Thermal imaging can be a very effective survey tool for ecology; it has been used in biological recording and research for many years and is also regularly used in wildlife film making. Recent advances in technology have resulted in more portable units which also record high resolution footage and take still images.
Working with Thermal Vision Research, BSG Ecology began trialling thermal imaging cameras for survey of birds, bats and other species in early 2014. Impressive results led us to invest in three units and training for ecologists in our team with regard to their use.
We are finding an increasing number of ecological applications where applying the technology adds significant value to baseline work. These are typically situations where the due to the specific requirements of the project, high resolution data are required.
We have, for instance, deployed the equipment successfully to investigate habitat selection and patterns of behaviour of nocturnal birds at sites where there are potential linkages to Special Protection Area (SPA) populations.
In addition to capturing still and video images we also offer post-processing of thermal data. This technique allows closer checking of the radiometric characteristics of an image and can reveal more than is otherwise apparent from visual checks alone. We have used this technique with projects affecting flyways of rare bats.
Our work with thermal imaging to date demonstrates its effectiveness for ecology survey and also indicates it could be used more widely to provide ecological / ornithological data. Applications include:
- Survey of nocturnally active waders, such as stone-curlew and golden plover, and waterfowl in farmland and estuarine habitats;
- Survey of breeding and foraging nightjar and other heathland/woodland bird species such as woodcock and long-eared owl;