Close encounters of the bird kind

SPACE age technology is being deployed to give visitors to north east England a bird’s eye view of wildlife on a remote Northumberland nature reserve.

The RSPB is working with Tyneside-based surveillance camera experts 2020 Vision on installing Big Brother-style CCTV equipment on the RSPB Island reserve (which lies one mile out in the North Sea). The project is a new direction for the company, whose cameras are usually used to monitor city life, not wildlife. 

Using the latest in wireless technology, a solar-powered camera on the island will beam live pictures of nesting seabirds across the water to a screen in the Tourist Information Centre in Amble this summer. 

In keeping with the RSPB’s aims, 2020 have designed a system to be environmentally friendly and as energy efficient as possible. The unique camera on the island is a discreet, unobtrusive system, which will be powered by energy from the sun collected from solar panels. 

Whilst not the main objective of the project, birds in flight could also be capture as the camera has a 25 frames per second frame rate, a 300 degree per second traverse speed and the images are in real time. 

The surveillance equipment is being installed on Coquet Island now, to ensure that all the gear is in place before the seabirds arrive at the start of the breeding season. 

The project has now gone ‘live’ and throughout the summer visitors to the CoquetWatch control centre in Amble will be able enjoy close-up views of the Island’s breeding seabirds. More than 30,000 seabirds nest on Coquet Island every year, including around 20,000 puffins. 

Stuart McLean, 2020 Vision Coquet Island Project Manager, said: “This project marks a new direction for 2020 Vision. RSPB’s objectives alone required our specialist team to put our heads together to overcome the technical challenge presented by the unusual specifications. We are pleased with the finished results and look forward to a long standing relationship with the RSPB.” 

Paul Morrison, RSPB Coquet Island warden, said: “Coquet Island is one of the RSPB’s smallest nature reserves and during the spring and summer every square metre is packed with nesting seabirds. It’s just not possible for visitors to land on the island because of the number of nesting birds, so we have decided to use the latest remote monitoring technology to take the birds to the people. 

“For the first time, local people and holidaymakers will be able to watch the private life of Coquet’s puffins, terns and other seabirds without the risk of disturbing the nesting birds.” 

Peter Houlis, 2020 Vision’s Managing Director, commented: “We are excited to be working with the RSPB in such an innovative and unique project. As a North East based business ourselves, we are delighted to be assisting in the promotion of tourism in the area, as well as providing a service of mutual benefit to the environment and local residents.” 

2020 Vision was established in 1992 and its services include CCTV, remote site monitoring, integrated systems and concierge solutions. It is the only company in the United Kingdom that has achieved Level 4 status with the Maxpro Video Management System, and its installations of such technology have been in numerous large city centre surveillance systems, universities, railways and for major commercial customers.

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