The sooty shearwater breeding season has begun and this year we have a camera next to one of the nesting chambers. You can see this live on YouTube, initially for four hours a day, 9-11 AM and 8-10 PM NZDT. Outside of those hours, you can have a look at footage from previous times. You don’t have to watch the whole thing- remember you can scroll through the timeline and look for interesting bits.
This is Burrow 7 in our little sooty colony. It has been consistently successful, and the nesting chamber is close to the surface beneath a clear, flat area in the forest, so was an obvious choice for installing the camera. Interestingly, it has often given a false negative when burrowscoping, implying that the chick and adults can move quickly beyond the reach of the burrowscope and its annoying light. No such problem with the 850nm IR lights on the camera used here. There has been zero interaction with the camera so far and the birds seem entirely unconcerned, including when the camera whirrs and clicks when powered on each session (you can see that at the start of a lot of the archived clips, where the PTZ goes through its range of motion before settling on the preset).
The birds came back to their burrow probably in late October, then went away to sea again for a month or so. During that time I installed the camera. They came back on 25 November. I first saw their single egg on 29 November. They will share incubation for 53-56 days until hatching. So far we can see some great pair-bonding behaviour, and general activity around incubation, nest material rearrangement, preening, sleeping, trying not to get too bored, etc.
You may wonder why the feed is live for only four hours a day. The setup is powered from an 80W solar panel with attached 100Ah 12V LiFePO4 battery. The battery provides power to a modem/router drawing 1-3W so the feed can get to the outside world. The camera is powered by a POE injector, and draws about 11W with the IR lights on, which is all the time. The set-up might well allow for the camera to be powered throughout the day in mid-summer, but the chick will hopefully fledge in early May, when the solar panel will be seeing a lot less sun. The other main limitation is the amount of data that can be transferred. The feed uses 2.1 GB per hour in 1920X1080 full HD. I have bought a broadband plan that gives 120 GB peak and unlimited off-peak data in a month. The two hours from 8-10 PM daily will chew through the entire 120 GB in a month. The off-peak broadcasts will hopefully be able to be extended once I next visit and check how much strain the battery has been under. Later I’ll post details of the set-up for anyone who has a similar remote broadcast interest.
I have limited control of the camera and sometimes the streams will start, sometimes not. Hopefully we can watch activity at the burrow right through till fledging in early May, but who knows what will happen. This is not a guaranteed successful nest, but fingers crossed.