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Data from: Quantitative ornithology with a commercial marine radar: standard-target calibration, target detection and tracking, and measurement of echoes from individuals and flocks

Citation

Urmy, Samuel S.; Warren, Joseph D. (2017), Data from: Quantitative ornithology with a commercial marine radar: standard-target calibration, target detection and tracking, and measurement of echoes from individuals and flocks, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.45gb4

Abstract

Marine surveillance radars are commonly used for radar ornithology, but they are rarely calibrated. This prevents them from measuring the radar cross-sections (RCS) of the birds under study. Furthermore, if the birds are aggregated too closely for the radar to resolve them individually, the bulk volume reflectivity cannot be translated into a numerical density. We calibrated a commercial off-the-shelf marine radar using a standard spherical target of known RCS. Once calibrated, the radar was used to measure the RCS of common and roseate terns (Sterna hirundo L. and Sterna dougallii Montagu) tracked from a land-based installation at their breeding colony on Great Gull Island, NY, USA. We also integrated echoes from flocks of terns, comparing these total flock cross-sections with visual counts from photos taken at the same time as the radar measurements. The radar's calibration parameters were determined with 1% error. RCS measurements made after calibration were expected to be accurate within ±2 dB. Mean tern RCS was estimated at -28 dB relative to one square meter (dBsm), agreeing in magnitude with a simple theoretical model. RCS was 3-4 dB higher when birds’ aspect angles were broadside to the radar beam compared with head- or tail-on. Integrated flock cross-section was linearly related to the number of birds. The slope of this line, an independent estimate of RCS, was -32 dBsm, within an order of magnitude of the estimate from individual birds, and near the middle of the frequency distribution of RCS values. These results indicate that a calibrated marine radar can count the birds in an aggregation via echo integration. Field calibration of marine radars is practical, enables useful measurements, and should be done more often.

Usage Notes

Location

New York
Block Island Sound
Long Island Sound
72.1192W
41.2018N
Great Gull Island