Monday, 25 January 2010

Bird News

Garden plant news will follow soon but let’s start the week with the nestcam latest and reminders of the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch and the BTO National Nestbox Week.

January is scarily drawing to a close already and as any garden watcher will know, the action in the garden is about to step up a gear! It is starting slowly with Spring bulbs pushing through the cold ground.


One advantage of the very cold spells we have had recently has been the increasing numbers of birds to our garden tables and feeders. Many of us here in the UK have seen species we have never seen before too. We were lucky to see Tree Sparrows for the first time.











The RSPB are probably hoping they will be lucky this weekend (JAN 30-31) with their annual BIG GARDEN BIRDWATCH too. If you haven’t heard of this event, it is a study of populations of birds in the UK intended to help with conservation.

Everyone is invited to spend just one hour during the weekend counting the birds that visit the garden. I always find this a fun/interesting bird count as many of the usual suspects seem to know I’m counting and don’t appear!

A counting sheet with helpful images for ID is available on their website that can be printed off ready for the weekend. They have tips and a video blogs and a forum where people are already chatting. There’s also a list of events around the country with a drop down menu where you can select the part of the country you are interested in.

Collecting links for this posting I did notice that if you join the RSPB at the moment they are offering a free gift of a nestbox. If you don’t already have a nestbox in your garden this is a good time to put one up as pairs of birds are very likely to be out early house hunting at the moment. You can get an application to join the RSPB online there too.


Moving forward to the 14th February and the BTO has its annual National Nestbox Week. On their website, Simon King says:

"National Nest Box Week is great for birds. Starting on St Valentine's Day, it's the time we remind ourselves to provide homes for dozens of species, from Blue Tits to Barn Owls.

If you've never built a nest box before, why not give it a go this year? Or if you haven't got the time, it's easy to buy a good one. Go on, take part for Britain's birds!"


It is great fun to take part in national events like this. However, you don’t need to wait until then to put up your nestbox if you have one now. The trigger for birds to start pairing up and house hunting is not the warmer days as you might expect. The trigger for birds to start thinking about nest building is the increase in daylight hours. Their body clock is set for light levels not temperature.

As Simon says, you can build your own nest box. The BTO website has a page to show you how to make a nest box. They also had an interesting page on which birds use boxes, the types and the location you might find them too. Browsed the RSPB website they had tips on a couple caught my eye:

"Unless there are trees or buildings which shade the box during the day, face the box between north and east, thus avoiding strong sunlight and the wettest winds.

Make sure that the birds have a clear flight path to the nest without any clutter directly in front of the entrance. Tilt the box forward slightly so that any driving rain will hit the roof and bounce clear."



Programmes like BBC Springwatch have definitely raised people’s interest in seeing what goes in the nestbox too. Nest camera searches will be pretty active at the moment I am very sure. As regular visitors here will know I have had a camera nestbox for a few years and last year installed a camera in a hedgehog house too. You can see details and images in this posting.

So what’s the latest on the nestcams? Well, we still have the same rooster in my CamNest box which has been great to see during the night with the help of an extra IR camera we added. I’m not sure about the quality of this camera image yet and we may take the box down again to look at the focus range or remove it completely and replace it with another. It certainly won’t be used for any colour images as the blue/green range was poor in our tests.

Testing out another camera nestbox is the latest news from my garden. Colour images are great when the colour is true and there is enough light levels to ensure the camera can give them. However, I would be tempted to say that if I had a choice of untrue colour images and reasonable black and white ones I’d probably opt for the black and white. Not relying on good light levels could open up new locations too. Fingers crossed we will be lucky enough to see action in both boxes to compare it.


The Gardman camera nest box is the one I decided might worth a try for this. I’m delighted to say that courtesy of Ian at the Dobbies Blog there has been one sited inside my ivy covered Pergola for a week now. Thanks Ian!



The image above shows the location of the camera in the nestbox and where the connectors are housed. I have to say I didn’t find the white conduit on the outside of the box the prettiest feature but it is a good practical solution. With ivy around my box this wasn’t to be a problem anyway.

One thing I did notice was the floor area was more rectangular and slightly smaller than in my colour nestbox. It will be interesting to see how a bird will use this space. My colour nestbox has a false roof and the cameras look through holes. It will also be interesting to see if the birds have any objection to the fully visible black and white camera in this nestbox.


I should perhaps point out that the camera in my Gardman nest box did need tilted as the image was showing more wall than floor (top left pic). We did consider different angles in the nestbox but finally opted for a straight on view. We also found that the camera came a little lose on its hinge with us moving it and it needed tightening. Now, it’s a waiting game again.


This Gardman camera nest box has a simple and basic design and as the diagram on their info sheet shows should you want to watch images on your television it is pretty simple to do too. If you click on the image it will enlarge.

The instructions were clear enough for installing this box but even after putting a few cameras up already we omitted to follow one very important one… to remove the small lens cover on the camera before we put it up! Oops.

I’ll be completely honest and say one thing that does concern me about this nestbox. It’s a completely practical point but very important one all the same. The packaging states that the ‘Hinged roof gives easy access for cleaning’. I’m not sure that this will be an easy task. However, I’ll be delighted to get the opportunity to try :-D

Finally, as regular readers will know I watch the action from my cameras on my PC monitor. I’m often asked how I do that and what I use to record my footage. This is perhaps enough bird chat for now. I’ll come back to the more technical side of my set up next week.


All nestbox photos were taken in my garden on January 17th 2010.

15 comments:

Orchids and Nature said...

I must congratulate you on your brilliant tecnically advanced blog site,I still have a lot to learn.

Liz said...

Argh, why has my blog list only just told me you'd posted???

Stupid thing!!!

Great post Shirl, no chance, well little chance of me ever having a nestbox cam, well it would have to be wireless for certain because our back is south-facing and I don't want any boiled little chicks!!

It must be such a thrill to see them in the nest though :)

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I am always amazed how you can figure out all of the technical stuff Shirl. I love seeing your nest cams in action.

We are just ending the feeder watch for this month. It was entirely too warm through most of the time. Wouldn't you know that today, the last day it is beginning to blow, snow and get colder. The birds will be flocking to the feeders.

shirl said...

Hi again David, Thank-you! I do have a tendency to dabble more than a little with my standard blog template. I don’t always win over blogger but have great fun doing it :-D

Now, on the technical side I see you are hard at work video editing… my kind of fun! As I said on your blog it would be great if you could share just a snippet or two on your blog. Perhaps you’ve already done so and I’ve missed it?

shirl said...

Hi there Liz, oh… I hate when that happens too. Often I’ll click on the name just to check but what’s the point of having lists when they don’t update… yep, it can be a pest!

Thanks, yes it isn’t always a practical consideration to have a nestcam both through cost and location. I have been on/off with prep for a tech posting on my set up (with limited locations too) and on researching discovered that colour images do suffer if the cables are too long.

The absolute biggest prob for nestbox location has to be ‘not cooking the chicks’… glad you brought that one up! Pre blog I’d probably not thought of that and only considered the box high enough from any prowling cats. I didn’t have any nestboxes up then so fortunately… no cooked chicks. Mm… I’m guessing there are a few that do get cooked though :-(

Oh yes… it is definitely a thrill and should we be lucky enough to get two nests on the go it will be fantastic especially if the pergola nestbox gets a different bird. Fingers crossed. However, it isn’t all thrilling once chicks hatch. The true side to nature is that not all chicks survive and it is awful watching them die one by one :-(

shirl said...

Hi Lisa, to be honest, the more I dabble the more I consider dabbling with the tech stuff :-)

The videos and photo stuff are all my own doing but my husband is the real tech one behind any hardware and the major changes I have made. I get the ideas and researches and looks at the programming when he has time. I often watch what he does and pick up stuff as we go. I have enjoyed learning along the way :-D

Ah yes... I remember you had a feeder watch too. Did you post your results? I think I’ve missed them if you did. LOL… just isn’t that the way! Weather can catch us out here too but only counting for an hour it is a flyby by the Sparrowhawk that usually spoils my count. There will be no birds for at least 20 mins after that :-(

shirl said...

Hi again Liz! LOL... your reader was correct!!

I was heading out just after I posted and didn't check the day in 'post options' as I usaully do. Most days I post on the same day as I upload photos but ocassionally I get them ready early. This posting began on Friday with photos but after a very busy weekend I was only able to post yesterday :-O

LOL... it's me that's the stupid one!! Now, with a corrected day of posting your reader will be really in a spin ;-))

Midmarsh John said...

A great read well explained Shirl.

Getting enough light for decent colour video does seem to be a problem. I think some (maybe all) of those great colour videos on the net are helped with extra white lighting in the boxes which can be switched on for short periods. Even with two two inch portholes my colour camera has not shown any colour yet. I had thought of using a translucent plastic roof which I know others have used but didn't get round to it this year.

You are not the only one to forget to remove the lens cover!!

Here's hoping you capture lots of activity.

ShySongbird said...

January really has zoomed by Shirl! Now, if February does the same we will be getting somewhere but I suppose, as my Mum would have said, we shouldn't 'wish our lives away'. It certainly doesn't seem like twelve months since the last 'Big Birdwatch'.

I do hope you have luck with your nest boxes and I look forward to the videos, (music or not!) I really am not that averse to it, it just tends to take me by surprise, probably because I have my speaker volume turned up too loud :).

BTW, I may have already said but I was very envious of your Tree Sparrow visit, I haven't seen them since I was little!

AnneTanne said...

Although we had several cold spells here in Belgium too, untill recently only the 'usual suspects' are visiting our bird feeding spot. (Tree sparrows happen to be among those regular guests.)

But lasts weeks, a sparrowhawk is sometimes visiting... I didn't see him catch a prey yet, but maybe that bird will survive winter too because of that feeding spot (but not because of the food I provid myself!).

Orchids and Nature said...

Hello again
The answer to your question about loading video onto my blog, I've already down loaded about 6 short sections in my earlier blogs (Oct. Nov. Dec), but the quality is very limited ....a max of 30 seconds which seems to be the 100 megabites max. allowed on video blogger. I haven't found away of achieving the quality that satisfying to me.
cheers David.

shirl said...

Hello again David, thanks for getting back to me. I suspected quality may be an issue and I completely understand. I enjoyed looking through your videos all the same :-)

During my blogging time I must have uploaded well over 200 videos and am at present working on a few. The present blogger video method wasn’t available when I started. I’m planning a series of tech based posting where I will compare the different uploads I have made and the problems I encountered on the way. Perhaps there may be some stuff of interest to you. These postings could be a few weeks off yet as I’ve others already started :-)

Loved your cloud videos BTW and I can see how the salmon jumping could be a problem. You still got some good captures :-D

shirl said...

Hi again John, thanks I enjoy doing these newsy posts :-)

Yes, I agree completely re images on the web although I suspect there has been some image manipulation going on. That’s fine for you and me to do but when they are selling products that’s a different matter.

Re the translucent roof I have one on my CamNest box but even with that one I never get very deep rich colour with it. The colour is true on the blue tit though.

LOL… I don’t suppose we were! Yes, fingers crossed between us we’ll have lots to share and compare :-D

shirl said...

Hi again Jan, hasn’t it just! Yes, I agree with your Mum there and in all honesty I’m in no rush to get through February… lot’s of catching up to do here, in the garden and in the house :-D

Yes, it would be wonderful to see a brood fledge after seeing two fail. It would be great to share :-D

LOL… I have you (and others) in mind with my next videos. I do give a lot of thought to the sound on them. I’ve also always wondered how many rush to the speaker volume when the play button is activated ;-) I also wonder how many don’t use any volume at all :-)

Ah now… I do have a tape with some tree sparrow footage on it taken outside which I can share if I don’t get any better examples. It is still visiting at the moment… I wonder if it will visit for my count. BTW… I agree with it being too soon for another count already!

Hope you are recovering well :-D

shirl said...

Hi again Anne, yes we definitely weren’t the only ones to experience dips in temperature.

By all accounts Sparrowhawks visits to gardens have increased everywhere too. As you say, they too have to eat to survive the cold nights and yes in some ways we have open cafes for them in our gardens :-)

How wonderful that tree sparrows are a usual suspect in your Belgium gardens. That’s the great think about blogging when you hear about real gardens outside the UK too. Thanks for popping by :-D