Sometimes it's hard to be sure where your local critters are hiding or
nesting. One good way to find them is to use camera traps, which snap
digital photos when they detect an animal's body heat. A good
example of this is the Game Camera Logbook
blog, which chronicles wildlife near Mount St. Helens.
Now that spring is here, many of the larger orders of birds have already
begun nesting. And this season there are more video feeds from those
nests than ever! We've just added bald eagles, great blue herons, osprey,
and owls to our
Video page. Some of them are even illuminated by infrared
light so you can see what's going on during the nighttime. Remember that you can reach this from any Faunascope web
page by clicking on "Live Video Feeds" in the menu on the right side
of the page.
If you like what you see, click on the "Donate" links that appear
to the right of each video feed. That will take you to pages that
allow you to help the broadcaster defray the cost of providing the feed.
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.
That's it! If you follow these instructions, we'd love to see some photos of your final result.
Several months ago I learned of a nearby pond where a family of
beavers had taken up residence. I thought this might be a great place
to try out my latest homebrewed camera trapping rig that captures
video and audio. A property owner graciously allowed me access and I
set up my gear at the water's edge.
I thought it might be hard to attract the beavers, so I brought some
freshly cut black birch and chokecherry branches, along with some
Amazingly enough, it seemed completely unnecessary. I
was setting up in the late afternoon, and around 5 pm the beavers came
by to investigate me all on their own. There was one beaver who swam
very close, about 15 feet away, and just kept swimming circles keeping
an eye on me. This was before I even got the scent lure or branches
out of my car - all I had set up was the equipment. Then I went back
up to the car and when I came down there were 2 beavers. So it wasn't
just me they were interested in - they were interested in the gear!
I guess like all engineers they're interested in any gadget they come
After I left, it didn't take them long at all to start exploring. This
is the very first clip recorded, and it starts about an hour after I
left the site.
I've read that beavers forage in pairs, and this video is consistent
with that. First two smaller beavers explore, and they clear out (and
take the scented branch with them) when a much larger one appears. If
you've never heard any beaver vocalizations, you can hear them here as
they nibble and at one point chatter to each other.
I've got at least two other clips that I'll be sharing here over the
next week or so, so please check back soon.
This clip picks up just a few minutes after the first one left off.
Here we see the large beaver joined by yet another smaller one. It's likely
that all the beavers we've seen in these clips are part of one extended family.
Beaver Solutions, beavers will drive unrelated individuals out of their
You see them retreat to the water when a nearby dog gives voice. Of course,
they take their tasty branch with them. So in less than 90 minutes after I
first set the camera trap, they've cleaned out my bait!