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Friday, April 27, 2012

Attention: Developers Of Bat Call Analysis Software

Attention: Developers Of Bat Call Analysis Software - Just FYI: If you have ever considered having your software tested and reviewed (on this site, for instance): Then, I'd say that now would be a good time to contact me.

The weather in my area, has just recently reverted back to Winter-like temperatures and conditions. I also believe that the wind has been one of the main things keeping the bats from hunting.
These current weather conditions have delayed the natural "start" of "Bat detecting season" here in the Northeastern United States.
This would simply be the most opportune time for me to focus on software reviews. I have recently learned of a few more (brand-new) bat detectors being announced/released this year. Once the new detectors start popping up - I'll be focusing my time on the detailed and thorough reviews of each of them.

It appears that we will have at least another week of this weather...Which reminds me:
As I've stated before, I consider Winter to be a good time to go over the bat recordings/sonograms collected during the warmer months. And, to also make attempts at species ID.

Of course, lots of people enjoy bat detecting for different reasons. I even know of a popular kit provider, who enjoys the simple pleasure of detecting bats in "real-time" - Just for the aesthetic quality of their communications. Simply listening to the detector-converted sounds of local bats as they go about their nightly activities. And, who would disagree? Not I.
But, for me - I suppose that in time... (eventually) the ultimate goal, is the satisfaction of identifying the species that was recorded. This is what makes bat detecting exciting and challenging for, let's say, an intermediate-level, or even well-experienced hobbyist.

While we're on the subject...
The "distillation" and polishing, of the raw data (recordings) acquired with detecting devices - Generally requires a few steps. A typical work flow might be as follows:

First, locating the actual bat recording, amidst the (usual) copious amounts of: Background noise, false triggers, and long recordings of non-bat events, etc.
Second, editing the bat call: In my particular case, this consists of cutting/pasting into a new audio file; choosing the desired file format to convert or save the sound file in, naming the file, and utilizing relevant information whenever possible (date/time/temp/weather) in the file name.
Third, using your favorite software application to create a sonogram.
Fourth, (and finally) measuring/comparing the resulting sonograms to: Notes, known sonograms (confirmed bat species), and so forth... In an effort to determine exactly which species of bat you've recorded.

For many, (myself included) the basic steps outlined above are simply a labor of love. But, we shouldn't ignore the fact, that there are quite a few software applications out there; which can make this process a lot less tedious. This is an exciting prospect. These are valuable, time-saving software packages that have built-in bat sonogram libraries. Very neat!

Of course, having an extensive library of confirmed bat calls, at your disposal, provides a tremendous advantage. I've glanced over quite a few of the currently available programs. Each application (manufacturer) has their own method, of providing the end-user with the means to ID the sonograms they've acquired. Some software packages are a bit more automated than others.

Most of these software packages are not cheap! Especially the good ones! (of course).
Therefore, I thought it would be nice, for my Readers to have access to reviews of some of these applications - To aid in making decisions on which one to purchase.

Again, there quite a few out there. I do know for a fact, that many bat equipment (and software) manufacturers check this site from time-to time.
So, rather than contacting each software developer individually - I decided that this simple blog post should work well enough. I have, in fact, reached out to a bat software developer once. But, was did not receive a reply.

Although I've touched on this a bit, in an earlier post -For those who were wondering - I currently use Audacity (free), and BatScan from BatBox Ltd.
BatScan is very inexpensive, and very simple to use: I like it!

It's always nice to have a thorough review available; to inform and give a potential owner a clear idea of what to expect. I'll admit, that I have been curious to know which applications work best. I was just visiting some bat product Websites recently... Especially, NHBS
My renewed  interest, of the subject of bat call analysis software, was a result of coming upon the software offered Here. This package sells for ~ $100 less than the call analysis software that I originally had my eye on (last year).

So, we'll see...

8 comments:

  1. Some of the features I would find are useful in call analysis software are the following:

    1) Ability to measure slope anywhere on the spectrogram.
    2) Real-time audio along with the spectrogram.
    3) Measurements of Freq, amplitude, and time.
    4) Ability to export screenshots and selected audio.

    Like you Al I'm currently using the BatScan software because it came free with my Baton. It's really great software that only lacks a slope measurement. I could calculate it using the time and frequency but I'd sooner have it automated.

    Looking forward to your reviews this summer!!

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    Replies
    1. Matt, you might try the free Avisoft-SASLab Lite software that can do most of these things.

      This software is however not exclusively dedicated to bats, which means that it has a slightly longer learning curve.

      I recently added a slope display on the bound frequency cursor tool. Min and max slope measurements across a call can also be taken using the Automatic Parameter Measurements tool (Location of measurements > more... > Time derivative of entire element > min and max).

      The software can be downloaded from http://www.avisoft.com/downloads.htm

      Regards,
      Raimund, Avisoft Bioacoustics

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    2. Thanks Raimund, I'll give it a look. I'm especially interested in the slope measurements.

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    3. After spending an hour with the Avisoft-SASLab light I'll have to say it's pretty powerful software. The slope measurement is fantastic. As stated, the learning curve is STEEP but with a bit of play becomes relatively easy. I still like the spectrogram display created in BatScan but I'm sure I'll discover how to make the spectrogram display better (make that small box bigger).

      Thanks again Raimund! Avisoft light is now part of my normal, low cost, analysis routine. Especially with difficult calls like those from Myotis.

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    4. "(make that small box bigger)"

      Found it! Spectrogram Perameters => enlarge image by 4

      COOL!

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  2. Thanks Matt! So far, no Companies have contacted me...Looks like you & I will be continuing to use BatScan for a bit longer...

    Cheers,
    -Al

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  3. As an amateur bat detective, I like to use mostly free tools:
    * I record bat using a home-built recorder (samples at up to 320 kHz, 8 bit).
    * I've written a simple program to batch-convert the recording to anabat-compatible files. This allows me to use Analook to quickly scan through a large amount of recordings:
    * finally, when I see something interesting I use Raven Lite to create a spectrogram and look more closely at the call.

    References:
    * Analook: http://users.lmi.net/corben/Beta/
    * Wav-AnabatConverter: http://bertrik.sikken.nl/anabat/
    * Raven Lite: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/brp/raven/RavenOverview.html

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    Replies
    1. Thank you very much, Bertrik! Great stuff.

      Best regards,

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