How Condor Cam Works
What is the Condor Cam?
The TerraFocus Condor Cam II site
would have been the worlds first Internet web
cam site providing images of captive-bred California
condor chicks in training (boot camp) for release into
the wild. Images from the cameras would have been used
Wilderness Society field biologists to monitor and
manage the condor chicks. Video images would also have
been transmitted to the Internet so other researchers,
students and the general public could see this work
Condor release sites are located in
remote areas that are typically well off the grid. There
is no electricity and there are no phone lines. All
Condor Cam systems are solar powered. Reliable transmission
of the images is the key to the usability of the system.
Temperatures can get below freezing
and into the scorching range. Fog, rain
and/or wind are givens.
Cameras would have been installed
in the reintroduction pens where the condor chicks are
held temporarily so they can acclimatize to their new
surroundings as they are prepared for their new life
in the wild.
The Prototype System / Big Sur
Our prototype system was installed
at the Ventana Wilderness Societys release site
near Big Sur, California.
The Big Sur prototype system used
a short microwave link from the pen to the bunkhouse
where the Condor Cam images were displayed on a video
monitor and stored on a VCR device.
Condor Cam II
This is a more sophisticated system
designed for transmission of images to the Internet
as well as for local use by the biologists. If a satisfactory
site could have been found at the Pinnacles National
Monument southeast of Salinas, the Condor Cam would
have sent data and images from there via a custom cable
from the pen to the observation station. A dedicated
microwave link between the station and Scheid
Vineyards some 25 miles away would have connected
to a Scheid-donated T1 line to the Internet.
At the reintroduction pen both a high-resolution
digital still camera and high-quality video cameras
would have been installed. The cameras have Pan, Tilt,
and Zoom (PTZ) capability. The system would also have
provided night monitoring through infrared technology.
Still and video images would have
been transmitted via cable to the site's observation
station where they would be displayed on a computer
monitor for the field biologists in addition to being
relayed on to the Internet.
This Condor Cam II system was also
designed to do other technical jobs for the researchers
like automatically logging the weight of a bird that
perched on the weigh scale, logging weather data, and
setting up automatic bar code database entry of behavior
Sadly, though the system design and
construction was totally complete, Condor Cam II could
not be installed. The Pinnacles release site had to
be relocated. From the new site it was not possible
to transmit our signals out to the T1 line.