Monday, April 06, 2009

Remote Recorders

I've always felt that one person searching in an area that most folks wrote off the list years ago is a shot in the dark at best. But you never know. Someone has to get struck by lightning now and then, right?

One way to put the odds a bit more in my favor was to deploy remote recorders in the field. The trouble here is that CLO recorders are very pricey to rent. I have heard 8k$ If that's right that is way out of my budget.

Actually, I have no budget to think of. So I had to do it on the cheap. I started looking at other ideas. A few years ago I found a great article on using PDA's as frogloggers. Froglogger's are remote recorders that record amphibian calls. The first ones were cassette based, but soon moved to mini disc recorders and now digital. I also found a biologist who made some awesome digital frogloggers from mini motherboards and sound recording daughterboards. That was a bit more than I wanted to tackle. So, enter the IWRD, pronounced "eye-word", the Inexpensive Woodpecker Recording Device.

IWRD1 is a HTC-6800 pocket pc with Windows Mobile. It is running Resco Audio Recorder. Power consists of a 12v car accessory outlet charger wired to a larger battery. Resco Audio Recorder allows the user to program when to record and for how long. Also, I can record in uncompressed WAV format. I'm only limited to microSD card size and the microphone. I'm not sure how much of a hindrance the mic will be yet. I'm still in the testing stage before I roll these out into the field. But the potential is there to have a bunch of these deployed in the field to see what they can hear. These devices are a few years old, so they are cheap and easily available on eBay.

I made the first recording test today. I recorded a IBWO call I have, from 75-80 feet away through trees and brush. You can definitely hear the kent calls. Also you can hear a Chickadee or two in the background for reference. You can listen to the WAV here.

I think it sounds pretty good. I normalized the audio with Cool Edit, that was the only fix in post. The next step is to test double knocks and also to test recording distance. I used the built-in mic for this test, but the field model will have a wired mic. I'll post pictures soon.

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