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Filming Wildlife in Your Garden

The My Naturewatch Camera has been developed to help you capture wildlife in your garden, as well as helping to track birds. Bill Gaver from the My Naturewatch team told us more...

For the last year or so, our team of design researchers from the Interaction Research Studio at Goldsmiths University and the Royal College of Art have been working on devices that people can use to engage with their local wildlife.

We’ve explored a number of possibilities, some more practical and others more playful. Now we are releasing our first two designs — a ‘wildlife camera’ that takes pictures when it sees movement, and a RFID-reading bird feeder (‘freader’) that can track birds fitted with special RFID rings. Instructions for making both  are on the website.

My Naturewatch Camera uses computer vision software that we’ve developed in our studio to ‘see’ when something is moving and take its picture. Set out in the garden with a bit of bait, it can capture quite striking portraits of the birds and animals that live around us — often quite intimate or even funny.

Most of the images here have been taken with My Naturewatch Cameras, both by us and by people who’ve built the cameras in workshops at Nature Reserves and schools.

The basic version takes only about an hour or so to make and is very ‘tech light’ (no soldering!). In fact, most time is spent rigging up a simple waterproof housing from household items like food storage containers or empty plastic bottles. There’s also an infrared version that takes nighttime pictures, which is only a little more challenging to make.

Now we’ve released instructions for building My Naturewatch Cameras on our website www.mynaturewatch.net so that anybody can make their own. We’d love to see photos people get with their My Naturewatch Cameras, so please share them and use #MyNatureWatch on social media!

Our second design, for a RFID bird ‘freader’, is also easy to make (though it does involve a little soldering).

Ornithologists are really excited about this one. Normal bird rings require that birds are recaptured to be read, but RFID rings can be read automatically - they use the same technology as contactless payment or transport cards. That means that if enough people make our freaders, which are much less expensive than commercial ones, we could build a nationwide network providing unprecedented information about a bird’s movements.

So far, we’ve been trying to test the readers on Goldsmiths’ campus. Jamie Dunning, an ornithologist from Nottingham, came down to ring robins for us — but unfortunately, we only managed to capture one! We’ve had ‘pings’ from that single robin on our freaders, so we know that the technology works, but there are two problems. First, we’d like to ring more birds so we can collect more data. Second, we want a picture of our robin on one of the freaders! So Jamie will be coming back soon to try to ring a few more robins, and we’ll continue trying to get a picture of our elusive friend. 

To find out more about My Naturewatch Cameras.

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