Thursday 19 November 2015

A Photography Feeding Station

One of the benefits of socialising in country pubs is that you can become friends with local landowners, usually farmers. Unlike Scotland where the general public have a right to roam pretty much anywhere, here in England permission from landowners is required to access areas, and more so if anything specific is to be rigged up.

Casual conversations with folks who work on the land can also have benefits, especially if they know you're interested in wildlife, and hence often offer up snippets of invaluable information about what they have seen whilst out and about.

As a result of such a conversation, and knowing the landowner, I am currently in the process of setting things up for photography of the wildlife on a farm. Having spent some time simply watching the site and noting what is present and where, I was able to install my one-man hide, which is basically a chair with a folding tent over the top. I soon remembered why I wasn't a fan of it, what with the back-ache from contorting myself to get in and out of it, the lack of any spare space in it, and the wet bottom after a night's rainfall.

Out with the old, and in with a new spacious pop-up hide, which is far better. Not only can I almost stand up in it, there's room for 2 or maybe 3 people inside. So my comfort sorted, what about the wildlife I hear you say. Well, with the oak trees all around, there are plenty of natural food sources for birds like jays and wood pigeons at the moment, but I had noticed good numbers of smaller woodland birds too, and needed to bring them closer to me.

With freedom to wander around the farm, I soon gathered enough bits of wood to create some perches, for a more natural-looking shot, but still chose to rig up a feeder stand beside them, as the initial beacon to attract the birds. Remembering that I had a spare post for this, all I needed were some feeders and seed. I figured that a simple seed feeder coupled with a suet-ball holder would suffice, and hope they'd spot the seed sprinkled nearby when waiting for a turn on the feeders.

The papers always see the downsides of spending too long surfing the internet, but one of the benefits is finding sites that can be bookmarked and used for future projects. One such site is Swallow Aquatics, who I found initially when looking for pond treatments (to try to manage the slime that builds up in my wildlife pond) but remembered that they also stock a good selection of products for bird food and feeders. Being on someone else's property, I want to minimise any mess I create, so went for some of the no-mess mix, some suet pellets and some general mix seed, plus a large metal seed feeder.

Products ordered and only a couple of days later, I had contact from Swallow Aquatics and also the courier to say when the parcel would be delivered. I do appreciate it when companies and couriers are precise in terms of delivery times, to avoid waiting around for hours for a delivery. I was given a time slot and the package arrived as stated. Now I had to hope the birds were as prompt!

Post hammered into the ground, feeders hooked up and filled, and it was then a case of sitting in the hide and waiting. The first arrival was a coal tit, followed soon after by a nuthatch. Both were interested in the seed mix, and the flight of these adventurers soon encouraged others to follow, with house sparrows, blue and great tits, dunnocks, robins and wrens calling in.

I had wondered if the fact that the feeding station wasn't particularly close to the hedge or trees might put the birds off, but they happily come and go, sometimes sitting for minutes at a time feeding. And, with the feeders occupied, as hoped, the birds waiting have noticed the seed put out on the natural perches, and take advantage!

Highlights so far, and it's only been in place for a matter of days, have been a rather mucky-looking female great spotted woodpecker.

A goldfinch...

The nuthatch, which was one of the first visitors and is such a poser...

And a jackdaw, which like all corvids soon realised I was nearby despite the hide, and took flight. Clever birds...

So you might be forgiven for asking why I have gone to all this trouble to set up a feeding station when I have previously blogged about the diverse array of birds I get in my back garden? Well you'd be right for asking, and the answer lies in what else is here on this farm.

You see, the reason I chose to rig up the feeders is partly to provide additional food for the birds on this farm, but also to provide me with something to photograph while the main subjects for this project sit nearby, usually doing very little (at the moment).

A pair of little owls. Something I most definitely do not get in my garden. The ultimate goal for the project is to be able to get some varied images of this pair of owls, and I am employing various tactics to do this. However these take time, and to relieve my boredom, the woodland birds are a most welcome distraction.

If you wish to follow any progress with the owls, please keep an eye on my Twitter feed (@petewalkden1973) though I will of course be blogging about them soon.

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