Live from the nestbox

Updated Friday, 29th September 2006
Using a miniature video camera to watch wildlife is becoming very popular – and it's not too expensive!

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I have modified a typical bird box to take a video camera and am setting it up ready for the next breeding season, which could be as early as February, depending upon the weather. This is what I did.

There are a number of cameras available. If you have good electronic skills you can buy a ‘bare board’ camera and wire it up yourself, with a suitable power supply and lighting. I took the easy way out and purchased a ready-built camera.

It gives a black and white picture. I chose black and white rather than colour because it is easy to provide infra-red illumination that the birds are insensitive to. For colour cameras, the illumination is more of a problem as they are not as good in infra-red light. The black and white camera module has infra-red illumination built in. The camera cost just over thirty pounds. I also bought a power supply and a 15 metre extension cable, which cost a further £15.00.

Equipment for remote viewing of a nesting box

I removed the slate roof of the bird box and inserted a false ceiling:

The "false ceiling" of a nest box

…with a cut-out to take the camera.

The camera cut into the lid

Birds can (and do!) peck at exposed wiring and may peck at the camera, so protecting as much as possible is a sensible precaution. I then built a lid with 5 cm depth to cover the camera and replaced the original slate roof on top.

Camera on top of the box

The camera cable fits into a slot in the back of the lid and I sealed the hole with silicon sealant. The connection to the 15m extension cable is sheltered by the overhang of the roof of the box

Cabling round the back

…but I then wrapped the connections in cling film and put self-amalgamating tape over the top to make the connections really water-tight.

Before fixing everything together, I tested the camera in place and checked that it gave a sharp image of a bar code on the floor of the nest box. The camera has three cables: power, video and audio; I have plugged the video and audio into the sockets on my video recorder.

Cables attached to the VHS

So, by switching the input selector of the video recorder, I can display the picture from the bird box, outside, on my TV set, in the living room.

All I have to do now is put wood preservative on the new wooden lid, fix the bird box to the side of the house after Christmas, and wait until the spring when hopefully the box will be occupied.

Damp is a problem, so once the bird box is in place I shall leave the camera switched on all the time, to keep condensation from forming on the lens.




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