Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Baby birds on your webcam

Keeping birds as pets, or if you are breeding them for showing, is always a stimulating hobby. Many folks would love to see the bird babies hatching or soon after they have hatched, but don't want to disturb them in the nest. Or maybe you'd just like to point a camera at your birdcage, or out the window towards your birdfeeder. (Pat's is one of our favorite sites for outdoor viewing.)

If you thought about setting up a webcam but didn't know how to make it all work together, it is not as difficult as it might seem. There are many low cost software tools available for free, or nearly free on the internet, to show and view your webcam activity. Many internet "chat" programs are have a free webcam plugin - such as AOL's AIM Instant Messenger, MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, Skype, and iChat to name a few.

Windows PC XP users have a free program installed called MovieMaker. (to download MovieMaker 2.1 - Microsoft requires you to use only the Internet Explorer browser) Mac OSX and Linux users can also use a free software program from sourceforge.

Some webcams are more sophisticated than others, but even many of the lower priced ones can work for this type of use. One camera we use a lot is the Majestron infrared (night vision) USB cam available from online retailers and on eBay. Other USB models we use are Creative, D-Link, Logitech, MicroInnovations. If you want to go with more expensive cams, we've used SWANN, DigiVue-Elyssa, Lorex, Airlink, X-10, AXIS.

If you use a USB cam, a nifty tool we found is an extender that allows you to attach a regular USB webcam to a small repeater box with an ethernet cable - up to 150 ft. from the camera. This is useful if you want to situate the camera downstairs or upstairs, and leave the computer in a room up to 150 ft. away.

We're considering developing a camera mount that works right (adjustable) for birdcages. We've tried so many different setups, none of them has ever been just perfect - so we keep trying! One that we've had fairy good look with has been the mini octopus type tripod, another one we use frequently is - believe it or not a ring-stand from the science lab equipment store.

Join our group (use the Learn More link in top right sidebar) and discuss what cams and software you're using and what you like about it, and what you'd like to tweak to make it work a little better!