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Diary: Autumn 2005 and Winter 2005/2006

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Wired for sound and vision

21st February 2006 in the garden diary...
Watching garden wildlife has just taken on a new dimension for me with the installation of a remote CCTV camera.
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Part of the joy of garden wildlife is getting out there amongst it or at least viewing it from behind the windows of your own home. How many times though have you strained to see something happening at the far end of your garden or just around the corner and longed to see what was going on? Well technology is now delivering the kind of devices that enable us to do that at affordable prices.

I am road-testing some kit from Wig Wam Wild Cams that enables me to sneak a look at some garden bird activity from a different viewpoint. The kit comprises of a birdbox and a bird feeder with a single camera that can be simply interchanged between them.

Combi-box and combi-feeder
These pictures show the combi-box and combi-feeder in situ. I have chosen to place the camera on the feeder for the time being, but it should be relatively simple to move it to the nest box when birds start to take an interest in Spring.

This is the combi-feeder. As it happens, the best place for me to put it (on the side of a shed) is completely out of sight from the house, so the camera will give me views of the birds that I could not otherwise get very easily. You can see the wire from the camera disappearing off behind the shed. The camera is mounted in a cavity in the apex of the feeder and gives you views looking down on of the birds feeding.
Here is the combi-box. I've positioned the box high up on the wall of the house. It replaces a dilapidated box that has was in this position for ten years or more and regularly hosted families of blue tits (Parus caeruleus). I've every expectation of getting blue tits in this box this year. Note that the panel with the entrance hole can be optionally removed to create an open fronted box if required (suitable for birds like robins (Erithacus rubecula)).
The camera
Here you can see the camera mounted behind a removable section which is found at the apex of both the combi-box and combi-feeder. It is very simple to unplug the wires and move the camera between the two units. More problematical is the wiring. I have found that it is not feasible to use the same wire (which runs between the camera the TV) for the two units because I have them positioned in completely different parts of the garden. I will have to wire each up separately.
Wiring was definitely the most difficult problem with this kit. From the shed I had to run the wire under a section of patio (in an old piece of drain-pipe). Getting the wire into the house could have been a major problem (since each end of the wire has a number of largish plugs which cannot be passed through a hole made with a simple drill bit), but I was fortunate in having this old ventilator through which I could pass the wires (not without some difficulty).

I have already enjoyed watching robins, coal tits (Parus ater) and great tits (Parus major) feeding on the combi-feeder. It's amazing to be able to see at close quarters exactly what items of food each takes from the mixed seed which I've put on there. Notwithstanding the problems with wiring, the kit was surprisingly easy to set up. You can avoid the problems of wiring if you can afford to pay a bit more for wireless kit.

I'm looking forward to seeing what insights this kit gives me into the lives of my garden birds. Keep reading the diary for regular updates.

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