RFI: wetland bird monitoring using audio recorders

To: "Peter Waanders" <>, "Birding Aus" <>
Subject: RFI: wetland bird monitoring using audio recorders
From: "Tim Dolby" <>
Date: Fri, 19 Mar 2010 14:27:52 +1100
Hi Peter,

I'm not sure if this is your article, but it certainly deals with the same 
issue. It's from Cosmos Online. See



Remote-control phones listen in to rare birds
by Amy Bullen
Cosmos Online

Birds call collect: The project allows scientists at Queensland University of 
Technology to monitor birds with minimum effort and expense.

SYDNEY: An innovative Australian project is using a network of mobile phones to 
monitor a population of rare birds and send the data back to researchers.

"Sound provides the heartbeat of the environment," said Richard Mason, lead 
researcher behind the project at the Queensland University of Technology in 
Brisbane. "Like listening to someone's heartbeat, it reveals a lot of 
information about [ecosystem] health."

As Brisbane Airport builds its second runway, Mason's team are analysing the 
environmental impact of the construction on endangered Lewin's rails and a 
number of other wetland birds. Lewin's rails (Lewinia pectoralis) are found in 
Australia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. They are a shy, well-camouflaged, 
ground-dwelling species, making them difficult to monitor by sight alone.

Bird bugging

Previously, sound recordings were made by customised hardware or data loggers, 
said Mason. But these typically require mains power, frequently replaced 
batteries, or very large solar panels. Alternatively, researchers would go into 
the field to make manual recordings - but traditional surveying methods are 
expensive and time-consuming.

"Previously when biologists wanted to take a census or survey bird populations 
like this, they had to rise at 3:00am to be on site before dawn and continue to 
make frequent labour-intensive site visits throughout the day," he said. "These 
repeated visits raise the risk of disturbing the very creatures under 
investigation, altering their behaviour in response to the presence of 
biologists and disturbing the habitat."

Instead, the scientists have set up a network of 3G mobile phones over a one 
kilometre by thirty metre rectangular area to act as sensors and audio 
recording devices. The mobiles transfer the recordings of birdsong back to the 
lab via the 3G radio network, there they are stored, analysed and filtered to 
glean valuable data. Though the phones also record airport and construction 
noise, the researchers are able to filter this out.

The handsets used in this project are powered by ordinary lithium batteries, 
which get charged by a small, 15-watt solar panel, and they can even record two 
hours of sound a day for up to a week with no direct sunlight. Like many modern 
phones that come equipped with an operating system, they are programmable and 
can be remotely controlled via a web-based interface using the mobile's 3G 

Monitoring ecological change

The project has been running for eight months so far. QUT ecologist and 
co-worker Jennifer Gibson has already used that data to better understand the 
hours of activity that the rails keep.

Mason and his team will detail the method and some early results in June at the 
International Conference on Distributed Computing in Sensor Systems in 
Santorini, Greece.

Stuart Gage, an entomologist at Michigan University in East Lansing, U.S., 
described the project as "a very innovative research activity . [which] has 
great potential for monitoring ecological change". Gage himself has used remote 
audio sensors to monitor ecosystems but not with mobile phones.

The project could be used to monitor the vocalisations of many other species 
too, said Mason. "In future, that could mean smart phones are not just for the 
birds, but also frogs, bats and other wild creatures." Audio recordings might, 
for example, help researchers study human impact on the environment and change 
across the seasons as well as population sizes and distributions, he said.

-----Original Message-----
From:  on behalf of Peter Waanders
Sent: Fri 19/03/2010 14:17
To: Birding Aus
Subject: RFI: wetland bird monitoring using audio recorders

Hi all,
A while ago I read with interest a short article (I think it was in
Wingspan) about using audio recording devices set up along a wetland
(I think it was done by a Victorian CMA). If I recall correctly it
would record bird calls during a pre-set period of time, which could
later be analysed against a digital set of local reference calls, in
an attempt to ID species.
I can't seem to find this article as most of my books and journals are
in storage while we are temporarily renting a house; neither could I
find anything on the internet.
If anyone recalls this article I'd be grateful if they could point me
to the author and/or organisation involved. Has anyone had experience
with this method? I'm not interested in a lengthy discussion about the
pro's and cons of this from those that know nothing about it - I just
would like to read up on it and/or hear from people with first-hand
Thanks in advance,

Peter Waanders
Southern Birding Services
PO Box 420
Waikerie, 5330 South Australia
mob.: 0438 882675
sat.: 0424 212889
SA Birding:

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