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).

Inside the Kakariki Nest Box- Laying to Fledging

This series of little videos documents a kakariki nest in one of our nest boxes during the summer and autumn of 2021. Those of you who have been watching the live stream will see that it is not working any more, firstly because the link failed (no fault of the provider Teleport) at a late stage, and secondly because the chicks have fledged. I will try to compile a time lapse video from the 74,000 still images stored at Teleport- computer upgrade needed first and global chip shortage will mean a delay, yada, yada. In the meantime, these videos were taken from the SD card on the camera. Sometimes this page does not load properly on my phone. If you are having problems too, please keep trying because it mostly does work. I suspect the page is too big- let me work on that.

This is the pair of kakariki/yellow-crowned parakeet we are watching in their nest box. White-Orange is a young female bred at Tui Nature Reserve and released in October 2019. The male is unbanded, so is either island-bred or has chewed his plastic bands off.

6 Eggs as of 31 January. Only the female incubates. The camera is filming in black-and-white here, from ambient light, but it switches over to infrared at night. There is seldom enough light for it to switch to colour. The birds did not react to the camera except when it was put in. They had a look for a moment and have ignored it since. They will be able to see two faint red lights from the 850 nm infrared LEDS. The LEDs do not heat up the box.
Three newly hatched chicks and one which failed to hatch. This is 18 days after the clutch was completed, which is what the literature says, but the female was diligently incubating right from the first egg, yet they hatched in a group over a day or so. She is feeding the chick regurgitated veg and seeds or fruits. She is fed by the male nearby when he calls her off the nest. She is calling before she gets in the box, and you can hear the chicks at times also.
The female takes food from the male and tries to feed the chicks at the same time. There are four now as at 19 February. I was surprised when the male started getting into the nest box, I suspect because he can, as opposed to a natural nest hole which might be smaller.He also took to roosting in the box at night until the chicks got a fair bit bigger.
4 March, around 13 days after the last chick hatched. All four are growing strongly and are quite a handful, as this supposedly peaceful night-time roosting clip shows. The female is now out of the nest for prolonged periods as both fetch food for the chicks.
6 March. Daytime feed.
10 March. Both parents are fully occupied finding and bringing food.
11 March. A bit of peace for a change. The female is no longer brooding the chicks.
15 March. The female is now roosting outside at night.
22 March. There are now only three chicks. The biggest one died on 16 March, going from apparently healthy to dead in 30 seconds. On advice we introduced a low perch for the chicks to assist with their development. The mother took serious exception to it, so we removed what was left of it.
2 April. The first chick fledged successfully on 31 March and I have since moved the camera a little to show the entrance and exit hole better. This is the second one to fledge and the one left looks a bit agitated about it all, then a bit bereft. We took the opportunity to band the chicks while we were there.
2 April. Not to worry. A quick feed from the mother and then off. Flying strongly if downwards.