Bird feeders are a wonderful thing. Just by placing a small amount of bird seed in the feeder, you can attract a wide variety of wildlife to your backyard. Unfortunately, this might include some wildlife you might not have anticipated.
The only problem with bird feeders is that once the birds arrive, you must be sitting watching the feeder or you will miss the intended effect, namely, seeing the birds. Thus, the need arose for a bird feeder that could capture photos of all of the birds that visited my bird feeder.
The construction project started off with a simple bird feeder design, purchased from Woodonline.com. The plan cost $5.95, and the design produced the bird feeder shown above. It took no more than a single afternoon to build.
Now I needed a camera. I had an old Logitech webcam sitting around from my videoconferencing days in the late 1990’s. This wasn’t the world’s greatest camera, but could take photos at 640×480 resolution.
To make the camera waterproof, I purchased a 6-volt flashlight from my local hardware store, and removed the bulb assembly. I removed the case from the webcam, which left just a circuit board with a USB connection and a camera on it. I glued the front of the camera to the flashlight reflector and mounted the webcam in the flashlight housing. After drilling a small hole for the USB cable, I sealed up any remaining holes in the flashlight housing with sealant.
I connected the webcam to the bird feeder with a short stick I had left over from the birdhouse construction. The USB cable wasn’t long enough, so I purchased two 20’ USB cable extensions. This turned out to be too long, and the camera signal wasn’t making it back to the computer. It would, however, work with just one 20’ USB cable, so I moved the bird feeder closer to my house.
Using the free YAWCAM software, I set up the webcam to take a photo whenever motion was detected. Then I filled the bird feeder with seed, blocking one side of the bird feeder with aluminum foil so the birds would have to eat from the side with the camera.
Here are some of the wonderful photos it captured. And yes, the last photo is of a white squirrel, not a rat!