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How Condor Cam Works

What is the Condor Cam?

The TerraFocus Condor Cam II site would have been the world’s 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 by Ventana 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 in action.

General Operation

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 Society’s 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 observations.

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.



Leverage the Technology

Do You Want to Learn How? We are happy to share the technical information and a source list for our Condor Cam systems.

Sources are also listed on our Links page.