This year, I had a great nest box in my garden from Jason at ‘Wildlife Windows’ (www.wildlifewindows.co.uk). This nest box is different to all of my others because it has internal illumination… a cluster of white lights that are operated on a sensor, so they turn off at night so as not to disturb the natural light rhythms. I had a pair of blue tits raise their family of ten youngsters in this nest box and the pictures were brill because of the lighting.
Obviously, this box has been empty for a while and I hate ‘wasting’ cameras especially if the cables are already wired back to the house. Normally, I just remove a cam and put it on feeders in the winter, but this box is a bit more specialised and the lights and camera are all in one unit, so I have been thinking about how I might use it over the winter.
The unit is quite large and slides out of the nest box.
It really needed to go into another box-type structure so something for mice seemed the perfect solution. I already have a mouse feeding station in my ‘clay cavern’ but thought it would be good to have something of them nesting possibly. I had experimented with a box last year and thought it might be about the right size…. it was right at the back of the greenhouse amongst various other nest box projects….
I found it and removed it, ready to see if I could adapt it. It is a small IKEA storage box and I had already lined it with an old hanging basket liner and put a plastic pipe entrance in it. I opened it up and was amazed to find a wood mouse family already in there! 1 adult and two quite big youngsters. Two leapt out of the box, as startled as I was and the third sat in the tube! I felt a bit rotten turfing them out, but planned to return the box back to the same position if the cable would reach. they all disappeared into the depths of flowerpots and compost in the greenhouse!
I wanted to ensure that the space I had in the box was approximately the same as that in the nest box. I would then know that the lighting was correct and the focus. I was not sure if the fact the box would be fully illuminate inside during the day would disturb the mice at all…. but guessed they may well sleep in places that are light so as it was dark in there at night, it should be no problem.
To make the internal cavity in the box a little smaller, I cut a piece of wood and wedged it in. I angled the camera and illumination unit onto this so the camera would point down onto the base of the chamber. To ensure the mice could not get to the back of the camera, I cut a piece of triangular wood and totally encased the camera and lighting unit. I experimented with the angle until I could see the base of the box and the tube from which they would enter and exit.
I was not sure if I would need to tempt them in with food so, to save opening the box all the time, I drilled a small hole in the top so I could ‘post’ food down. I could also spy down this hole and the lens of my small Panasonic fitted down it… photographic opportunities???
When I was happy that it all looked OK, I managed to get the cable from where it had been originally (up to the nest box) across to the greenhouse. I wanted to return the box to where it had been previously. I placed it back in the corner, with a little food inside and some in the tube. Would my wood mouse family return and, when the light came back on in the morning, would they leave again?
As son as I woke up this morning, I turned the PC on and went straight to the camera…… they had returned!! The adult with the 2 youngsters, curled up asleep, even though it was fully illuminated inside! I am delighted! Keep an eye out for this camera on my live stream. I have no idea what we might see and it can only be viewed in the daytime as there is no IR on this unit. Already seen some quite sweet behaviour in the hour I have been watching… but also a lot of sleeping, so we’ll see. Well worth the time it took me to move it all though.
Hopefully, I will record a few clips from this box over the coming weeks and we’ll see what happens….