Standard CCD cameras in nest boxes have been around for many years now but there are very few full HD cameras in nest boxes. This Instructable details fitting, remote control, motion detection and timelapsing of a full HD Camcorder installed in a nest box.
Skills required basic electronics-wiring and soldering to the modules. Basic DIY for nest box construction and drilling holes through house walls.
HD camcorders are now very cheap and now they record to memory stick you can download the recorded footage via USB without disturbing the nest box. They also have infrared control of zoom and most other functions and also have very good quality sound.
Most have standard video out so the video can be monitored on small LCD monitors and also iCatcher software can be used to capture and stream live video from your boxes to your PC or mobile device.
Due to the size of camcorders a custom made nest box is required and needs to be fitted with 12v power, lights and PIR sensors.
In order to download and view the high definition video/images the camera has to be within connecting range of a USB cable and a computer. A USB extender can be used if required. Because of this it is best to install the nest Box on the house wall near your PC.
fig.1 & 2 show example images captured from the camcorder.
fig.3 shows the custom made nest box fitted to the wall of my house.
fig.4 shows the camcorder I use in my nest box (a Panasonic HDC-SD9)
Step 1: Camcorder
I have used a 2nd hand Panasonic HDC-SD9 camcorder in my box. The camera capture video at 1920x1080 with 5.1 sound onto SD cards and can also capture single frames with the"photo shot" button on the remote.
The camera has 10x optical zoom and close focus as well as being able to capture in low light.
Control is by infrared remote and also by USB cable.
The camera monitor screen is used for positioning the camera in the nest box and for general monitoring nest box activity.
The camcorder is also fitted with UV filter to protect the lens from damage.
Step 2: Control Modules
Regulator Module fig.5
This module converts the 12 volt power supply down to 3v for the camcorder remote control power. 12 volts are connected to the input and the variable resistor is then adjusted until the output measure 3volts. The output is then soldered to the remote control battery contacts (battery is removed).
Module property:Non-isolation buckRectification
Output current:Rated current is 2A,maximum 3A(Additional heatsink is required)
Load regulation:±0.5%Voltage regulation:± 2.5%
Work temperature:-40 ℃ - +85 ℃
PIR Module fig.2
This is used to trigger the multifunction timer when a bird enters the nest box (the O/P terminal goes high). It requires connection to the 12volt supply in the nest box and a single wire to the multifunction timer + sense terminal.
Specifications: Item size: 30*12*10mm
Working voltage: DC 4.5-20V
Static current: <55uA
Electronic level output: High 3.3V/Low 0V
Trigger mode: Repeated triggering
Detective angle: <100°
Induction distance: less than 3m
Working temperature: -20---+80℃
Infrared Extender figs.3 & 4 This module extends the remote control signals from the camcorder remote via a cable into the nest box where an infrared transmitter repeats the infrared signal to the camcorder. This requires connection to the 12volt supply, an infrared receiver (supplied) and an infrared transmitter (supplied) run to the nest box.
Main Features: 1. IR confirmation LED
2. 6 emitters which are used to send the signals to the A/V components
3. 1 IR distribution block
4. 12V DC Power Supply
5. 34-60kHz operating range
6. 3.5mm mini plug
Receive Frequency: 36kHz to 58kHz
Transmit Frequency: 36kHz & 58kHz
Power: 12VDC (INPUT 100-240VAC,50/60Hz)
Cord Length: IR Emitter: 10ft(3m) ;
IR Receiver: 5ft(1.5m)
Package Included: 1X AC to DC Power Supply(UK Adapter)1 X IR Receiver (1.5M/5FT) 6 X IR Emitters 1 X IR Distribution Block User Manual
Multifunction Timer fig.1
This is used to trigger the camcorder remote control Photoshot button. It has a connection to the PIR module and a connection to the 12 volt supply.
· Type：Latching / self-lock
· 12V Relay
· Maximum load : AC 250V/10A, DC 30V/10A.
· Multifunction integrated
· Flexible work time range: 0-999milliseconds ; 0-999seconds ; 0-999minutes ; 0-999hours
· Precise time delay: up to 0.1%
· High and low trigger level supported
· IR Remote Controller equipped
· 3-bit digital LED display
· 1 power indicator LED
· 1 relay indicator LED
· Can be controlled by Arduino, 8051, AVR, PIC,DSP, ARM
· Module Size:Approx. 55.8mm× 50mm× 18.5mm / 2.2inch x 1.97inch x 0.73inch
· trigger lever select is used to select the trigger level, it is defined as below:
Low -- connect the middle pin to the right
High -- connect the middle pin to the left
· 7 segment LED display is used to display the time when it works or display the parameters when you are setting them.
· VCC: Input, power supply: 5V-25V DC
· GND: Input, power ground
· IN+ : Input, trigger input +
· IN- : Input, trigger input - , connected to power ground
· NO: Output, Relay output, normal open. Before relay closes, this pin is not
connected. When relay closes, this pin is connected with COM.
· COM: Output, Relay output, Common pin
· NC: Output, Relay output, normal close. Before relay closes, this pin is connected
with COM. When relay closes, this pin is not connected.
· K1: Input, User key1, used to lock or unlock the module. When the module is
locked, it cannot receive the IR signal.
· K2: Input, User key2, used to power on or off the digital tube. When don’t need
IR Controller Details:
· ON: Open the module(apply a trigger signal)
· OFF: Cut off the module (apply another signal)
· MS: Set the time to millisecond
· Sec: Set the time to second
· Min: Set the time to minute
· Hour: Set the time to hour
· Mod: Select the function
· CH: Not used
· Sav: Save the set time
· Clr Clear the incorrect time you have input just now
· Number 0-9: used to input the time
Step 3: Nest Box Contruction
The Nest box is made from 10mm external plywood and has a removable inner box to house the nesting birds.
This is removed at the end of every season and cleaned out.
The roof is covered on butyl rubber sheet held in place by aluminium strips.
There is a large area at the top of the box to house the camcorder and associated wiring. Under the floor of this area is the LED lighting for the box.
fig.1 shows the nest box in position
fig.2 shows the plans for the box. The top of the box should be large enough to house most small to medium sized cameras. The box is glued and screwed together.
fig.3 shows the plans for the internal nest box. The entrance hole is made to the correct size for the birds you hope to attract. The internal box is screwed together only so it can be taken apart for cleaning.
There is a gap at the side of the internal nest box and the outer box to allow the cables to enter the box and be fed up to the camcorder chamber.
fig.4 Shows the completed box ready for fitting.
fig.5 Shows the removable nesting chamber being inserted into the main nest box.
Step 4: Wiring
Wires to be taken to the nest box are
1. Micro USB cable
This is connected to your PC and allows you to download the contents of the camcorder memory card long lengths of USB cables are available on Ebay.
2. Video Cable
The video cable connects to a small video monitor and also to a video card in your PC. iCatcher software on the PC displays the video on your PC screen and enables recording and live video streaming. The video cable is a 3.5mm 4 Pole Jack to 3 RCA Cable see fig.5.
3. 12 volt power cable
12 volt power is used to drive the LED lighting fig.3 Lighting in the nest box is provided by 4 x White LED modules. These give off a nice even white light and do not get hot. These modules are glued to the roof of the nest box. 12 volts is also reqired for the PIR module.
4. Infrared transmitter cable
An infrared repeater is installed in the nest box to send IR control codes to the camcorder. The repeater control box has an infrared receiver plugged in one end to receive the remote control signal from the handset. The handset is controlled by the PIR in the nest box or the relay timer. The cable comes with the infrared detector kit.
5. PIR sensor output wire.
When the PIR detects movement a signal is sent down this wire to trigger the camcorder. This is just a single wire. 12 volts is also required to power the device.
6. Camcorder power cable
The camcorder power supply cable is extended into the Nest box to power the camera 24/7. The original camcorder PSU is used for this. A longer cable can be purchased off Ebay.
The camcorder remote control fig.2 needs to be modified so it can be controlled by the relay or timer module.
Carefully take the remote apart and connect wires to the battery terminals and across the photoshot button. Connect these wires to the multifunction timer module COM and NC terminals.
Step 5: Wiring Schedule
See image for wiring schedule
Step 6: Operation
Passive infrared movement control
The PIR module fig.3 is fitted in the roof of the nesting chamber facing down into the box. It is fitted near the nest box entrance and is triggered as soon as a bird enters the box. The PIR then triggers the multifunction timer module fig.1 that is set to the delay you require via it's remote control fig.2. The multifunction timer output is connected to the remote control photo shot button. The Infrared signal is then transmitted to the camcorder in the nest box. This will take 1 shot per second and will take a still frame every second as long as the multifunction timer is active.
If there is still movement in the box when the multifunction timer turns off it will be triggered again and take another series of photos.
fig.4 Here is an example of motion detected pictures taken over a 2 week period and joined together to make a motion detected time lapse video. The video shows a small British Garden bird "Parus Major" or Great Tit building a nest.
The PIR is not used here, instead the multifunction timer is programmed via the remote control to trigger a photo shot via the camcorder remote control at a preset delay. This is sent via the infrared extended cable into the camcorder in the nest box as before.
I used this method to film a roosting "Blue Tit" Cyanistes Caeruleus over the period of one night. I also triggered an external camera at the same time to film the sky and added this in as small picture in picture, see video fig.5.
Full HD Video Recording
I can watch the video monitor and use the remote control via the remote extender to record the progress in the nest box. Using the remote controlled zoom I was able to capture a Blue Tit chick hatching out from it's tiny egg. The eggs are about the size of a finger tip but the camcorder on full zoom managed to catch all the tiny detail along with the sound. See video fig.6.
Using the "Photoshot" button on the remote control again via the remote control extender pictures are recorded to the video card. figs.7 to 11 show example snapshots.