Michael: I have that exact servos from Amazon. It's nice to have a couple in order to test against. For phase 1 (and now), I don't even have the box turned on, and now I have the servo out of it while I troubleshoot.
That is the solar power system I have, and it seems to work great so far - we'll see about winter months. But a 5v output, and 5v through the arduino shouldn't be causing an issue - especially since if I swap the servo out, the new one immediately works. Perhaps to the earlier points, these are cheaper knock offs and either die early, or perhaps get condensation in them that affects things.
It hasn't been rainy in Seattle so far, so the condensation is the only thing I can think of that could cause it to act funny. I did take apart one of the servos to check for blown fuses, and everything looked fine - no burn spots or loose items on the circuit boards there. So seems likely something to do with the DC motor. I purchased a Futaba 3003 servo, so we'll see if there's any difference there. I also did some research into more "weatherproof" servos to see if that could be the next troubleshooting step.
I was worried about water getting in through the coin slot. I had taken a piece of saran wrap, put it over the coin slot and between the layers of the landing perch and the coin slot holder. Unfortunately for me, the crows found that very interesting and kept poking holes in it. I may just duct tape over it for the time being.
Regarding the approach to getting through stage 1....I don't know I guess! I've got a lot of crows in the area anyways. Squirrels and raccoons as well, but I've moved the box o a pole with a baffle, that has pretty much stopped them from visiting - although I did build them an adirondack chair feeder so they didn't get too jealous. But the crows visit every morning between 6am and 8am and clean me out. Sometimes they visit in the evening as well, although they seem to have other food that they're interested in at that time. At least one juvenile, very noisy and hungry. So after a couple of weeks of them getting comfortable with it, I just moved to stage 2.
Stage 2 is still rough. The servo holds up for a couple of days, but the crows are still skittish with it. The box opens and they fly away, and don't visit back in time to get the rest. I just need more perseverance with that, and consistency with my servo.
Thanks again for all the advice!