Automatic photos at your bird feeder

Love to watch birds? You need the BirdCam.

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I love gadgets -- as long as they do what they're supposed to -- but I'm not so fond of putting them together.

So when a big box arrived containing my BirdCam from Wingscapes, my heart sank. This looked like it was going to be the the equivalent of assembling bicycles for your kids on Christmas Eve.

Thankfully, I was wrong about that. But not about how neat a gadget the BirdCam is.

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Essentially it's an action-activated digital camera that you put out near your bird feeder to catch your winged visitors on "candid camera."

Yes, it's weather-proof. And it can be set to take still photos (in your choice of low, medium, or high resolution) or video (with sound).

And all I had to do was install some alkaline batteries and mount it outdoors (the company offers several options), which is well within my capabilities.

You can set BirdCam to take pictures whenever there's action at the feeder, or every five minutes, or each 30 minutes -- the timing you choose.

If you install a 1 or 2 GB memory card, which will hold lots and lots of shots, you can leave it out quite a while before you have to download the images to your computer. There's a counter that will tell you how many photos have been taken.

It works only in daylight and shuts off in the dark, which is fine by me because that's when the birds are at my feeders.

So far I've just tried video, which turned out quite well. This weekend, I hope to shoot some still shots.

Before I used BirdCam, I did have some doubts about the possible quality of the output of the 3.1 megapixel camera, which is like a very specialized point and shoot.

But I've been impressed with others' BirdCam photos (which have captured shots of squirrels and a cat raiding the feeder as well as numerous species of birds):

Joe Lamp'l

Living Bird

Laura Erickson

The Bird Couple

BRDPICS

Up in Canada, Doug Green had a few problems with his. [See his comments below, though.] But in talking with a bunch of other garden writers who've tried BirdCam, I haven't found any naysayers.

This isn't a toy. It's a digital camera and is priced like one: $249.95. But it's a fabulous product for anyone who loves to watch birds.  It would make a great gift for your favorite bird-watcher.

(NOTE: We invite you to visit the main page of the Monitor’s gardening site , where you can find many articles, essays, and blog posts on various garden topics. And some on birds, too.)

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