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A recent academic paper on automated classifiers (‘The use of automated identification of bat echolocation calls in acoustic monitoring: A cautionary note for a sound analysis‘) highlights the importance of a key part of our bat call identification method: manual checking of automated classifiers’ results.

All bats and their roosts are protected from harm and disturbance at all times by EU and UK law, and their foraging habitats also receive some protection within the planning system. Licensed professionals, such as ourselves, carry out a range of bat surveys at sites varying from large housing developments to the removal of individual trees or buildings. These surveys are a legal requirement and integral to planning permission submissions.

Spectrogram showing pipistrelle bat call

Spectrogram showing pipistrelle bat call

A useful tool to support surveys of bats is the use of automated classifiers. These analyse and attempt to recognise bat calls from recordings made by detectors such as SM2+s, and can provide an indication of the likely species. However, as the recent publication by Russo and Voight (2016) demonstrates, “no classifier has yet proven capable of providing correct classifications in 100% of cases or getting close enough to this ideal performance”.

Because of this, at Baker Consultants, our bat experts manually check each call following the use of automated classifiers to ensure accuracy. Automated classifiers remain an extremely useful tool when surveying bats, which are by their nature nocturnal, elusive and often cryptic, but, as this research shows, expert opinion is still needed to validate the results.

Read more about our bat survey capabilities here.

Bioacoustic recorders could provide us with vital additional information to help us protect rare and endangered birds, such as the European nightjar. Research, led by Newcastle University, found that newly developed remote survey techniques were twice as effective at detecting rare birds as conventional survey methods.

Using automated equipment to record nightjars at dawn and dusk, when the birds are most active, the team found a 217% increased detection rate of the nightjar over those carried out by specialist ornithologists. Published this month in the prestigious academic journal Public Library of Science One (PLOS ONE) (article available here), lead author Mieke Zwart said the findings suggest that automated technology could provide us with an important additional tool to help us survey and protect rare birds.

“The results of this research will help conservationists monitor endangered species more effectively,” explains Mieke, who carried out the research as part of her PhD, supported by Baker Consultants Ltd and Wildlife Acoustics Inc. “The European nightjar, for example, is only active at night and is very well camouflaged, making it difficult to detect using traditional survey methods. Using bioacoustics techniques we can more accurately build up a picture of where these birds are, population numbers, movement and behaviour.”

The European nightjar – Caprimulgus europaeus – is a migratory species protected under the Birds Directive (Directive 2009/147/EC) and in the UK by the classification of Special Protection Areas (SPAs). Nesting on lowland heath, such as parts of Sherwood Forest and Thames Basin Heath, the nightjar can be negatively affected by developments including housing. Due to this, as part of the planning process, developers must now provide data on presence and abundance of nightjar and provide mitigation plans to prevent their disturbance before planning applications will be considered.

Traditional bird survey methods involve specialist ornithologists conducting field surveys to identify and count the birds they encounter. However, these are time-consuming, must be performed by experts, and could be inaccurate when surveying species that are difficult to detect.

Bioacoustics is the science of recording of wildlife sounds and processing that data to provide information on species numbers, movement or behaviour. Using automated audio recorders and analysis software, the technology is ‘trained’ to automatically recognise the calls of individual species, in this case the nightjar. Remote recorders were deployed at specific sites and the results were compared against observations from standard human field surveys of the same sites.

Andrew Baker, co-author of the paper, said: “This is a key piece of research that has demonstrated how effective bioacoustics techniques can be for providing ecological data. This research has challenged conventional methods and could be applied to a wide range of species to give more accurate, objective data on bird numbers and distribution. The study has implications for a range of other species, including black grouse (Tetrao tetrix), capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus) and woodlark (Lullula arborea). This is especially important when information on species presence and abundance is used to inform conservation projects or development plans.”

Read more about our latest nightjar bioacoustics project here.

Source Information: “The use of automated bioacoustic recorders to replace human wildlife surveys: An example using nightjars.” Mieke C. Zwart, Andrew Baker, Philip J. K. McGowan, Mark J. Whittingham. PLOS ONE, July 16, 2014

Media Contacts:
Mieke Zwart, PhD student, School of Biology, Newcastle University. Tel: 07580 362783; email: m.c.zwart@ncl.ac.uk

Andrew Baker, Managing Director of Baker Consultants Ltd and a co-author of the paper. Tel: 07590 122969; email:a.baker@bakerconsultants.co.uk

Louella Houldcroft, Senior Communications Manager, Newcastle University. Tel: 0191 208 5108/07989 850511; email:Louella.houldcroft@ncl.ac.uk

This work was part-funded by Wildlife Acoustics, Inc who also provided the recording devices and software to process the recordings.

Jane attended the Scottish Windfarm Bird Steering Group (SWBSG) Event last week on developing good practice for wind farms alongside birds.

The SWBSG is made up of representatives from the Scottish Government, SNH, Scottish Renewables and RSPB Scotland. The group is working to develop a common understanding of the issues relating to impacts of onshore wind turbines on birds. In particular they are involved in developing a data catalogue through partnership with developers as the foundation for their research programme.

The workshop provided a great opportunity to hear presentations on the latest SWBSG commissioned research and to contribute to future Best Practice Guidance being proposed by the group.

Dr Jeroen Minderman of the University of Stirling presented a study into the efficacy of bird survey methodologies (with a focus on Brown and Shepherd and flight activity surveys) in detecting change in bird populations pre and post construction. The research attempts to produce a model to assess survey power in order to provide a more robust statistical analysis of bird survey results. The model takes into account such parameters such as detectability with distance (based on species), number of surveys and variation in surveyor.

Similarly, researchers from Newcastle University have been looking into observer error in flight activity surveys and found a large variation between surveyors was detected at distances of only 164m. Current guidelines (SNH 2013) recommend surveyors can survey airspace up to 2km away. An overview of habitat management on Scottish onshore windfarm sites was also presented to form the basis of discussion into best practice management for wind farm sites.

Workshops in the afternoon generated lively discussion into issues which would be included in the proposed Best Practice Guidelines – including cumulative impact assessment, habitat management and the guidance itself in terms of it’s scope and content. Developers and consultants were encouraged to become involved with the SWBSG either through the provision of funding, data sharing or through consultation on the Best Practice Guidelines.

To contact one of the Baker Consultants ornithology team please email survey@bakerconsultants.co.uk or for specific Scotland enquiries contact Jane Forrest on scotland@bakerconsultants.co.uk

For more information on the group, email Claire Lacy, Data and Research Coordinator at SWBSG, at info@swbsg.org

 

Our bioacoustic team has recently made a significant breakthrough in the semi-automated processing of full spectrum data, allowing a more cost-effective way of managing bat call data analysis. The success of this technique on over 1000s of hours of data, has led to us being commissioned to process data for one of the UK’s largest major infrastructure projects.

Read more

Wildlife Acoustics launches the new Echo Meter EM3+

If you are familiar with the EM3, the new EM3+ keeps all of the powerful features of the original while improving the recording and monitoring quality, “fit and finish” and ergonomics of the recorder. Read more

Wildlife Acoustics, the world’s leading supplier of bioacoustics monitoring systems for biologists around the world, has been selected as one of 20 finalists from a field of 204 nominated companies in the Smaller Business of New England (SBANE) 2013 Innovation award.

Click here for the full article Read more

The March issue of IEEM’s In Practice carries Andrew’s article on bioacoustics’ coming of age. It discusses the advances in bioacoustic survey technology in the terrestrial and marine environments. Rather than advocating that technology can replace the skilled professional ecologist, it suggests that the collecting of more detailed and robust data can allow the consultant to do a better job for the client and attain a more satisfactory development outcome. Read more

Baker Consultants is taking part in the WildVolunteering Award, a partnership between Derby City Council, the University of Derby and WildDerby for students at the University. We have proposed a project to use electronic detectors to survey and monitor for nightjar (a bird species of high nature conservation concern).

 

The role of the student would be to receive training in the use of Wildlife Acoustics SM2 bird detectors, deploy these on a site local to Cromford, and then download and analyse the data gathered to check for recordings of nightjar song.  The project would be supported by ecologists within Baker Consultants, but the student would be expected to undertake the fieldwork independently and carry out computer analysis of the data.

Nightjars sing (churr) between mid-May and mid-August, with a peak in activity during June.  They are normally surveyed by people walking transects at dusk and dawn, while listening for the distinctive song produced by male birds.  We would like to test the use of automatic recording equipment (often used for bats) which can be programmed, placed in the field and left to record for a period of nights.  Once the survey period is complete, the electronic data is downloaded and can then be analysed using computer software to check for singing nightjars.

 

There are over 50 places on the WildVolunteering scheme open to students of Derby University. Students have the opportunity to gain valuable work experience and an insight into the biodiversity and ecology of the region.

Further details of the WildVolunteering scheme can be found at the weblink here:

http://www.derby.ac.uk/community/projects/wildvolunteering-2013

Course dates are now confirmed for SM2BAT training with Paul Howden-Leach. This is the only SM2 training course approved by Wildlife Acoustics.

Tuesday 27th November 2012
Tuesday 29th January 2013
Tuesday 12th March 2013

Venue: Cromford Mill, Derbyshire

The full day training session will provide a users introduction to the SM2 unit itself and will focus on the following elements:-

  • Getting to know the unit
  • Basic setup for deployment
  • Data download
  • Dealing with the data
  • Advanced setup techniques

The course will also include an overview of the EM3 hand held unit.

Applicants will be required to bring an SM2BAT unit and a laptop. Full details of required equipment will be set out in the joining instructions.

The course fee is £225 + VAT and includes refreshments and a buffet lunch.

To book your place please contact sm2@bakerconsultants.co.uk or download the booking form below. Group rates and bespoke courses are available.

Back in 2007, the Bat Conservation Trust published the first edition of ‘Bat Surveys: Good Practice Guidelines’, with the aim to provide some clarity on the different types of survey and survey effort needed to provide appropriate information for ecological assessments. Since 2007, new developments in equipment, methods, and legislation have meant that revision of the bat survey guidelines is needed.

The practical implementation of bat conservation has evolved and expanded, with a greater number of individuals undertaking professional bat work.

The second edition of the guidelines has just been released. This updated version provides improved guidance for those commissioning, undertaking or reviewing bat surveys throughout the UK. It is intended to enhance the standard and consistency of bat surveys and reports and ultimately lead to greater understanding of bats and improvements in their protection and conservation.

The BCT has set out to strengthen the focus on professional bat work within the guidance, both for those undertaking the work, and to include more details for planners assessing surveys. This edition also takes account of changes in technology, and the importance of selecting the right equipment to meet the survey aims and being clear about the limitations of different techniques.

As with any generic guidance though, the interpretation and implementation of case-by-case best practice is still very much down to trained and experienced ecologists, such as those at Baker Consultants. The BCT makes this clear in its introduction, stating that “there is no substitute for knowledge and experience in survey planning, methodology and interpretation of findings, and these guidelines are intended to support these”.

To commission a survey or site assessment, or if you’re an ecologist with too much data to analyse during the busy season give us a call on: 01629 593958

SM2 Detector fixed to a tree.

SM2 Detector fixed to a tree.

Having become the UK’s acknowledged experts in the use of the Wildlife Acoustics’ SM2 range of full spectrum recorders, Baker Consultants Ltd has been commissioned by the manufacturer to provide field support to their UK users. The aim of the service is to answer any queries that you may have regarding the set up and use of the SM2 and any issues of data handling.

Any hardware issues will be passed directly on to Wildlife Acoustics.

We have set up a dedicated telephone line for the service. The service is free of charge and will be provided by Paul Howden-Leach of Baker Consultants Ltd.

Telephone: 0114 360 9977
Email: sm2@bakerconsultants.co.uk
Skype: sm2fieldsupport

Next SM2BAT training courses are:
Thursday 16th February 2012
Thursday 15th March 2012

To download a booking form click  SM2 Booking Form.

Paul reports on his trip to the Mammal Society Conference in Bangor. He attended talks on Dormice, badger mitigation and brown hares among other creatures and had a great group for his SM2 workshop.

Paul writes:

I was invited to run an SM2 workshop at the Mammal Conference held in Bangor by the British Mammal Society in early November 2011. The event was held in the Bramall building at Bangor University, which contains a small but fantastic natural history museum.

The difficulty with running an event such as this is the need to cater for a wide range of different audiences including interested members of the public who are just getting into natural history, enthusiastic volunteers (whose knowledge on British mammals often swamps many of the professionals), consultants, local authorities and academics. The conference was pitched perfectly invoking discussions within the talks and throughout the breaks and lunch.

The day was kicked off by the president of the Mammal society Dereck Yaldon, whose talk on Brown Hare populations was very interesting, of which one of the main conclusions is, he needs more hare records so please send any records to your local records office or to the Mammal Soc’s National Mammal Atlas. This was followed by a talk on badger mitigation by Penny Lewns and what works and what doesn’t. After lunch Jack Grasse gave a very unique talk on Dormouse surveying(see our dormouse blog piece here), I won’t go into detail as I think most people who attended the conference will agree that if you get a chance to see Jack speak whatever he speaks on you will remember forever. This was followed by a presentation on the Alcathose bat by Kate Williamson from Leeds university.

The mammal society gave a presentation looking at hedgehog survey techniques which required plastic sheeting, powder paint, oil white paper, paperclips, sticky back plastic and hot dog sausages. Very Blue Peter and very effective. I know I have missed other presentations out and of course all of the workshops but needless to say that the Mammal society events are well worth having a look at.

Many thanks to all of the people who organised such a wonderful event.

In a very short period of time the SM2BAT from Wildlife Acoustics has become
recognised as an industry-standard remote bat detector and is widely
used by consultants, universities and researchers.

Superior field equipment that records more calls brings with it the challenge of larger volumes of data to analyse.

Baker Consultants is now able to offer a full data processing service to assist in the analysis of bat survey field recordings. Using our library of bat call ‘recognisers’ our experienced bat ecologists can
provide a cost-effective, independent analysis of SM2 recordings.

Outputs
We will provide a detailed analysis of the data, using Songscope software, and provide the following information from each recording session:

•    A summary spreadsheet of the data including a confirmed species list.
•    A list highlighting calls which are dubious or inadequately recorded.
•    Measured call parameters will be provided for calls of rare species.
•    A date and time-indexed spreadsheet of all identifiable calls.

Benefits
•    Rapid, cost effective analysis using the SM2 native software, Songscope.
•    Full spectrum analysis capturing a greater number of calls.
•    Independent verification avoiding any charge of bias.
•    Data remains confidential and site anonymous.
•    Time and cost savings.

Please contact Carlos Abrahams if you would like more details of this service or email sm2@bakerconsulants.co.uk

SM2BAT COURSE DATES FOR 2011/12

Thursday 3rd November 2011
Thursday 16th February 2012
Thursday 15th March 2012

 

Venue: Arkwright’s Mill, Cromford, Derbyshire

The full day training sessions provide users with an introduction to the SM2BAT unit itself and will focus on the following:·

•    Getting to know the unit
•    Basic setup for deployment
•    Data download
•    Dealing with the data
•    Advanced setup techniques

Applicants will be required to bring an SM2BAT unit and an internet enabled laptop. Full details of required equipment will be set out in the joining instructions. The course fee is £225 + VAT and includes refreshments.

To book a place please contact: m.jennings@bakerconsultants.co.uk

WILDLIFE ACOUSTICS ANNOUNCES THE ECHO METER EM3 ULTRASONIC DETECTOR AND RECORDER

At the UK National Bat Conference last week, Wildlife Acoustics
announced a new hand-held bat detector and recorder. As you would expect
there was great excitement in the Baker Consultants office and Paul
couldn’t wait to get his hands on one.

Paul said: “It’s a unique piece of kit, finally we have access to
something that not only captures and records bat calls, but also shows
the calls in real-time as they come in on the screen.”

Here’s an extract from the press release and a link to the Wildlife Acoustics site to learn more. We are expecting products to be widely available sometime in the new year.

“Bringing unparalleled features, ease of use and low cost to the active bat monitoring market the Echo Meter EM3 is easy to hold, lightweight (weighing less than .35 kg), and fully self-contained, requiring no additional hardware to actively monitor and record bats. The EM3 ships with built-in rechargeable batteries plus an SDHC memory card so customers can start monitoring bats upon product arrival.

Users monitor bat calls with headphones or the built-in speaker. Bat passes are recorded while the user simultaneously listens to bat calls in the method of choice: Heterodyne, Frequency Division, or Wildlife Acoustics”s patent pending Real Time Expansion mode.

As the most flexible heterodyne detector on the market, the EM3’s Auto-Het feature automatically tunes the detector based on the echolocation frequency. Users program up to four frequency presents to rapidly tune into a bat call in heterodyne and then fine tune any frequency settings with the easy to use button navigation.

The EM3 also captures voice notes along with the bat passes in the same trigger for easy direct correlation. Users may categorise or tag a bat call in real-time in one of four categories to facilitate post processing.”