We recently posted a link to the website of Michael Howland, a keen birdwatcher and photographer on the island, who has a webcam installed on a birdfeeder in his garden. With the advent of more easily available home technology, and the popularity of television programmes such as ‘Springwatch’, more and more people are becoming amateur naturalists and photographers. Camera traps, nest box cameras and live-link webcams are all extremely popular worldwide.
Back on the Isle of Man, we asked Michael a couple of questions about his passion for wildlife and how he got into using webcams.
Can you tell us about the origins of your interest in birds?
My wife, Pauline, is the bird watcher. My interest in the birds stems from Pauline’s, taking photographs and from the technology behind the webcams. Having spent the last 20 years of my working life with computers and communications it gives me a chance to keep up with some of the technology. We are both Manx born, and we moved to Glen Vine in 1971.
Pauline’s interest in birds started at an early age, encouraged by her late Father. My interest was to come later after we married and moved to Glen Vine and started putting bird feeders in the garden. As our two children grew up and left home we have taken a greater interest in the birds in the garden having subscribed to Manx BirdLife’s Garden Bird Watch scheme since it started. More recently with retirement and getting out and about we have tried to learn more about the birds and other wildlife on the Island.
When did you start using cameras to record wildlife in your garden?
The feeder camera first went online January 2010. The feeder and camera came as part of a deal which also included a nest box the idea being you could swap the camera between the two which was not really practical so a year later we bought a second camera for the nest box. We were very fortunate with the nest box in 2011 no sooner had we put it up and got it online with the feeder than Blue Tits moved in eventually to nest. They laid eight eggs all of which hatched but only six of the babies survived to fledge at the beginning of June.
We have a complete diary for the nest box family, and there are some videos on YouTube. Unfortunately we’ve had no further success with the nest box although last year we upgraded the camera, and provided daytime illumination for better pictures in anticipation. Fingers crossed for this year.
We swapped the nest box camera out for the ground feeder camera as it was being used to monitor a couple of visiting hedgehogs last autumn until they stopped coming. Presumably they had gone into hibernation. The nest box will be back online shortly.
Many thanks to Michael for providing such an interesting insight into using technology to record garden wildlife. The webcams can be reached here.
If you want to get more involved with recording wildlife in your garden, please consider joining our Garden BirdWatch scheme. You can do so by following this link here.