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).

At The Karearea Nest

The karearea/NZ falcon pair on the island usually nests in the same place, and this year I put my old Ltl Acorn camera on a stand near the nest. These little videos show three very healthy chicks; I don’t know exactly how old they are, but the eggs had not hatched on 15 December, a month before. Three is unusual.

The SD card quickly ran out of space as wind kept triggering the camera, and so this is only a glimpse into life at the karearea nest. The few hundred videos recorded showed that the chicks are generally quiet at the nest site but do move around for shade and shelter, wait their turn for food and tend not to jump all over one another. They probably know not to attract harriers as they must be vulnerable when adult protection is not around.

I can report that at least two of the chicks have fledged and are following Mum around as at late February. The male parent seems to be missing and has been for two visits now. She did well to feed this large clutch by herself. As well as the little birds brought to the nest, she caught two shags (little or little black- a big effort to get them up the nest), and a red-billed gull. She is quite fearless and even had a prolonged go at a reef heron last week, which got quite agitated and it took me a while to work out that the much bigger reef heron survived unscathed.

As you may know, falcon are probably the biggest single impediment to establishment of the translocated kakariki. Falcon are a threatened species in their own right and things have to fall where they may. I did not find any kakariki remains at the nest this year. If the male or a new one does not show up, it may mean some respite for the kakariki next season, but until the juvenile falcon or indeed the adult female disperse the pressure will be on the local birds.