The BIRDS ONLINE project has been implemented by the Faculty of Environmental Sciences of the Czech University of Life Sciences Prague since 2014. The project has been through several phases – design and creation of the monitoring system, construction of a special nest box for built-in technical equipment, installing test nest boxes with the help of the public, and implementation of online transmission of the nesting on social networks. Currently we are cooperating with more than twenty partners from schools and private users, as well as with the Ministry of the Environment.
What is the aim of the project?
The main aim of the BIRDS ONLINE project is to bring scientific activities to the general public under the motto “science for people — people for science”. In a unique and undemanding way, we want to involve schools as well as public and interest groups in collecting biological data. In return, they will be given the opportunity to monitor their bird nesting online via their home Internet network and be able to present it on social networks. Video outputs will serve as an ideal educational tool for both children and adults, become a source of data for student and scientific work, as well as a tool for popularizing science.
What is the cornerstone of the project?
The BIRDS ONLINE project is based on using the Smart Nest Box, which was developed for monitoring purposes of nesting of an endangered owl species — Tengmalm’s owl. It was developed by the cooperation of the Faculty of Environmental Sciences of the Czech University of Life Sciences Prague, the Czech Institute of Informatics, Robotics and Cybernetics of the Czech Technical University in Prague and the company ELNICO, Ltd.. In the follow-up BIRDS ONLINE project, the technology of the original smart nest box was modified by ELNICO Ltd. to monitor the nesting of common species of songbirds. The main changes included the adapting the camera system for monitoring bird species active during the day, adjusting to a fixed power supply, and securing the online data transmission and its sharing on social networks. Simultaneously, a wooden structure for songbird boxes adjusted for built-in technology was designed and constructed. The currently modified camera system of a smart nest box allows the opportunity to watch live broadcast of the nesting of common birds from the comfort of your home and at the same time allows the storage of biological information in a built-in computer.
Another important part of the project is the website and the online transmission of nesting on social networks. The design, development and maintenance of the website is provided by the Faculty of Economics and Management of Czech University of Life Sciences Prague. Currently, the website www.ptacionline.cz is in trial operation, which will be gradually finished during 2016.
What stage is the project at?
Currently we are testing and increasing the reliability of technical equipment and specially developed technologies providing the process of monitoring. We are also testing the automatic data storage, remote system setup, online transmission of video images via social networks and completing the user interface.
To implement the project on a larger scale we are looking for financial support from public sources. Within financially supported projects we want to lend a smart nest box to schools as well as public and interest groups that will be involved in the project through monitoring the nesting of birds on their property.
From 2017, we are also planning to offer a basic type of a smart nest box for sale to private individuals.
How is the smart nest box constructed?
Our smart nest box, designed for monitoring the nesting of common birds, includes a built-in computer, a motion sensor for capturing the bird's presence at the entrance hole, one or two cameras with night illumination, a microphone, an indoor and outdoor temperature sensor, and an outdoor lighting sensor. The size of the nest box entrance hole can be adapted to a bird species (for example, a small hole for great tit, a larger hole for common starling). All devices in the box are built-in.
Commissioning of the smart nest box and data transmission
Data transmission as well as the electronics power is provided through an Ethernet (PoE) cable (a diameter up to 1 cm), whose recommended distance from the box to the Ethernet socket is up to 50 m (max. 80 m). At one end this cable is connected to the control unit in the nest box and at the other end to the PoE adapter; this then needs to be connected to the Ethernet socket and the power source. For commissioning of the technical equipment we need to make the power source (a 230 V socket) and an active Ethernet socket (in the wall or switch/router) accessible onsite. We also need to know the device network address – static/dynamic. In the case of static addressing we need to know a network mask, a default gateway and DNS server address and a free IP address (this information should be provided by the person managing the local network). In the case of dynamic addressing we will find this information separately at the site of the camera system commissioning. We will lend all the necessary technical equipment, i.e. a PoE adapter, a PoE cable, and an Ethernet cable.
After commissioning, the user will be able to publicly share live video of nesting and also gains access to the private section of the site www.ptacionline.cz. Here they can upload detailed information about nesting, present the best videos or view archived videos of the other nesting.
Which kinds of birds is monitoring suitable for?
The currently designed boxes are suitable for nesting birds such as great tit, blue tit, coal tit, crested tit, marsh tit, willow tit, common starling, nuthatch, common redstart, tree sparrow, pied flycatcher, collared flycatcher, jackdaw. Occasional nesting can be expected from birds using open-fronted boxes or specially designed boxes, such as white wagtail, spotted flycatcher, black redstart, wren, common treecreeper, short-toed treecreeper or swift.
Who can participate in the project?
Starting in 2017, we would like to involve candidates from schools as well as public and interest groups who will be able to apply the educational impact of the project within their institution. Their participation will not be financially conditional. However, the applicants must be familiar with the conditions of participation in the project (see below). If they are able to meet the conditions, they can register in the project through our system.
Conditions for participation in the project
- An applicant is a responsible teaching institution or public and interest groups (hereinafter ‘organisation’), which will contribute to education and collecting scientific data while participating in the project.
- The organisation has a computer and an Internet connection.
- In the immediate vicinity of the organisation (its buildings, engineering facilities) are suitable conditions for nesting of common species of birds.
- The organisation, or rather its technical staff, should be able to install the nest box independently on their own land in suitable nesting environment (simple hanging up an ordinary nest box).
- The organisation is willing to accept, independently install and provide a secure cable routing from the nest to the internet and electrical outlet (in particular to ensure safe routing within the space used by children).
- The organisation, or rather its technical staff, should be able to plug in a camera system according to the enclosed manual (it is a basic technical skill of every technically educated person).
- The organisation, or rather its technical staff, should be willing and able to check the functionality of the system, the data storage and the online transmission. They should also be willing to communicate with the project organisers in the case of technical problems and provide basic assistance in solving them.
Benefits from participation in the project
- Online monitoring of bird nesting usable for educational purposes or leisure.
- Involvement in an international project.
- Help with collecting scientific data for a prestigious university organisation.
- A possibility to contribute to data processing in the context of student work (e.g. Biological Olympics) or scientific projects.
- A possibility to create short ‘video clips’ presenting individual nesting.