Sunday, February 21, 2016

New Nestbox Studio

As nesting season approaches, I have rebuilt my nest box with an eye toward better integration of the cameras. I also made two copies of the box, and installed one on each side of the property. One labeled "J" and one labeled "K" after the last names of the neighbors on either side of us!

As you can see, the house is still patterned off of the standard TB-1 plan from the Texas Bluebird Society that I used last year.  I have made a couple of modifications. Apart from using pine to reduce cost, I increased the roof size to 15" x 11" in order to mount a camera under the eave. Last year I had it out on a outrigger pole fastened on the roof. I am using my original Hawk Eye Nature Camera from Birdhouse Spy Cam at this location. I screwed on some stiff plastic sheets to provide rain protection for the camera. I also widened the front and back sides of the box to create an external camera bay on the left side. Finally, I added a corrugated plastic top to help reflect sunlight during the summer. This was a tip I got from the Bluebird folks.

On the inside of the house, I mounted some spare plastic-coated hardware cloth for a "ladder". Departing from the normal design plans, I cut a hole in the side of the house so that I could mount the internal camera such that it will show the nestlings from a side angle. This is the new Hawk Eye HD Nature Camera. It has a much wider field of view and twice the resolution. It also has better color saturation but that probably will not make much difference inside the house where IR light dominates.

Here is the same camera from the back side. You can see from this image that the main nest box cavity is the same size as last year. The extra width is used as a "technology bay" to allow quick access to the camera and cabling while still providing weather protection. The Plexiglas plate that you see slides down out of the way along the grooves.

A detailed view of the top of the house shows the plastic heat shield and the crisscrossed fishing line used as a House Sparrow deterrent. There are also runs on either side of the entrance and two long lengths hanging down from the front corners of the roof. This use of monofilament is another trick from the Bluebird community. I have seen this work on my own nest box last year.

Here is the full elevation view. The pole is a 10 foot length of 1" metal electrical conduit. This pole is potted into a short 100 pound concrete pier, 12" in diameter and 8" high. A short piece of 3/8" rebar which transfixes the bottom of the pole locks it in place.  I did not bury the concrete pier but simply leveled it with some patio sand, a bit like a garden umbrella stand. Using a dolly, I can easily move the assembly to relocate it as needed and it is pretty solid in the wind.

I reused the predator baffles from last year. These are formed from 8" stove piping parts and topped with heavy duty meshing. The camera cabling runs down the pole inside the baffle to the ground. There I re-purposed a length of thin garden hose, splitting it lengthwise, to create a protective "cable loom". I ran this along the ground from the nest box to the observatory where the network video recorder is installed.

The security monitor display shows the view from the four cameras with labels to remind me what I am looking at. As before, the images from the cameras are clear but have very low color saturation. I am toying with the idea of mounting a small LED light in the box on an external switch to get color images of the nestlings.

So far a couple of Carolina Wrens and Carolina Chickadees have investigated the boxes but without going in. I have also had to evict a few wasps and ants. The taller pole is making these housekeeping chores more challenging.


  1. Pretty impressive. I would strongly recommend that you remove the plastic hardware cloth below the entrance hole. Over the last 25 years I've had ~ a dozen bluebirds (adults and nestlings) get their feet caught in this type of "ladder". Cutting in 4-6 kerfs about 1/2" apart with a saw or dremmel tool gets the job done and is safe for the bluebirds. What pattern is the fishing line on the roof? How far apart is the line near the entrance hole? Do you anchor the line that hangs down from the roof to the ground?

    Dan Sparks
    Brown County Bluebird Club
    Nashville, IN

    1. Dan, thanks for your comments and advice. I will consider removing the ladders, though challenging to put kerfs now that box is assembled. Fishing line on the roof follows the perimeter and an X across the middle. Lines at entrance hole are separated by 3". The lines that hangs from the corner are weighted down with washers to keep line from being dragged into the nestbox. Will put Spooker back after eggs are laid. Active control methods also used. I have low expectations of bluebirds in our yard since we don't have much open field. Titmice and Chickadees are a more likely tenant for us.


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