Sunday, January 22, 2012

Bird Feeder Time Lapse Camera

I placed my new bird feeder, which I received as a Christmas present, outdoors by my breakfast room window at 13:00 Christmas Day.  For one week, I saw no activity at the feeder.  On New Years Day, I saw a squirrel eating my sunflower chips.  Damn squirrels!

There is no way I can sit and watch my feeder 24/7 or even just during daylight hours.  I needed an automated device to record the activity at the feeder.  I could have used my video camera from inside the window.   With the video camera, I would get a few hours of recording before the media filled to capacity or the batteries were expended.  That wasn't going to work.  I could purchase the hardware and software to allow my Nikon to capture images in a time lapse fashion.  That would be costly.  

I remembered seeing on the web somewhere, a programmable time lapse camera that is small, weather proof and under $150.00.   I did some research and purchased from Amazon a Brinno TLC 100 and a Fat Gecko Single Suction Cup Camera Mount, all for under $200.00.  I ordered both on a Friday and they arrived on Wednesday.

I opened the Brinno package and read the manual.  Windows operating system is needed to program the camera.  I only own Apple computers.  I have always only owned Macs.  My children own Macs.  Without Windows I was unable to change the application or the time stamp in the camera.  I would figure out something later.  For the present, I would only use the camera default time intervals and live with the wrong time stamp.

The camera was larger than I thought it would be.  From the images I saw online I thought it was 3" tall.  I made the above image to give you an idea of the size of the camera.  I have large hands.  If I stretch out my hand, from the tip of my small finger to the tip of my thumb is close to 10".  The actual dimensions of the camera are 3.66" x 7.55" x 2.08".
Included in the package were four Panasonic AA batteries and a 2GB USB flash drive.

The back of the TLC 100 has a locking mechanism that closes securely.  Once open, the batteries easily slipped into the appropriate holders.

It was time to choose the time intervals between exposures.  I originally chose time setting #2 or five minute intervals.  After one day of exposures I removed the flash drive and viewed the video.  I caught only two exposures of a squirrel.  That meant the squirrel was at the feeder more than five minutes but less than fifteen.  That was not enough exposures for me.  I changed the intervals to time setting #7 which is factory set at 5 seconds.
The flash drive is then inserted, the back is locked on and the camera is ready for service.

I didn't want the camera on a tripod inside the window for various reasons.  I purchased a camera mount with a suction cup to mount the camera outside to my breakfast room window.

The Brinno has a threaded socket to accept a standard 1/4-20 machine screw.  The Fat Gecko has a standard 1/4-20 stud to mount the camera.

I was now ready to place the camera outside on the window.  I cleaned the window to make the glass as smooth as possible for the best suction.
The suction cup was then placed on the glass and locked in position.  I adjusted the mount so the camera was pointed at the feeder and locked all the adjustable handles and locking rings.  I measured the distance from the camera to the feeder and placed the focus dial a the closest setting 20" - macro.

View from inside the breakfast room
I activated the power and the exposures began.

The above video was from Monday, 16 Jan 2012, three weeks to the day elapsed since I first hung the feeder.  Nothing happening in this time lapse video except wind blowing the feeder, the sun moving through the back yard and at elapsed time 0:57 through 1:00 one bird appears at the feeder.  It turns out to be a Junco.  A Junco that I stated earlier would never eat at this hanging feeder.  Mea culpa.  I would never have known this fact without the camera.

©Damyon T. Verbo - all rights reserved

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