Solar Bird Cam

At the start of 2020, I embarked on a project to build a solar powered bird camera.  This page it a blog of how things have developed and as a reference for myself in times to come when I can’t remember what I did.

The idea behind the project is to use a Raspberry Pi Zero to independently take photos of birds coming to our garden feeder and post them on the internet.  The  project has several parts that all need developing:

Housing

The housing will primarily be 3D printed for ease of prototyping.  The housing will be modular to allow for small incremental upgrades as time allows.

Development thus far has been a frame for the solar panels, and a battery holder.

The solar frame needs the following upgrades:

  • bottom lip to aid retention of the solar panels
  • correct holes on the reverse surface to ensure the wires don’t get in the way.
  • attachment points on the frame.

The Battery holder needs the following:

  • A new method of contact for the wires and the battery
  • Change the battery configuration to be in parallel rather than series.

The following components are still required to be started

  • Electronics modules for the Step Up board, and the battery charging circuit board.

Python Code

The programming language of choice seems to be python, and as it comes as standard on most computing devices including the RasPi, I’ve decided to go with it.

This has also been a learning curve, getting to work remotely on the RasPi’s using SSH, learning how to install libraries, and of course to put some code together.

The following libraries have been installed on the RasPi to allow me to work effectively:


  • screen : to let me log out of the RasPi SSH and leave Python code running
  • • 


The following bits of code are currently being used:

  • RunTime.py : to let me understand how long the RasPi will keep running on solar / battery

Electronics

I’m a novice when it comes to electronics, but a bit of a scour around the internet has resulted in my being able to build on the back of other people’s knowledge.

Power Primary:

 - 2 Solar Cells : Nrpfell Solar Panel 110X70mm 5V 1.25W

Battery Circuit:

 - 18650 battery cells (2 off)

 - TP4056 Lithium Battery Charger and Protection Module

   -  MT 3608 voltage controller 

Reducing the length of wires and connections in the system, and the RasPi successfully ran through the night and so now, I’ve transferred it to the WeatherCam - latest uptime value here