Capturing the highs and lows of springtime nest box activity
Al Pewsey talks about how he’s used a Raspberry Pi to record bird box footage.
Nine years ago, I was given a second-hand bird nest box camera that opened my eyes to the drama that unfolds each spring as garden birds pair up, bring their chicks into the world, and the highs and lows that follow on their way to fledging. And if I’m honest, it has turned into a bit of an obsession! I thought I would share a use I’ve found for a Raspberry Pi, which I now use for recording this springtime wildlife action.
What started with that basic camera connected to the TV monitoring a Blue tit nest box has now expanded into multiple networked cameras that monitor 4 sites, including Blue tit and Tawny Owl nest boxes with digital recording of the resulting video and stills footage.
Handling all the video footage that the cameras produce and not relying on poorly designed, clunky phone apps proved to be a challenge. I also discovered as my number of cameras increased, there didn’t seem to be any reliable way of connecting to the cameras and recording the footage without leaving my desktop computer permanently on. And this got me thinking about whether a Raspberry Pi could help.
The short answer is yes. I used a Pi image called MotionEye OS. This now manages all the motion detection for the cameras and stores the resulting video footage in my home networked server.
So Lynda, my wife, now has to put up with me covering the garden in Ethernet cables in January, ready for the nesting season. (you’re welcome, Lynda). Although Lynda is passionate about her garden, and I think she would say it’s worth it, as we have watched a female Tawny Owl bring 2 new owlets into the world whilst the male brought in various tasty titbits. It was a bit stressful on occasions, which included me rescuing one Owlet before my neighbour’s dog got it, but both did get to fledging, so that was a relief!
If you are interested in seeing the footage from the Raspberry Pi, you can see it on YouTube, where I post regular footage of the highs and lows of the nest box activity.
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