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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Review: The Song Meter Micro Recorder from Wildlife Acoustics Part 1 Of 2

Part 1 Of 2 The Song Meter Micro Recorder from Wildlife Acoustics

The Song Meter Micro, is the latest offering in the line of Wildlife Audio Recorders from Wildlife Acoustics, in Massachusetts USA.

This (very small!) wildlife sound recorder, was developed for those needing to record various (non-bat) animal species.

This compact, cute, and robust sound recorder was designed from "the ground up" to work as an unattended recording solution. The main points one realizes straight away are:

It's small!

It's not very expensive.

It's robust & capable.

Packaging - Upon arrival, you'll notice that the box is small. When you open the (outer) box, you'll notice that the inner box is small...

Unboxing video on YouTube 

The unit is 4"/101mm High x 2.9"/74mm Wide x 1.1"/28mm Deep. It is 0.43lbs/195g with batteries installed.

The Song Meter Micro currently sells for $249 (US dollars) directly from the Wildlife Acoustics Site. It is also available from many Dealers in the UK and Europe. Including Wildlife & Countryside Services' new page specifically for Non-Bat Recorders.

 

For those in The UK, NHBS has them in stock. The Song Meter Micro is designed for unattended recording of wildlife sounds in the field. It is constructed of a dark green poly-carbonate, which blends into the natural environment very well. It comes with a built-in, omnidirectional microphone. The Song Meter Micro records 16-bit PCM .wav files - to a single, Micro SD card (up to 2 terabytes in size). 

 

 

The sample rates available, range from 8kHz to 96kHz. 8, 12, 16, 22.5, 24, 32, 44.1, 48, and 96kHz are the selections available. Run time on 3 AA-sized alkaline batteries, is 150 hours. Wildlife Acoustics provides a thorough, 15-step Quick Set-Up Guide. 

For a whittled-down version, just to give you an idea of what's involved:

  •  Download/install the free App onto your mobile device.

  •  Get The Song Meter Micro up & running, by installing batteries, Micro SD card, and powering on.

  •  Choose from one of the pre-set schedules provided; save.

  •  Load schedule to The Micro via Bluetooth, replace cover, and deploy unit.

 

The Song Meter Micro deployed near my local lake. One small screw was all that was needed, to attach it to a tree at the water's edge. My target species here, were small terrestrial mammals (especially Shrews). More specifically, I was hoping to record Northern Short-Tailed Shrew (Blarina brevicauda); which I know to are in the area. No luck yet...at the time of this writing.

Once you read through The Quick Start's 15-Step process, and deploy the unit a few times, it becomes very easy. Read the User Manual, and you'll understand a lot more about how it may be customized: Gain settings, etc.

This unit fills a need for many Researchers working with (non-bat) animals that vocalize.

 

The unit records sounds very well; about as good as a handheld digital recorder in the same price range. So far, I've recorded various songbirds, ducks, singing insects, and Fowler's Toads.

Part 2 of this review will feature sound recordings (via YouTube video links), as well as spectrograms (using Kaleidoscope, of course!).

When deploying Song Meter Micro's, I would follow this excellent tip, directly from The Wildlife Acoustics's web page: "requires adding desiccant for each deployment to prevent condensation."

Pros:

  •  Relatively inexpensive for what you get (good value).
  •  Made by a trusted name in wildlife recording equipment.
  •  Professional Tech support available.

Cons:

  • Mobile device is necessary to control/set-up, and check status.

Once again, The Song Meter Micro may be ordered directly from Wildlife Acoustics, if you're in The U.S. 

Links to excellent Song Meter Micro Vimeo videos (created by Wildlife Acoustics):

Song Meter Micro Configuration Editor

Song Meter Micro Configuration Library 

Stay tuned - More to follow in Part 2 of 2, of this review. 

...Unless, you're the "impatient type" and want to know more about The Song Meter Micro right now - In which case, I'd recommend signing up to The BatAbility Club: Where there's a full webinar (video review) & discussion about it - By yours truly! Along with comments and questions from Director, Neil Middleton.

Happy bat animal detecting!

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

A DIY Ultrasonic Microphone For The AnaBat Walkabout

A DIY Ultrasonic Microphone For The AnaBat Walkabout from Titley

Below, I describe some details of my experiences:

I've tried making some DIY-type ultrasonic Mics, to plug into The Walkabout's 2.5mm microphone jack... However, there are a few reasons why I wasn't successful. Without going into a bunch of (unnecessary) technical details, suffice it to say that The Walkabout's Mic jack is a bit too advanced to "suffer the foolishness" of my amateur attempts!

The Walkabout's jack provides approx. 6.4 v DC - Not suitable for most DIY Mic capsules, etc. This equated to more tinkering.

Here is just one (of several!) examples, of a (home-built) ultrasonic microphone; which I wired to a (male) 2.5mm plug, for testing with The Walkabout.


The photos below, show a quick wiring-up, for testing. A DIY Mic utilizing the Panasonic WM-61A Mic capsule.



Quick wiring-up
Panasonic WM-61A









 



Here is another Mic, which I initially thought would be perfect for The Walkabout. It is an adorable little circuit board (complete with Mic capsule already attached).


Prior to attaching Arduino-type pins
AA battery shown for scale













These are available from FEL Communications Ltd. (in UK).


In order to get the output voltage of The Walkabout's (2.5mm) jack, to a safe and usable level for the Micbooster Mic board: 

I found that a 180K Ohm resistor (on the [+] voltage wire) reduced the voltage from 6.4v to 4.6v - Which is acceptable for the Micbooster ultrasonic board (voltage must be kept below 5v when working with this board).
However, I still had no success in recording any bats through it (attached to The Walkabout). All of my early attempts/tests, with DIY microphones, were unsuccessful.
It was fun trying though. And I was thankful that The Walkabout gives one the opportunity to experiment with such external microphones.


Experiments involving The AnaBat Walkabout have ceased. There is a limit to how much (careful) experimenting I'm wiling to do on a high-end bat detector. Especially one generously loaned to me for testing and review.

I eventually came to the conclusion, that it would be best for someone to just purchase the official Titley microphone adapter and Mic, if there is a need.


In my case, while spending a lot of time trying to build a working Mic:
It only served to bolster my appreciation of the quality recordings captured with The Walkabout's built-in (Knowles) microphone. 


But, experiments with this cute little (Micbooster) Mic board continue...
Recent tests, involving the ultrasonic mic board and regular digital recorders seem promising.

Happy bat detecting!

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Some random thoughts on Non-Bat Recorders

As many of you may know, I've been testing and using The Song Meter Micro from Wildlife Acoustics, and I'm impressed. 

 

The Song Meter Micro
 

Of course, as a result, I've become very keen on non-bat sound recording! Amphibians, and singing insects (esp singing insects) had always been a seasonal interest/hobby of mine. And I'd become so accustomed to recording our Spring Peepers each year, that it was all but an automatic reflex.

But as we all know, way-leads-to-way when you're a naturalist: So now, I've become fascinated with rodents and small mammals in their woodland environments:

Voles (some happen to be pretty cute), Moles (very secretive), and especially Shrews! one of my (confirmed) local species of Shrew, is the Northern Short-Tailed Shrew (Blarina brevicauda)Hard to deny that it is one fascinating creature!

I'm fortunate enough, to have a good chance of picking up vocalizations of: Fox, Coyote, and others. 

I also remain hopeful, against the odds - that I'll capture vocalizations of a Fisher and River Otter.

Well, there's more interesting tidbits of information, which I'll be adding to this post soon... Including some fascinating projects which Neil Middleton (of The BatAbility Club) and others, are going to be working on: Terrestrial Mammals!

Until then,

Happy bat mammal detecting! ;)

Thursday, July 1, 2021

A Follow-Up Post To The Recent Interview I had With Neil Middleton Of The BatAbility Club

This is just a short follow-up post to a recent interview I had with Neil Middleton of The BatAbility Club. Anyone interested in bats should definitely have a look at the website. If you are a Bat Worker, Researcher, Ecologist, or work with bats in any capacity: then you simply must visit! The sheer volume and variety of resources is astounding - you’ll be glad you did!


I thought that I’d take this opportunity to elaborate further, on some of the topics mentioned:


While the microscopy image was up (abdomen of an earwig); I mentioned the insect’s nerve structure. Unbeknownst to me at that time, Neil was in fact moving his mouse pointer over the exact area where some nerves were visible.

As for the number of visitors my Bat Detector Reviews blog receives: As I said, it is typically between 2,000 and 3,000 per month. And it is sometimes double that, during bat detecting season.


Another example would be my life-long interest in the local fauna; which compels me to be a naturalist, in general. I’ve been interested in animals from a young age.

Back in those days, Bronx New York wasn't nearly as developed as it is now. A kid could have success finding amphibians, such as the red backed salamander - as well as the occasional garter snake. These days one would be hard-pressed to find any sizable area not covered in concrete.


From a very early age, I enjoyed spending time in the back garden. I spent countless days observing the myriad of insects and arachnids which lived among the landscaping (hedges) and flower pots.

I found it fascinating and completely engrossing; I never got bored. Couple this, with a serendipitous visit to a local pet shop; and my fate was sealed. I convinced my Mom to go in… My first time ever in a pet shop. 

It was pleasingly cool and (almost) dark. Walls were covered with rows of individual fish tanks. Each beautifully illuminated with slightly-so-bluish fluorescent lights. The ethereal beauty of the tropical fish contained within. The sheer number of glass tanks...the reptiles and amphibians… I could’ve stayed there all day! The name of the shop: ‘The Water’s Edge’


Psychologists have said that it is usually sometime before the age of 8, when a child comes across something which leaves a lasting impression on them. Many times, it is this chance encounter with something (whatever it may be) which ends-up influencing the child’s career choices as an adult, etc. 

As is the case with too many people, I did not end up making my avocation my vocation (or linking them, as Robert Frost wrote). Rather, I chose a path which was expedient and lucrative. 


More recently, I’ve become fascinated by the lives of famous Naturalists, Biologists, and other Scientists whose lives proved this “theory”.

Below is a short list of some of my favorites, in the off chance that some of my readers may be familiar with the biographical accounts of those mentioned. Each of them became fascinated early on, with the subjects they would later work in...and master. Each of them made astounding contributions in their fields - and I find it remarkable.


Leonardo DaVinci

Jean-Henri Fabre

Raymond Ditmars

Brian Grieg Fry


So, back to the interview - Neil asked me an excellent question about which bat detector I have in my hand when I go out to my back garden, to detect bats.

At the time, it was very convenient to choose detectors, from those shown in the collages, which happened to be up on the screen. And I stand by those recommendations. However, I'd like to take this opportunity to mention a bat detector which (sadly) I hadn't thought of at that moment. It is The AnaBat Walkabout from Titley. Not only does it offer world-class performance, as far as sound recordings and spectrograms go…it also boasts more features than several other bat detectors combined. See my detailed review, for more information & specifics.


The name of the bat detector developed by dodotronic (which was discussed) was called the Dodoultra

As for The Batango: See this active page (on the Dodotronic Site) which provides all the details, for anyone who is interested. As of now, it is an open source project.

 

There are also some excellent advantage's as a result of my unique role as a reviewer of bat detectors: firstly, I get to find out about new bat detectors months before the General Public. Sometimes, many months. I also occasionally get to test and evaluate samples while they are top secret. 

Bat detectors which only a few people even know exist. These people, of course, are the designers and creators. In fact I have a prototype of one bat detector here which is still top secret. And I am one of only a handful of people who are even aware of its existence. I consider that to be a really cool perk! Many bat detector manufacturers have the utmost confidence in my discretion, and professionalism. I am very fortunate and grateful.


It is my sincere hope, that this short post has helped to clear up anything which may not have seemed clear during the interview.

 

Happy bat detecting!