Nest Camera- At The Sooty Shearwater Burrow

This 2021-22 sooty shearwater breeding season I installed a camera next to one of the nesting chambers, 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 was zero interaction with the camera and the birds seemed entirely unconcerned, including when the camera whirrs and clicks when powered on each session.

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 28 November and it was due to hatch around 20 January. The egg was seen broken and empty on 15 January. Several days later I was able to look at the burrow on-site, and it appeared the egg had never been fertile. The good news is that both adults returned to the burrow for a few days afterwards, meaning they are both alive and will hopefully have another go next year.

The colony as a whole seems like it is having an average to good year, with 13 active burrows on 20 January. We saw two chicks and a pipping egg in addition to incubating adults when we checked the site with the burrowscope. Despite the unsuccessful breeding attempt and the camera eventually filling up with water (!), I think the videos are a useful record to document what happens underground with these wonderful birds.

The camera is powered from an 65W 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. I was able to have it running for 4 hours a day without detriment to the battery and this might well be able to be extended in mid-summer. The other main limitation is the amount of data that can be transferred with the relatively primitive internet coverage in remote locations in New Zealand. The feed uses 2.1 GB per hour in 1920X1080 full HD. I bought a broadband plan that gives 120 GB peak and unlimited off-peak data in a month. The internet connection is by way of a cell tower 19 km away. Two peak hours daily chewed through the entire 120 GB in a month. Anyone who has a similar remote broadcast interest is welcome to contact me for details of the setup.

At the southern high point about 100 m away from the sooty colony. Note the supervising robin. An old BP Solar 65 watt panel, Teltonika 700 MHz panel antenna, box of electronics.
Victron MPPT charge controller, Teltonika RUT240 modem/router (both highly recommended), cheap CN101 electronic timer and Tycon 12 volt 802.3 af POE injector (seem to work OK so far). Not shown, Invicta 12 V 100 Ah LiFePO4 battery (so far so good, eye-watering price!). Camera (Dahua small PTZ, not recommendable but the price is right) is controllable remotely using Teltonika RMS ($2.50 a month, recommended, if a learning curve for oldies like me). In an Explorer case (reasonable price- the curved interior made it a bit awkward to mount the componentry).