then you should get 130 hours recording time at 192 kHz mono and 100 hours recording time at 192 kHz stereo or 384 kHz mono when using in WAV mode and over 300 hours of recording time when using ZCA mode.

Next you will need to insert an SDHC card into one of the Flash Card Slots. Wildlife Acoustics recommend using good quality SDHC Class 4 or Class 6 cards and a single 32GB card should easily last a minimum of 2 weeks.

How to programme your SM2BAT+

Now it is time to programme your SM2BAT+. Setting up a simple schedule is very easy, switch the unit on by pressing the WAKE/EXIT button. Once it has woken up you will be able to see whether your SDHC card has been accepted and how much spare memory is available. To programme your unit press the SELECT button to see the menu; then to scroll through the menu options press the UP and DOWN buttons, press BACK to move back up a level, and press SELECT to move left and/or toggle through a list of options.

Below left shows a schematic (click to enlarge) of the Song Meter Main Menu and includes the settings I used for a trial run of the SM2BAT+. The first page of the menu includes three options – Schedule, Settings and Utilities. Setting the schedule could not be easier, press SELECT when the cursor is flashing next to Schedule, then press SELECT again, update the time using the UP and DOWN buttons then press SELECT again to keep moving to the left filling in the details as you go. You will see that I have set our SM2BAT+ to come on at 20:30 and record for 10 hours.

SM2BAT+ SchematicPress BACK to come out of the Schedule menu and then DOWN to move to Settings, then SELECT again to enter the Settings menu. For a quick test of the unit you will need to set the time and date using the UP, DOWN, SELECT, and BACK buttons as before. Finally select AUDIO to check the recording settings. In my test run I opted for a Sample rate of 384000 (384 kHz) because we have lesser horseshoe bats in the Totnes area. This is because the maximum frequency recorded is equal to half the sample rate – consequently, at a sample rate of 384 kHz the SM2BAT+ will record ultrasound at frequencies up to 192 kHz on one channel (perfect for lesser horseshoes that echolocate at around 110 kHz). If you want to use both channels (i.e. two microphones) you have to record at a maximum sample rate of 192 kHz. Although you may miss lesser horseshoe bats the big advantage of using both channels is that you can separate the microphones (using extension cables – available from NHBS) by up to 100m, effectively doubling the number of bat detectors you own for the price of a couple of cables. Alternatively you can separate the microphones by 10-20m to measure flight directionality along a linear feature.

Next you need to select which channel to record on. Under Channels I selected Mono-L to record from the left hand microphone input. For Compression I selected Off which means that the SM2BAT+ is in trigger mode and records individual WAV files for each trigger.  Analook users may prefer to use the ZCA option which records individual ZCA files for each trigger. Alternatively, some users may prefer the WAC0 option which produces a continuous compressed WAC file for the duration of the recording period (actually the files are size limited so I found that 1hr 33min chunks are produced). That’s it… all you need to do now is take your SM2BAT+ to your field site.

Field set-up

Once at your field site check the settings and do a test recording. To do this plug some headphones into the headphone jack and start recording by pressing both the UP and DOWN buttons simultaneously. Once the recording has started press SELECT to view the channels and then make some ultrasound by eg. tapping your fingers and thumb together or rattling some keys. If all is well then put your unit back to sleep, seal the weatherproof enclosure (don’t forget to take a screwdriver with you) and plug your microphone in to the left hand microphone input (using your extension cable makes hiding the unit much easier). It is worth remembering that the indicator LED is visible when the lid is on so make sure this cannot be seen by passers-by.

Data analysis

Downloading the data is also easy – simply remove the SDHC card and place it into an SD card reader. To analyse the data I used Pettersson’s BatSound v4.12. My WAV files opened immediately and I used the Close, open, next button to scroll quickly through the files so the analysis was quick and painless. On my first night I recorded soprano pipistrelle and greater horseshoe bats in the centre of Totnes.

Available now from NHBS

 

Bushnell XLT Trophy Cam Trail Camera: Nick Baker’s review and video footage

Nick BakerNick Baker, NHBS Ambassador, has been trying out the Bushnell XLT Trophy Cam Trail Camera. Here are his initial impressions:
Bushnell XLT Trophy Cam Trail Camera

These Bushnell trail cameras are about as good as you can get for the money, and using them is rather addictive too!

The XLT (right)  was the model I tested – the camera comes as an all-in-one small weatherproof box, which is both lightweight and easy to carry around and position. I’ve used mine for professional survey work such as attempting to identify bird nest predators as part of an RSPB Ring Ouzel survey, identifying the occupancy of Badger setts as well as simply leaving it up in the garden to find out who has been defecating on my lawn and messing up my flower beds (in the process identifying which of my neighbours cats use my garden – all six, it turns out!).

Badger - taken with Bushnell XLT Trophy Cam Trail Camera by Nick Baker, 2011The camera shoots both still pictures (eg. left) and moving images(eg. below) and has a screen which allows reviewing of the images in the unit. All the image data is stored on an SD card and the unit is powered by 4-8 AA batteries.

Sensitivity and trigger delay are the only issues: making the camera less sensitive stops it being triggered by small movements – moths, mice, wind-blown vegetation etc. – but if the camera is triggered by an animal walking past quite close, then the one second delay means that by the time the trigger kicks in you might just get the tail end of the moment! This is easily overcome if you are setting it along paths or trails by making sure the camera looks down the likely pathway rather than across it.

All in all this is a fantastic good value entry-level trail camera – if you want to increase the picture quality and eliminate the ‘glow’ of the LEDs (some animals seem to be aware of the red glow produced by the 32 red LEDs) at night then the HD colour version is worth considering.

Roe Buck captured on a Bushnell XLT Trophy Cam Trail Camera by Nick Baker, 2011

Click here to view other Nick’s other Bushnell videos on the NHBS Vimeo channel

Save £54 on the Bushnell XLT Trophy Cam until 31/12/11  

Buy now and save

Five reasons to use a Batcorder

BatcorderEcoObs’ Batcorder is the first of a new generation of autonomous bat recording devices designed to produce higher quality recording and automated identification. The key benefits of the Batcorder system are:

1 .Save time and reduce costs

By automatically analysing bat calls, the Batcorder will save you significant amounts of time.  The exceptional quality of recordings made by the Batcorder means you can be more certain of correctly identifying a species either automatically or manually.  Automatic species identifications can be carried out in a few minutes (watch our short video to see the process in action).

2. Higher quality recordings

The unique omni-directional microphone, as well as the reduction in echoes from the main body of the unit, ensure a clear picture of bat activity at the recording site.  The sensitive bat call trigger ensures that the vast majority of recordings made by the Batcorder are from bats.  Recordings of other sounds (crickets, rustling leaves, water, wind and wind turbine movements) are under most circumstances not recorded at all.

bcAnalyze

3. Consistent results

In contrast to other bat detectors, each Batcorder and its microphone are calibrated for a fixed sensitivity.  Thus, the comparison of bat activity recorded at different locations is guaranteed to be unbiased.

4. Flexible autonomous use

The Batcorder is a weatherproof autonomous recording device designed to be left in the field for multiple nights.  It has a typical battery life of 6-10 nights (based on the level of activity at the site), and space for 30,000 calls (when using a 32GB SDHC card).  A special Wind Turbine Extension Kit allows continuous deployments in excess of 30 days to minimise the need to access the in situ Batcorder.

5. Designed by bat workers

Batcorder 2The entire Batcorder System has been designed by bat workers for bat workers.  It’s user-friendly with an intuitive powerful call management system, allowing you to download, analyse, catalogue and search for calls easily.  You don’t need to go on a training course to get started with the Batcorder.

The Batcorder is distributed in the UK & Ireland by NHBS. If you’d like to find out more, please contact Dr Adrian Gude, NHBS Wildlife Equipment Specialist.