I have been working on a few new boxes to go with the three we already have, and also to (hopefully) provide a bit of an upgrade in both box design and camera/lighting quality.
I'm still at the prototyping stage for the first box, which I finally put up this morning for a trial run to test the new motion sensor and camera combo.
The camera is a Raspberry Pi v2 camera, which is an upgrade on my existing boxes which use v1 cameras. The v2 camera is said to offer better low light video capture, and can also produce still images up to 8MP, vs 5MP for the v1. Whether these improvements will be worth the extra cost is yet to be determined (£21 for v2 vs less than £5 for v1 "knock offs" from eBay).
I have also upgraded the Raspberry Pi computer in the new box to the new Model 3 A+ which hopefully will be able to handle live streaming to YouTube a little better than the Pi Zero - but again at extra cost (about £20 vs £10).
I'll go into more details when I have the time, if anyone is interested, but here are a few pics:
Box in situ:
This is in the same location as a box last year that got quite a bit of interest, but no nest. There is a little more vegetation around this year nearby along the fence (bamboo and some climbers) so perhaps that will make the site a bit more attractive.
Here is the camera view from inside the box:
Box is up now and set to trigger on motion, so fingers crossed for a bit of interest soon. I'm not holding my breath though, since I only just removed the last box and that hadn't had a visit since June. Perhaps the new model box will get the locals curious?
One other upgrade I forgot to mention - the lights. I am trying "strip" LEDs this year, to give me more LEDs in the box (and more light), with less wiring up required as a bonus. Last year I had 8 individual LEDs, each of which had to be wired up its own resistor before being controlled on/off using a transistor and the Raspberry Pi. The new setup is easier, cheaper and (I hope) better. It's just a few short lengths of self-adhesive 5V white LED strip, which I bought on eBay for £6 for 5m of strip. At 60 LEDs per metre, that is 300 LEDs, and they are already wired in parallel with a resistor each. I am using 21 LEDs from the strip in this box, which is now controlled by the Pi through a more heavily rated MOSFET transistor and, although it is hard to tell exactly, it seems to be giving quite a bit more light. I'll probably end up dimming it somewhat in use, but nice to know I have the brightness if I need it.
Here is a pic - you can't really see how well it illuminates the box, since the camera has adjusted exposure to suit the bright LEDs:
Firstly Matt, Your side view box looks BRILLIANT!! Have you got 3 around the garden now or just the one? Be interesting to see the locate of your other boxes when you get abit of time of course. Back in 2015 when I joined the forum I was literally the only person with this box and it become my favourite fast, I can't tell you how excited I am for next season now a large % of members have the box! And most of you built them yourselves and it looks just as good as the gardenature version so well done with that. I think its amazing, Sadly if I tried to make one myself it would look like a 5 year old had knocked it together!
Secondly, I hope to god you get a nest this coming season, Your quality is the best on the forum hands down for the image of the birds and detailing. After all your changes you deserve a nest, Plus I want to see the quality you produce when it comes to chicks etc because I think your set up will pull it out the bag.
You should be proud of your garden though Matt, You've done such a great job and as you've said yourself your bird numbers are up now due to all the changes. I don't want to jinx it for you because nothing is 100% in the bird world but I will be shocked if you get no takers come spring!
Fingers crossed for you hopefully you get a little rooster this winter, Be brilliant if you can bag yourself a female one because she normally sets up home come spring.
Thanks Paul and Karen. Paul at the moment there are still 3 boxes up. I will update last years box from this position with a lick of paint and new lights and put it over the hole in the wall down the side of the house where the sparrows were nesting last year. I've also got two more sideview boxes to go, one of which I will put up (somewhere??) and the other is for my sister and her young family. I will update the lights in the other two boxes from last year as well, and then just fingers crossed that something happens! Even if I don't get a nest I should still get some nice footage from visits etc, but obviously I really, really want a nest! (ideally in one of the new boxes).
So how many boxes are you planning on having in total Matt? It is 6? Nice that you've done one for your sister, I hope its successful for her. Looking forward to seeing all your boxes finished and up, I really do hope you get a nest with your quality and stuff.
Five in total Paul, if I can think of a place to put the fifth one! Of course the risk is that they choose to nest in one of the old ones, which still wouldn't be too bad I suppose, but perhaps I should only have 3-4 to limit the choice a bit?
Be great if you get a sparrow nest Matt I love our sparrows, I know they aren't exactly colourful but they give you up to 3 broods a season and their team work is brilliant. Both male / female nest build and both have turns on sitting on the eggs. Its really a joint partnership all the way through unlike the blue tit!
Wow Matt, terrific looking box and set up. I so wish you luck. As has already been said, you seem to get AMAZING quality so would love you to have nest for very selfish reasons , just be lovely to watch. Obviously be wonderful for you too. You have put so much work into your garden and boxes that I truly hope the birds reward you for all your efforts. Next season can’t come quick enough with all of us upping the stakes. . Sue
Amanda it is all powered by a USB cable plugged into a phone charger plug. That powers everything, including pi, camera and lights. It connects via wifi and notifies me if there is any movement. Nothing yet! Still a bit of a prototype at this stage, but I need to get on and get it finished and get the other boxes up too having just read Paul's comments about roosters settling in in September - time is running out already! This one needs another coat of paint on the roof and the ridge cover (some aluminium angle I had spare). Will look a bit smarter then!
That is just the usual time we start getting our first roosters Matt, Anywhere between September, October, November, December is possible, But September / October is normally when the first lot settle down for the autumn / winter.
It was August for me this year, I have had a female blue tit bringing nest material into one of my side boxes for few weeks ago along with sleeping over every night / alot of daytime visits. I think she's picked her box for spring already which is great news for me if nothing happens to her.
Then we have a male just across the house wall roosting he's been on and off roosting since last month aswell, Starting to become more fully time now though.
I'll imagine by the first week or second week of October few members will have a rooster, Hopefully you get one this year.
I hope so too Paul, but I have to say that my new cameras don't have IR/dark capability. Last year's did, and the year before when I got a nest, but I decided that it wasn't worth the extra hassle any more - the IR cameras are more expensive, especially if you want to be able to switch between proper colour and IR by switching the IR filter. My thoughts on it are that it was nice to see the female roosting during nesting, but that actually not too much happens anyway during the night, and full colour during the day is worth the trade off. Which isn't to say I wouldn't want a rooster, just that I wouldn't be able to see much apart from dusk and dawn.
Quick question Paul re: sparrow box. I am planning to use the old box from the new sideview location. Hole is 32mm, inside is 12x12cm. Big enough? Hopefully I'll get a lick of paint on the outside of the old box and have it installed with a new camera in the next week. Also think I might cobble together a starling box for the other(!) hole in the wall (other side of house) that had a starling nest last year. Will do the same and just cover the hole with the box. Need to look up dimensions for this one and see what sort of scrap wood I have lying about. This one is in an awkward position for a camera since it will be hard to get a cable to it, but I might try it without camera for a year and, if it gets occupied, work something out for the season after.
Not yet Paul! Things keep getting in the way, and I'm just back from a weekend away fishing in Dorset. Currently working on a little side project of a trail camera made out of raspberry pi and IR camera which I had left over. Will get that finished and pointing at the pond overnight and then move on with the boxes, which I have made some progress on but not finished yet.. The first one is up, though, and is running. No visits or interest yet.
Finished upgrading the second box, which is the box that has been replaced by the new sideview box. This box will go along the side of the house near a hole in the wall (which I will fill) was being used by a sparrow last year.
Paint job to tidy it up - looks a lot better!
The new internals. This is a much cleaner layout than before, with camera in the middle and a new PIR motion sensor at the bottom. There is a MOSFET transistor to turn the lights on and off as required, and the lights are also dimmable:
This is the underside of the camera unit, which sits on two strips of wood attached to the sides of the box. You can see PIR unit and hole for the camera. The bottom layer is held about 5mm from the top layer and is made of translucent lightbox perspex:
This is the underside with the cover removed, so you can see the new LED configuration. This is just a couple of short sections of cheap 5v LED strip which seems to work very well (so far!):
Happy to go into more detail if anyone is interested. This box will hopefully go up tomorrow, and then set to record videos on motion-detect.