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Bird box cameras on Springwatch

 BBC Springwatch presenters: Martin, Kate, Simon, Chris and Gordon

BBC Springwatch presenters: Martin, Kate, Simon, Chris and Gordon

I must admit I was one of the literally millions of viewers that tuned in for, or more precisely caught up with online (what would I do without iPlayer?), Springwatch on the BBC earlier in the year.

This Spring, one of the big highlights for me was the live webcam feeds from the bird boxes and nests. The Avocets were of course stars, but for me Pensthorpe Blue Tits were just the best.

Caught on webcam

Caught on camera: Blue Tits tending eggs in a Bird box

Caught on camera: Blue Tits tending eggs in a bird box. Many thanks to fs-phil for the photo, one day I too will take great images like these with my bird box camera!

The programmes followed the newly hatched blue tit chicks from the 28th of May all the way through to them flying the nest on the 3rd of June.

The webcams caught every moment. The nine hungry chicks were fed a tiring 36 feeds every hour by their parents in the early days! Both parents brought home caterpillars, sunflower seeds and various insects to satiate their broods appetite. See the Springwatch website for all the great images.

In my research to find a suitable bird box camera to invest in, I have been thrilled to find that a company in the UK has supplied some bird box cameras to the BBC team, in fact they are used by all kinds of worldwide, wildlife institutions including UK Wildlife Trusts, RSPB, WWF, Oxford University and London Zoo.

All of those credentials and their prices are good too! They have a great range of products to suit all budgets and kits to add cameras to existing nest boxes. Do check out their product range, go to the HandyKam website, let me know which one you buy and we can swap notes.

HandyKam: Bird box cameras on Springwatch

HandyKam: Bird box cameras on Springwatch

Bird boxes at Lacock

Bird boxes at lacock, Wiltshire, England

A bird box high on an oak tree in Lacock Abbey grounds

I spent a balmy summer day at Lacock recently. For those of you who are not familiar with this particular historic village in Wiltshire, England, Lacock dates from the 13th-century and hasn’t changed much since that time! It’s full of beautiful limewashed, half-timbered and stone houses and is owned by the National Trust.

For me, the highlight of the visit was not Lacock Abbey, the camera obscura in the shed on wheels (although definitely fun), but the fact that the National Trust are attaching bird boxes to the trees. Wonderful. Even better, the bird boxes I spotted were situated near a wild flower meadow that was just buzzing with life. The gardeners had left the grass to grow under the trees in the apple orchard, it was truly spectacular. What an insect and seed feast for wild birds!

The bird boxes are attached at least 3 metres from the ground and fitted with a circular opening. They will probably attract  smaller garden birds. See the siting bird boxes post for more information about nest boxes for different birds.

If only they were fitted with bird box cameras too – streaming live feeds into the visitors center. That would have been perfect.

Wild flower meadow under the orchard in Lacock Abbey Grounds

Wild bird food feast: The beautiful summer wild flower meadow under the orchard in Lacock Abbey Grounds (that's St Cyriac's Church in the background, not the Abbey)

I’m sure I’ll be going back to Lacock Abbey and it’s grounds. I bet it is just as spectacular in all the other seasons, so that’s at least three more trips!

Of course anyone can visit and walk around the village of Lacock for free, but if you want to go inside Lacock Abbey grounds and museum you will need to either pay, or be a member of the National Trust.

I think National Trust membership is great if you intend to go to three or more of their properties per year. There are so many sites that you always have plenty to choose from, and with their events throughout the year several of the closer ones often become favourite days out.

Siting bird boxes

When thinking about where to position your bird box camera it’s important to understand that different species of birds nest in different types of boxes and prefer different locations.

General rules for siting bird boxes;

  • Bird boxes should be sheltered from the wind, rain and strong sunlight.
  • Ideally angled between north and east (northern hemisphere).
  • Avoid busy areas of the garden.
  • Inaccessible to predators (cats, squirrels, mice and rats).
  • The box needs to be close to perches for the young chicks to perch before fledging, but make sure the branches are not strong enough to hold predators.
  • Make sure the birds have a pretty clear flight path to the nest, especially avoid clutter near the entrance to the bird box.
  • At least 10metres from another box.
  • Tilted slightly downwards so that rain water flows off the roof.
  • Don’t damage the tree when fixing the box to it. Secure it with a strap or wire rather than nail.

Species specific notes

Siting nesting boxes for different species of birds
Bird Bird box design Height from ground Notes
Blue Tit 25mm hole 2-4 metres In a tree or attached to a wall
Coal Tit 25mm hole 2-4 metres In a tree or attached to a wall
Great Tit 28 or 32mm hole 2-4 metres In a tree or attached to a wall
House Sparrow 32mm hole or terrace box 2-4 metres In a tree or attached to a wall
House Martin Nest bowls Under the house eaves
Kestrel Large nest box with open front At least 5 metres Clear flight path to entrance
Marsh Tit 25mm hole 2-4 metres In a tree or attached to a wall
Nuthatch 32mm hole 3 metres In a tree or attached to a wall
Pied Flycatcher 28mm hole 2-4 metres In a tree or attached to a wall
Robin Open fronted (100mm panel) Below 2m Well-hidden in vegetation
Starling long with a 45mm hole near the roof 2-4 metres In a tree or attached to a wall
Spotted Flycatcher Open fronted (60mm panel) 2-4 metres Sheltered by vegetation but with a clear outlook
Tree Creeper Wedge shaped box Attached to a tree
Tree Sparrow 28mm hole 2-4 metres provide two or more sets of boxes so that birds can set up colonies
Woodpecker long with a hole near the roof 2-5 metres On a tree trunk with a clear flight path and away from disturbance
Wren Open fronted (140mm panel) Below 2m Well-hidden in vegetation

Great Book: Birdhouses you can build in a dayI have found this book Birdhouses You Can Build in a Day it looks like the perfect guide to making bird boxes with all kinds of bird house plans. 50 bird box designs included with step by step guides. The reviews on Amazon look great, I can’t wait to get my hands on this one.

Insect House

If I want to attract birds to my garden (and more importantly to nest in my bird box camera) I will need to provide them with the right kind of environment – the kind they will want to settle down in.

It’s the end of Winter, the beginning of Spring. I’ve seen a couple of bumble bees buzzing about, so things must be warming up enough for the hibernating insects to wake up. But it’s no way near warm enough for plants to start growing, and certainly too soon for them to be infested with pests, let alone produce seeds, berries and other food for the birds to eat.

So while I have been hanging fat-based food balls and bird feeders from the few tree branches, I have been thinking about other ways to feed the birds too.

Insect HouseInspiration struck this weekend on a visit to a city farm. Someone there had created a wonderful insect house from bricks, tiles, straw, canes, cardboard and other bits and pieces. The result was a beautiful bug abode, that the queen bee herself would be proud of.

It may seem like an odd time of year to create a home for hibernating insects, but with not much else going on in the garden and plenty of pre-season tidying to be done now that all the flower seed heads are empty and the space needed for new growth, why not use select dried stems in the insect house design?

Close up of Insect HouseThere are plenty of insect house designs to try. Many insects have special requirements when they’re looking for a home. The city farm design above seemed to fit everything into one place (they did have a lot of space).

Their design started at the bottom with wooden pallets stuffed with straw, then placed on top were (in no particular order that I could see), bricks, old clay pipes filled with bamboo canes, chunks of wood with holes drilled, rolled up cardboard (corrugated end outwards). Then a second layer of pallets, with the random insect abodes on top, then a third layer, finally topped off with house roof apex/saddle tiles. Any gaps between materials were filled with straw, sticks, canes, pebbles or just left empty. I think it looks great.

Welcome to the bird box camera site!

As a keen amateur twitcher, recently moved to a new suburban home, I intend to share with you my experience of attracting wild birds to my garden with the ultimate goal of catching on camera birds nesting using a bird box camera. I will discuss which garden bird tables are best for feeding wild birds, how to choose the best squirrel proof feeders, what to consider when investing in a bird box camera and where to site a bird box. I may even venture into making wooden birdhouses.

I will be pretty much starting from scratch, although having said that the garden is somewhat over grown and I have already sighted a couple of goldfinches (Carduelis carduelis) enjoying eating the seeds from the tall dried grasses. Over the way, I can see bird tables in other gardens too, so there is hope.

I hope you enjoy reading my posts. If you too are on a similar quest, please do let me know.