Biodiversity Monitoring at Wendling Beck Rewilding Project


Environmental Consultancies

Success story

Wendling Beck Exemplar Project site map. Courtesy of the Wendling Beck Environment Project

Using technology to measure changes to biodiversity at Wendling Beck

The Wendling Beck Exemplar Project (WBEP) is a pioneering habitat creation, nature restoration and regenerative farming project, spanning almost 2,000 acres of land north of the market town of Dereham in Norfolk, UK. A core goal of the project is to assess the efficacy of novel land management approaches by employing a variety of monitoring techniques. Since November 2022, Wendling Beck has been one of the Wilder Sensing pilot sites.

The WBEP team organised a brilliant event at the Gressenhall Museum on the 25th of January with a number of presentations on how nature is being measured across the site and what novel approaches could be used in the future. Geoff Carss, Wilder Sensing CEO, was invited to give a presentation on the data collected so far and the exciting results obtained using passive bioacoustics monitoring of bird populations at the site.

For the past few months, passive audio recorders have been deployed at a number of locations at WBEP under the expert guidance of Bill Butcher and Dave Appleton from eCountability. The audio recordings generated by the sensors have been uploaded to the Wilder Sensing platform for analysis using Machine Learning (ML) to interpret what bird species are present by checking a sound clip every 3 seconds and reporting what is, or might be, present.

What are we learning from passive bioacoustics monitoring

wendling top callers

The preliminary analysis covered over 50 hours worth of audio data collected between Friday the 4th of November and Wednesday the 30th of November 2022 from one single Wildlife Acoustics Song Meter Micro sensor. The analysis identified nearly 11,000 individual bird calls from more than 70 species of birds; and this was from just one single sensor!

The table above shows the bird species with the most frequent calls. The three most common callers were the Meadow Pipit with 4,333 calls, the Eurasian Skylark with 2,468 calls, and the Redwing with 804 calls.

Using the detected calls, we were able to show a variety of insights into the behaviour of birds such as daily calling patterns, when skeins of Pink-footed Geese were flying over and when certain species, such as Redwing and Meadow Pipits were feeding.

Several other interesting species were recorded, such as the Golden Plover (12 calls), the Snipe (6 calls), and the Lapwing (2 calls); these bird species calling pattern will be closely monitored in the future months: they could well be good indicators of habitat change over the next few years.

Looking out to a Greener Future

meadow pipit
The Meadow Pipit won the competition for the most common caller at Wendling Beck! Photo by Andreas Trepte (photo-natur)

As a results of this and other exciting collaborations, the Wilder Sensing platform is starting to generate very large data sets of bird call detections; this data sets will increase significantly over time as more pilot sites come on-line and start uploading audio data.

This creates a really exciting challenge: if you are an ecologist, land manager or investor what could you do with millions of species levels records of bird calls? Already we are seeing some fascinating behaviours and identifying unexpected species. The Gressenhall Museum event was an excellent opportunity for Wilder Sensing to tease out really valuable, specialist feedback on how to further develop the Wilder Sensing platform; thanks to collaborations with these real projects on the ground we can discover what land managers, ecologists and farmers really need and build it into our offering.

Looking out to the future, these robust auditable data sets could be a key input for biodiversity reporting frameworks such as the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD), as well as support policies like the Biodiversity Net Gain.