Just before Christmas – when I was convinced that my break would be filled with lots of cold, bright days ideal for photography – I bought myself a chair hide. I’ve wanted to try to be able to get nearer to our garden birds for a while now in order to get some close up shots, but no matter how still I sit they are very hesitant to come close.
The chair hide looks like this – it comprises a camping chair with a cover that you pull up and over yourself and various windows which can be unzipped to stick your camera lens through. After use it folds down and comes in a bag for storage, making it compact enough to store in the garage.
My dream one day would be to have a garden big enough to have a permanent hide set up, but until then this seemed like a good compromise.
As it turned out, the weather over the holidays was awful for photography. For most of the fortnight the UK was blanketed with a thick layer of cloud making the days very dull and the light levels too low to capture any good images. We had one bright day at the beginning of January so as soon as possible I headed out to the garden to try out the hide.
I set up the hide a couple of metres away from a feeder hook that the Robin uses to perch on. To try to see if I could encourage some other species to come and perch I used masking tape and electrical tape to fix a small box of suet pellets and mealworms to the end of the hook. Not very pretty, but this session was more about seeing if the hide worked.
And work it did! I’d sited the hide almost directly underneath one of our hanging feeders, and within minutes I heard the flapping of wings and realised that there was a bird using the feeder right above my head!
Before long the birds caught sight of the box of treats and I had quite a few visitors, both on the feeder hook and perching in the Cotoneaster bush behind.
Getting this close allowed me to notice that this Coal Tit has a deformed beak – the upper mandible is overgrown and curved over, and the lower one seems to be longer than normal too.
The beak should look more like the Blue Tit’s beak above. I posted this picture on Twitter and a follower let me know that the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) ask for records of birds sighted with this type of deformity as part of their Big Garden Beakwatch Project. They say that birds with this type of deformity are reasonably rare, with about 1 in 200 birds being affected, but they are keen to discover more about the causes.
I’ve since submitted my record and the photos and if you see a similar bird you can submit yours HERE
I was out in the garden for about an hour, and this was enough to realise that there is great potential for using this little hide. I’m now working on creating a better feeding platform to use with it and am looking forward to being able to take some really close photos of our smaller garden birds.