I’ve managed a couple of good days in the last week at the farm. The squirrels are playing complete havoc with the feeding station by the river, total destruction of some so called ‘squirrel proof’ feeders. A bit more creative thinking required!
It’s been a great weekend, weather wise, and down on the farm the butterfiles have been out in force. The Painted Lady and Whites were more ‘flitty’ and took a good while to gain anything decent from. That’s not always the case but today they were not for staying on any food plant for more than a second or two.
It’s not the most comfortable hide I’ve ever been in but already it’s throwing up some interesting encounters. Finally this weekend the bridge hide on the river at Home Farm was finished and today I spent four pretty uncomfortable hours over looking the stretch of river that I hoped would fill in some of the gaps of the birds I have ,to date, managed to photograph at the farm.
A second fall of snow last week meant another opportunity to visit the feeding station and try and photograph the regulars under very different conditions. In any studio the control one has of the light is obviously a great advantage over working in the natural environment. There are of course techniques that can be applied outside that come directly from a controlled studio environment, bounced light is one of these. A white card can be placed on the opposite side of a flower for instance, producing a bit of ‘fill” or a light tent can be placed over your subject, creating a soft, even and flat light.
The sun shone on Christmas Day and raised cheers in our house. It has been particularly dull over the last few weeks, not much rain but just those drab flat days that close in a good hour before the official lighting up time. Boxing Day dawned without a cloud in the sky and saw me heading off to the farm.
I’ve been thinking about this hide for a while. It’s under the old railway bridge but will give decent views down the Ely towards the sharp bend in the river. On approaching this spot over the last year it has yielded some good sights of Dipper, Green Sandpiper and Goosanders, which haven’t yet returned to the river this winter. It’s also a regular flight path for the resident Kingfishers. Hopefully, unlike the temporary hide we built earlier on in the year , it will be a little more permanent!
Typically, after questioning the whereabouts of the female Great-spotted Woodpecker, she arrived over the weekend! Again, not as frequently as the male, but she was in. In fact on one occasion three ‘peckers’ were down in the feeding station all together, two males and the female. One of the males spent a good deal of time chasing the female around. I have smeared some feed on one of the trees that they have been using as a staging post before coming on to the feeders, with the idea of holding them there for a little while, giving a longer time to photograph them. I would focus on one of the birds if they landed on that particular tree and hope that the other may come in and begin the chase from there. As soon as any movement occurred I would press the shutter and hope! Lots of nothing but if you stick at it you may be lucky.
I have recently been preparing a couple of logs that I had found around the ponds, for feeding. I chiseled out about an inch deep trench in the log at three separate places, so that I could stuff food into the crevices in such a way that they would not be visible when birds landed on them.
Again a very drab day and a persistent drizzle. Two male Great-spotted Woodpeckers were chasing each other round the higher branches and the Treecreeper was in a fair amount today. Looking through the Home Farm files it’s interesting to note that out of 40 or so images filed under Great-spotted Woodpecker, only one of those is a female! Where then are the they?
I was at the feeding station today and all the regulars were present. On the way to the hide a Peregrine flew over, the fourth record for the Farm. The water level has dropped allowing the route through the river to be taken. Over the last few weeks the only way to the hide has been over the railway. The cows are all in for the winter now, so no chance of an unpleasant encounter! Last year Richard was unceremoniously dumped into the river as he tried to pass them under the bridge. They were a little frisky early on in the year but had settled down latterly.
The feeding station hide, at Home Farm, was started in March of this year with a view to serious feeding in the autumn and winter. Before any thought went into how we were going to build it and what materials we were going to use we had to give a lot of consideration about where we would site it. The location for any fixed hide is crucial, as it is not a movable fixture, and once up, you are committed to its position. You will need to consider a number of factors and spend some time around the general area before committing to anything permanent.
The feed is moving very quickly at the moment with the Nuthatches devouring the sunflower seeds and the tits ever present. Interestingly the Marsh Tit appears to have the least discerning diet of all our visitors! It will have a bit of everything – sunflower, mixed seed, niger seed, fat balls, nuts and cake. Today the species seen at the feeding station hide were as follows: