New Nest Boxes and ‘Prickly Diner’ go live

It has been a busy weekend! I wanted to get all my nest boxes up and ready for the new season as the blue and great tits are already starting to look in my boxes, although serious activity probably won’t start for another month. Preparing for the re-emergence of my hedgehogs from hibernation has meant a new feeding station  this year, thanks to Ark Wildlife who gave me a new hedgehog feeding box. A few weeks ago, I blogged about setting this up with lighting. Last year, I had lit some of the feeding areas and the hedgehogs were not worried by it all, so I wanted to do a good job this year. This new box is lit by some small daylight LEDs and this means that the image inside the box is great… and in colour, rather than the black and white image you get with IR. Unfortunately, the image  kept breaking up on my live cameras and after some investigation today, I discovered a connector deep in the blackthorn hedge that had corroded. This cable must have been one of the first I put in about 3 years ago. After replacing the cable and running a new one into my office, this box is up and running again and I am awaiting my first visitors. You can see it on my live cams at night.

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I also had a couple of nest boxes to get sorted today. The first one is the one I call the ‘Plum Tree’ box… for obvious reasons! I have had both blue tits and great tits nest in this box. Last year the great tits built a nest, but never laid. This box is from HandyKam and has two small windows just above nest height, allowing plenty of light in. This helps to give an excellent colour image of the occupants. Today, I mounted the camera back in this nest box. I have seen the blue tits showing an interest, so lets hope they decide to nest this year.

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The second box is a new one I am trialling this year from CloseWatch (www.wildlife-cameras.com). I was interested in this box as it has a sensored lighting system. Last year I had excellent results in a nest box from Wildlife Windows. This, too, has a sensored lighting system.  A small sensor detects the light outside. During the daylight hours, it turns on small lights inside the nest box. At night, it turns them off. The increased light inside the nest box during the day helps the camera achieve higher quality images. This box has the sensor mounted in the roof  and the camera is hidden inside a compartment at the top of the box, along with the light which shines through a translucent window.

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I was trying to decide where to put this box. I need to ensure that none of the boxes are too close together, or the birds will not nest, due to territorial issues. Whilst photographing the box, we noticed that the blue tit was going inside my bat box that I had mounted on the other side of the lane, on a tree opposite my sitting room window. My house is built up on a bank and the bat box was level with the window. There has been no bat activity, so I decided that this would be a good place for my new box! Climbing up to remove the bat box, I mounted the new box in its place.

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Perfectly situated for photography both from just outside my front door and from the sitting room window….

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I really hope that this box gets chosen this year! I found that the birds were a little unsure of the lights in my last box when they were first checking out the box for suitability., so I taped over the sensor. This meant the box was in darkness inside. Once they had chosen the box and started to build a nest, I gradually removed the tape, meaning the light levels increased slowly inside the box. At this point, they seemed oblivious to them and I got some amazing footage. I have decided to do the same with this new box so put some insulation tape over the sensor. As soon as they start building, I will nip up and peel the tape off.  This box has a high resolution camera in and the image ,with the light on, looked great!

I now have 4 boxes that are wired up and viewable on my monitor. I also have another 5 that have the cameras in and these will be cabled as soon as any birds start nesting in them. The side nest box is ready to wire, but it will involve moving the cable from my fat ball feeder cam, so I will leave it until I see some serious interest. I am confident we will get at least one nest… it would be fantastic if we got more than that… but you can just never tell. We will have to wait and see.

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I am really pleased to have got everything up now and ready for action. I will be working with Huw from I-catcher in the next few weeks to get i-catcher console up and running within my system. I will be blogging more about it as I get to grips with it, but for those who don’t know, i-catcher is motion detection software primarily. This means that the software monitors your cameras and you can programme it to take an image or a video whenever it detects movement. This is really useful when initially wanting to know if anything is showing an interest in the boxes, but it really comes in to its own when recording activity. It is a highly sophisticated piece of software and, once I understand how to use it properly, it will make my recording and documenting much easier. I struggle to keep up with everything, especially in the breeding season , as I like to document everything. I can’t wait to get it working here.

I have a busy week next week; school Monday and Tuesday, giving a talk at EcoBuild at ExCel, London on Wednesday, meeting with Severn Trent regarding Gardeners’ World Live on Thursday and teaching in a school in Coleshill on Friday as part of their Science Week… it’s all go, but I am loving it! :o)

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