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.