Hillockhead Bird Feeders… what a Birdsy treat!

I have just spent the last week up in a beautiful location on the Black Isle, just North of Inverness, at Hillockhead; holiday accommodation owned by Tim Stenton. (www.hillockhead.net) It is a stunning location and, although I went up for a break, I had lots of wildlife projects I wanted to set up!

One of these projects was linked to another I am involved in. This is a project called ‘Birdsy’ and you may have seen me tweet about it quite a lot recently. This very exciting collaboration, with the company who are creating this, is ticking all my garden bird-obsessed boxes as it is using camera technology and artificial intelligence to basically monitor a feeding station. Sound interesting? This is currently in the beta testing phase, so not available to the general public, but I will be giving out more information as we get closer to launch.

I have been working alongside a selection of people I know, to get the kit set up in a variety of locations for testing. The kit consists of a camera and an app and some very clever software. The software uses artificial Intelligence (AI) to monitor the feed, record video clips of the visitors and ID them for you! The app saves all the videos as well as keeping track of all the species that visit. Here are a couple of app screen shots from one of the set-ups I have at home. #gallery-20784-5 { margin: auto; } #gallery-20784-5 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 50%; } #gallery-20784-5 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-20784-5 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */

The camera stream can be accessed anywhere, via the app or on a tablet or PC. It’s pretty awesome, to be honest, and I am completely hooked! I have two cameras here at home that I have been experimenting with for several months now. I recently set one up at Silvertrees Holiday park and I was very keen to get some set-ups at Hillockhead. I created some feeding stations up there last year and Tim has had absolutely loads of visitors, especially in the winter!

For the best set up, the camera needs to be quite close to the feeders and it is best if they do not move around too much. My first was using a simple free-standing bird table by Riverside Woodcraft; a local company to me. I created an arm on which to mount the camera and then I screwed a seed feeder onto the surface of the table.


The camera needs power, but can pick up the wifi from your router. Tim powered this camera inside the house, as we set it up on his balcony, over looking the Moray Firth. I had originally wanted to have Chanonry Point in the background, but it was way too bright, so I turned it around so we had a darker woodland background. I was able to check the image on my phone app and I could also zoom and focus the camera until I got it just right. It was then just a matter of waiting to see what would appear. Tim had been feeding in this location, so knew it would not be long!


I was most excited about the siskins… there are absolutely loads of them up here and they love the sunflower seeds! The quality from this camera is fantastic!


All these clips are saved onto the app and can easily be shared or saved.

My second set up involved a bit of clearing! There is a rather big hedge running outside Tim’s kitchen. I cleared a section of it, to  create a  space for a feeding station and also to provide a sheltered feeding space with lots of cover. #gallery-20784-6 { margin: auto; } #gallery-20784-6 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 50%; } #gallery-20784-6 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-20784-6 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */

Using an old table top and some wood Tim had, I created a simple feeding platform and then screwed one of Tim’s feeders on top. This feeder delivers 3 different food types so would be perfect for a single camera view. I set the table up a short distance from a heavily trimmed hawthorn bush, so I could mount the camera on its branches. #gallery-20784-7 { margin: auto; } #gallery-20784-7 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 50%; } #gallery-20784-7 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-20784-7 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */

I added some branches as the birds like to alight on something as they come into feed and it looks good on the camera as well. We bought some narrow plastic tubing and dug a shallow trench, running this tubing, with the power cable and a cat5 cable in, back to the kitchen. We could have used a wireless connection, but the wifi is not very strong here, so I chose to cable it back to a plug in TP link just inside the kitchen door.


Tim had not fed birds in this location since last winter, so this was a new space for them, but it only took a couple of hours before the birds were coming down to investigate! The app was soon recording multiple visitors! It is like Piccadilly Circus on there!

The great thing is that I can now access these cameras from home in Lichfield, so I have been watching them and lifting footage for Tim. My obsession with garden birds just keeps growing and Birdsy is going to be amazing for anyone interested in monitoring their garden feeders. I will be writing a lot more about it in the coming months, so if you are interested, watch this space!

With the close proximity of the siskins, I had to get my camera out of course! They were very obliging and I was able to stand in the doorway with them landing on the branches I had cable-tied to Tim’s balcony! With the sky behind, in some shots, I could create a high key-type image. #gallery-20784-8 { margin: auto; } #gallery-20784-8 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 50%; } #gallery-20784-8 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-20784-8 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */


I then moved around to highlight their colours blending with the lichen-laden branches I had chosen…. #gallery-20784-9 { margin: auto; } #gallery-20784-9 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 50%; } #gallery-20784-9 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-20784-9 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */


Such pretty little finches and a species I only have as a very occasional visitor. Now I will be able to share Tim’s feeders with him, via the Internet, and get my Scottish siskin fix here in land-locked Lichfield!

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