Guest post #7: Bird table webcam by Francis Agius

You can know the name of that bird in all the languages of the world, but when you’re finished, you’ll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird … So let’s look at the bird and see what it’s doing — that’s what counts.
Richard Feynman (well, his dad Melville really)

And how do you see what the bird is doing? With a Raspberry Pi of course. Francis Agius tells us how:

A robin visits the table: click for video

Inspired by other web cam posts I wanted to set up a web cam that I could use to record my garden bird table. New to this sort of thing there were several hurdles to overcome! The main two were getting a reliable wireless set up and also being able to run the Raspberry Pi off a battery so I could leave it running free standing outdoors. I also wanted if possible to use Arch Linux as it is a very lean OS, less than 10 seconds to boot up! For wireless network I have used a Tplink WN722N USB stick, this is supported by Arch Linux without any extra difficult setup.

The innards

For power I already had a spare 12 volt car battery and found a fantastic DC to DC converter at Maplin which has two outputs, USB 5v at 0.6 amps good for the the RPi and a second 5 volt output at up to 3 amps perfect for a powered USB hub which runs the camera and the WiFi stick, making it possible to run the whole setup from a single 12 volt car battery power supply. There are probably cheaper ways to get 5 volts from a 12 volt car battery but the Maplin product is very tidy and easy to use. My Raspberry Pi is running Arch Linux with additional packages motion and ffmpeg installed, there are lots of post on how to set these up. I can forward info on my setup if this this will help anyone.

Sealed up and ready for action

So to summarize I am using Arch Linux running motion and ffmpeg, I use ssh connect to my Rpi and start motion running, pictures are captured to the Rpi sd card. On my windows machine Winscp is installed which is great for moving the captured files from the Raspberry Pi to windows.

Software

Raspberry Pi

  • Arch Linux
  • Motion
  • Ffmpeg

Windows

  • putty for ssh connection
  • Winscp to transfer files

Hardware

  • Tplink WN722N USB wifi adapter
  • Sweex Blackberry Black Usb Hd camera
  • Advent powered USB hub
  • Maplin A79 GW DC to DC converter
  • Old 12 volt car battery
  • Food storage container
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