Tuesday 17 February 2015

BirdBoxPi2015: this 'n that

The clock is ticking, but things are coming together nicely, if a little slowly.

Our garden is alive with birds at the moment, with mixed groups of finches, common tits (blue, coal & great), and the usual favourites including blackbird, thrush and a pair of robins.

To be honest, once we switched one of our feeders from mixed bird seed to sun flower hearts, we have seen quite an increase in bird traffic.

Just about all our regulars seem to prefer them to seed, and there seems to be less waste.


Spurred on by NestBoxTech's post last Wednesday, which shows early interest in his specially designed sloping tit box (no really, it is supposed to look like that!), on Friday I decided to put my 2014 box back together, and get it out there!

Don't try to level the box after more than 2 pints of Abbot Ale!

The roof on this box is still a dreadful bodge, but I did add an extra membrane to keep the electronics dry.

The ceiling around the l.e.d./camera plate also needed a coat of quick drying Dulux before I screwed it back on the pergola. I walked back to the house, took my coat off, and turned around to see a blue tit hanging on the outside of the box. It doesn't get any better than that!

There has been a lot of interest over the last few days, with the system triggered mainly by birds hanging on the outside and pecking around the hole. During Sunday and Monday I captured my first video of 2015 of a blue tit inspecting the box from the inside.

But as this box has a relatively large entrance hole (32mm) I'm hoping it will be used by a great tit. (Actually I'm hoping for a nuthatch, but it aint gonna happen....the box is in the wrong place).

The Bird Box Monitor

Once again I'm using a simple Gambas program with eSpeak to alert us that the system has been triggered. The monitor basically pings the box IP address, and if it gets a positive response, a nice (if slightly robotic) lady called Monica announces "bird box, on".

This system only runs if we are at home. But it is loud enough to draw us to the back of the house to see who is checking out the box. It will only be used until April. Once nest building has started, we just watch the video stream (...when we have the time!).

The Robins are coming

We have also seen a male robin taking a peek at our robin box, hidden behind a curtain of ivy.

The good news is that this box has 2 line-scan cameras and audio.

The bad news is that I don't have a way of digitising/capturing the video at the moment. The best I can do is take a peek using an old portable tv located in our garage.


I've replaced the prototype camera/led board with a larger square of perforated board.

I should have got a smaller tin

This has been given two coats of white paint which I hope will provide enough light from the three 10mm leds without blinding the occupants.

The plan now is to build a new wooden bird box, about 300mm high, to house this Raspberry cube.

Other interesting visitors

Once again this year we have a couple of less common visitors.

Two or three times a day we notice individual branches on an evergreen climber shake as a tiny gold crest makes its way up the shrub, apparently checking out each limb for small insects.

And we often hear a very dull, boring bird singing like an angel. I think it is either a garden warbler or a white throat.


  1. Looking good - My #2 box is unlikely to get finished in time for this year's nesting season due to other commitments, but its been fun watching the early interest in #1. Had one Great tit doing some sort of 'beckoning' display from the inside of 'sideways tit box'. Interesting in that she/he was doing the crouching movement that you see young fledglings do when they beg to be fed.
    I would really like to get sound going - the webcam I'm using does have built in microphone, but I've yet to come across a satisfactory way of keeping an audio and video stream in sync...

    For nesting candidates, I would really like some bullfinches, as there are a couple of pairs around. We back onto woodland - my next box will go up on the edge of the wood, so potential for different species I think.

  2. It is a shame that box #2 won't be ready for you, but I know what it is like, especially as you (I think) have young children to entertain.

    Yeah, I guess lip-sync is important in a bird box! How far out do the two streams drift? It was on my list of improvements when I took 2014 box down last June, but I did absolutely nothing about it. I think I decided I'd need a USB audio adaptor, which is a problem when using a model A+ as the one and only socket has a wifi dongle stuck in it.

    By the way, the natural light from the window in your box really improves video quality. I need to consider that next week when I buid the 2015 box.

  3. Yes, small people abound ! Other projects (Treehouse and bunny shed) also take time - but in a good way.

    Both my existing wildlife boxes use Microsoft Lifecam Cinema webcams (can pick up cheaply on ebay) that have an integrated microphone. At some point in the dim and distant past I got an audio stream out of one, but haven't bothered much to sync with video as my capture solution (using iCatcher software on remote PC) does not capture audio alongside a motion JPEG stream. It can if it comes along with an rtsp stream, but that is advanced level two, and frankly life's too short !

    Box #1 is equipped with an entrance hole counter so conceivably I could use that to trigger the microphone capture, but I'm not sure if an existing video stream would compete?

    The natural light is good isn't it - we'll see whether or not it puts the critters off. I was planning on doing the same thing with box #2, but adding a layer of aluminium mesh in addition to a perspex cover - the sort that you get for car body repair to act as a light 'diffuser' making it more opaque...