Friday, 7 April 2017

2017 Double camera Bird Box - Intro

Our 2017 double-camera bird nestbox went up a couple of weeks ago.  This is a two-camera setup built around a conventional wooden box design... with a Raspberry Pi 3 for a brain.  The box gives a day and night (infra-red / IR) video options (e.g. to check for roosting at night), with separate 'from above' IR and 'from the side' daylight cameras.  It has a temperature, humidity and ambient light sensors, the latter to automate interior illumination with either visible light or IR leds, all of which have high and low settings.  It's connected directly to the local network so all video storage is handled off-box (as it were).  All we need now is some birds...
2017 double camera bird box

Brain: RaspberryPi 3.  Most of the electronics gizmos interface via a female to male header + perfboard 'shield' that plugs into the GPIO header pins of the raspberry pi.
Power: This is via Power-overEthernet (PoE) using this TP-LinkPoE kit (~£20).  This allows one cable for power and network access, and provides a 12v feed for the LED illumination and IR-cut, which is also dropped to 5v for the Raspberry Pi using a RECOMR-7885.0-1.5 module (~£10)
Top-down camera (Cam -1): InfraRed Raspberry Pi v2 camera module (~£22.79).  This does higher resolution, fixed focus motion-activated video and image capture, using the excellent PikrellCam software.  Video is saved direct to my local network to overcome local storage issues.
InfraRed cut-out filter:  This switches a filter in front of Cam- ( the Pi v2 IR camera), in the daytime for normal-looking daytime images a and video.  In low light/dark, the IR filter is pulled back and IR led array activated for unobtrusive night viewing.  this is interfaced to the Pi's GPIOs via an L2930NE ic.
Side-view camera (Cam-2): MicrosoftLifeCam Cinema (~£15 ebay).  This is the 'dumb-camera', and just generates a video stream that is monitored by a windows PC running iCatcher CCTV software.
Illumination: There are 3 lighting circuits, (1)3x 'White' leds recycled from a broken torch, (2)4x  'Warm' leds (from the 'drawer of stuff'), (3) an 36 LED IR led.  The latter is coupled to a 5k variable resistor as full power causes a white-out.  These three lighting options work off the 12v feed and have low and high settings.  The 12V LED circuits are switched by the Pi's GPIO pins via a ULN2003AN ic.  I used some different types of LEDs since I didn't know what would work the best ultimately.
IR array
Temperature and Humidity: HDC1008  I think these are now discontinued, but as this was 'in the drawer of stuff', in it went.   This sits in a separate, vented compartment and logs outside temperature and humidity to a MySQL database.

Entrance hole counter: The box has a 25mm entrance hole, with in outer and inner IR detector beam, as such we can distinguish between entering/exiting/head pop in/head pop out.
Other stuff:  I've also added inside and outside PIRs as an alternative way of measuring activity - but haven't worked this bit up yet...

It's built in a modular fusion so that it can be relatively easily dismantled.  The circuitry for the entrance counter is housed separately, into a compartment in the front panel of the box, and connected via a hacked cat5 cable and jack to the Pi shield.

Some pictures...
Easy access side door.
Showing position of side camera and opaque windows for illumination

The main box area is under the wiring bit, with glass partition separating webcam section
Raspberry Pi Shield in detail

One of two vents for the HDC1008 temp and humidity sensor

In situ

As I develop more of the software side of things I'll post updates at intervals.


  1. Wow! very nice. Another super-neat wiring/construction job ...compared to my Shabby (not-so) Chic monstrosities. You have certainly packed a lot of tech into this one.

    As your Pi is POE, how do you stream the second camera back to base? Or is this just connected to a Pi USB socket?

    I couldn't find a proper spec on the IR cut unit, but it looks like it may draw quite a high current (maybe a couple of hundred mA). I guess thats not a problem as you are using POE.

    Due to a technical blunder, my Pergola box stopped working about a week ago. It would run motion for a couple of minutes, before the Picaxe switched off the power due to lack of feedback from the Pi. I could ping the Pi but not VNC or SSH into it.

    Once I took the SD card out it was clear that it was completely full, so Pi could not boot into desktop.

    Some idiot (...OK, was me) forgot to clear out the video clips (which really needs to be done once a week) so my 16GB SD was soon full!

    The blue tit female has pretty much finish the nest, so I'm expecting her to start sleeping in the nest any time soon.

    1. Raspi Cam works via Pikrellcam, with video saved directly to a mapped network drive, so I'll never run out of space (well, will eventually, but have >500Gb free atm ;)
      The mjpeg stream is created in software via the usb webcam using mjpg_streamer, and streams across the network. Cam 1 does not really stream, only when it's viewed, cam 2 (webcam) streams all the time. I have a RasPi model A running Pikrellcam that constantly fills up (64Gb micro-sd card), so I appreciate your problem. I dont know a lot about current loads for the IR cut, I couldn't find the eact same model from '', but it is powered vis the Pis 5V feed. The only other thing powered directly from the Pi is 2 IR leds that do the entrance counter, so hopefully I'll get away with it. Incidentally, the IR cut also works fine off the 12V feed.
      Re the other nest site, unfortunately our blue tits have abandoned it for the more salubrious accommodation of my neighbour...