Tuesday, February 19, 2013

British Bat Calls: A Guide to Species Identification

So, I finally went ahead and ordered this book - British Bat Calls
I've been aware of it for a while now. Of course, I realize that it only covers the bats of Britain. But, I learned that it contains a lot of great info on the subject of bat detecting and recording in general. I took a look at a few sample pages, and it looks very interesting. The information, and topics covered, should prove to be useful to me! I'm looking forward to it. A short review of this book will be posted here in the not-too-distant-future.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

BatBox Griffin Firmware Update v25

My apologies for not having posted this sooner, but: Just a quick update / Reminder - For Owners of The BatBox Griffin bat detector.

As per BatBox Ltd.'s Site - Firmware update v25 is available for download:

"Please download the latest v25 firmware update here which includes 2 files (0025.fug and FUG 25.doc) and follow the instructions from the Word document. This Firmware update includes Bug fixes to the timer operation when used in unattended mode and the log file data reporting.
Also the unit now reports the name of the last fug update implemented."

Not too much to say about this, really...
Some key points:

After the upgrade, the Griffin's 'Firmware' screen displays:
(lastfug 25)

And, an example of a typical log (doc/txt file), of an individual recording, is as follows:

Log Rec# xxx...60:
rec_length=00h 00m 2.00s

Happy bat detecting!

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Latest BCID Software! Part 2 Of 2

Review: BCID software (from Bat Call Identification, Inc.) Part 2 Of 2

I'm having a lot of fun with this software! Finally! After many years of simply recording bats...Having the ability to quickly identify them to species...Even though it's not 100% accurate...Is still an awesome thrill.

Here's a quick summary, from Part 1 of this review:
* The software is developed by  Bat Call Identification, Inc.
* By default, it analyzes zero-cross files (such as those produced by AnaBat, SM2BAT, etc.). But, it features a built-in utility that will convert .wav files to .zca (zero-cross) files.
* A single-license copy of the software currently sells for $979.

* The software is robust, fast, easy to install, and use.

A typical work-flow of the software is as follows:

1. After the program is launched, you may start by clicking the 'Add Folders To Project' button, on the lower left of the BCID Dialog box

2. Specifying the path (File Folder location) where the (.zca/zero-cross) files reside. You are given the opportunity to drill down to the drive letter and Folder name.

3. Once the Folder is selected, click on the 'Identify Calls' button, and you will see the script run.

It's basically a Microsoft Windows Script. Which, in layman's terms means: It will appear as though a "ghost" is (quickly) clicking on a few buttons, on the Analook window. Analook will launch, and program options will be automatically selected, etc. The script will finish as quickly as it started. And, the dialog box that pops up, will prompt you to "Click OK" - "When you see "Done" displayed below the box.
*Note: AnaBat software, is not required in order for BCID to work. The reason is that BCID includes AnaLook - In the form of an executable file (Analookw.exe) which resides in the software's default Folder (i.e. C:\Program Files\BCID...)

BCID, is of course, excellent when used with files produced by any zero-crossing detector. This ID software is a powerful application, aimed at bat survey Professionals. For example, it was designed to handle >5000 files at a time! I found it very useful, when handling (what I believed to be) "large quantities" of recordings.
One of the hurdles I faced, in the past, was having large numbers of individual recordings - Without any quick way of analyzing them. It was a manual process, comparing sonograms/bat calls to the characteristics of calls from known (confirmed) species. To do this, you must have access to recordings that were made with a "bat in the hand" as the expression goes. These can be in the form of pages from books, or electronic format, etc.

After leaving some detectors out, doing passive recording for the entire evening - The next day, I was left with many individual recordings. Most of which would turn out to not have recorded any bats. Before having BCID software available, there was no easy way to determine which recordings picked up bats. What I ended up doing, was to open large bunches of files using Audacity. Then, I could at least use the visual representations of the recorded sounds, to see if bat calls were recorded or not. It was fairly tedious and I'm sure that many weak bat calls were missed using this method.

With BCID software, all of that work is a thing of the past. You simply tell BCID where your (.zca) files are located, and a few seconds later, an MS Excel file is created. By default, the Excel file is placed in the root directory (where the original files reside).

In addition, BCID also has a page on their site, which shows some great Example bat calls: Very informative!
I'm very happy that they have provided these valuable sonograms. They can be used to help you ID bats that you've recorded. Regardless of the software used, in the creation of your sonograms, you'll find these to be a big help. The bats represented, are North American species, in this case.

As far as weaknesses are concerned, the one area that is far from perfect, is the 'WavtoZero' feature. Accessed by clicking on the Tab of the same name. Of course, as the name implies, it is designed to convert .wav files to .zca files. But, during testing/normal use, this feature doesn't work as well as one might like.
However, the end user is made aware of this, clicking on the WavtoZero tab will bring up this embedded text: "BETA Version: This converter is still being refined for optimal performance. There are many types of ".wav" files and all may not work correctly. Please email us an example if you encounter a bat call file that does not work."

As a bat detecting enthusiast, you can imagine how wonderful it is to have such an application, at my disposal. I believe that many bat detecting Professionals will find it indispensable.

Happy bat detecting!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

First Look At The Latest BCID Software! Part 1 Of 2

Review: BCID software (from Bat Call Identification, Inc.) Part 1 Of 2

I finally had an opportunity, to install and try BCID software - And, I'm happy to report that it was a success. Everything went very smoothly. The software installation and program execution proceeded flawlessly; and fairly quickly.

A temporary license for the software, was graciously provided to me by Bat Call Identification, Inc. As you may notice, from some of the screen captures; the license will expire on April 1st 2013. Plenty of time for me to test and review it. I have no affiliation with  Bat Call Identification, Inc. I obtained the (temporary) copy of this software, for the sole purpose of sharing my findings with fellow bat detecting enthusiasts.

So, I installed the latest version, 2.4n, from the BCID Website

You may download a Trial Version of BCID software, on this Page (Link is found in the small brown box, at the center of the page).

The software application itself is neither large, nor complicated. It installs via a single executable file, right after download. After installation completes, you have the option of automatically launching BCID.

Here is a screen shot showing the 'Species' Tab - (New York is selected, in my case):

Some key points, that became evident right away, were:

* Affordability - At just under $1000 US, the price of this software is lower than it's main competitor (SonoBat). A factor that will be attractive to both hobbyists and Professionals.
* How small the software file itself is - Very fast download and install process.
* The application is robust: It's able to handle many files, very quickly.
* The software is easy to use - I was able to use it, before even reading the Manual - Although I don't recommend this! It's always best to read the manual first!
* A bat call identifying software, to use with files from zero-crossing bat detectors (AnaBat, SM2Bat, etc.) is very useful.
* The ability to identify bats down to Species, using recorded calls would be a valuable asset to all those doing bat surveys, research, etc.

Alas, nothing is perfect...

- BCID currently doesn't have the ability to ID bats using (raw) .wav files. The .wav files must be converted first. It does have this ability, through a built-in feature.

By default - BCID analyzes all of the (zero cross) files in the specified Folder, and automatically produces a MS Excel file. Here is a small sample of the data produced by BCID - It is just a partial image that I took from the resulting Excel file (Excel lines/cells are not shown in this example):

It was very exciting, to be able to finally ID the bats frequenting the airspace above my back garden :)

Check back, for Part 2 Of 2 of this Review; when I will cover how the software works.
Of course, the next thing that comes to mind is: I wonder just how accurate this IDing software is? The fact is, that at the time of this writing: There isn't any software available that can be depended on, for completely accurate bat call identification. None of them are 100% accurate.
This topic will also be covered in the second part of this review.

Part 2 Of 2

General Thoughts About Active (handheld) Bat Detectors Part 2 of 2

General thoughts & Considerations About Bat Detectors Part 2 of 2 "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, Or what's...