Learning How to Use the Song Meter SM3

My housemate Sarah Riedel and I were the first group members to attempt to use the Song Meter SM3. Before we were able to begin recording the first Birds Night Flight Calls (NFCs) for our blog we had to learn how to use this device and program it for the appropriate time decided at our group meeting – dawn for three hours. At first glance the SM3 looked very easy to use however, after turning the pages of the manual a few times we realized that it would not be as easy as anticipated.

“The most advanced and most adaptable professional bioacoustics recorder available,” according to the Bioacoustics Monitoring Systems homepage, the SM3 is a long-deployment acoustic recorder that is used to record combinations of birds, frogs, and insects and or marine life. It can be powered by batteries or by an external power source, and runs on low power during standby before or after the hours of the day that are recorded. This is important because there are long periods of the day, primarily at dusk and dawn, when birds are likely to make NFCs and it is crucial that the recording device collect accurate data during these times.

The first steps involved in setting up the SM3 were turning the machine on, clearing the SD card, and testing the two built-in microphones to ensure that they were functioning and at a frequency sensitive enough to record the NFCs. After this we checked the SM3’s GPS unit to confirm that the longitude and latitude were correct so it would record during dawn and not an earlier or later time of the morning that may not have as much bird traffic. Once the preliminary steps were completed we had to select and load one of the preset programs, for our research purposes this was dawn for three hours, then start the program. Once the program was started a message came up alerting us that the SM3 was waiting to record. On the night of April 14, 2015 we set up the machine in a tree in the garden above Campbell Hall, and retrieved it the next morning.

Initially it seemed as if the machine had not recorded any data, which worried us briefly before we went back to the handbook and realized that exporting the program to the SD card was an additional step outlined in the recording process. We then passed it on to another group member to listen to and analyze the data that was collected! Learning how to use this device was both entertaining and a bit stressful, but I believe that advanced technology such as this is the best way to record NFCs, and more, in a highly efficient and reliable way. Its unique ability to record simultaneously makes it a really great resource to have available to the planning and architecture department, and could be used to study wider breadths of species in the community.

 Post by Sarah Kearsley

Information regarding the SM3: “Bioacoustics Monitoring Systems.” Wildlife Acoustics. Web. 20 Apr. 2015. <http://wildlifeacoustics.com/products/song-meter-sm3>.