Part of the stewardship responsibilities of a land trust is to know what plants, animals and many other features are found on each property, and keep track of them and their welfare over time. How is this best accomplished? With the observations made on-site by land trust members and volunteers, local residents, professional scientists and other visitors. But of course there are never enough resources, knowledgeable people or time to do it all.
Fortunately technology can help, and this project is one example of how.
Since 2014, our land trust has carried out an annual Bio-Acoustic Monitoring Program to help us document the presence of different species of birds, bats, frogs, toads and a few insects and mammals recorded on at least six of the land trust properties. Wildlife Acoustic digital song meters (1 bat and 8 bird meters) are used to do this. They look like trail cams but record sound files instead of photo or video files. The units are installed each spring (breeding season) in a different habitat each year. They are preset to automatically record song & call activity during a daily series of 3-5 minute morning, evening and night-time recording times from late April through to mid-July.
The sound (.wav) files are downloaded and prepared for analysis each winter, using specialized Kaleidoscope cluster software, by our very dedicated & capable technician, Chad Clifford. He then shares the (backed-up) files with a small group of hard-working volunteer birders/citizen scientists (Ken Allison, Simon Lunn & Michel Gauthier) who have particular experience at identifying bird calls. Other experts are consulted as needed. Many hours are spent listening to the files and consulting each other before a final list of species is prepared for each sample habitat/location.
It is a fun project, albeit still time-consuming and not without it’s challenges. While not meant to replace the invaluable personal observations of our contributing birders, biologists and other volunteers, the recording units provide us with a great tool to add scientific rigour to our overall monitoring and inventory program. They also help us fill in the gaps and occasionally record a species-at-risk, as well as some other unexpected and intriguing surprises.
For more details on this program, contact Simon Lunn at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks to the TD Foundation, Shell Canada and most recently, the Ontario Trillium Foundation for past grant support of the over-all Bio-Acoustic Monitoring program (not all of which is addressed here).