I recently built a Raspberry Pi-powered night-vision camera to view hedgehogs* and other wildlife in my garden.
(* NOTE: The aim of this project was to photograph hedgehogs in my garden, which is in the UK. According to Wikipedia, there are no species of hedgehog native to North America, which I imagine accounts for most of the Make: audience, but there is nothing in this project that is specific to hedgehogs.)
I used a Raspberry Pi night vision camera – a 5MP infrared camera module with IR LEDs – which is perfect for taking pictures at night, and also works well during the day. I also used a Long-range WiFi dongle with antenna – this allows the device to get a WiFi signal at the end of my garden so I can connect in.
I housed these components, along with a Raspberry Pi 1 model A+ (which I found to work well in this application), in a waterproof plastic food container which I obtained from a supermarket. This ensured that the electronics inside were protected from bad weather. I drilled a hole for the camera lens, and placed blu-tack around the hole once fitted to prevent any water ingress.
I also made an adapter which allows the box to be mounted on a tripod, although this probably isn’t really necessary since it is fairly easy to position the box without this. I made this with a sheet of aluminium that fit into the bottom of the box, onto which I glued (using epoxy) a nut with the appropriate thread for a standard tripod (1/4-20 UNC). I drilled a hole in the aluminium sheet under the nut, and in the bottom of the box to allow the tripod thread to enter.
I had originally intended to power the device using a large rechargeable power pack I had (10400mAh). This was able to power the Pi A+ and the WiFi dongle just fine for over a day. However, I found that the IR LEDs on the camera module were particularly power-hungry, and the battery would only last around 4-5 hours with those plugged in. I therefore decided to allow the device to be powered from the mains if required, so I made a small hole in the lip of the box near the plastic seal, to allow a USB cable to enter. I then ran this to a mains adapter placed in an appropriate water-resistant location.
After setting up the software, I placed the device in a suitable position at the end of my garden, where I had seen hedgehogs in the past. I then powered up the device and made sure the camera was focussed. I also put down some hedgehog food and a dish of water to try and draw in any wandering hedgehogs. I then stated pi-timolo and left it to run overnight!
The following Youtube videos were composed of timelapse images taken by this device, and show the variety of wildlife I’ve managed to capture in my garden so far, including hedgehogs, mice, cats, slugs, and snails.