Video and IR LED Illuminator set up

I was so impressed when I saw Pat Waring’s video presentation at the BCT northern bat workers conference I thought I’d build something similar. While Pat’s system from www.batmanagement.com was great it was also quite pricey and would involve importation from the states.

Pat Waring's set up

Pat Waring’s set up

So I headed off the eBay.

I quick search of the term “IR LED Illuminator” brought up a fair array of choices, most of which were located in China or Hong Kong but given a max price of £10 for a 48 led 850nm unit I guessed it was worth a punt. Sit back for a few weeks until the units arrive and then a quick trip to Maplins for the necessary leads and fittings.

eBay IR LED Illuminator set up

eBay IR LED Illuminator set up

 

Video IR setup from the back

Video IR setup from the back

For just under £50 I managed to get a 4 x 48 IR LED Illuminator set up which runs off the same 7ah 12v battery I use through autumn to power remote Anabats monitoring swarming sites.

I’m using a Sony HDR SR5 video camera which has the all essential 0 lux nightshot setting and records direct to a 40gb hard drive (again an eBay purchase – £100 brand new unused).

Note the 850nm illuminators have a very dull red glow when on, but emerging Brown Long Eared bats haven’t been affected by them so I figure in a barn setting they’re unlikely to be a disturbance factor. Last night they managed to pick up non echolocating BLE’s light sampling in the apex of a barn roof it would have been easy to miss if you were relying just on detectors (I was using both Anabat and Pettersson 240x, Anabat missed them and the 240x only recorded very faint echolocations which couldn’t be seen in Batsound v4).

If you’re surveying sites such as barns likely to have Brown Long Eareds or Myotis sp can you afford not to use video to strengthen your survey methodology?

Here’s an example of the footage and detail you can capture (actual footage is fullHD out of the camera)

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Two new publications for bat workers from BCT

Two new publications for bat workers from the Bat Conservation Trust have become available.

First up is the second edition of the Bat Surveys: Good Practice Guidelines which sees new chapters on; Pre planning considerations, Equipment and techniques, Assessing survey reports, Long term surveys for larger infrastructure projects, Surveying for wind farms and Interpreting results.

Secondly BCT have now published Professional Training Standards For Ecological Consultants, a document “designed to raise standards in professional bat work and outline
the knowledge and skills” required to be a responsible consultant.”

A Roost Visit Surprise

Like a lot of licenced bat workers I also volunteer as a roost visitor for BCT/Natural England to help and advise householders where there may be issues or concerns to do with bats. For the most part this involves checking for the presence of bats and in most cases where there are bats, the species involved is one of the Pipistrelles.

So today’s visit came as a bit of a treat; firstly the 17th century farmhouse and it’s outhouses on the boundary of a known bat hotspot looked promising when considering roost potential. Sure enough a check of the roof void revealed distinctly Myotis like droppings, Natterer’s (Myotis nattereri) were high on my suspect list given the upland situation.

So down I pop to chat to the householder about the next step; a couple of Anabats left over the weekend to check for any bat activity before we come up with a plan of how bats can be accommodated in their re-roofing plans.

So we chat about the potential species involved and how they have requirements for different roosting conditions throughout the year. It’s at this point I’m asked “Would they use our tunnel?”

You have a tunnel?

You have a tunnel?

You have a tunnel?

You have a tunnel with crevices...

And so I inspect the 100m+ drystone constructed tunnel beside the farmhouse which provides perfect humidity and temperature for hibernating bats and enough crevices to warrant another visit.

This job just got a lot more interesting.

Maglite XL50 LED Torch

Maglite XL50 LED Torch

From: www.maglite.com

Pro’s: Small, light, good light output.

Cons: Care needed to prevent accidentally turning it on when not it use.

Maglite XL50

Maglite XL50

LED torches offer two advantages for bat workers; one is improved battery life and the other is next to no heat emission. The Maglite XL50 runs on three AAA batteries and has three light settings cycleable via the push button switch at the back of the torch: high, low and strobe. High offers 104 lumens and a battery burn time of 8h45m; low reduces output to 25% giving a battery life of 36h. On low setting the torch offers plenty of focussed light to check all but the deepest crevices.

The torch is small and light enough to carry day to day although it’s easy for the rear mounted push button to get knocked when in pockets resulting in unecessary battery drain.

The XL50 is a great little survey torch.

Hope R4 headlamp

Hope R4 headlamp – £225 (at time of press)

From: www.hopetech.com

Pro’s: Very versatile with multiple light levels. Great flood light in larger caverns Good battery life at lower light settings

Cons: Needs second battery for extended trips underground. Overpowered for day to day surveying.

Hope R4 headtorch

Hope R4 headtorch

As part of the East Lancashire Bat Group project “Bats Underground” we’ve been undertaking swarming and hibernation surveys of Rossendale flagstone quarry tunnels where I found the light of my Petzl Spelios a bit underpowered in the larger caverns. This is where the Hope R4 headtorch came in.

The 4 x Cree XPG head unit

The 4 x Cree XPG head unit

The Hope R4 is designed primarily as a bike light but comes as standard with a headtorch adaptor to allow it’s use as a “multisport” light. With 4 Cree XPG LED’s sequenced through the top mounted button to offer 6 levels of light including a  maximum of 1000 lumens this is a serious bit of kit. In truth it’s probably too much even at it’s lowest level for day to day bat surveying, but for large systems it’s superb. The 2600mah li-ion battery offers burn times ranging from 1.15hours on high to 8.00 hours on low, I’ve alsways found the medium light setting to give plenty of light to navigate quarry tunnels while still offering circa 4 hours of light. A larger 5200mah battery option is available.

Specs:

  • Light Source: 4 x Cree XPG, R5 Bin
  • Light Output: 1000 measured lumens, 1446 generated lumens
  • Beam: Diffused uniform beam (+/- 12.5°)
  • Distance: 105m
  • Battery: 7.4v Li-Ion, 2600mAh
  • Charge time: 3 Hours
  • Weight: 235g (std), 338g (epic), 367g (endurance)
  • Power levels: 6 (two sequences of three), including flash
  • Burn time: 1:15 hrs – 8:00 hrs

Petzl Spelios Helmet/Headlamp

Petzl Spelios Helmet/Headlamp

From: www.petzl.com

Pro’s: Great lighting in confined spaces, uses common AA battery, good burn time on LED

Cons: Feels underpowered in larger caverns and tunnels.

Petzl Spelios

Petzl Spelios

The Petzl Spelios is the industry standard for caving helmet/headlight combo’s and for good reason. If you’re considering venturing underground to carry out hibernation surveys or carry out cave research then this is the helmet you need to consider as a starting point.

Spelios showing Duo 14

Spelios showing Duo 14

The lighting element of the Spelios is delivered via an integral Duo 14 LED headtorch which features a switched halogen / LED light. In confined spaces such as small caves and roofspaces the 14 LED array should deliver as much light as is needed but the flood style spread will suffer in larger systems. The Halogen can be focused to an extent but it’s rare that I find a use for it  and it obviously has an impact on battery life compared to the LEDS.

Spelios battery pack

Spelios battery pack

The rear mounted battery pack balances the helmet nicely in use and houses 4 AA batteries. A rechargeable unit is available as an extra purchase but I find it’s just as easy to carry spare rechargeable batteries with you.

The helmet is available in two sizes covering head circumferences of 48-56 cm and 53-61 cm.

Specs:

  • Beam pattern : wide or focused
  • Max. light quantity : 67 lumens
  • Max. lighting distance : 100 m
  • Max. battery life : 183 h
  • Constant lighting : yes
  • Operates on four AA / LR6 batteries or ACCU DUO (not included)
  • Battery compatibility: alcalines, lithium, rechargeables ni-mh, rechargeables ni-cd
  • Watertightness : IP X8 (waterproof down to -5 meters)
  • Spare halogen bulb included
  • Certification(s) : CE EN 12492, UIAA
  • Weight : 505 g

 

Alpkit Gamma Headtorch

 Alpkit Gamma Headtorch – £15 (at time of press)

From: www.alpkit.com

Pro’s: Cheap, great varied light options.

Cons: Sells out quick.

Alpkit Gamma

Alpkit Gamma

I’m a big fan of Petzl headtorches and have been for years but the Alpkit Gamma is a fantastic bit of kit, suitable for every bat worker and you can get three for the price of one Petzl. A bargain.

Gamma close up

Gamma close up

The main XPC Cree LED throws enough light for navigating to survey sites, and has two switchable levels should you need to extend battery life. Once on site and for areas where you want minimum light spillage/disturbance a long hold down of the top button switches to cycle through the three smaller 5mm leds which offer white, green or red light. All three settings should offer enough light for tuning detectors, etc.

Battery life is good, it runs on three AAA batteries and even comes supplied with Duracell as standard. If you’re working on dimly lit road transects the rear battery case has a seperately switched flashing/constant red light which aids visibility.

A great addition to any survey kit bag and well worth getting as a back up for underground too.

Headtorch specs:

  • 1 x XPC Cree LED (up to 88 lumens)
  • 3 x 5mm LED’s Red, White, Green (1.8 lumens)
  • Weight: 118g with batteries
  • Batteries: 3 x 1.5V AAA alkaline (included)
  • Water resistant: tested to IPX4

Wildlife Acoustics EM3

Wildlife Acoustics EM3 Active Ultrasonic Bat Detector

From: http://www.wildlifeacoustics.com/

Price: £979.99 plus £199 for GPS

Pro’s: Compact system, full spectrum and zca recording, simplicity.

Cons: ZCA file production needs tweaking, gps noise interference

EM3

EM3 packed with everything you need to start recording (gps optional extra)

The Wildlife Acoustics EM3 is a full spectrum bat detector / recorder with the capability to georeference recordings via an optional plug in gps unit. One of the bonuses from a workflow point of view is the ability to record in wav/zca setting which produces both a realtime full spectrum recording and a zero crossing data file suitable for analysis in AnalookW. This in theory allows you to process zca files to identify easier species such as Pipistrelles but have the use of full spectrum calls for more in depth analysis of harder to identify species.

EM3 first look

EM3 up close

First impressions are here.

I’ve been using the EM3 for a full survey season now and have to agree with Dave Dodd’s that whilst it’s the detector I reach for automatically for most work it is also capable of slowly irritating me over the span of a night.

Ergonomically I’m happy with the package of EM3 and gps puck, it’s easier to hold and lighter in the field than an Anabat, gps and pda. I’m still working on eliminating the inevitable sound files created as you shift it in your grip, something a silicone sleeve might resolve. The detector is a perfect set up for transects and with the option of a seperate wired input for an additional microphone should work perfectly for car use too. Although capable of static programmed surveys I think I’d rather leave that to the SM2Bat+ which is designed for the job.

Recording wise the detector took a fair bit of tweaking in threshold settings before I was happy with the production of zca files, this isn’t such a great issue now that Wildlife Acoustics have now released Kaleidoscope a very handy utility for converting wav files to zca that seems to produce very reliable results. Recordings are crisp and clear and the live black and white sonogram display is great for in the field ID of easier species.

The main advantage over the Anabat SD1 and pda is the lack of connections and potential for issues arising from them. Previously with the Anabat SD1 there were weak points between anabat-pda, pda-bluetooth gps that had the potential to decide out of the blue to not talk to each other; a frustrating scenario when you’re out on site and in the dark. I often carried a separate gps and serial lead “just in case”. With only the gps puck to plug in to the EM3 that’s all disappeared, I no longer have that worry at the back of my mind.

I’ve found I tend to monitor calls in the EM3’s RTE mode, effectively a realtime time expansion and keep the four option buttons programmed to flick between 20,45,55, and 110khz hetrodyne modes. A nice and simple system to flick between even in dark conditions.

All good so far. So that annoyance?

It’s a frustrating one; without the gps plugged in headphone sound is superb but once the gps connects it’s a different matter with a low level variable shussing feedback that inevitably becomes a distraction. This seems to happen regardless of whether you’re listening in hetrodyne or rte mode and is the only downside to what could be a very capable detector. Hopefully it’s something that can be cured with a frimware update, support is one thing Wildlife Acoustics have certainly got dialled with user forums and firmware updates.

*Update: After speaking to Sherwood from Wildlife Acoustics at the BCT National Conference it appears the gps noise issue is to do with hardware so unable to be solved by software. It’s a niggle we’re going to have to live with.

 

 

Dodotronic UltraMic200k digital USB microphone

 

Dodotronic UltraMic200k digital USB microphone

From: http://www.dodotronic.com/index.php?center=11&left=1

Pro’s: Real time, full spectrum recording. Futureproof.

Cons: Needs netbook and software so not suitable for transects. Not suitable for all UK species

Dodotronic UltraMic200k

Dodotronic UltraMic200k

Although not strictly speaking a bat detector, combine the Dodotronic UltraMic200k with a netbook and you’ve got a  light and portable mechanism for capturing full spectrum echolocation in realtime (which is where bat detectors are heading) and all for circa £500.

Ultramic200k and Netbook

Ultramic200k and Netbook

With a sample rate of 200k you’ll only record sound up to 100khz with the UltraMic200k so for some species you’re better off spending the extra on the UltraMic250k which captures sound to 125khz. Sound can be captured using BatSound, SeaWave or other software.

Sure it’s more suited to static surveys (I’ve been testing this one at swarming sites), and identification during data sifting is going to take longer; to say nothing of data storage issues associated with large files.

But, and this is a big but, I believe we’re on the cusp of the next stage in bat identification with automatic identification software just over the horizon. Couple one of these mics with a smartphone or tablet running the right software and you’ve got a powerful, affordable and accurate method of surveying and identifying bats in flight.

Link to the User Manual

Expect to see a Ultramic250k review soon.