I have had great fun creating little mini scenes for my mammal boxes and this made me think about what I could create for the birds. I played around with lots of ideas before I came up with the snack bar idea. I needed to create a set-up that would house an HD IP camera and be able to dispense a reasonable volume of food. I drew up lots of different plans and had lots of ideas. Through creating my mini mammal set-ups, I had discovered that 1/12th dolls house furniture and accessories were ideal for small mammals and, thus, the right size for small birds as well. I found there was a tremendous amount of scope for my snack bar idea; food of all descriptions, mini bottles of water , sandwiches, cakes… in fact anything you can imagine… you can find in 1/12 size.
The issue was that my carpentry skills were nowhere near good enough to turn these ideas into reality. Luckily, I had met Tom Firmstone on Twitter… who had offered to help me with any of my projects. I did warn him he may regret saying that! I showed Tom my sketches and we talked through my ideas. Over the next month, Tom experimented with lots of ideas and initially started building the box from wood.
This did not really work out, so Tom then progressed to building a frame from metal and plastic. It took several weeks of experimentation and lots of emails backwards and forwards, before Tom was happy with the new design. It looked fantastic from his photos and it had evolved to house a tray at the front for food as well as a counter. Tom also created two small shelving units for me to fill with tiny food items. Finally he created a side pipe for me to fill the feeder from my office window. It was so much better than I had imagined it would be! I couldn’t wait to see it ‘in the flesh’. Tom drove over to deliver the new creation. I was just thrilled with this quite spectacular feat of engineering!
Setting it up in my office, I fixed in the camera on the bracket set in the back of the box and set it so it would be positioned so the birds would visit the food tray in the front but look like they were visiting the snack bar. I used a model robin to mock-up the scenario.
Once the camera was in place and I knew I could achieve the camera angle and image that I wanted, the really fun part began! I had ordered a range of tiny dolls’ house-sized items to ‘stock’ my snack bar. From miniature bottles of water and cans of drink to tiny packets of crisps, I began to arrange and stick the food items onto the shelving units and the counter. Checking that everything looked good in the camera, I moved the items around until I had achieved the look I wanted.
The last thing was to add some lighting. This is the most difficult part of the set-up. Being mounted outside, facing the hedge with varying light conditions I felt the lights would illuminate the interior enough to ensure that all the times would be visible at all times and may counteract the brightness of the outside environment. The only way to see if it was all achieving what I hoped it would achieve, was to get it outside and into position.
Getting the set-up into position proved very difficult as it is level with an upstairs window, mounted on two wall brackets. The passageway underneath is very narrow, meaning there is limited access for a ladder and the ladder ends up being very steep. Carrying this heavy box up a steep ladder and then having to reach out to get it on the bracket was precarious to say the least, but between two of us, I was relieved when it was all in position and I was able to secure it.
Plugging in the camera and the lights from my office, I got the camera view up on my PC using the iCatcher console that monitors all my camera systems. The view looked fantastic; just how I hoped it would be.
The next question in my mind was, would the birds actually use it? They were already visiting this are on a range of feeders outside my window. They are used to me trying out all different types and styles of feeders, so I was confident. I was not disappointed….. within ten minutes, the robin came to check it out and in the next hour , the blue tits followed! Before long, there was a flurry of visitors. Even as it got dark and the internal lights illuminated the snack bar, the robin still visited… I’m thrilled!
A huge thank you to CJ Wildlife. Their generous sponsorship has helped fund this project. Their foods are proving popular with visitors too!
This snack bar will be open for food over the winter period, so check it out on my live cameras to see what species you can spot.