ARTICLE – My sister and I have recently become obsessed with birds when she opened her curtains one morning and saw two Baltimore Orioles on her suet feeders. She was so excited to see a new bird that she’d never seen before that it made me start birdwatching too.
I began keeping an eye on my own small feeder to see if anything new would show up due to the spring migration of birds. A day or two after her Oriole sighting, I happened to be looking outside at my feeder and caught the quick flash of black, white, and red as a bird flew off.
A few minutes later it landed on top of the shepherd’s hook that we use to hold our feeder. I was excited to see a Rose-breasted Grosbeak. I hurriedly pulled out my iPhone 12 Pro Max and zoomed in quickly to capture the bird so I could show it to my sister. You can also see that image above. The picture is grainy and not very clear, but you can tell what it is if you’re a birdwatcher.
Then early the next morning I was lucky to see this little guy and again, I captured a quick grainy shot of a Yellow-breasted Chat with my iPhone.
I started thinking about buying a better camera with a telephoto lens just so I could get better bird pics. But after checking prices, my brain came up with another idea to repurpose the gear I already have to create an automatic birdwatching camera. That way I wouldn’t have to stand around all day waiting for the birds to show up so I could take thier picture. I wanted something that would take the pictures for me and I found a great solution. The Blink camera.
If you aren’t familiar with Blink cameras, they are small wireless battery-powered security cameras that you can put anywhere inside your home and they will capture video clips when motion is triggered. Check out my Blink security camera review for more info.
As I mentioned, the Blink cameras are small, battery-powered, and wireless. The outdoor version of the Blink camera is designed to be placed outdoors and is weather and water-resistant which makes it the perfect birdwatching camera.
I used a large metal binder clip to clip the Blink camera to the pole of the shepherd’s hook so that it was pointing directly at our small feeder.
The Blink camera settings are customized using a mobile app to set the sensitivity for the motion detection and video clip length that it will capture. The cool thing is that your phone will notify you when the camera captures motion so that you can either look out and see what’s on the feeder or you can view the camera in real-time through the app. That means that even if you are not at home, you can see cool birds at your feeder.
In my setup, the Blink camera is approximately 10 inches from my hanging feeder. I was worried that it would be too close and that the captured pictures and video would be blurry, but I’ll let you see a compilation of some video clips and see what you think.
I know that this setup isn’t going to impress a serious birdwatcher who is also a photographer, but I think it’s a fun and easy way to create a birdwatching camera that will automatically capture birds in action without much effort at all other than having a Blink camera or similar wireless battery-powered camera that you can put near your bird feeder.
27 thoughts on “How I repurposed a Blink camera to create the ultimate birdwatching camera”
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This is awesome, and I’m totally going to do it. I think I can get our hummingbird and … “regular?” bird feeder close enough to capture both!
Matt, I tried setting up a 2nd camera to capture hummingbirds but it wasn’t close enough. I’m trying to come up with a solution though and if/when I do, I’ll update the article.
Julie, have a way to use blink to record Hummingbird.
We attach Hummingbird feeder to a window, then we also attach regular feeder right next to it. Then we attach blink camera to its outer side facing Hummingbird feeder. Thanks
That’s great. Have you gotten some good footage?
Great idea. I have Blink cameras stationed all around the yard, mostly on the ground or a brick. I’ve captured all sorts of wildlife coming through our suburban yard, mostly at night via infrared. I’ve caught videos of a fox standing in one of our ground-based bird feeders, a fox rubbing on some organic rat repellent on the driveway like a cat on catnip, a parade of four goofy raccoons, possums chowing down on leftover grapes, and all numbers of birds, lizards, insects, and other critters. I love them, and check the cameras every day to see what hilarity ensued overnight.
Would love to know what camera you use. I want to put up some cameras in our back yard. The bird feeders are in our front yard.
Would love to see what adorable visitors we get.
Alica, the whole article is about using Blink cameras:
Also, what mount did you fasten the binder clips to? It doesn’t look like the (nearly useless) standard mounts that come with Blink.
Margaret, I’d love to see a fox! We just have deer, ground hogs, squirrels, turkey, and birds here 😉
I used the included clip that snaps into the back cover of the camera. I agree that they aren’t very useful, but they are just useful enough for my application 🙂
FYI when I got a newer version of the outdoor model it did not come with that clip 🙁 But since I have a bunch of indoor ones whose clips I didn’t always need I was able to find a spare to repurpose for it (the case still had the ring to snap in the clip).
Julie, I was just thinking of doing something like this – good idea using the binder clip!
BettyW, that’s strange that they didn’t include a clip but glad you had extras.
It had a different kind of mount that could only be stuck or screwed on somewhere – looks cleaner, but not as handy for my uses.
I had noticed strange animal poop in our backyard, and deployed a blink camera overnight. Turns out it was a fox! A rather big one at that. Which is problematic as we have a teacup yorkie who also uses the backyard. Then months later, we had noticed (again, strange poop) but inside our pantry. I put a blink camera in the pantry and it videoed a mouse. We then deployed three more around the kitchen and learned exactly how he was getting into the house.
Jared, great detective work!
A few years ago an intruder got in my shed, stole a chainsaw and left a cigarette butt behind. I bought a Blink system and now regularly catch raccoons, deer, fox, skunks and moths but no burglars. We have a tall pine tree that bald eagles land on daily to watch for fish and I’d love to get a camera up there somehow. I can’t think of a way to do that.
You missed your chance, this coulda been a kickstarter!
Julie – Love the clamps. Binder clips can do great things ! Have you squirrel-proofed your feeder or are they a problem there? Nearly every bird in my area eats black sunflower seed but squirrels love it too. So I hung my tube feeders with fishing line from a tall limb. Squirrels can’t grip it.
Lex, squirrels are a big problem here. I’ve had them shimmy up the poles hand over hand like a human. I tried hanging a slinky around the pole but that just helped them more! Fishing line is a cool idea!
i liked your idea!
we used a ring doorbell that was surplus to purpose for a while
a couple of old camcorders and of course trail cams as well to record our backyard guests
normally i just sit in a comfy chair with a 500mm lens and shoot out the window 🙂
they all have there pluses and minuses
my initial take is a lot of the security cams are uncorrected wide angles…too much distortion but good enough for specimen shots
the trail cams slow triggering is a liability…perhaps i just need better tech
to attract orioles (we get both northern and orchard), catbirds, house finches, robins and cardinals put out a dish of grape jelly each morning…bring it in at night or the opossums and raccoons will eat it all
So I did set up a Blink camera on the pole of a domed seed tray. It works great – almost too much so, getting nearly 100 recordings between dawn and 8am! Julie: what sensitivity settings etc are you using? I’m using Retrigger=40, Sensitivity=5, Clip Length=10, and “end clip early if motion stops”=Yes. I may try reducing the sensitivity a bit more, but the feeder swings freely in the wing or from a bird take-off, so I’m not sure that will stop videos of the swinging feeder.
I have retrigger = 10sec, sensitivity = 3, clip length = 30.
I get a lot of notifications too. I unarm frequently now that several days have gone by without any new birds showing up.
I love this idea! With multiple Blink cams, do you have to have a Blink Sync unit? Also, can two people access the app on their own phones/devices? My husband and I would both like to watch the action.
Debbie, you need a hub even if you only have 1 camera. Yes, you can use the app on multiple devices and just login with the same user name and password. BUT, only one person can be watching the live feed. If another person tries to watch it at the same time, they will get a system busy message.
I love the fact that there are so many ways to approach a problem. Last year, I invested in an Indiegogo project Bird Buddy, which is very similar to the Netvue Birdfy Feeder Cam you had reviewed. I still don’t have the Bird Buddy products I ordered, so I’m hoping that the delays will be worth it. But I’m also a -little- worried that the AI is going to be just as bad as Netvue. Then I see this review where you very effectively use an inexpensive Blink camera to take some fun video and, honestly, I’d rather have no AI than bad AI. For me, the most important part is the accurate motion detection. Night vision is cool but, are birds really out at night? Not usually…? I really appreciated watching your video compilation! Oh, and over the past few years, I saw my first Rose-Breasted Grosbeak and they’re so distinctive. And the past few months, I’ve seen a few yellow-yellow birds but, sadly, they’ve been too quick to capture. I’m hoping that having some form of always-watching bird camera will help me capture more birds, and keep track of them. Also, I laughed when you said “grr” for squirrels. They’re so difficult to keep away! Thanks for the enjoyable reviews.
Amarand, I’m with you. No AI is better than crummy AI. I’m all about keeping things simple and easy. I took down the Netvue feeder. I loved that the battery lasted forever, but the see capacity is not very big and it was a pain to fill it without taking the feeder off the tree.
I am here from the nephew review. I think I am now convinced to just move my blink camera to my birdwatching patio. Thank you for mentioning your settings that you have had success with. Much appreciated Julie!
Thank you for the video. I’m still unclear how to make this work but I’ll keep trying.