Twitter followers look forward to Michael Howland's morning updates about his garden 'visitors'. Michael tells how a career in computers led to a hobby watching wildlife via webcams - and about some of his sightings:
While gardens form only a relatively small part of our Biosphere Island, it is amazing what can be found if you look, the most obvious being the birds.
My wife, Pauline, is the birdwatcher. My interest in the birds stems from Pauline’s, taking photographs and from the technology behind our web cameras.
Having spent the last 20 years of my working life with computers and communications, the cameras give me a chance to keep up with some of the technology.
Pauline’s interest in birds started at an early age, encouraged by her late father. My interest was to come later after we married and moved to Glen Vine and started putting bird-feeders in the garden.
As our two children grew up and left home, we have taken a greater interest in the birds and other wildlife visiting our garden.
Our first online effort was in January 2010 with a feeder camera. The feeder and camera came as part of a deal which also included a nest box, the idea being you could swap the camera between the two, which was not really practical, so, a year later, we bought a second camera for the nest box.
We were fortunate with the nest box in 2011 as no sooner had we put it up and got it online than Blue Tits moved in, eventually to nest. They laid eight eggs, all of which hatched, but only six survived to fledge at the beginning of June.
We knew Hedgehogs visited the garden from their 'deposits', so a Hedgehog house with camera was installed in June 2018. In the October, when a non-camera nest box fell out of an Ash tree at the bottom of our garden, it was replaced with a new 'side view' nest box with camera.
This year saw the addition of a camera over our wildlife pond in February just in time for a frog invasion to spawn, and, in August, a camera outside the Hedgehog house to watch the comings and goings of the hogs.
What have we seen? A variety of different birds visiting the feeders, Blue Tits raising families in the nest boxes, Hedgehogs coming for food in the hog house, Frogs and Newts in the wildlife pond and, once, a Polecat captured by the camera outside the hog house.
Highlights include a Great Spotted Woodpecker a few winters ago, a Hedgehog drinking from the wildlife pond, a Blackbird 'fishing' for tadpoles in the pond, and while perhaps not to everyone’s taste, Sparrowhawks passing through from time to time looking for a meal.
The photo shows the nest box in our Ash tree and the camera outside. The nest box camera and its connections are well protected from the weather (rain is the big enemy!) inside the box itself.
Not so the outside camera. Cameras for outside use a two-digit IP rating (not to be confused with the IP network protocol). The first digit tells us how resistant to dust ingress the camera is, and the second for water. IP67 is about the best you can get for the camera.
However, the camera connections are a different matter. While some manufacturers provide waterproof connectors for their cameras, others require the provision of third party covers.
There is plenty of information on the internet about these things and a bit of research prior is always a good idea.
Take nothing but pictures. Leave nothing but footprints. Kill nothing but time.
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