Saturday 12 January 2013

Using a Bird Box Camera: #2 Alarms & Recording

So you've installed a camera in your bird box and you can now relax and wait for your first visitors, and your first exciting glimpse of the private lives of garden birds.


But wait a minute! You don't have the time or the patience to sit in front of your tv, staring at a never changing image, waiting for something to happen.

If you are to avoid going crazy, you need a strategy. So here are a few suggestions.

Method 1

Do absolutely nothing. Wait until you happen to notice the adult birds flying in and out of your bird box before switching on the system. If you have blue tits or great tits feeding chicks in a nest box, you may notice them by May and be able to watch them through until June when the chicks leave the nest.

The trouble with method 1 is that you will miss a lot. If you are lucky, birds may enter your bird box much earlier than May, probably during March. So let's consider a few alternatives.

Method 2

Add a few natural "markers" to the inside floor of your box. Natural markers include short lengths of straw or dried grass, small dry leaves or a fine layer of saw dust.

The idea is very simple. The markers produce an image that you very quickly get used to. Any bird entering the box will disturb the markers.

You could start out with an arrangement that is easily recognised. Maybe 2 short lengths of straw in the shape of a cross. Or maybe you draw a cross in a fine layer of saw dust. Just don't over do it and put too much debris in the bottom of the box.

So by switching on your system and viewing the display for just a couple of minutes a day (or maybe every 3 or 4 days) you will notice if the pattern has been disturbed. This will prompt you to check the tv/monitor more regularly, and maybe catch an early glimpse of your visitors.

Method 3

If your camera includes a built-in microphone, and you suspect you are getting visitors, leave the system running when you are at home during the day and turn the volume up on your tv.

People spend  a large chuck of their day (when at home) in the kitchen. So if you can fit a remote speaker in your kitchen you may stand a better chance of hearing something, not only sounds from inside the box, but also tapping around the entrance hole or any part of the box.

If you change your basic system wiring to include a simple amplifier (maybe old computer speakers) you can leave the amplifier on all day, while leaving the tv switched off.

Method 4

Connect your camera to a video recorder. During March, garden birds seem to check out suitable nesting sites during the morning more often than the afternoon. So if you use DVDs (that can be re-written) with maybe only a 2 hour capacity, I suggest you try setting your recorder to record from (say) 9 to 11am.

Now, I'm not suggesting you sit and watch a 2 hour recording each day in real-time. But with the markers described in method 2 (or any random debris in the base of the box), running the recorder in fast-forward mode will only take a few minutes, but you will quickly spot any change in the pattern. Any change may indicate a visitor. So you can then view that section of the recording at normal speed.

And of course you may find unexpected visitors in your bird box.

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