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.
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 email@example.com or phone on 01803 865913.
Completely weatherproof and able to run for months on a single set of batteries, trail cameras are now commonly used for wildlife surveys or studying animal behaviour, and are becoming a vital tool for conservation all around the world. They are also incredibly popular with naturalists who are interested in finding out what the wildlife is up to on their local patch.
The Browning Patriot, released this year, is one of Browning’s top of the range cameras. Along with excellent resolution image and video capture (24MP images, 1920x1080p video), the Patriot features Browning’s unique dual-lens technology. This means that a separate lens and sensor system are used for daytime and night time capture, allowing you to capture excellent quality footage whatever the time of day. No-glow LEDs, which are completely invisible to both humans and other animals, are used to illuminate your subject at night up to a distance of 34m. A colour viewing screen, adjustable steel tree bracket and host of advanced camera settings all add to the Patriot’s appeal.
How we tested
We loaded the Patriot with a full set of AA batteries and a 32GB SD card then set the time and date. The camera mode was set to ‘Trail’ which means that it would record still images whenever the motion sensor was triggered by movement. The capture delay (ie the time between images being taken) was set at 5s and the image quality 24MP. Multi-shot mode was set to off (ie the camera would only take a single image per trigger) and the capture timer was set to 12.00am for both the ON and OFF times, meaning that the camera would be active 24 hours a day.
Our initial test took place in a back garden with the camera mounted on a tripod approximately 3m away from a baited tree stump. Ensuring that the camera was angled correctly was very easy, as the background of the main viewing screen shows a live image from the camera. We also conducted a motion trigger test by selecting ‘MOTION TRIGGER’ and then waving a hand above the stump to check that the light on the front of the camera was activated.
For the second field test the camera was placed in a ride that was cut into an area of wetland where there have been frequent otter sightings. Once again the camera was mounted on a tripod but this time the camera was set to record video (high resolution, length 20s, capture delay 5s).
In the third and final test, the camera was sited in an area that had both moving water and vegetation within the motion detection range. This was to provide us with some idea of the camera’s sensitivity and to see whether it would be repeatedly triggered by this motion. The camera was set to record video with the same settings as used previously.
What we found
When sited in the garden, the camera took lots of pictures of birds that were attracted to the bait. The camera triggered reliably and the quality of the images, including the colour reproduction, was good. We were particularly impressed that the images below – although taken first thing in the morning, pointing directly into the sun – were not over-exposed.
Unfortunately, when we retrieved the camera from the second field test, a number of cows had broken into the area from a neighbouring field and knocked over the camera. The footage of the cows, however (despite not being what we had hoped to capture!), was good quality.
In the final test we were pleased to observe that the camera had triggered only with the arrival of the local birds, and we did not have to sift through 100s of videos of empty scenery. The audio recorded with the clip featured below was also very true-to-life.
Although the second, and potentially most interesting, part of our field test was prematurely curtailed, this exercise gave us a good chance to familiarise ourselves with the Browning Patriot and to see the camera in use. First up – the manual. Clearly written and lacking any unnecessary waffle, the manual made setting up the camera incredibly straightforward. In fact, this parsimony also extends to the camera itself – while there are enough options to give you plenty of control over the footage collected, there aren’t so many that it becomes overwhelming.
The front-opening design means that it is really easy to alter the settings even when your camera is strapped in place. Similarly, the bottom-loading battery tray and easily accessible SD card slot mean that these can both be changed quickly in the field without moving the camera. The steel bracket on the rear of the camera means that, when strapped to a tree or post, it grips the surface, making it more stable. For our tests, we attached the camera to a tripod which allowed us lots of control over the camera angle and height. However, as we found out, it also makes it much more susceptible to being knocked over. For locations where security is an issue, a groove in the case that runs beneath the bracket allows it to be secured with a cable lock – one with a maximum diameter of 8mm would be required.
As previously mentioned, being able to view a live image from the camera during setup, along with the motion trigger function, means that you can be sure that your camera is angled correctly. (It’s really important to remember to turn off the motion trigger function before you leave the trail camera, however, as it will stay in this mode until it is turned off manually). The sensitivity of the camera appeared to be set very cleverly, as it was triggered reliably by the movement of birds and other animals, but we experienced very few empty shots or videos, which suggests that the movement of water or vegetation were not affecting the motion sensor.
The only minor limitation we found with this camera is that the Patriot doesn’t have a hybrid mode which means that you have to choose between capturing still images or videos. (Many cameras give you the option to record both and will capture a number of images first before then switching to video record).
Overall we were very impressed with the Browning Patriot and would wholeheartedly recommend it for professional or personal use. The images and videos were good quality, the camera was easy to set up and position and the price (currently under £200) is very competitive. We’re eager to continue using this camera and still have high hopes for getting some footage of our elusive otters. Check back soon to find out if we’re successful!
The Browning Patriot is available through the NHBS website and is also available as a starter bundle which includes 8 x Lithium AA batteries and a 32GB SD card.
To view our full range of trail cameras, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or phone on 01803 865913
This moth trap is the first to be designed by and built at NHBS. It is built on the Skinner trap principle of a bulb suspended above a box, with sloping flaps descending from two sides to funnel moths into the body of the trap. The trap is very lightweight and portable and has been tested and approved by Butterfly Conservation. One unique feature of this trap is that it is clad entirely in white nylon material which amplifies the light level emitted from the single 20W blacklight bulb included in the kit. The trap electrics are supported by a stainless steel frame that is attached to the container walls, and the trap comes with a 4.5m power lead with a standard UK plug. When fully assembled the trap measures approximately 30cm wide x 30cm deep x 50cm tall and weighs around 2kg; much lighter than the typical solid plastic assemblies of other Skinner traps.
How we tested
I placed the trap in my small town centre garden for two nights in early July, checking first for favourable conditions (namely little to no chance of rain). Cloud cover can be good for moth catching, especially around a full moon. Moth species vary widely in their activity, some arriving at traps during dusk (such as crepuscular or day flyers) and some arriving well into the night. As such I put the trap out at around 9:30pm on both occasions while the day was fading and when the wind was low. I also made sure I wasn’t running the trap on two consecutive nights as I don’t have space to disperse trapped moths widely in the morning and I didn’t want to trap the same individuals two nights in a row. The trap was left on through the night in the corner of my garden, tucked out of view of my immediate neighbours, where it would also utilise the white walls of my house to maximise the light and landing space.
What we found
On both nights I found lots of moths inside the trap, as well as some specimens resting on the outside walls due to the white nylon coating; they remained there quite peacefully to ID. I also found that it was worth looking around the trap in the morning, as many species are attracted by the light and will land on nearby walls and foliage. The catch and retention rate seemed good for the conditions and I found this trap simple to run and fun to explore in the morning! The species found are listed below.
The NHBS moth trap is both lightweight and sturdy and is a breeze to set up. Simply attach the base to the walls of the trap using the Velcro strips, ensuring all of the velcro fixings are on the outside of the trap. Put some empty egg boxes inside the trap to give visiting moths some good nooks to safely rest in once inside (though some will just hang on the walls). Then slot the metal frames onto the lid of the box and rest the funnel slopes on them. The electrics slot into corresponding holes on either side of the metal frame. When disassembling the trap, always check around the framework for any hidden moths.
This is a great trap: competitively priced, bright, compact and neat and comes with a handy carry bag. It’s a perfect starting place if you’re just embarking on moth trapping for the first time and also great if you are travelling or plan to try trapping in a few places, as it really does pack down nicely.
To view our full range of moth traps, visit www.nhbs.com. If you have any questions on moth trapping or would like some advice on the trap for you then please contact us via email at email@example.com or phone on 01803 865913.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com or phone on 01803 865913
An endoscope (or more correctly a borescope) is an optical device with an eyepiece or display at one end and an objective lens or camera at the other end, linked by an optical or electrical cable that relays the images. They have a broad range of applications, from medical investigations to drain inspections and are fantastically useful for ecologists as they give visibility of inaccessible places such as mammal burrows and bat roosts (for licensed bat workers only). They have the added advantage of minimising disturbance by being less intrusive than visual inspections and many handheld units can now capture still images and video footage for a permanent record.
The innovative Video Endoscope is a pocket-sized inspection camera that is ideal for examining crevices, cavities, burrows and nests. It is very ergonomic with a clear, user friendly interface and durable design. The semi-flexible 1m camera tube neatly coils into a cleverly designed groove at the back of the device and it has a protective carry case, making it very portable. The 3″ screen has an HD resolution with 720P and the camera has six LEDs with adjustable brightness control and digital 2x zoom, to ensure the picture is clear. This endoscope records still images and video on to a MicroSD card and is powered by 4 x AA batteries. We took the endoscope out to field test it in a pond to look for tadpoles and to examine nests in nest boxes.
How We Tested
The Video Endoscope camera is IP67 water resistant so we wanted to test its performance when recording underwater. It also has adjustable LED brightness so we wanted to test it in dark conditions. We chose a pond on a farm in West Dorset known to have some tadpoles and selected some nest boxes in a nearby area to examine for nesting activity. We used a 16GB microSD card and 4 x new AA alkaline batteries.
What We Found
The Video Endoscope was really easy to set up and use. The controls are clear and the menus are simple to navigate. It was simple to switch between photo and video mode and to control the LED brightness and zoom. This meant that our attention was focused on capturing the best possible footage in the field. The images and videos we recorded underwater were clear and sharp, in spite of the debris in the pond and we got some good footage of tadpoles.
It is quite difficult to control the full length of the cable as it is flexible, so we found it was necessary for the observer to be stood quite still. This was particularly evident when trying to use the endoscope in nest boxes. This is shown by the difference between the two videos below – in the first one you can just glimpse some eggs but we didn’t manage to count them properly and it was hard to capture them in subsequent videos.
However for checking quickly in a nest box to see if it was occupied it performed excellently. The adjustable LED brightness was particularly useful when checking the nest boxes and looking under rocks.
We edited the videos using Microsoft Video Editor, which meant that we could flip the image when it was recorded upside down, as it is quite difficult to keep the image the right way up when the camera cable is fully extended. The endoscope does have an image flip function, which is very handy when you have the camera positioned well but the image is inverted.
The Video Endoscope is a fantastic, versatile piece of field equipment that could be useful in many different survey scenarios. It is particularly impressive when used underwater as the photos we took in a rockpool survey last year demonstrate. It is very portable because the cable coils neatly into the body of the endoscope and the controls are simple to use. The quality of the still images and the video footage are fantastic, and the adjustable LEDs mean that you can get decent images from quite dark spaces. For more information, or to purchase a Video Endoscope, please visit our website or contact us.
The SM Mini Bat is the latest addition to the ultrasonic range of acoustic recorders produced by Wildlife Acoustics. This passive bat detector offers comparable versatility and quality to the highly successful SM4 Bat but at a much lower cost and a smaller size of only 12cm x 13cm. These impressive detectors also feature an easy to use configuration mode through your smartphone or tablet over Bluetooth.
In mid-March we deployed an SM Mini in a rural location in South Devon to record any emerging bats, as the spring season got underway. Our aim was to find out how easy setup is when using the Mini Configurator app and to get an example of its recording quality. Originally our plan was to retrieve the detector after a period of three weeks, however the developments around Covid-19 meant that it was unsafe to do so. Therefore in this blog we will cover our experiences with setting up and deploying an SM Mini. Once social distancing rules are lifted we will provide a follow on update with our recordings.
We used a 32 GB SDHC card, however the SM Mini Bat can support SDXC cards of up to 1TB. The SM Mini Bat comes with a built-in microphone and when powered using 4x lithium-ion AA batteries it will record for up to 30 ten-hour nights. You can add an additional acoustic microphone to record birds, amphibians and other species when not using the ultrasonic microphone.
The SM Mini is designed to be used with a companion app called Mini Configurator. This free app allows you to easily configure the SM Mini’s recording settings before deployment as well as check the status of your detector while it’s in the field.
When powered on the SM Mini Bat 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 now 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.
To set up or edit an SM Mini’s recording schedule you must pair the detector with the app. The first step in this process is to hold down the PAIR button on the SM Mini for three seconds, which prepares the device to be paired (indicated by the green flashing Bluetooth light). On the Mini Configurator app a ‘pair’ icon will then appear next to the detector’s name, and once pressed the app will be paired with this detector. Once paired the SM Mini synchronises its time and date to your location and a new ‘configure’ icon will appear next to the detector, which grants access to the SM Mini’s recording settings. These settings include the recording schedule (e.g. an hour before sunset through to sunrise), recording format (zero crossing or full spectrum), minimum trigger frequency and recording length.
What we found
Setting up an SM Mini and getting to grips with the Configurator app can seem daunting at first, but with the quick starter guide and Wildlife Acoustics’ helpful online tutorial videos, we found it to be a relatively straight forward process. The app has a simple user interface with clear graphics and together this really helps make navigating the app easy. This was a welcome change when compared to the issues that new users can have when navigating the older style LCD menus on previous detectors.
The beacon status system has also proved incredibly useful whilst we have had the detector deployed. Since the social distancing restrictions came into place, we have been unable to access the detector. However we were able to guide the owners of the land where the detector is deployed, through the process of installing the app and checking its status for us. This has been incredibly helpful as we can see whether we have recorded any bats in its current location, as well as whether the batteries need to be replaced.
Despite its small size we were still able to run a python lock around the detector, however as our location was a private residential area we were not concerned about theft and so opted for using a few cable ties to secure the detector in place.
Our Opinion….so far
The SM Mini Bat offers a user-friendly passive bat detector building on previous iterations in the Song Meter bat detector range. Its small size means it’s much easier to store and transport, and it is much more discreet when deployed in the field, compared with other detectors. Being unable to add an additional external microphone is a limitation to keep in mind, however for us this wasn’t an issue.
We will post a follow up blog once we are able to retrieve our detector and access our recordings.
The Song Meter Mini Bat Detector is available to order from the NHBS website. For assistance with any queries regarding our range of bat detectors, please do not hesitate to contact our team of Wildlife Equipment Specialists on 01803 865913 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Providing a nest box for birds is one of the easiest ways that you can help wildlife in your garden or compensate for lost nesting sites as a result of development. Adding a nest box camera gives you a unique insight into the fascinating processes of nest building, egg laying, incubation and chick rearing. The IP Nest Box Camera is the ideal camera to use if you wish to live stream footage from the camera on to a PC, smartphone, tablet or to a website. The high definition camera provides 1920 x 1080p colour footage during the day and black and white footage at night and the high quality video makes it perfect for enthusiasts and researchers alike. We decided to test the IP Nest Box Camera to examine how easy it was to set up and use.
The small camera plugs directly into your router or network switch via a 20m Cat6 ethernet cable with waterproof connector. Following setup on your PC or via an app on your mobile device, live streaming can begin. We tested only PC viewing and recording. If viewing on a PC, most camera access software will allow both motion detection and scheduled recording.
Before you install the camera in the nest box it is a good idea to wire it all up and check everything is working. We followed the Green Feathers Quick Start Guide instructions to connect the Cat6 cable between the camera and the PoE injector and between the injector and the router / switch, and then connected the injector to a power supply using the supplied adapter. We downloaded three camera access software programs to trial, Gamut CMS5, iSpy (both as recommended by Green Feathers) and Anycam.iO.
We installed the camera in our Camera Ready Nest Box and found that the easiest way of installing the camera into the box lid was to attach the camera bracket to the lid first and then to attach the camera to its bracket afterwards. It is best to have the camera pointing directly downwards and not angled.
After the box was installed in position, we connected everything up and downloaded software to connect to the camera. We have tried three software programs, all of which are free to download, although additional features may require payment.
The camera was really easy to connect up and access across the network. The main software we used to configure the camera was the Gamut CMS5 software and we followed the supplier instructions for how to add an HD IP camera to the Gamut software. There are many configuration options and we updated the time and date on the camera and added it to the software without any problems
We discovered a difficulty with the Gamut software, however, in that you cannot record to a subdirectory, you either need to record to an empty storage device that is mounted on its own drive or a partitioned and empty C:/ drive. For this reason we also tried the iSpy software, following the supplier instructions for how to configure an HD IP camera to record to a Windows PC. This was a very easy process and we managed to get the software to record with motion detection with no difficulties.
We also tested recording on the Anycam.iO software, which was very easy to install and set up. Recording and taking snapshots images are easy but you have to pay extra to get the motion detection function.
The Anycam.iO software was by far the easiest to use, with a really simple interface and really good resolution images and video. It is immediately obvious how to take a snapshot photo and how to record manually and if you pay the extra for the motion detection it is really easy to configure. One thing we did find is that you have to be careful with the ‘Archive’ setting on the Recording menu because it limits how much footage it will store unless it is set to ‘Unlimited’.
The images below were all taken with the Anycam.iO software and you can see the quality of the colour and resolution.
The iSpy software had many more configuration options than the Anycam.iO software but the recorded footage seemed not to be as high quality. The interface would suit a more professional user as there are many more settings that can be altered.
We highly recommend purchasing the IP Nest Box Camera if you have the facility to connect a camera directly into a network. The footage is really high quality, with excellent resolution still images, and the camera provides a reliable continuous live stream. There are a number of different software options to suit a range of users and the camera can be used to capture still images and video with motion detection. We are hoping that our blue tit visitors begin bringing in nesting material soon and we can post updates on nest building. The IP Nest Box Camera is available to buy from the NHBS website. For any advice on purchasing this or other nest box cameras, please do not hesitate to contact our team of Wildlife Equipment Specialists on 01803 865913 or email@example.com.
Thermal imaging technology has become an invaluable tool for researchers and ecologists studying nocturnal, crepuscular, cryptic or reclusive species. Thermal imaging devices work by using an electronic detector to convert heat emitted by the subject into a visible colour pattern. They have a distinct advantage over other night vision technologies in that you can use them during the day and in foggy conditions, as well as in total darkness. This means that they are ideal for surveying bat roosts, detecting nocturnal foraging animals, spotting birds in cover and even nest finding.
We tested the Pulsar Helion XP50 Thermal Imaging Scope at night time and in daylight. Our aim was to see if it enhanced our ability to detect and observe animals. We also wanted to examine the quality of the footage it produced.
The Pulsar Helion XP50 is a powerful thermal imaging scope with 640 x 480 resolution and a detection range of up to 1800m. With a 50Hz frame rate it is great for observing even fast moving animals such as bats. The XP50 has inbuilt memory for storing video and still images, which can then be downloaded later via USB. Alternatively you can live stream, record and store images and video on a smartphone or tablet via the Stream Vision app.
How We Tested
We took the Pulsar Helion XP50 out a few times during daylight and night time to test its capabilities in as many conditions as possible. Steve went out searching for Lesser spotted woodpeckers on Dartmoor, Simone took the scope out to get some night footage of woodcock and we tested the daytime recording functionality again near the NHBS head office.
To get night time footage we tested the XP50 on a very drizzly, foggy evening in January, on agricultural land in Dorset that is managed organically. We knew this was a good area for overwintering woodcock and hoped to spot some foraging along with other wildlife. The scope is an all-in-one unit, so we just took it in its case and didn’t need any other accessories.
What We Found
We found the scope easy to use one-handed, particularly due to the strap and the design of the button interface. It was simple to switch magnification zoom setting, take still images or videos, change colour palette and look at the stadiametric rangefinder one handed, meaning we could maintain our focus on the wildlife in front of us. All of the menu options appear on the screen and on recordings so you know what settings you had when you took the footage. The detection range was impressive and we easily spotted larger animals such as deer and hares when scanning the fields in the dark.
The WiFi streaming was exceptionally easy to set up and a fantastically useful tool to allow other people to view what was happening through the camera. It also allows you to control the camera and record footage. Downloading images from the internal camera memory via USB was very simple afterwards.
We obtained good daytime footage of squirrels and passerines such as blue tits, robins and blackbirds, with the scope making it very easy to pick out birds moving through the leafless tree canopy. The mallards on the river near NHBS head office were easy to spot without the scope but it did help us find a hidden teal and a moorhen that we would have missed otherwise.
Night time use
The XP50 came into its own at night and we picked up many animals that were missed when we surveyed the area with a lamp, even small animals such as mice and meadow pipits. We detected animals through the fog, drizzle and some ground cover with ease. We spotted roe deer, hares, rabbits, mice, meadow pipits, woodcock and a barn owl. The bird species were easy to follow when flying and provided smooth video footage due to the fast frame rate.
We think that the Pulsar Helion XP50 is an absolutely fantastic thermal imaging scope and would be a great addition to any researcher or ecologist’s survey equipment collection. The standout features are the detection range, the one handed operation and the streaming function. We would advise users to memorise the shortcut buttons before you go out as it can be difficult to remember how to switch modes in the field. The magnification zoom was useful if animals were fairly close but the footage became very blurry if they were further away so we tended to stick to 2.5x or 5x. Camera shake also becomes a real problem at the higher magnifications and a tripod would have improved our recorded footage quite dramatically. Thermal imaging technology opens up a world of possibilities for night time wildlife watching, bird ringing and surveying and we think this is an excellent scope for all of these purposes.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or phone on 01803 865913
The SiOnyx Aurora and Aurora Sport are two new night vision monoculars that offer ‘colour night vision’ – something new to night vision technology. A night vision scope is a handy tool for both the professional ecologist and the keen naturalist, especially at this time of year as the evenings draw in and the light levels fall. We wanted to test the Aurora’s night vision capabilities, along with the other features it offered to see if it lived up to expectations.
We tested the Aurora and the Aurora Sport. Both use an Ultra Low-Light CMOS sensor and should perform the same in low light settings. The main difference between the two models is that the Aurora has a built-in GPS, accelerometer and compass, and comes with an extra year warranty, whereas the Aurora SPORT is a budget version without these features and a 1 year warranty. Both cameras have up to 2 hours of battery life on a fully charged internal battery and records in 60 frames per second in either 360p or 720p resolution. The cameras also have a host of extra features including burst mode, time-lapse, panoramic view, self-timer, loop mode, slow-mo (shutter control) and HDR (High Dynamic Range) mode.
We ventured out to test the Aurora in daylight, twilight, and night conditions to see how the camera performed. The Aurora was very simple to use with each setting requiring a simple twist of a dial. Even the accompanying smartphone app was intuitive and quick to set up, allowing multiple users to easily view and record footage without needing to look through the device itself. The camera also had a tripod mount thread which was useful when wanting steady shots.
What we found
The Aurora was most impressive at dusk. Even at light levels when a phone or digital camera is no longer any use, the Aurora’s Day Mode footage is still surprisingly bright, if a bit noisy. Once switching to Twilight mode, the reduction in visual noise and clarity of bright footage was outstanding and is where we think this camera really excels.
The night mode would have been more useful if used with an IR illuminator, something that we would recommend if you are looking to use this camera in complete darkness, but it is still a very useful tool for when your own low-light vision starts to fail you. For example when watching deer, only a slight silhouette of a single deer could be made out by our own eyesight, and it was only with the use of the Aurora that we were alerted to the presence of the rest of the herd.
The SiOnyx Aurora and Aurora Sport are two great night vision cameras. We were surprised at how easy the camera was to use and we were impressed by its low-light capabilities. The video and photo quality is at a lower level than most camera technology currently, but it is respectable for a night vision recorder. It is also worth noting that when viewed through the view-finder, the footage looked clear and crisp.
The app was a great feature when walking with other people as it meant everyone could see what the camera could view without fumbling around to pass the camera amongst each other in the dark. For watching more timid wildlife, the app was too bright and the camera’s start-up chime needed to be turned off avoid spooking animals.
Our favourite mode was definitely Twilight Mode. This was especially useful when we could see subjects with our own eyes, but details were hard to make out and ordinary spotting scopes or cameras were struggling. The night mode was best when our eyesight began to fail and the camera highlighted subjects we would otherwise have missed. Without using an illuminator, the camera was ineffective as it became completely dark. An illuminator would greatly improve the performance of the scope in Night Mode and we would highly recommend one if you are thinking of using the camera as both a low light and night vision camera.
The SiOnyx Aurora and the SiOnyx Aurora Sport are available through the NHBS website.
To view our full range of night vision and thermal cameras, visit www.nhbs.com. If you have any questions on night vision or would like some advice on the best camera/scope for you then please contact us via email at email@example.com or phone on 01803 865913