Category Archives: garden

Jay taking peanuts

This is a short video of a local Jay that takes peanuts from our window cill.

He’s as quick as a flash so I’ve edited the video to show a slow motion version of the nut theft!

Nut Dispenser – 3B. Hardware(dispensing mechanism)

This has proved to be the trickiest part!

Initially i’d hoped to dispense standard, roasted monkey nuts as the squirrels love them! I’ve built many variations of the dispensing mechanism out of foam card however it was proving to be really tricky with the irregularly shaped nuts and their friction.

I’ve tried all sorts of mechanism from the simple opening and shutting of a spring loaded door to the moving of gravity fed nuts using a cut out like the board game downfall.

Downfall game – (image from skooldays.com)

The downfall was my favorite but very problematic with the monkey nuts so I changed to using shelled nuts which were much easier to dispense.

Above all the design needs to be reliable so I have constructed many prototypes with the most reliable by far being a simple trap door – I don’t mind it dispensing too many nuts at once however I don’t want it to clog up and this design proved to work well.

Prototypes - (clockwise from top left) the flapper, the hopper, the noisy cog and the downfall
Prototypes – (clockwise from top left) the flapper, the hopper, the noisy cog and the downfall!

The whole thing needed to be motorised and the foam card just wasn’t strong enough so I reverted to creating the mechanism from Lego at this stage. This was an easy decision as I have tons of it ahnging about with the only downfall ( 😉 ) being that I didn’t want to conform to the lego standard dimensions however for a prototype it would be fine.

 

 

 

Nut Dispenser – 3A. Hardware (electronic)

The hardware for the project can be broken down in to 2 main sections – the electronic control of the various sensors and the mechanism to dispense the nuts.

A) Electronic control.

Having played around a bit with breadboard I’ve worked out what I’d like to have for the various inputs and outputs:
1. Motor to drive the nut delivery system behind a reed switch or relay.
2. Microswitch to tell the pi where the motor is – to stop it chucking out tons of nuts or none at all!
3. Motion detector – I’ve bough one from Tandy which works pretty well .Not sure of the use for it yet but I:m going to add it in should it be necessary in the future.
4. Switch to trigger if the nuts are deployed. (possibly an IR breaker beam rather than a switch to avoid complex mechanical issues).
5. LED. A light that I can configure to show different colours. I’ve chosen a RGB LED so that it can be positioned in one place with the colours showing the status – I’d considered several different coloured ones but was concerned that the wildlife would notice the position of the light (i/e 3rd from left) rather than the colour = possibly a new experiment, though.

I wanted something that was easy to connect to the pi and so have come up with a veroboard circuit that connects to the pi via a ribbon cable.

This has the various connectors in place to make it fairly easy to connect up the swiitches etc and the ribbon cable to ensure that they are alwas connected to the correct pins on the pi.

The second piece of veroboard has the connection for the lego motor – these have special connectors and I decided to use an old battery box as a doner for the plug. I then soldered this on to some board and glued it down having worked out the pin arrangement from here: http://www.philohome.com/pf/pf.htm

It all works pretty well however the wires are inclined to come off the pins at the slightest vibration! Also I’ve had trouble passing 9v through the opto isolator as it sticks at anything over 3v – I’ve since got some relays that may prove better.

Nut dispenser – 1. Concept

With our squirrels and jays becoming a bit more used to our presence I though it would be fun to create an automatic feeder. Rather than simply dispense nuts the idea was to get them to work for it and to see what they see in terms of colours. Initially this consisted of a coloured l.e.d. that showed if a nut was present (e.g. red for none, green for present etc) with the nut being obscured so they could only tell via the colours.
I have grown this idea in my head to the point where I thought it would be fun to construct a dispenser that had several functions and then use them in a modular fashion to create various scenarios for the creatures to go through before they received the prize.

This idea was left for a while until my niece & nephew gave me a bird house for my birthday – unfortunately it is not possible to put up a permanent bird house in our communal gardens but the shape of it made me think that I could build my dispenser inside – so I did!

birdhouse
The birdhouse that will house the feeder

The following posts show how I am going through the design and build of this project.

Recently we’ve taught our squirrel to collect food from a basket, lowered down rapunzel style from the window.

This first video shows the squirrel when (s)he was first introduced to the basket. A bit of fumbling and (s)he soon got the hang of it.

basket squiz 2

A few weeks later and now confident with the basket, we attached a small camera to get a bit of a close up.

basketcam1

Feedercam version 1.0

Toady I’ve been experimenting with 2 webcams to film the bird feeder. Unfortunately its a bit wet so not much happening however at least I’ve been able to test some things…..

Here’s a pic of the setup – a microsoft webcam on the window cill with a logitech blue-tacked to a telescope!

Both are linked to the computer running i-spy using motion triggers so they automatically record when something happens (they have to be pretty sensitive to capture such small objects so most of the videos are of twitching leaves!)

The link below goes to my first test of the system where I’ve got the times to tally up when editing.

squirrel spy test

Next step is to get the raspberry pi to control tham and house the whole lot in a waterproof box to create a sort of “game cam”

Hook – a – squirrel

Recently the squirrels have been sitting on the bank opposite the window, staring at us until they are thrown a peanut.
Today we thought it would be fun to lower peanuts to them on a bit of string, rapunzel style.

hookasquizedit

The above video shows the results – the idea was to keep the string tight so that the squirrel could pull the nut off however it ended up looking like a man in a furry suit doing a bungee jump!

Next step is to lower a camera down too to capture the close up action.