Special Guest Blogger: Science Fair Winner Austin Bouton
With the Wingscapes BirdCam I reached a goal: I won my school’s science fair and I moved to the regional competition level. I used the BirdCam to record the feeding patterns at my backyard feeder and called this the “Seed n Feed” project. My data filled up over three pages of Microsoft Excel spreadsheets! I also discovered I have a little thief in my family; my two year old dog April was stealing seeds and oranges. (OK, maybe she’s not so little.) We had to add a little fence around the station after seeing this picture.
To begin the project my father and I built a feeding station. It consisted of a post, a feeder, and a platform. I separated the feeder into two different seed sections for better understanding of what ate what. I put sunflower seeds in one section and mixed bird seed in the other. I also had a spot for oranges. I let the birds get used to my feeding station then added the BirdCam later.
I placed the BirdCam at the proper distance, and used the built in laser to get the perfect picture. Then I activated the BirdCam and let the collection of data roll. I refilled my seeds, and reviewed my images every day. Often there were numerous images of the same visitors caught by the BirdCam. One of the hardest parts of the project was trying to decide which pictures to count as new visits. Some days there were LOTS of pictures to view!
I recorded data from each visit including: species, gender, food, time, and date. I recorded the results in a spreadsheet so I could quickly make charts and graphs later. Gray Squirrels were the most common visitor. Blue Jays and Northern Cardinals were the only other common visitors recorded during my project. The BirdCam captured images of mockingbirds, catbirds, and doves in the bushes around my feeding area in this time, but not eating at the station. In the aftermath following the experiment, I got images of other species at my station including: Common Ground-Doves, Mourning Doves, Pine Warblers, and Carolina Wrens.
Squirrels can be described as many things: annoyances, pests, eaters of seeds, bullies, and much more. Squirrels would come in and flip the top off the feeder and chase everything else away. I don’t mind squirrels though, they are a part of nature and they are fun to watch. Also something would steal our oranges at night. Next time I’ll be able to detect which night time visitors are stealing these fruits, because my Dad and I now have the new BirdCam 2.0 with a flash!
A science fair project requires testing a hypothesis. At first I expected oranges to be favored most, but I was way off. After viewing the pictures I decided sunflower seeds were the favorite food. The graphs made this easy to see as well.
Results: I collected data for 18 days in a row. There were 212 total counted visits, and 144 or 72% were for sunflower seeds. 45 or 22% were for mixed seed leaving a measly 6% for oranges. So much for my hypothesis, but I learned a lot!
Gray Squirrels visited my feeder 138 times, Blue Jays 45 times, and Northern Cardinals 17 times during my experiment.
Tips: don’t forget to check or replace your batteries regularly! One day I had very few pictures. My Dad put new batteries in the BirdCam and the next day I had lots of pictures again. I only had to change the batteries one time in a month though. Remember to check your feeders every day and refill your seeds. If I do this again I think I would record weather data as well. The judges asked me why some days had more visits than others, and if I noticed any changes on visits under different weather.
I won my school science fair using the BirdCam. Not only was this project easy to complete, but I had an amazing amount of fun. This would have been very hard without the BirdCam because I would have had to sit many long hours observing and taking notes.
Eleven-year-old old 6th grader Austin Bouton used the Wingscapes BirdCam motion-activated wildlife camera to win the school science fair at his middle school in Florida. All of us at Wingscapes wish him the best of luck in his future science fair competitions.