Garden Photo Studio

Now that I’ve got my chair hide, I thought I would have a go at creating a small set up for bird photography in the garden (partly inspired by my visit to Burtonwood Nature Park, where they have the photography set-up of my dreams)!

I wanted to bait an area to encourage birds to come down and feed at eye level when I am sitting in the hide. Our bird table is far too high for this purpose, even though I use the hide on a raised patio near to the house. So I bought a 3 section feeder pole, thinking that I could then add or remove sections as necessary to adjust the height.

I wanted to fix some kind of platform to the top of it, and the bottom half of a mealworm feeder fixed to the threaded adaptor which came with the pole looked like it might work well. I tried to disguise the edges a bit with some sticks and ivy, stocked it with some tasty treats and left it out in the garden for a few days for the birds to get used to this new food source!

I’ve now had a couple of sessions using the platform and so far it’s working well! I’ve been delighted that the Coal Tits were the first to try it out and have been the most regular visitors so far. I fell in love with these fiesty little birds when they started visiting the garden three or four years ago, often accompanied by the Blue Tits. Unfortunately they are very shy and incredibly fast – I’ve never had much luck photographing them around the feeders as they grab a morsel of food and are gone in an instant. They usually retreat deep into the hedging to eat their prize, or cache it – they are one of the few birds that caches food in multiple places to see them through the harsh days of Winter. Though it looks like I will have more luck with the hide and feeding platform set up – this is only a start but I’m already over the moon with these images!

The Blue Tits have been following the example of the Coal Tits and are using the platform too –

And there’s even been a few visits from our male Blackbird –

Surprisingly, the Robin has taken a few days to start using the platform – I would have been willing to bet that he’d be one of the first! He’s making up for lost time though and is now becoming a regular visitor.

I’m now thinking of ways that I can improve the look of the platform. This feeder base is quite deep, ideally I’d like one a little shallower. I’m already looking at options to see how I can put something together more suitable and easier to make more natural looking. Watch this space!

I’ve also done some work to the chair hide. I’ve started using a gimbal head and tripod to cut down on how much I need to move once I’m inside the hide, as well as saving the load on my arms. I’ve also started to drape a scrim net over the gap left open for my camera, to hide me even more. I think it’s worked, too – the birds seem much more confident in coming close and the Robin has even started landing on top of the hide on occasion!

I’m really happy with the way this experiment is turning out – I’m loving being able to get such close up photos of the feathered visitors to our garden!

Red Squirrels at Hawes – December 2018

Once again time has flown by and it’s over a month since my last entry! I have a few queued up to write and meant to do these through December, however my plans were somewhat derailed by work being completely crazy in the run up to finishing for the Christmas break.

In early December I did manage to get away for the day to Yorkshire for a day photographing Red Squirrels. I’ve always wanted to try taking photographs by a reflection pool – a large but shallow pool of water that allows for wonderful reflections. They can be set up at home, but unfortunately my garden is far too small to set one up here – although that plus a hide would definitely be my dream scenario!

Luckily, dotted around the country are several hides available to hire which already have pools set up. Even more luckily, the one nearest to me in North Yorkshire also happens to be in a woodland which is home to one of my favourite species – Red Squirrels!

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My day in the hide duly booked, I left the house at what seemed like the middle of the night – actually 6 in the morning – to embark on the 2 hour drive over to the meeting point in Hawes. The omens didn’t look too promising for the day ahead – as I drove across the Pennines thick fog came down and as soon as that cleared it was quickly followed by drizzly but persistent rain. All the same, the drive was really enjoyable with the dawn breaking over some beautiful scenery as I made my way through Yorkshire. Even better was the sight of two hunting Barn Owls, a Little Owl and a Stoat running across the road!

The weather brightened as I met up with Paul who owns the site, and we made our way over to the hides. They are ideally located just a few minutes drive outside Hawes, and within no time I was settled into the reflection pool hide.

Before long the squirrels arrived – but unfortunately so did the rain, meaning that I was only able to get a couple of shots with reflections as there was just too much disturbance on the top of the water.

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It continued to rain torrentially for much of the rest of the day. Even though I wasn’t able to take the shots I went for, I love some of the photos that I took on the day. They certainly reflect the conditions and tell a story.

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Some of the squirrels looked seriously bedraggled at points.

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And I was treated to a couple of instances of something that I never thought I’d see – swimming squirrels! On several occasions squirrels managed to knock hazelnuts into the pool and went chasing into the water to retrieve them. They had no hesitation in chasing right into the water – until roughly halfway across the pool where they seemed to lose their nerve and beat a hasty retreat back to shore. At which point they had to wait until the nut floated back to the side of the pool before finally claiming their prize!

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There were usually 4 or 5 squirrels around the hide at any one time and they came so close – even running across the front of the hide on several occasions and stopping to have a closer look at me!

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As well as the squirrels, a variety of woodland birds were also frequent visitors to the pool giving me the chance to photograph them too.

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As the afternoon rolled on and the light started to drop, sadly it was time to leave. A sign of just how much it had rained came when we passed what had been a small stream in the morning, which was now a raging torrent as water flowed down from the hills. All the same, I’d had a brilliant time and will definitely be visiting the hides again in pursuit of some better weather and those ever elusive reflection shots!

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The hide I used can be booked here through Paul Fowlie Photography.