Friday, 16 February 2007

Web Cameras Installed!

Our peregrine falcon cameras are now up and working, and we're all breathing a huge sigh of relief. But it'll still be at least a month before we can bring you live images over the internet.

Here you see our very first webcam picture of the platform, taken inside Derby Cathedral whilst the kit was being installed. You can just make out a foot in the foreground as one of us stood suspended from an abseil rope to adjust the camera, plus another hand in the background, fixing cables in place. Thanks go to Tim Cairns who helped with the ropes on top of the tower, with Nick Brown inside the tower helping connect cables and monitors, but mostly to Nick Evans for his valuable help in preparing the camera mounts and greatly assisting with the abseil.

We took delivery of the cameras much earlier than expected, so it was a frantic week. First we had to work out how to mount them with minimum visual impact to the cathedral tower. Then all the cables had to be threaded from the Bell Chamber down to the Ringing Room, some three floors below, where we planned to put our monitors and internet connections. A short emergency trip to BBC Radio Derby was needed to reconnect a BNC plug that had been poorly fitted to the video cable, and then the day before installation the cameras themselves were connected and tested. Then Panic! Fantastic pictures, but no automatic switching from daylight to night-time infra-red on our best camera. Lots of frantic phonecalls to Eco-Watch ensued, though we only managed to make contact on installation day itself. It appeared that our main camera had been delivered with day/night sensing set to manual control - something we certainly weren't expecting, and didn't want! All carefully packed up ready for the abseil, our camera had to be unwrapped and wired up to a monitor so we could alter its settings via an on-screen menu.

Once repackaged, we took all the gear to the top of the cathedral tower. With safety checks done, Nick E. abseiled first to fix up an anchor point, and then the cameras and cables went down. The camera poles were lowered to us from above whilst we cleared away the gruesome remains of dozens of wild birds and a smaller number of pigeons from the platform. Once Nick had fixed the cameras in place they could be turned on and viewed from inside. Then our second problem arose: the camera's iris also appeared to be set to manual control. It didn't adjust automatically to the available light, and could only be altered from a hand-held remote inside the tower. By now, cold and with our harnesses digging into our thighs, we descended for a rest and a re-think. More frantic calls to Eco-Watch and a look through the camera manual showed we might have to alter another default setting. A second abseil was needed, using radios to talk between those on the monitor and those struggling on a rope to alter the camera's tiny menu buttons. Eventually all was sorted and while all this was going on, a peregrine made a couple of silent fly-pasts to check out the activity near its favourite ledge. After a final check, we lowered ourselves down and returned to view the camera pictures. All seemed good, and as dusk approached we were pleased to see that infra-red pictures were also being taken. Sadly, our smaller camera is set slightly out of focus on infra-red and probably can't be adjusted now until after nesting has finished.

We were all too busy to take photos of the camera installation, but here's a YouTube video of us installing the nest platform back in 2006. Just click the play button to begin.

Our last task now is to connect up the wireless access point which has been generously offered to us by the Highways section of Derby City Council, but is unlikely to be available until the end of March. We'll keep you posted.

1 comment:

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