Getting ready for nesting season in the WildlifeKate patch

Wildlife Kate

February is a busy month as, at this time of year, I am thinking about the nesting season ahead. Preparations start in the winter, when I begin to think about what nest boxes I am going to set up… with cameras, of course!

The camera technology is moving on at a fast pace and, each year, there are new models that promise better image quality and light capture, but the issue with many of the cameras I use, is that they are basically CCTV cameras. This means that they are designed to focus a long distance away, to monitor a large area such as an office of a forecourt. I want to put them into a tiny space, with the main area of focus only 10cm or so away! It can take a fair bit of research and experimentation to find a camera that is small enough to fit in a nest box. Yet has the ability to be refocused (even if it means breaking the seal on a lens to free up this functionality!)

This year, I have two new large boxes to go up. The first is a CJ Wildlife Kestrel box. Last year I had a pair of kestrels prospecting a large owl box I had up at the end of the garden. This box was beginning to fall apart as it has been up a number of years, so I decided to put a kestrel box in its place. In the end jackdaws scared off the kestrel pair as they wanted the box. The jackdaws will not really be interested in this more open box, so I am hoping that the kestrels return and choose it as their new nesting space.

I added a couple of layers of external protection to the box and also painted the inside. This would protect the interior from weathering as it is a quite open location.

The box was then brought inside so I could set the camera up. I decided to mount the camera to give a close-up view of the interior. The position I have chosen for this box meant that I would be able to mount another external camera if I needed, to give a wider angle.

I would need help to get the old owl box down and to get this new one up. Luckily, a friend, Dave, was at hand and between us, we soon had it in place. It is a wonderful location, over looking the surrounding fields. If I was a kestrel, I’d definitely move in!

The camera is wired up to my monitoring system so I can keep an eye on it to see if anything takes a look. So far the stock dove has checked it out!

The second box is an owl box made out of recycled plastic. This box has undergone rigorous testing by The Barn Owl Centre, who make them. Despite being made of black plastic, there are comparable with wood for internal temperature fluctuations and, for me, a box that does not deteriorate at all through weathering, would be fantastic! Again, I mounted a camera inside and this box was mounted on another large tree in the garden, facing out of the fields. I think jackdaws will be interested in this one, hopefully keeping them away from the kestrels!

I also have numerous tit boxes that I am mounting with cameras. Some are on a new design, to accommodate the slightly larger dome camera. Some of these are a little out of the ordinary!

If these boxes are chosen by my resident blue or great tits, then we will live stream them as part of the CJ Wildlife live webcams.

The blue tits are already checking out one box. I am hoping that we will see activity in all of the others very soon!