High altitude aerial surveys have the potential to improve disturbance-free data collection in wildlife research, but previously, bird species were not recognizable in high-altitude orthophotos. This method of aerial surveying is effective and can be repeated frequently due to its low cost; it also has the additional advantage of being able to monitor the status of protected areas. In the case of waterbirds, due to the low vegetation coverage, aerial remote sensing is an exceptionally effective technique for surveying populations and detecting nests. Aerial surveys made at low altitudes can cause serious stress for birds. The method we developed and employed is unlikely to be detected by either ground-based or nesting birds but is far more reliable compared to the low-resolution imaging methods and to the evaluation of non-georeferenced photo series. The modern sensors and photogrammetric procedures enable the use of the present method worldwide; furthermore, the large-scale ortho image-derived information has become obtainable more frequently. Direct georeferencing makes the field geodetic survey unnecessary. Orthophotos with a 0.7 cm spatial resolution allow us to reliably identify even the individuals of smaller species, and by the use of oblique images, they can be tracked from two or four different directions.
Keywords: aerial survey; heron colony mapping; population counting; remote sensing.