Webcams at mybitoftheplanet - 2006

The webcam has now been suspended as there is very little activity at the House Martin nests at the moment. It may be re-started during August if they decide to raise a second brood here, as they have done over the last two years.

An Introduction to the camera monitored nests

Since the diaries started in 2000, each Spring I have included a webcam to cover the nesting of at least one bird family. Sadly, last year, despite several species choosing the garden to nest, none used the Blue Tit and Robin boxes in which the cameras were situated.

I have opted to keep the webcam based on HTML rather than using a Java based approach to make it accessible to as many computer users as possible -  even if you are running a very basic machine with Win98 on a dial-up service it should still work for you.

This year, as well as having cameras in the Tit and Robin boxes, there is also one situated in my loft, pointing down into one of our House Martin boxes, and I may put a camera into one of the Swift boxes that I put up in March.

The Blue Tit box faces east. In the image you will see a dark semicircle around the entrance. This is caused be a pair of cross-polarised filters, held in front of the camera lens to greatly reduce the level of bright morning light that reaches the camera.

When the nest is in use, in addition to the low level tungsten lighting that is on all of the time, white LEDs switch on during the daytime to provide a brighter image.



Hidden behind lattice work, the Robin box has an entrance that faces North. This allows decent light levels for most of the day, although, as the season progresses climbing plants will provide more shade when their leaves develop.

Inside the box there are two white LEDs. One of these is on at a very low level all the time (I had intended to use an infra-red LED but I didn't get it installed in time), and the second is on at a brighter level in the daytime.



While the Robin and Blue Tit boxes have low level lighting on all the time, there is no artificial lighting in the House Martin box. Positioned under an overhanging section of roof, it relies entirely on light entering through its East facing entrance.

 This means that the best images will be available in the mornings and early afternoon only, and cloudy weather will result in very poor images.



The three (perhaps 4) cameras are routed through a video processor that provides me with feeds to video recorders/televisions and also outputs to the PC, and my laptop, which I use to upload the webcam image.

The webcam can show all four camera images, although I will switch to a single camera as soon as I see that nesting is underway in one of the boxes. It is possible that I could run a second webcam using the main PC but that will only be done if events justify it as the computer is busy doing other things, such as the BBC Climate Change Experiment.