Monday, 24 June 2013

Woodland Hide Part 1 - Early April 2013

Long tailed Tit
I tend to get many crazy ideas that I think might benefit my photography, usually they are completely unrealistic due to personal and financial limitations. But on this occasion I thought I would give them a go, after getting fed up of unsuccessfully photographing the garden birds that visit the feeding station in the garden, due to the lighting or the lack of natural perches.

So basically I longed for my own 'Outdoor Photo Studio' after seeing a couple of examples of shots that other enthusiasts had gotten from their own D.I.Y 'Feeding Stations' I started to give the idea of my own a lot more thought.

First of all I guess I needed somewhere that was quiet, had plenty of cover for the birds from predators but also had open areas that would allow Hide positioning and the placement of props that allowed a nice clean background behind the subject. With the weather pretty poor that weekend I had a wander around the river looking for possible locations hoping to find somewhere I could place my pop up hide comfortably and fairly concealed.

I know for one, thinking of creating a feeding station at the beginning of April probably wasn't the cleverest forward planning as most of the birds would be finding natural food sources and thinking about breeding, but I had thought at least it would be in position for the autumn. It was whilst pondering this thought that I came across an old lean-to. Put together originally to house the mower for the river bank. 

All over grown and covered in moss and damp, I could instantly see some potential, the mower hadn't been kept in there for a good couple of years rendering the shed pretty much unused. It overlooked a small clear area before the ground reached a stream 25 ft in front. Large conifers to the left and smaller trees to the right. A nice blend of cover and clearing.

So I had found the perfect shell for my dream D.I.Y woodland hide, so the most important thing I had to sort out prior to getting started was getting Dad to agree to let me remove parts from one of his sheds and clear a largish area right next to the river bank. The bigger bonus was it was only a 2-3 minute walk from the back door.

Surprisingly he agreed fairly easily, so Saturday morning I was stood routing through his van searching for the tools I needed to transform my new found project. Now it is fairly well known that I am not the greatest at D.I.Y or even anything practical that involves common sense, so you can imagine dads face as I loaded a wheel barrow with Saws, Hammers, Fencing poles, Spirit Level, Cordless Drill, Croppers and a Rip Hook. To this day I'm still not sure if it was a look of bewilderment as to if I had any idea what these tools where or as to if he would be taking me to casualty in an hour or so.

What I found
First job was to clear the ground area so I could visualise where I wanted props, feeders and stuff to go, here the Rip Hook came into action and I had soon cleared an area which was covered in dead grass and reed. The croppers where handy in removing plenty of overhanging branches leaving me a couple of good natural hooks to hang feeders from.

Before & After 
My next stage was to remove the old panelling on the side of the Lean-to, re-join together and create myself two hide windows, which I then even to my own surprise managed to fix hinges on to. So windows in place at the right height, I found a rather useful pile of old bridge planks and transformed into a table platform about 3.5 metres from my hide windows. 

These planks also came in quite handy when cut down into matching lengths in positioning over top the muddy earthen floor inside the hide. With hide pretty much complete and feeding table in position, I put up half a dozen feeders around the area to start to drawing in the birds. Sunflower seed hearts, Nyger Seed & Peanuts all dotted around the clearing. 

Having found a nice moss covered tree root nearby I quickly dug it up and positioned it atop of my table platform. Hoping it would be a great stopping point for the birds as they came into the feeders on the pole next to it. A couple of branches from the still green Christmas tree were placed upright in the ground on the other side of the pole feeders completing my initial station set-up.

All in all nothing to strenuous, all done in a good mornings work. But for someone with my very limited practical D.I.Y skills I was pretty chuffed with how it had all come along and the fact I didn't need to visit casualty.

Finished I was under no illusion that I would see anything visiting my new feeders for a couple of days, so was fully prepared to wait until the following weekend before spending any time in my new hide. However after having a quick peep the next morning it was clear to see that about 3 of my feeders had taken a little bit of a hammering and the seed levels had dropped by and inch or more.

I am guessing it was due to the unseasonal cold weather, but as a couple of Great Tits swooped in to land on the peanut feeder my mind was made up, to spend a couple of hours in the hide during the afternoon. Still not really expecting to see too much I left the hide exactly 2 hours later froze to the bone but over the moon with what I had seen. 14 Species already!

Blue Tit, Great Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Coal Tit, Marsh Tit, Chaffinch, Robin, Dunnock, Treecreeper, Blackbird, Great spotted Woodpecker, Moorhen, Pheasant & Wren all visited regularly. My most desired species however when initially planning was the Great spotted Woodpecker and the Jay. So to have a female GSW visit within hours of completion I was over the moon.

Coal Tit
As with all of my bright ideas though the conditions for photography couldn't have been much worse, it was freezing cold, far to cold to be sat motionless in a hide for a few hours, and the dull day meant the natural light was pretty poor maximising most of the camera settings.

I did manage a few shots I was happy with as the Long tailed Tits on occasions took fancy to my strategically placed Christmas Tree branch. A Coal Tit was the first bird to find some baited seed on the mossy tree root, and was soon visiting every 2-3 minutes, however being one of the smallest bird table visitors getting the bird to pause long enough for a shot proved tricky. The Robin however was much more obliging pausing long enough for a nice portrait.

So apart from loosing most of the feeling in my fingers and body due to the cold! I was absolutely over the moon with how quickly the birds had found the new food source. And even more impressed by the amount of species that had already visited.

Now I know not everyone has the luxury of such surroundings and the shell for a hide, but a little bit of hard work can create something that benefits both nature and the photographer. And your D.I.Y skills can't be any worse than mine!

Check back for my next post which will have a lot more shots from the Woodland hide during the first couple weeks of April.

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1 comment:

  1. Brilliant blog. The photos have come out really well. I put up a portable hide in my Mums back garden last year and got some good results but only after sitting in it for hours, yours looks so much more comfortable. Looking forward to more photos in the future