How to choose a nest box camera

Bird Boxes
Installing a camera into a bird box is a great way to keep an eye on the nesting birds in your garden. Image by Simone Webber.

Deciding which nest box camera to choose involves a complicated tiptoe through competing technologies and equipment. Before you start watching birds you have to decide what sort of system is best for you and, crucially, how much money to spend.

The first question you need to consider is whether to choose a wired or wireless system.

Wired systems have a cable running from the nest box back to your house or classroom, which carries both power and the television signal. This results in excellent image quality but may not be ideal if you have children or pets in your garden, or if a cable running to your bird box will interfere with the gardening. You will also need to feed the cable into your house, either by drilling a hole in the wall or by feeding it through an open window.

Wireless systems do not require a cable to run between the bird box and the television but instead transmit images to a small receiver situated inside the house. However, a power supply will still be required for the camera (i.e. from a shed or outbuilding) and the signal can be compromised by other wireless devices in the area or by trees and other structures between the nest box and the house.

Next you will need to consider whether you require a complete kit or just the camera.

Nest Box Camera Starter Kit

If you are new to this particular aspect of watching and listening to birds, a complete kit, such as the Nest Box Camera Starter Kit is a good and economical choice. This starter kit includes a bird box with a camera mounted in the roof, which provides colour footage during the day and black ­and ­white at night. A 30 ­metre cable plugs into your television and supplies the camera with power. Another option is the Gardenature Nest Box Camera System, which includes a bespoke red cedar nest box made to RSPB and BTO guidelines. A small sliding drawer at the top of the box houses the Sony CCD camera, which adjusts automatically depending on light levels. A 30 ­metre cable connects the camera to your television.

Nest Box Camera with Night Vision

For the handyman or woman who wants to put a system together themselves, either in a bespoke or existing nest box, the Nest Box Camera with Night Vision is a good choice. The tiny camera will focus from a few centimetres to roughly 30 metres, with high definition for excellent daytime and night ­time images. The camera comes with a 30 ­metre cable and extension cables are available to purchase separately. The Wireless Nest Box Camera Kit is a great option if you want to fit a wireless camera to your own bird box.

What about watching on your computer?

All of the cameras and kits that we sell come with either a cable or wireless receiver that will connect directly to your television. If you want to view or save your footage onto your computer then an additional USB capture device is required. These are available both for Windows and Mac operating systems and come with all the software you require to get started.

 

Enhancing habitat connectivity for hedgehog populations

Hedgehog

Hedgehogs are in the news with a serious decline in numbers – according to this recent report by David Wembridge, “at a conservative estimate a quarter of the population has been lost in the last ten years”. But things are moving in a positive direction with the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust leading the way in hedgehog conservation in Britain, thanks to funding from the British Hedgehog Preservation Society. Find out more about their pioneering Solihull Hedgehog Improvement Area – part of the Help for Hedgehogs campaign.

Simon Thompson, Hedgehog Officer at Warwickshire Wildlife Trust, gave us some tips on how to help your local hedgehog population:

“There are measures which we can all undertake to provide space for our hedgehogs, the simplest and most important of these is to provide access into and between our gardens. Walls and fences create an impenetrable barrier to hedgehogs and a small hole, about the size of a CD case will easily allow hedgehogs to pass between gardens. Ask your neighbours to do the same and all of a sudden there is dramatically larger landscape through which hedgehogs can find food, nesting sites and potential mates. Once your garden is linked to the wider landscape then having a hedgehog box instantly provides a structure within which hedgehogs can construct themselves a safe and secure nest to sleep during the day or perhaps even hibernate through the winter.”

Hedgehog Homes

Hedgehog homes are a safe retreat for the hedgehogs in your garden and provide a warm and dry shelter along with valuable protection from predators. Site your home in a quiet position, out of the prevailing wind, ideally in an area with some cover.

Hedgehog Nest BoxHedgehog Nest Box

The Hedgehog Nest Box has been designed and extensively tested by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and provides a safe and snug environment for these wonderful creatures. The box has a predator-proof tunnel and removable roof and is approved by Dr. Pat Morris of London University.

Igloo Hedgehog HomeIgloo Hedgehog Home

This attractive wicker Igloo Hedgehog Home is designed to blend into your garden. The built-in entrance tunnel provides protection from predators and the Igloo is spacious enough for a family group.

Hogitat Hedgehog House

Hogitat Hedgehog House

The Hogitat Hedgehog House has an attractive appearance and will fit perfectly into any garden environment. Made of principally natural materials, it has a waterproofed roof and predator defence tunnel. Provides a safe retreat for hedgehogs and other small mammals.

Hedgehog reading list

Hedgehogs by Pat Morris (Whittet Books, 2014)
The Hedgehog by Pat Morris (Mammal Society, 2011)
Hedgehog by Hugh Warwick (Reaktion Books, 2014)
The Disappearing Hedgehog by Toni Bunnell (Independent Publishing Network, 2014)
A Prickly Affair: My Life with Hedgehogs by Hugh Warwick (Allen Lane, 2008)
Britain’s Mammals: A Concise Guide by The People’s Trust for Endangered Species (Whittet Books, 2010)
Urban Mammals: A Concise Guide by David Wembridge (Whittet Books, 2012)

Main photo attribute: Hedgehog by Milo Bostock on Flickr – licensed under CC BY 2.0

Naturalist and author Mike Dilger on building a wildlife sanctuary in his garden

Mike DilgerMike Dilger – enthusiastic naturalist, freelance presenter and author of My Garden and Other Animals –  on the rewards and challenges of creating a wildlife sanctuary on his doorstep.

You always wanted to own your own nature reserve – do you remember what first stirred your interest in wildlife?

The trite answer I always give to this question is that as I was dropped as a small child! As no other members of my immediate family were interested in wildlife I think my passion for natural history may have been genetic. I have vivid memories of spending hours watching butterflies on a huge buddleia bush in our next-door neighbour’s garden when I was around seven and also wanting to know what all the bird songs were. What really started me off was when I acquired my first pair of binoculars (10 x 50 Prinz from Dixons, for the record) at the age of eight, leading to me learning the calls of all the different birds, starting with the wood pigeon. That was over 30 years ago and I’ve never looked back since!

What were some of the pitfalls and high-points of creating your own garden wildlife sanctuary? Any surprising visitors?

One of the pitfalls of creating an attractive and inviting place for wildlife is that it is impossible to dictate (unlike an immigration officer), as to what comes in. For example, having built compost bins in the hope that grass snakes would take up residence, I was more than a touch dismayed when only rats seemed keen to take advantage of the warm, moist accommodation on offer. I was also keen to provide home for as many nesting birds as possible, but after three sleepless nights, the jackdaws building a nest in our chimney simply had to be evicted before we lost our sanity.

Down stream at dawn - Christina HolveyIn terms of high points, there were simply too many to recount – you’ll have to read the book to uncover them all! The meadow stood out as a stunning success, and in addition to turning up a wide variety of wild flowers, enabled me to add grassland butterflies, like ringlet and gatekeeper, to my garden tally. The simple of addition of a pond resulted in an incredible six species of damselfly and dragonfly laying their eggs into the water. With plenty of food also permanently on offer for the birds, a grand total of 61 species were recorded visiting the garden throughout the year. With foxes and badgers all regular visitors, the biggest surprise of all was the brief appearance of an otter in the brook at the bottom of the garden, which I was lucky enough to spot early one morning whilst listening to the dawn chorus! (see picture – right)

In many ways the best aspect of turning the garden over to nature was the fact that it was a joint effort with my partner Christina – with the project soon becoming our labour of love. When it finally came to producing the book, I provided the words whilst Christina produced the lovely art-work which can be seen studded throughout.

How is the garden doing now after the interesting weather we have been having this year?

Currently the garden is looking soggy to say the least and to be honest the flower borders are ‘twixt cup and lip’, but the feeders are still being emptied on a daily basis and on a warm day the pond is still a hive of activity. Come the winter I’m looking forward to getting stuck in again and have a list as long as my arm of jobs to undertake… Creating a wildlife garden is one of the best projects I have ever undertaken, and continues to reward us every day, but sometimes it can feel like we’re painting the Forth Bridge – with wildlife gardening you can never stand back and say “finished!”

If anyone is inspired to undertake their own garden wildlife project, what would be your top tips to help them on their way?

Don’t be daunted! You don’t have to be the world’s most practical person to construct a wildlife garden – I certainly wasn’t, and yet am delighted with the results. Size is not important either. With our garden only marginally larger than the Centre Court at Wimbledon, we concentrated on quality (of habitat) rather than quantity.

My Garden and Other Animals jacket imageThe single, easiest way to improve your garden for wildlife is to dig a pond. It doesn’t have to be the size of a swimming pool (or even a bath-tub) but you’d be amazed at how it draws in the wildlife. By keeping it free of fish, we were able to provide a home for everything from pond skaters and pond snails to aquatic beetles and dragonflies. Plus the constant supply of freshwater also pulled in the birds too!

It’s also sometimes not about what you do, but what you don’t do. A quiet, unkempt corner, for example, can be worth its weight in gold in providing a refuge for some of the more introverted members of the garden wildlife brigade.

My Garden and Other Animals by Mike Dilger is available now in paperback from NHBS