Owl Cam: an experiment

I have been dying to experiment with a birdbox camera, and we all know how excited I get about owls.  This weekend, Great Horned Owls could be heard softly hooting back and forth near where they have nested in previous years.  There was a pretty obvious healthy rodent population this summer, so perhaps we will see some nesting again.

In the meanwhile, I was completely captivated by the swift triangulation of screech owls last year during the Christmas bird count.  Then, this summer, I discovered a pellet on the roof, so I know they have been around our property.  I enlisted the incredibly capable help of Carl Miller, one of our Audubon volunteers, who has a great bird box camera at his house.  He got us connected with the technology we needed, including a camera and a server.   Bob Drew built us a birdbox, according to the Audubon society directions, but left room for a camera at the top.  Carl came over to Dewees Island on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and we got the server set up and the box placed in the camera.  We selected a site out of the way of traffic (screech owls can be very territorial) about 25 feet up, with a clear pathway to the tree.  Then we had to figure out where to locate the server and get the wire to the camera.  Reggie and Bob figured out a way to use a fishing rod to cast a weighted line from the roof into a nearby tree and then rig up a series of increasingly stronger lines with which to pull the wires into the house.  We made sure the camera was focused and filled the bottom of the box with a few leaves.  (You can watch an eight minute video of this from inside the box, but there are lots of better things to do with eight minutes. Use the fast forward key)

Everything is up and running.  Emily is convinced that she can build us a computer program to do motion detection from within the box, but in the meanwhile we just keep checking the feed, which is broadcast live over a service called ustream.com.  There are ads, which you will have to sit through each time you open the viewer.  Click this link to get to the owl camera.  Who knows what will move in?  If you check sometime and see someone in there, please send us a quick email or call us, and we can turn the recording on.  And if periodically checking the inside of the bird box is not fun for you, we’ll keep you posted on here.

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