Affordable method of video recording for ecologists and citizen-science participants
Observations and video documentation of interactions between animals living in dens, cavities, and other enclosed spaces are difficult, but they play an important role in field biology, ecology, and conservation. For example, bird parents visiting nests and feeding their nestlings may provide crucial information for testing of ecological hypotheses and may easily attract attention of participants of citizen-science ecological and conservation projects. Because of the nest concealment of cavity-nesting birds, their behaviors in the nest can only be studied by using video surveillance. Professional wildlife surveillance systems are extremely expensive. Here, we describe an inexpensive video setup that can be constructed with relatively little effort and is more affordable than any previously described system. We anticipate that the relatively low cost of about 250 USD for a battery-operated system is an important feature for citizen-science type of projects and for applications in heavily populated areas where the potential for theft and vandalism may be high. Based on our experiences, we provide methodological advice on practical aspects of using this system in the field for ecological research on birds. We highlight the low cost, easiness of construction, and potential availability to a large number of observers taking part in wildlife monitoring projects, and we offer technical help to participants of such research projects.
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