Illuminator Enables Bird's Eye View of Osprey Nest
When The Friends of Island Beach State Park (FIBSP), N.J., wanted to install a special video surveillance system to monitor osprey nest activity, the project came with multiple challenges. Mains power was not available, so all equipment needed to be powered by renewable energy. Another requirement was to be able to clearly observe the birds nesting at night.
The state park also wanted to transmit live footage of the nest back to its visitor center, so resolution was another issue. Clear, engaging images were needed.
JES Hardware Solutions, Hollywood, Fla., designers of advanced, engineered security systems, was responsible for the design and installation of the challenging system.
“Our company specializes in solar- powering very high resolution HDTV cameras for many different markets. The osprey system was a great challenge. What the state was offering at the time was too low-resolution and had no night vision, so we took on the cause,” described James Sessions, president, JES Hardware Solutions.
With the challenges in mind, the company selected RAYMAX low-voltage Infra-Red illuminators from Raytec Systems Inc., Ottawa, so the video could be seen at night. Sessions said Raytec infra-red lighting stood out due to its high-performance specification, zero-maintenance requirement, long life and reliability (given the remote nature of the site), along with its ability to be battery powered.
Raytec’s low-voltage IR units are powered directly from 12-24v and were installed alongside an Axis P5534-E PTZ dome network camera. Solar panels at the base of the column charged two batteries during daylight hours so that the camera and lighting could run at night. The Raytec lighting produced high-quality, powerful IR illumination, enabling the camera to generate excellent black-and-white CCTV images of the nest in total darkness, according to Sessions.
The quantity and quality of the illumination needed to be sufficient enough to allow the video surveillance system to produce high-quality footage at full frame rate. With a powerful output and controlled, even light distribution, the Raytec units allowed the Axis camera system to capture real-time footage of the osprey nest activity in excellent clarity and detail.
The reliability and ruggedness of the Raytec IR illuminators allows the JES high-speed wireless camera bridge to deliver 720p video footage at 30 FPS to the park’s visitor center 24/7, 365 days a year.
The installation was carefully executed and timed. The camera had to be in place by March as the birds return to the nest for mating and installers could not be around to disturb them. Because the camera was not allowed on the nest box pole, JES Hardware Solutions put another pole 25 feet away from it.
“The nest box is 40 feet in the air so we had to put the camera 60 feet up in the air to get the proper observation angle,” Sessions describes. “A local charity and the city saw the advantage of having a camera in the park and they negotiated to use the city fire truck to install the camera 60 feet in the air.
“On a system like this, you have to get the camera installed right and the illuminator angle correct. The illuminator has to be above the camera. This is a mistake often made by other wildlife cameras; they put it below and the camera washes out or the picture is too bright.” (See diagram on page 83.)
Sessions admitted that the power constraints were a challenge, but said the Raytec IR lighting performed extremely well and the customer is pleased beyond their expectations.
“Projects like this will only pique the interest of getting more bird cameras on the Internet,” Sessions expected. “We are seeing many new projects in the future.”
This article was previously published in the print magazine as "Raytec Infra-Red Captures Bird's-Eye View."