I got cleaned out!

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Adam

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Apr 30, 2021, 10:18:55 PMApr 30
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I originally had my crow box mounted on a pipe, about four feet above the ground. This was back in March. From March thru mid-April I had once recorded encounter with the crows walking up to the  crow box, getting withing 20' of it and then flying off. I had noticed that the crows in my area are always on the ground and only perch on trees. They won't sit on roof tops. Its either trees or the ground. So I removed the pipe from the crow box and set it directly on the ground. On April 25th I recorded the first crow landing on the crow box, but immediately flying away. On April 29th we had a small rain storm and two crows were hanging around the  crow box and eventually landed on it to take the peanuts that were sitting on the platform. Today, April 30th they came back, and took all of the peanuts and cheetos. They arrived at 14:45 and had it cleaned out by 17:32. I also had my first squirrel visit today.

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I think I'll give them free range for another week and then we'll test out stage 2.
Adam

Josh Klein

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May 3, 2021, 5:54:47 AMMay 3
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Beautiful!! Great pics, especially. 

I'm curious if you think the squirrels will be a problem. In our experience they're pretty persistent, and can clean out a crowbox in pretty short order. One approach might be to get the crows feeding on a regular basis and then start raising the box - first on a stump, then a box, then a pole, etc. to get them used to it. Just a thought - keep us posted on how it goes!

- J


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Adam

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May 3, 2021, 9:08:31 PMMay 3
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Hi Josh,

I'm not to worried about the squirrel, just yet. If he/she becomes a problem, I'll figure out something to keep them at bay. Right now I get a notification on my phone whenever something is on the platform, if I see its the squirrel I just close the lid. 

Do you have any insight on identifying specific crows? I know I have a pair that have been coming pretty regularly and there's a lone crow that visits just as frequently. I haven't seen all three together, but I have seen a small group, up to five, at the neighbors bird feeders.

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Adam

Josh Klein

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May 4, 2021, 6:10:08 AMMay 4
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Identifying individual crows is a longstanding problem. The most successful route I've come across is to watch them obsessively and hope you get lucky with a physical aspect that marks them uniquely! There have been discussions around gluing RFID tags on their feet, etc., but nothing that I've come across which sounds practical. Another interesting route to look at is Machine Vision; there's been a lot of advancement in the public libraries, but it'd require quite a corpus to train properly. Let us know if you find something else / that works!

- J

CrowBoxSteve

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May 19, 2021, 4:41:31 PMMay 19
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Whoa! It looks like your Crowbox is ready to move on to Phase Two. If you have a number of Crows coming to eat regularly, as shown in your photos, they are probably ready to start learning Phase Two interaction. 

You'll definitely need to deal with that squirrel! 

As for identifying individual birds, it's very tricky, as Josh pointed out. I collected hundreds of photos of various Stellers Jays visiting our prototype Crowboxes and starting looking (by hand) for distinguishing features that might have helped in developing a computer-vision solution for identifying them. Many of our Jays had what appeared to be distinguishing facial features:

crowbox_jay_id.jpg

What I learned over watching these individuals for several months is that these facial features come and go. Feathers fall out and grow back. Small bumps, scratches, and wounds appear and then heal- it was very frustrating.

The closest I got to being able to positively identifying individuals visually involved the feet and legs- each bird appeared to have a unique pattern of reticulation across the bare section of their legs, and on the feet and 'toes'. Unlike the facial features, these features of the feet seemed to remain constant. This method brings with it a bunch of challenges, though- You need a good camera and good lighting conditions to view the black legs of a Crow well enough to distinguish these features in the skin. Also, the corvids I observed didn't exhibit consistency in the way they landed or stood upon the Crowbox, so I could not rely on any individual bird to present itself consistently to the camera. Sometimes we'd have a good view of the left leg, other times the right leg, and at other times, a rear view of both legs. It was pretty easy to do the identification work by hand/eye, but I never got very excited about trying to develop a computer vision solution for this problem.

jay_feet.jpg

-Steve

Derek Gilliland

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May 19, 2021, 9:36:18 PMMay 19
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What camera set up are you using? And how are you able to control the Crow box lid via your phone. I’ve got mine deployed, but have been looking for the best camera options.

Thank you,
Derek

Adam

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May 21, 2021, 2:28:17 PMMay 21
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Hello everyone,

Thanks for the info Josh & Steve.

Well I must have jinxed myself. Shortly after I bought a 25lb bag of peanuts I haven't had any visitors, with the exception of a raccoon on May 11th & 12th. The raccoon also broke my camera mount which cause water intrusion and killed the camera. I'll have to get that replaced. That was also around the time I ran out of the Cheetos. I'm not sure if they (crows, squirrels and raccoons) are really coming just for the Cheetos or not. The crowbox has been fully stocked with peanuts since then. Today I restocked the cheetos, so we'll see how this goes.

Derek - I'm using an ESP32 camera with a wide angle lens along with a mount I 3D printed. As for the notifications, I made my own CrOS using ESPHome, Home Assistant,  and an ESP32 Arduino board. So anytime the platform switches are pressed I get a notification, and I can also switch between training programs or close the door (when the crowbox is being raided by a raccoon or squirrel). Aside from the notifications and pictures, you don't need Home Assistant to be able to switch between training programs or see when the a switch was activated.     I put it up on github, https://github.com/ahWorkShop/HA_Crowbox for another member that also uses home assistant.

This is the last picture I have.
20210511_060505.jpg

Josh Klein

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May 24, 2021, 6:20:02 AMMay 24
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LOVE the racoon photo. Thanks so much for sharing your code / setup, Adam!! 

Reg. the cheetos, it's a big open question how much they're a matter of taste vs. the availability of food in the rest of the environment. Our working hypothosis is that while it may attract the animals in the first place because of its status as a favored food source, it also acclimates them to the box and helps cement it as a regular part of their feeding routine. I.e., the hope is that they come for the cheetos, but stay for the peanuts. It's a tricky balance though, esp. as we don't have control over the rest of the environment!

Keep us posted, and thanks all!
- J


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