Camera Bird Box

Part 3 – Building a Bird Nest Box with Video Camera

By Mark Kneen

If all you want is the camera in the box, this is quite straightforward. I will be including a microphone and infrared LED lighting so there is the added complication of powering these extra functions and also housing the necessary wiring. However, first we need to mount the camera in the birdbox. Here I am going to use a piece of the same 2mm clear perspex used for the side windows. This will help allow light from the skylight holes in the roof into the nest area. Simply glue a couple of strips of wood front and back (and/or side) for this camera support to rest on.

Camera Mount

Here you can see the perspex cut for the camera and you can also see the wiring for the LED infrared lights and the lights themselves recessed into the perspex. If you plan on fitting lights, now is the time to do it. The LEDs are connected in series and depending on the number of lights and their forward voltage you will need to include a resistor on the +ve side of the LEDs. It is best to work your lighting circuit so that this resistor is fairly small as they do generate heat. There are several online calculators for working out what you will need, click here for one of them. These lights turned out to be a bit too bright as they are very directional, so I have retro fitted the corners of some yoghourt pots to act as shades which diffuse the light nicely. A bit of trial and error is needed or maybe just a bit mor research – Google is your friend.

Fitting the Camera

Birdbox CameraThe perspex has been given a sanding and the camera fixed in with a few dabs from a glue gun on the corners. That thick black wire under my fingers that doubles back under the perspex is actually the microphone. You will also see that I have all the wires heading out of the box through a groove cut in what will be the ‘eaves’ of the box. You may also notice that I have drilled a few other holes along the eaves just to give a little ventilation. This probably isn’t necessary and if you build with a back to front sloping roof don’t bother. So, the camera, microphone and lights are all fitted. That’s three separate components that all need power and this is where the power splitter comes in. The power splitter is simply a female socket that takes your male power plug from the main lead and splits it into separate male plugs. It is a common component in CCTV installations and can easily be found. I managed to find a 4 way (couldn’t find a 3 way) power splitter on Ebay for less than £2.50 delivered.

 


 

Protection

To protect the connections to the main lead that will run to the house and also the circuit board that makes up the light sensitive switch, I utilised a small plastic sealable type food container. This needed a hole cut in the bottom to run the wires in and out which is then sealed with waterproof silicone sealant. The lid then provides access to the connections and allows adjustment to the light sensitive switch.Birdbox WiringIn the picture on the left you can see the wires curving round the top left which are the main line from the house, red=power, yellow=composite video and white=audio. This connects to the power splitter, camera and microphone respectively. You can see the power splitter top right and also the circuit board that is the light sensitive switch. The lid simply seals all this up and then tuck it out of the way somewhere, lid uppermost. It is of course possible to hide all this in the roof of the bird box if you allow enough room during planning and building, particularly if you don’t have the light sensitive switch. You could simply have a manual switch or connector outside the box for the lights, or no lights at all – you’ll not miss much during the night anyway. Click on this picture if you need a larger version.
 

Getting it into the house

Getting the lead into the house can be a bit of a challenge. It will usually involve drilling something unless you have a window that will close on the cable without pinching it. If you have wooden window frames, it’s easy enough to drill a small hole in the corner. I wouldn’t suggest drilling uPVC window frames unless you are sure you not doing any damage to internal mechanism, seals etc. I just bit the bullet and drilled through the wall with the sort of drill bit your BT or Cable engineer will use, about 30cm long masonry bit from B&Q. You will obviously have to temporarily cut the plugs of the off the cable and re-attach once you’ve fed the cable through the wall. Then put some exterior waterproof sealant round the cable where it enters the house. This is only a small hole and easily filled should you want to remove the cable. Just make sure you are nowhere near power cables, pipes etc.

It’s best to get the cable as close to where you are going to capture the video as possible first so that it keeps things tidy in the house. Then it’s just a matter of connecting to your capture source, either TV/Recorder or PC. As mentioned earlier, for your PC you will need some form of capture device, either a PCI capture card or the cheaper alternative of a USB type capture device such as the Kworld DVD Maker2 USB2.0mentioned in Part 2.

Location for the Nestbox

This is taken from the RSPB website

This depends on the species the box is intended for. Boxes for tits, sparrows or starlings should be fixed two to four metres up a tree or a wall.

Unless there are trees or buildings which shade the box during the day, face the box between north and east, thus avoiding strong sunlight and the wettest winds.

Make sure that the birds have a clear flight path to the nest without any clutter directly in front of the entrance. Tilt the box forward slightly so that any driving rain will hit the roof and bounce clear.

Nestboxes are best put up during the autumn. Many birds will enter nestboxes during the autumn and winter, looking for a suitable place to roost or perhaps to feed. They often use the same boxes for nesting the following spring. However, blue tits will not seriously investigate nesting sites until February or March, so get busy!

 


 

And Finally, Very Important

Please remember that it is illegal to disturb nesting birds. If despite your best efforts, your camera lets you down, do not be tempted to disturb the box while it contains nesting adults or live young, there is always next year.

The box is in place, connected and, at the time of writing, feeding live images of the empty floor of the birdbox back to the PC, so now we sit and wait. I will post further updates as things happen in the coming months…. fingers crossed. Here is a link to the live nest cam feed.

Add any questions or comments below, I’ll reply as soon as possible.

Mark

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