Nature's big picture: Aerial bird surveys done silently

Bass Rock (c) Apem Ltd The latest digital imaging techniques are allowing scientists to carry out bird surveys from 2,000 feet (600m) above the ground. This image of Bass Rock, off the Firth of Forth in Scotland, reveals Britain's largest colony of gannets - an estimated 44,000 pairs. The photograph, taken with a super high-resolution camera attached to an aircraft, is actually made of several images digitally "stitched together". The environmental consultancy that developed this wildlife surveying technique, Apem, says that it allows surveys to be carried out from aircraft flying sufficiently high to avoid disturbing the colony, while still being able to detect and identify individual seabirds. Prof Stephen Buckland, a scientist from the University of St Andrews who has used it in the field, told BBC Nature: "If you want to assess likely impact on seabirds of developments such as offshore wind farms, we believe these digital surveys are the way forward."

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