Monday 2 April 2012

Xbox Birdbox Mk IV: Woodpecker nest box

I found this Woodpecker nest box at the top of a shelf at a local independent Garden Centre gathering dust, and at £16 it seemed worth a try, given Greater Spotted Woodpeckers have been fairly regular visitors to our garden.

Woodpecker nest boxMale Greater Spotted Woodpecker eating peanuts

It is a old model ChapelWood Elite Woodpecker box (the barcode says CPW103). The timber is a little over 2cm thick, internal dimensions about 10cm x 14.5cm x 30cm (front) and 34cm (back), external dimensions 14cm x18.5cm x 48cm (including mount). The entrance diameter is 5cm (50mm), with the lip about 22cm from the inner floor.

It looks like the new model ChapelWood Woodpecker box uses thinner timber, but is of similar construction. I saw one of these for sale elsewhere (at a higher price) and the entrance hole is deliberately closed with a bit of wood with some small holes in it - the label said this would tempt the bird to enlarge it. There was also a row of four holes drilled on the side - ventilation perhaps?


Due to cabling issues (and USB bandwidth limits trying to monitor multiple cameras at once), I may have to switch to analogue CCTV style cameras - which is what most bird box kits sold use, with their own built in IR LEDs. But for now, it is yet another Xbox Live Vision equipped BirdBox!

As in the previous Xbox Birdbox webcams, I used four infrared LEDs (splayed out to give indirect light as in Mk II and Mk III to avoid the white spots in Mk I, my first attempt), with the red glass filter removed for infrared sensitivity. What was different was I substituted a wide angle CCTV 2.8mm lens. This not only allows me to capture the full floor of the box, but also (just) includes the edge of the entrance hole.
Entrance hole & old wood in nest box (wide angle, IR)
In tests the focal range seemed pretty good, so fingers crossed. You'll notice a tiny bit of an IR bright spot in one corner - but otherwise I was happy with this.

For the first two bird boxes where the floor was almost square, and it was simplest to the camera with 'up' aligned to the wall with the entrance. For the third camera I did the same, which also matched its rectangular floor (wider axis is 'left/right' in the camera) to maximise the view.

This bird box also has a quite rectangular floor (10cm x 14.5cm) so to maximise the view I had to orient the camera to match, which meant mounting it on a side wall. I did this in much the same way as Birdbox 3: Again, I made wooden clamps to securely hold the camera's base, and then used nails to pin it at the desired angle. This time left/right of frame are the front and back of the box (entrance and tree sides).

Location Location Location

Thanks to the internet - and in particular the RSPB pages - I'm informed the best site for a woodpecker nest is on a tree about 3 to 5 meters up, with a clear view around it and away from disturbances, and the box should be filled with a block of balsa wood, rotting log or wood chips since they like to excavate their own nesting cavities. I've added a bit of dead and crumbling branch, cut to fit, giving about 3cm or so in depth (see photo above).

After scouting the garden (and beyond) it looks like even ignoring cable issues, the most viable site is the first tree I thought while still in the shop. Thanks Andy for the loan of your ladder! It is a little close to our compost heap (and Birdbox 3), so isn't entirely ideal.
Installing the box at the edge of the garden
Now we wait and see...


We did get residents :)

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