Sunday 29 April 2018

2018 Nesting Season, False starts and Late starters

I had almost given up on nesting this year after some promising early interest in the double camera box fizzled out. BUT all is not lost!...

Great Tit checking out double camera box
Side camera footage, female Great tit:

We had some nesting material brought in (this one has sound)

But that was about it for this box...

BUT all is not lost!

The BirchLog Box that I put up a week ago started off this morning like this:

BirchLog Box, Infra-red illuminated, blue tit. Clay blob on the floor, 8:30 am
The thing that looks a bit like a slug on the floor is a piece of air-drying clay which was supposed to help support the plywood roof, I used hot-glue in the end and didn't bother removing the clay, a piece fell out and seen here littering the floor.  I had thought to retrieve it, but in the end the blue tits cleared it out themselves.

By the end of the day, the box looks like this:
BirchLog box, visible light-illuminated, 6:30 pm
The blue tits have had a very busy day 1.  I got this nice pic of one on its way on:

Blue tit on its way into BirchLog box
Here are a couple of video clips of today's nest building efforts:

This is using the Infra-red illumination

This is is with the visible light leds on instead

Borrowing a feather from next doors chickens

Roosting overnight...

Sunday 22 April 2018

Wi-fi Small Bird, 'Birch Log' Nest Box

This birdbox is a more compact version of my previous design, but basically the same kit used as in the as the robin box described previously: 8 mega-pixel digital camera, wifi IP connection, night-vision or visible light options with added illumination, and motion activated recording facility.

Update 01/01/19: Winter maintenance = addition of Infra-red IR cut here
Update 06/06/18: Chicks and a sticky end here
Update 11/05/18: Nest building, and egg laying here

This time I've equipped a cheap commercial nest box box, rather than make my own as I liked the 'natural' look of it. This box is supplied by CJ Wildlife, it's basically a hollowed out birch log with a 32mm hole at the front, which should be good for Blue Tits and Great Tits.  Total build cost is in the region of £70.

TamperProof.  Holds off any Woodpecker armed with a philips head screwdriver

My main problem with this box is that the  lid and the back baton are attached with 'TamperProof' Torx head screws.  I cant see the point since good old philips-head screws would have done just as well.  If you're going to buy this box, make sure you spend the equivalent cost on a set of appropriate screwdriver bits....  I also replaced the back batton to give an attachment point beneath in addition to the one at the top.

There is enough of a gap between the roof and the entrance hole to squeeze in the this little fella, which fits in snugly under the lid

Lid insert with Raspberry Pi Zero-W, 8MP IR camera and 4x IR and 4x White LEDs

Birch log box with camera insert
I made two changes with this design over the Robin box version of this

Top and bottom view

LEDs are added via 2x perfboards on the underside, instead of fiddly, messy wiring on the top. The 12v to 5v conversion is done via a recom switching regulator (R-78B5.0-1.5).  I had originally planned to supply this box with a 5v feed but this didnt work well, and had to supply at a higher voltage (12v) and then drop it.  The switching regulator component alone is an equivalent cost of the Raspberry Pi Zero-W, so I've used it a reusable way rather than soldering it directly in to the stripboard.

Bodge-tastic use of PCB terminal blocks...

As previously, the unoccupied left side slot is wired for a L293DNE to switch an IR-cut filter (to be added at some point later, for a how-to see this post).

The finished product

Some inside views

Top: Infrared mode, Bottom: Visible light mode
The visible light option suffers from the lack of an IR cut filter, but one can be added once nesting season is over...

and in-situ

Monday 2 April 2018

WiFi Robin Nest Box

I've planned a 'hub and spoke' arrangement of bird boxes.  I previously described the 'Wireless Access point' box (aka 'WAP box'), this post details a 'spoke/satellite' box.

Robin box in the undergrowth
Robin box with Great tit...

This is a ground-level open-fronted box designed with robins in mind.  Last year, a robin family successfully raised a brood of three chicks about a meter away from this new box at ground level.  That nesting site has since disintegrated, so this is hoped to be come its successor.

The camera setup is designed to be generic so that I can remove it and swop it into other boxes designed with similar dimensions, in that way I can maximise the number of boxes, while not having to equip every one with a camera.

There is a ledge at the top that holds the camera section.  This consists of a Raspberry pi Zero-W, an 8 megapixel v2 'Pi-Noir' camera (sensitive to IR as well as visible light).  Underneath are 4x each of white and IR LEDs for illumination.  Power is via a 12v feed from the WAP-box, dropped to 5v via a recom r-78b5.0 1.5 switching regulator.  LEDs are powered form the same 5v source, and switched via a transistor array (ULN2003AN), on the R side of the picture below.  This allows low, medium and high setting on each of the IR and visible light, white LEDs.  The unoccupied left side slot is wired for a L293DNE to switch an IR-cut filter (to be added at some point later, for a how-to see this post).

The white LEDs are wired in parallel with a 50ohm resistor for each LED.  The IR ones are also in parallel, but with no extra resistors.

The circuitry is arranged on a commercial prototyping board designed with the same dimensions as the Pi zero-W.  The board layout is as follows:

Protoboard layout, same footprint as Pi Zero/W
I also added pins for a DS3231 real-time clock module, since the Pi is only able to get time from the network, and wanted to plan for occasions when it loses network connection (there's not enough headroom in the box to fit them on the actual GPIO pins).
As with most of my other boxes, video capture is via motion capture software pikrellcam with captured footage/images saved to a mounted network drive (i.e. off the box).

This clip shows the box in situ cycling through various illumination settings:

A couple of observations from the transition from 'testing to the real world...'
Pi Zero-W wifi reception once closed into a wooden box drops off somewhat.  Running the following command gives some idea of reception levels:  iwconfig wlan0 | grep -i --color quality
Output is: Link Quality=44/70  Signal level=-66 dBm

The impact of this is that I cant set PikrellCam to record video captures direct to the network drive, as it all keels over.  Handily there is an archive option, so I just need to keep an eye on it and archive to the network when need be.  I also dropped the quality of the live stream which seems to have stabilised it. 

UPDATE: A updated implementation of this kit is detailed, in 'Birch Log' nest box described here