Seeing in the dark: Detecting and protecting cryptic nesting species using UAV thermal cameras

Authors Mike Shewring and Jim Vafidis share a video summary of their latest From Practice article using UAV-mounted thermal imaging to detect cryptic nesting European Nightjars in Wales, UK.

Confirming the presence and location of cryptic nesting species is a significant fieldwork challenge in ecological monitoring. Nest sites can be located through direct observation or capture and radio tracking of breeding individuals; however, such work is time consuming, disturbing and costly.

In their latest From Practice article, Mike Shewring and Jim Vafidis trial the use of UAV-mounted thermal sensors in nest detection trials and a field deployment trial focused on European Nightjar in Wales. Known nests were identifiable at flight heights up to 25 m, but flight heights of 12–20 m were optimal for the numbers of pixels per nest. UAVs reduced survey duration by approximately 50% compared to previous methods.

The study confirms that nesting and roosting nightjars can be detected using UAV‐mounted thermal imaging and, when used in combination with verification survey, it is a highly promising method of nest location. The approach has the potential to appropriately inform upland land management decisions in a time‐efficient manner where implemented by suitably experienced and qualified personnel.

Read the full article: “Using UAV‐mounted thermal cameras to detect the presence of nesting nightjar in upland clear‐fell: A case study in South Wales, UK” in Issue 2:1 of Ecological Solutions and Evidence.

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