As the days shorten and snow looms, now is the time of year when most folks are taking in their nest boxes for cleaning and repair, and maybe even building new nest boxes. This is a fine opportunity to think about how you can prepare your nest boxes to allow you to easily add a camera to them next spring.
This is especially true for those putting out multiple boxes. You probably don't have a budget for putting a camera in each box. With a little work now you can prep each of your boxes so it can receive a camera. Then wait until spring and see which box has the most interesting resident. If you've prepped your box properly, you'll be able to add a camera to the box in about five minutes without having to unmount the box or do any drilling/cutting that might induce your birds to relocate their nest elsewhere.
Here are some simple preparations that will work on just about any nest box. These directions will let you mount a bullet camera, which are the easiest camera to add on-demand in the spring. These come in narrow cylindrical casings. As long as you aren't planning on leaving the camera out for the entire year, you don't even need to spend extra $ for a weatherproof casing; a basic indoor casing will be sufficiently water-resistant.
Here's what the final result will look like with the camera inserted:
- Drill a mounting hole for your camera. It's a safe bet that the camera you'll want to add will fit snugly in a 3/4" hole. Use a spade bit to drill this hole now. Typically it's fine to drill it in the the roof, oriented vertically. Center it over the body of the house.
- At the bottom of your hole you'll need some sort of stop that will prevent the camera from falling into the nest but won't obstruct the lens. The lens will have have about a 1/8" metal rim, so as long as your stop overlaps the hole by about that amount you'll be fine. This particular house gave me access to the bottom of the hole, so I simply sank a small screw at an angle as shown here.
An alternative approach might be to fasten a small piece of copper pipe strapping at the base of the hole.
- The camera will have a power and video cable about 12" long coming out of it. Determine the route by which you'll run that cable down to the base of the birdhouse. Nail in a couple small coax staples, a.k.a. coax clips, sized for RG-6 or RG-59 cable.
Leave about 1/8" of exposed nail between the wood and the base of the plastic clip. That will make it easy to slide the cable under the clips in the spring.
Position the clips to provide strain relief on the cable so that the camera won't be jostled if a bird hops on the cable. Here you can see I've used one white clip near the birdhouse roof and one at the base.
- Last step! Cover the hole you drilled in step 1 and wait for spring. One way is to plug the camera hole with a 3/4" dowel and seal around it with latex / silicone caulk. Alternatively, you can simply bend a tin square and loosely screw it into place, as shown here.