Squirrel Nest Camera





Introduction: Squirrel Nest Camera

About: I am an engineer in high tech. I like to make things. ( many of which are not high tech :) )

 There are numerous "squirrel cams" on the internet.  The following is my rendition. 

I had access to all the things I needed - squirrels, tools, wood, web server, ... I looked around the web for design ideas, then set up the following. 

And, it only took me two years to get around to publishing this entry. Hope you like it.

Step 1: Design

I settled on this design as it had the features that squirrels told me they liked ( I conducted a short focus group), and it provided a place for the web camera.  The web camera was purchased on ebay for about $15.  It is a small SOC USB web cam surrounded by six infrared LEDs. Camera and LEDs use USB for both power and communication.

I went with USB as it was cheap, simple, and quick.  The biggest limitation is range.  USB-2 has a range of 5 meters.  I consider this build a "proof of concept".  See future improvements section for alternate camera ideas.  You can overcome the 5 meter USB limit with active USB cables or addition of a hub.  ( or go with a non usb camera - a wifi enabled camera would be ideal )

Actual house dimensions are pretty flexible as well. My target for the house area was roughly 1'x1' and 18" tall.    I used 11.5" pine shelving, and only cut pieces  to length.

Tools used - I used all my power and air tools - table saw, nail gun, etc - but this build could easily be done with a hand saw, glue, screws, a drill, and a screwdriver.

Materials - wood $20, lexan $5, camera $15, software $30, screws and stuff were whatever I had around.

see additional information is in image notes in yellow boxes on the pictures.

Step 2: Software

For web cam software I went with is visionGS - I am sure there are other web cam applications that would work, but this one was affordable ( ~$30 for the full function copy - free for basic copy )  and had the features I wanted: 
   Configurable motion detection and capture
   Options for alerting
   Archiving and automatic file management
   Built in streaming of live video
The web cam software runs on a pc and pushes captured images to the web server over the network.  Streaming video requires a live connection to the capture PC. 

The web server is an old pc running iis, with some custom aspx scripts for thumbnail generation and image archiving.

Step 3: Deployment

I mounted the whole arrangement on my house - side of house with no view , few windows, no traffic, and two story wall.  some branches provide access to adjacent trees.

Last year the mom squirrel built a nest in the box so it was pretty difficult to see the babies.  She kept them covered.  It seemed to be temperature dependent, and the spring was quite cold, so it limited viewing opportunities.  

I believe there were three baby squirrels.  They moved out around the third week of April.  It was quite sudden.  They were there one day, and no sign of them after that.

Step 4: Improvements

The concept works, but there are opportunities for improvement.

1) It would be good to have better camera( resolution) and lens( focus) for higher resolution wide angle view with expanded depth of field.  Most ccd cameras will work in IR spectrum, though some have IR filters that will need to be removed.  ( point your remote control at your favorite digital camera... you will probably see the flashing light )
I considered cameras with pan and zoom, but figure the noise would disturb the occupants.

2) Internet connection that can support the opening up images and video feed beyond F&F.

3) second camera, outside the house, for real color shots during the day.

4) microphone for audio

5) Suggestions?



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    36 Discussions

    Nice post, Sadly I had to say GAH! nasty grey squirrels when i saw this, In Ireland, the UK and also Europe greys are considered vermin as they carry a disease that wipes out the native red squirrel. Its a case of they are nice to see but I hate to see them. Andy.

    I hate to be a buzz kill but you really don't want to encourage squirrels (AKA cute rats with bushy tails) to climb on your house and roof.
    They can cause a lot of damage if they decide they want to climb into your chimney or chew their way through a roof vent.
    But on a positive note this is a neat idea and I would just mount it to a tree or something.

    6 replies

    Agreed. I think this is a very cute idea, but for a tree a safe distance away from your house, and most definately not on the house itself.

    Squirrels who become to familiar with humans will eventually try to make their way into your house. Not only can they chew large holes in your roof and walls, but they carry diseases--especially in their urine and fecal matter. The copious amounts of squirrel "wastes" can make you and your family very ill and will also wreak havoch on your home (think of a leaky pipe and what it can do to a ceiling, but with urine.)  Ick.

    I'm not sure where you're getting your information on squirrels but they do not carry the same excrement diseases like rats do. Your comments sound like rats. I have friends with pet squirrels who were rescued and they are extremely clean animals. However having said that, I'm sure if urine and feces were left to ferment, that would not be good either, but fresh urine and feces are not a risk normally.

    Thanks for the concern.  Maybe I have just been lucky, but there are 100s of squirrels around the area, most of my neighbors have feeders, and none have had any damage or issues.  That said, I know it happens, and have heard the horror stories.  I specifically checked the squirrel house and surrounding area for damage or chewing - after two years, other than nesting material, there were no visible signs of squirrel use.

     Wait until they burn your house down. A good family friend of mine had her house burned to the ground just because a squirrel had chewed threw the 220 line coming into the house. 

    I completely agree. Squirrels chewed through the chimney screen cap on our house a couple years ago and "colonized" the furnace chimney during the summer.

    Autumn came around and we fired up the furnace. Wow, what a stench !!

    The entire chimney liner had to be removed and replaced because squirrel urine had damaged it... and caused the smell.

    A new (and stronger) chimney screen cap was also installed and the squirrel problem was solved !!

    Despite all this I still find them to be cute little rodents and fed them every winter.

     I have to agree. The idea is pretty cool, but move the squirrel shack away from your shack. You really don't want the rodents in your attic.

    Really cute looking babies!  How long did they live there and could you tell them apart?  Did you name them?  Great project. 

    Another cool one would be to do a bat house.  Apparently they are very similar to your squirrel nest box; close to the wall, under the roof etc.  

    1 reply

    the pictures i posted were among the best we got.  Most of the time the babies were burrowed in to the nesting material, so not really visible.  And, when mature enough, the next day they were gone and did not return.  no, no names.  feel free to assign them;)

    Oh wow that's really cool, this is useful on the software and hardware side of things, thanks so much!

    At what time span (months in a year) do squirrels usually have babies, if there is any consistent specific time period? I'm not sure just when I should put the nest box up... Also, what's a general best place in the tree to put the box to guarantee that squirrels will nest there? I have 2 redwood trees in my backyard, and pretty tall... Tons of squirrels live in it. would just putting the box somewhere on the side of the tree, relatively low and in an area without branches work, or would I have to place it way up in the branches? Thanks... I've been waiting for something like this 'ible. :D

    3 replies

    I am really not a squirrel expert.  This actually started out to be the Bunny-cam, but morphed along the way into squirrel-cam.  The nesting and babies have always been early spring, though last year we had a fall set.  If you search on squirrel nests there are a number of sites with details on what habitats they like.

    we have two recurring natural nests around my house as well, and they are not similar.  One is about 15' high in a hedge, the other about 75' high in a large alder.  Hence, i think they are pretty flexible on what they will use.

    Okay thanks :D. I hope I'm not too late in building one and putting it up. As for a Bunny-cam, I'm pretty sure squirrels are cuter to watch...(that I'm sure of because I used to have pet bunnies reproducing out of control, about a batch every month or so of at least 8 bunnies, and they really just looked like little rats... The only cute part was at about  2 weeks of age. After that, they just hopped out of the nest and were all over :P)

     Squirrels breed during the fall and give birth during the spring. Nests are built during the fall by males. 

    You want to put your son in a box with a mounted camera..? Man, that's just horrible.. =P