THETAmetrix's Timergate system was used to time starlings flying down a corridor for an upcoming BBC nature programme called "Inside the Animal Mind". This series is presented by Chris Packham and explores the latest research into how animals understand the world around them; investigating their problem-solving abilities and methods of communication.
The first episode focuses on how animal behaviour is shaped by their senses; as part of this, birds are timed flying down a corridor with vertical stripes on the walls and the results compared to those obtained with horizontal stripes on the walls.
The BBC contacted THETAmetrix to see if Timergate would be able to time the starlings. The Timergate system comprises a set of 'light gates', with an emitter/receiver unit on one side of the track and a reflector on the opposite side of the track. The light beams are broken by a runner passing the gate which triggers the timer. We were initially concerned that it would be difficult to set up the gates so that they would be triggered by the birds consistently, however, thanks to the skill of the handlers, Lloyd and Rose Buck, and the use of 2 extra tripods for the take-off and landing points, the system worked perfectly.
The programme airs early 2014 in UK and will be on NOVA in the States.
Update: A clip of Timergate in action!