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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

So, You CAN Afford Auto Bat Call ID Software? Which One To Get?

A few Posts ago, there was one titled 'So, you can't afford Auto Bat Call IDing software?'

Here is my version of a follow-up post. I'll call it:
'So, you CAN afford auto bat call ID software?' ...Which one should you get?

Where shall we begin? I'll give you a cliff notes version: Well, for starters - For those who aren't very familiar with computer software in general - I'd like to point out that bat call identification software is particularly difficult to produce well. There is a lot of work required, to make an effective product. The myriad of special algorithms required alone, can be overwhelming.

That is one reason why it's not easy to find a well-executed, robust, and easy-to-use package. Also, one of the reasons why it's never cheap! Here, we will cover the latest and greatest bat call ID software packages available today.

Each company producing Bat call analysis software has their own priorities, when it comes to which bats will be covered. In other words: Will the application focus primarily on bats from the USA? UK? Europe? There are several software packages that either:
  • Handle both (i.e. USA and UK/Europe)
  • Have one complete, and are working on adding bat species of the other (side of The Atlantic Ocean) 
In any case, there's really no need to elaborate on any of the other applications. What most Folks want to know, is which one is worth investing in? Which one is the best?

So, I did a lot of reading (of existing documentation, etc.). After extensive, and concentrated study of: Documentation, case studies, research papers, and professional field reports, from all of the currently available Call ID software packages:

Listed below, in no particular order, are the two best software applications available today, for automatic ID of bat species: 

Kaleidoscope from Wildlife Acoustics

-And- 

BCID from Bat Call Identification Inc.
 
It's as simple as that.

In addition, I have personally extensively tested, and reviewed each of these software packages (substantial testing, evaluation, and comparisons were made; before I reached my conclusion). The two-part review of BCID software can be seen here: Part 1, Part 2

My detailed review, of the current version of Kaleidoscope Pro is still in process, but will also be posted here soon. For now, I'll say that:  
1. I've seen it routinely process almost 200 recordings in 12 seconds! 
2. There are all kinds of wonderful features being implemented into the software, even as I type. Features, that I cannot share yet; but will be sure to impress!

Now, there is one more, which happens to be both excellent and free! The only drawback, is that American bat species are not covered (at this time).
It is BatExplorer from Elekon, AG. I am currently testing this package, and I find it to be absolutely wonderful (a review will also be posted here, in the near future).

Honorable Mention:
The following software applications do not offer automatic bat species identification, but they are very good at what they do. Which is to enable a user to view recorded ultrasounds.

 
In summary: If you intend on purchasing a software package, to automatically identify bat species from your ultrasound recordings - The only bat call ID packages that you should be considering, are: Kaleidoscope Pro, and BCID. 
If you are using a Batlogger, from Elekon AG - Then, you only need to download and install the free BatExplorer software, and you're done.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

What's Happening At Wildlife Acoustics - New & Improved Stuff!

The new Echo Meter EM3+ from Wildlife Acoustics will be available by April 30th - You can preorder it now (from the links below):

I'm happy to report, that the new Echo Meter EM3+ is no longer green! - It's Black, and it looks very cool!



I'll tell you what...The more I look at this new EM3+, the more interested I become. I'm wondering just how well does this new model perform? Hmmm... Here's another link, where you can look at some more beautiful pictures of it: Wildlife & Countryside Services

To commemorate these new developments, the new links have been added to the 'Great Bat Detector Links' section (on the right-hand-side of the blog). 

Don't forget to check out their new Kaleidoscope Pro software - For the automatic ID of bat calls! You can download and use it free for 2 weeks. I've tested it, and it works great! A mini-review of it, will be published here in the near future.

...A rather busy year for the World of bat detecting!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Review: The Batlogger M From Elekon Part 2 Of 2

Part 2 of 2 Review of The Batlogger M from Elekon

When a new bat detector arrives for me to review: One of the main things, that I always look for, is it's ability to detect bats at good distances. It just happens to be one of my major interests, as far as performance goes. It always has been my favorite "yardstick" in measuring performance. In years past, I didn't have access to the excellent locations that I do now (some excellent habitats are among them). Therefore, the majority of my bat detecting was done from home - a passive (overnight) monitoring situation. So, the ability to pick up bats at greater and greater distances became important to me.
And, I suppose old habits are hard to break... The point is, The Batlogger M is able to detect and record bats, from greater distances than any other device I've ever tested.
It's as simple as that. And I am well pleased. The interesting thing, is that at the same time - The unit will not record non-bat sounds. What we're discussing here, is a very unique instrument. I'd like to share a link; for those who enjoy reading more detailed/technical info. There are excellent graphs and explanations, of how just some of the features work: Batlogger M FAQ

In a side-by-side comparison, with the AnaBat SD2: During the course of one evening - The Batlogger M consistently picked up and recorded bat calls, while the AnaBat did not. These bats were at a distance of over 45 Meters, in this particular case. I believe these results are very telling!

Another major feature, that is amazing in and of itself - Is the built-in GPS. In a word? Wow.
I realize, that some view the GPS feature as unnecessary (especially well-experienced Bat Workers). But, I believe that generally, most appreciate having the feature. In the case of the Batlogger M, it really integrates very well. The GPS is efficient, and very precise. I quickly found out just how accurate the unit is: When I noticed that it basically "knew" which room of my home I was in! In addition, there is a integrated feature that knows which direction the Batlogger was pointed in, at the time of a bat pass. An electronic compass. Not only does this help make transects and other surveys extremely accurate; but it opens up additional possibilities (for future advances). You can get a glimpse of just what it's capable of, when working with Elekon's BatExplorer software (more on that in a separate post). 

Some things that I like:
  • It is comfortable to hold for long periods of time (Bat Walks, Surveys, Transects) 
  • The position of the microphone.
  • Front-mounted speaker provides plenty of clear audio.
  • The SD card is easily accessed - No screws, doors, latches, etc.
  • There are 5 different Trigger Modes to choose from.
There is the Standard (default) microphone
There is the Ultrasonic microphone FG Black 
There is the Extension Kit which includes the FG Green microphone

The best part, is that Roger Jones and Sally-Ann Hurry (in The UK) will be posting their findings in regards to these unique microphones, on Roger's blog in the future.  
I'm really looking forward to it!  Not only are they experts on the Batlogger detectors, but they have also been instrumental in getting some features and developments in place on the system. Keeping the communication flowing with Elekon.



Some things that I'd change:
  • I would like the unit to have a Date & Time feature that is independent of the GPS. In other words, not related to the built-in GPS. Currently, if the GPS is active - It will synchronize the unit's time via satellite. Some may welcome this feature (I don't).
  • Although the microphone is robust, and fairly impervious to all but exposure to water - I would still like to see a bit of foam (such as a tiny windscreen) just for added protection.
Well, although this is Part 2 Of 2 of the Review. I have a feeling that I'll be re-visiting this detector here again soon. Indeed...even as I type this, I realize there may be some things that I've missed... I'll also be completing a review of Elekon's free BatExplorer software.
And a few other things... 

Happy bat detecting!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Review: The Batlogger M From Elekon Part 1 Of 2

I've been trying to keep my reviews a bit shorter; whenever possible. With some new bat detectors - There are simply too many features to effectively cover on just one, long page. The new Batlogger M is an example, of such an instrument. Like other high-end ultrasonic recorders: It has a lot of features! I could easily write a review that would end up being 4 posts long...Don't worry! I won't! ...But, I feel that there will be a need to "revisit" this detector in the future - Beyond Part 2. This has usually been the case with what may be called the "Alpha" detectors; examples would be: The BatBox Griffin, The Pettersson D240X and even The AnaBat SD2.

In this, Part 1 (of 2) of the review, I'll be focusing on the main attributes and features of the Batlogger M. Here is a Link to some of the most relevant features.

The Batlogger M arrived here in the U.S., very quickly, and well packaged. As you can see, from photos: The unit comes equipped with a lot of extras, as standard accessories (these will be addressed later). Including a great, foam-lined, custom carry case. The Batlogger M fits in the case like a glove. And, it provides an ample amount of protection. The other neat thing about it, is that there's also a bit of extra space in the foam-lined case. I've found it useful for things like: A small weather meter, microphone extension cable, and a small notebook. 

I found a very well-made/fully shielded (Kumo brand) microphone extension cable on Amazon. The addition of this cable makes the unit even more versatile; and I highly recommend getting one.
Elekon even offers one on their Web site Here.


The next factor that becomes apparent, is the size and shape of the Batlogger itself: It's not square! Yes, someone was "Thinking outside the box" on this one! It's hourglass shape fits very comfortably in the hand (their Batscanner sports the same shape, by the way). At 350 Grams, it's not too heavy either.
I also like the built-on, frame of rubber armoring, it provides a positive grip in the hand. It also seems to offer a bit of protection from the occasional accidental bump, etc. It features a very accurate, built-in GPS system (more on that in Part 2).
  
In addition, when the unit is updated to the latest firmware (Version 2.2) - It's ultrasonic pick-up range expands. It's able to tune all the way down to 2kHz (on the low end) and up to 155kHz (on the high end). The previous firmware version only went down to 15kHz, and up to 150kHz.
This is excellent for singing insect recordists - like myself! Now, one may specifically target many species of singing insects. For example: It can be set for: 2kHz - 25kHz when I'm after cricket and katydid recordings. But, for a more relevant example, the unit can be set for: 15kHz - 65kHz Which is how I keep the test unit set (for my local bats).

Offering the ability to update firmware on a high end bat recorder is wonderful - Because the manufacturer can always add some great new features!
  
I believe that this may be the best handheld bat detector I've ever had the pleasure of reviewing. I realize this is very high praise. Especially when you consider the World class instruments that I've been fortunate enough to test and review over the years...The reason why I can make such a statement, is: The Batlogger M is sensitive beyond belief - The range at which it can detect and record bats is unprecedented. Yet, at the same time, is almost impervious to man-made and other unwanted noises. So far, I have estimated the "pick-up" range of the unit, and it is often over 50 meters.
Also: The Batlogger M, with it's simple Menu system, is an absolute pleasure to use. It has all the features one would desire in a bat recorder (and none of the useless ones). It also produces excellent sonograms, as good as those produced by instruments costing thousands of dollars more. 
The other (somewhat reassuring) factor is, there are other very experienced individuals (Bat Workers, Professionals, and others) - Who have reviewed the Batlogger M, and have come to similar conclusions. There are a couple of fairly well-known Professionals who have chosen it to be their primary bat detector - The only detector they use. They also happen to be Friends of mine. For excellent reviews on The Batlogger series of detectors, as well as The Batscanner, see the Blog of Roger Jones. To get an idea of how successful bat surveys and emergence counts have been performed using The Batlogger, see the Site of Jon Whitehurst
And, they are not the only ones...

This bat detecting system is particularly well-suited for unattended monitoring/recording of bat activity. It's proven to be really excellent for my nightly recordings; during this test period. The included AC power adapter, effectively removes any concern of running out of battery power (if you have access to a mains power outlet). While on the subject of power: I really like the fact, that the unit is powered by a built-in, Li-Ion battery (3.7V 4600mAh). No AA's to re-charge!
I've kept the unit On/Monitoring for ~12 hours each night. I have found it to go almost 4 nights, before needing a re-charge.

I'm very fond of the display on the Batlogger M; and the way it constantly changes and updates it's current status. While detecting bats, it is calculating/indicating the peak frequency. It then displays the peak frequency of the last bat call recorded. Very nice! It's undoubtedly, the most aesthetically pleasing display I've seen, since the BatBox Griffin. Yes, I'll say it: It looks really cool! The brightness is also fully adjustable. Some additional Pro's and Con's: 

Pros:
  • Built-in Li-ion battery, provides long up-time even in low temperatures.
  • Incredible sensitivity / Able to create good recordings of bats at great distances.
  • The most pertinent information is constantly displayed.
Cons:
  • The stock microphone is not weather or waterproof. Although, Elekon does offer two models of (optional) microphones that are (details in Part 2). 
The second Part will cover topics such as: How well it records bats, a summary of a typical workflow, a synopsis of how it compares to other high-end recording devices (in it's price range), and the quality of the bat calls recorded. Sonograms will be posted. And, I also hope to include sound recordings of bat passes; as they are reproduced by the built-in speaker.



 
Happy bat detecting! 


Review: The Batlogger M Part 2 Of 2

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A Little Info About Me & How This Blog Came To Be

A little info and history of this blog...
It's been quite a few years now, some details are still hard to remember... But, it all started innocently enough... Years ago, I'd written some reviews for a bat detecting Web site in the UK. And then, another UK site asked if I'd write a review or two for their page... At some point, I learned of an interesting bat detector, from a small company in Italy called Dodotronic. It was called the Dodoultra. A somewhat odd name, for what appeared to be an otherwise capable system.
  • The detector remained relatively unknown.
  • It was never produced in any large numbers. 
  • Finally, production was stopped.
  • And that was the end of the Dodoultra.
I studied this scenario, and was saddened by it. For a host of reasons, as you can imagine - Not the least of which was: I never got a chance to buy one!
Basically, the Dodoultra (pictured below) never made it - It never had a chance, to at least be experienced, by bat detecting hobbyists at large.


I simply decided to make it my "mission" to not let this type of scenario play itself out again. I didn't want to learn of another company (regardless of size) having to go through this.
...All the work of designing and producing a bat detector, only to fail, due to a lack of exposure.

I started to get serious about writing reviews, and started my own blog. I never wanted to hear of another bat detector "falling through the cracks". So, I've been on "alert mode" ever since. I'm periodically searching the web, always looking for new bat detectors, bat detector companies, etc. Especially small operations in Europe, and other non-U.S. locations. I do everything I can, to ensure that new bat detecting products get some exposure.

I dedicate all of my free time (and any discretionary funds I have) to this blog. I must save and put aside (my own) money, to pay for the (expensive) shipping of the detectors, back to the manufacturer after the test & review.
Of course, I'm not begrudging any of this. It's a labor of love!

Because of my education, background and previous career(s): Reviewing ultrasonic devices such as bat detectors, just happened to be an excellent fit for me. I've never posted an 'About Me' section, because it would take up entirely too much space. Just to give you an idea, my resume is 3 pages in length. I'd never want to impose on any visitors with my background. Boring stuff, really. Since we're on the subject; suffice it to say, that:
I have an extensive background & experience with: Mechanics, Electronics, Sound / Radio waves, and Computers.

In regards to the way that I write my blog posts...
Many times, I have chosen to present posts in an informal manner, writing as if we were in the same room, carrying on a conversation. Of course, most of what is contained on this blog are my personal opinions, based on many years of my own experience and the shared knowledge of others. I am Friends with several Bat Workers and other Bat Research Professionals, and Authors of bat books. I only seek out the brightest minds that I can find, to glean what I can - to supplement my knowledge of these fascinating subjects.

"Absorb what is useful, reject what is not" - Bruce Lee

Happy bat detecting!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The First Bats Of 2013! And A Couple Of Links To Share:

I recorded the first bat(s) of 2013 - Starting on 4/8/13 At ~ 3:15 AM (Eastern Standard Time).
So far:
A Big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus) -And- A Hoary Bat (Lasiurus cinereus) On the new Batlogger M - Outstanding results! From over 40 Meters distant! 

Here is just a snippet, of the lovely sonogram, produced by the awesome (and free!) BatExplorer software:

(Yellow Call Marks & red timeline are in effect here)
 Hoary Bat (Lasiurus cinereus)

(Zoomed-in on loudest call here)

The AnaBat SD2, positioned right next to it picked up nothing (despite having it's 'Sensitivity' knob set to 7)
The BatBox Griffin was also out, in a similar position. It didn't pick up anything either, But - It may be just a matter of adjusting the Trigger threshold level.

Per NOAA: Mostly Cloudy 49°F 9°C (Batlogger reported 8 C)
    Humidity 77%
    Wind Speed S 3 mph
    Barometer 29.98 in (1015.0 mb)
    Dewpoint 42°F (6°C)
    Visibility 10.00 mi

And, before I forget, I'd like to share some interesting Links -
Links from my Friend Frank, in Kiel - Main Page (in English & German)

Another one of Frank's Pages (this one explains the ardubat batlogger)

Happy bat detecting!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Bat Detecting - An Excellent Hobby!

It occurred to me, that some may think that spending substantial amounts of money on bat detecting hardware and software is odd. Perhaps unusual, at the least. And, it may surprise you to know, that some of those who hold this view, are Dealers of bat detectors!
Well, in the United States only, that is...

I've communicated with manufacturers of just about every bat detector, and I'm pleased to report that they don't share this point of view. And, have always offered pleasant encouragement and advice. Especially, from firms located in the UK or Europe.

Some may state, that they (the manufacturers) have a "vested interest", etc. 
I choose not to even discuss the different views on this, or to dwell on this topic in general. Merely sharing an observation. But, getting back to the point -  I have always been very fond of bat detectors.

One of the pioneers of wildlife sound recording: Naturalist, Ornithologist, and Author, the late Eric Simms - Enthused that "Wildlife sound recording is the most glorious sport of all" *

As someone who has dabbled in more hobbies than I'd even care to admit to, I'm beginning to see the truth in that statement.

Before I continue, I'd like to illustrate a point: There are many expensive hobbies and pastimes that I could use as examples. But, I'll choose amateur astronomy as a model: I've also been into Astronomy (since about the age of 12).

Many who are amateur astronomers, have been known to spend ample amounts of money on astronomy equipment. Each, according to their ability, of course - That is to say, their budgets for discretionary spending.
It's probably safe to say that most (myself included), have spent at least a few thousand (US) dollars on their hobby. Especially, if one dabbles in astrophotography. And, still others (those of more substantial means) have been known to have spent almost as much as the cost of an automobile.

In light of this reality, spending a few thousand dollars on bat detecting equipment doesn't seem odd at all. Especially, if the items are purchased slowly, over the course of a few years. 
Needless to say, the most important factor, is the level of fun that one experiences while enjoying this hobby

Regarding bat detecting, as a hobby; here are some other factors to consider:
  • May be thoroughly enjoyed, by those of all ages, both male & female.
  • Does not require much travel, if any.
  • Can be enjoyed by those living in almost all kinds of environments (except for large/dense cities)
  • May be enjoyed without even having to leave home - or for those who are disabled: without even having to venture outdoors...
Well, that is about all the rambling that I'll do for now...

Happy bat detecting!

* From a WSRS article by John F Burton

Saturday, April 6, 2013

So, You Can't Afford Auto Bat Call ID Software?

So, you can't afford Auto Bat Call IDing software? But you'd still really like to do some of your own (back garden) bat research...What now?

Well, for one thing - I shall digress a bit, for a moment: And, I should point out that Wildlife Acoustics has developed their own bat call identification software. It's called Kaleidoscope, and is currently being offered as a free 2-Week Trial download Here. I've been trying it out myself, and it's rather interesting. A big plus, is that it features the identifiers for American bats (As well as UK bats). I will probably post a mini-review of it, in the near future.

Although some hobbyists/enthusiasts try to justify the expense... And, there are a small number of bat detecting fans that do end up investing quite a bit of their own funds into expensive products...The fact remains that the vast majority of hobbyists simply cannot afford the high-end (very expensive) bat call ID software.

Well, there is a simple solution, really: Get back to basics...
If you live in The UK, or Germany - You're in luck - As there are plenty of "ready-made" guide books available, which cover the species in your area.
As an example, the book I recently reviewed here ('British Bat Calls...') is a perfect illustration. Armed with this book, and some perseverance - You would be able to correctly analyze (and identify) the bats that you've recorded. A bit of diligence, comparing the sonograms (and other facts) from the book, to the ones that you've produced: Will go a long way in verifying the species you've picked up.

When you stop to think about it, there are two primary reasons why this (method) is inherently better than (and more accurate than) relying on an expensive software package to determine  the species for you.

1st. (and probably most important) is accuracy. There is simply no more accurate method to determine species, than to carefully study, and compare your sonograms "manually".

2nd. Many hobbyists (would agree) that being more involved with species determination, makes for a more enjoyable experience overall. 

Happy bat detecting!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A Couple Of Outstanding, Informative Links -Plus- Hints Of What's To Come

I must confess, I had glanced over this Sample text before - Never actually reading it, only skimming over it. Shame on me! A Reader pointed it out to me, in a comment.
And, after reading it, I feel compelled to share it.
The excellent content of this (little) Sample, is a must read. Here is a link to the Sample: Article Summary
I've read the actual (full) Article, and it is wonderful! In my testing and comparisons, I have come to the same conclusions that these Professional Authors have. 

The bat detecting products offered by Avisoft Bioacoustics and The Batlogger M from Elekon AG are the best of the best.

...Well, although the cat's out of the bag...I do have an upcoming post, that I'm working on, entitled "Bat Detectors: The Best Of The Best" And, in the ~ $2,000 U.S. price range; I'll also be including: 
The Griffin from BatBox Ltd.
The D500X from Pettersson Elektronik

A full review of the New Batlogger M, from Elekon is also in the works, you won't want to miss it!

Here is a wonderful PDF from Avisoft Bioacoustics. Not only are their products World-class instruments (they invariably produce outstanding results)...But, I always find them wonderful to look at as well! As some of you may already know, I have a penchant for a lot of the facets of bat detectors - Not the least of which, is the way they look! What can I say? I adore bat detectors :)

Bat detecting season is upon us!

Happy bat detecting!

Review: The New LS-100 Recorder From Olympus Part 2 Of 2

Review: The New LS-100 Recorder From Olympus Part 2 Of 2
(You can see Part 1 Here)

For those who use external microphones, such as the shotgun mics (made by Rode, Sennheiser, etc.) - The Olympus LS-100, happens to be the least expensive recorder with XLR inputs and preamps that are quiet enough to be used without any overload. I did make some test recordings, using my low-cost shotgun mic, and have no complaints. Conditions weren't very windy, and I didn't need to locate the foam windscreen for the mic.

Basically, this recorder proved itself to be a very capable piece of kit. Unlike some other recorders I've owned and used, it isn't too sensitive. In other words, many recorders must be used with a windscreen of some type (to avoid recording even the slightest breeze). Not so, with the LS-100. I was able to make several field recordings, without requiring a windshield for the built-in mics.

This recorder is certainly packed with features! By default, the "Recorder Type" must be selected each time (after power-up).
The fact that it has manual control knobs, to adjust Recording Level, will make it desirable for many field recordists. Having read many reviews of digital recorders, I know that this feature is always well received. 

Likes:
  • A wonderful, full-color display; impressive.
  • Relatively comfortable in the hand.
  • Recording Level controlled by physical knobs aka: "Thumbwheel(s)"
 Dislikes:
  • Microphones are not moveable, and are set at a fairly wide angle.
  • By default, "Recorder Type" must be selected each time (after power-up).
  • Too many steps required to select memory location for recordings.
  •  
Of course, last but not least: I used the LS-100 to record some ultrasonic test sounds from several bat detectors. Results were, very similar to those obtained from other recorders I've owned in this price range (as expected). This concludes my mini review of the LS-100 PCM Recorder from Olympus. I believe that many sound recordists will find it to be a good value. 

I'd like to sincerely thank Kelly, at Olympus for the loan of the machine.