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Rod's Blog

Garden Bird Photography - Tips and Hints

Posted by Rod Ferbrache on September 12, 2014 at 7:50 AM Comments comments (1)

I have been bird watching for 19 years now, and one aspect that still brings me most pleasure is my garden, and the birds it attracts. Over the years I have seen over 60 species touchdown into the Christa-Galli "nature reserve". This includes rarities such as Hawfinch (twice), Wryneck, as an unprecedented January bird, Black-throated Bulbul from who knows where, as well as Kingfisher, Lesser Whitethroat, Great Spotted Woodpecker, and many other commoner species.

However it has only been in the last couple of years that I have been seriously photographing garden birds. This has been made easier by constructing my own theatre stage to ensure getting closer to the birds than would be naturally possible. I thought it might be interesting for folks to see my set up, and it may even inspire some to try something in their own garden. Obviously there are two ways of getting close up pictures of birds. One as I have already mentioned is to get as close as possible to your subject, or more expensively, to buy the big lens that will bring them closer to you.I must say at the outset, that I am blessed by having the size garden that I do, yet what I am about to demonstrate could be achieved with a much smaller garden.

The first thing is to provide somewhere to hide from the birds, and below is how I do it. This small tent was purchased for only £24 from Aladdin’s Cave. Once it was erected I put inside a quite comfy small fold up chair that is about a foot high. Then having mounted my camera on a tripod, and put it inside, I marked out where the lens would need to poke through. I then cut out a “window out of the side of the tent, the dimensions as shown. I purchased a piece of green garden mesh for Camp du Roi stores for 50p, and secured it outside the window with string and pegs. Having cut a cross through the mesh for my lens I was ready to go. I left the tent in place for a few days, and in no time the birds got used to it being there, and totally happy with me being inside provided movement and noise were kept to a minimum.

I have recently upgraded to the click up hide from Outdoor Photography.


Here is my new hide in situ.

The next thing was to make sure the birds would land where I wanted them. First I moved my feeders from where they were, to where I wanted the birds to come. It only took a few days before the birds found them, and started to use them. However nobody likes photo's of birds on feeders, so a bit of scenery was needed. I always have a wood pile in the garden, but if you haven't you can always find bits that are left out in the countryside or in fields that will do the job.

I positioned my "Props" so that they all faced towards the window I had made in my tent. I also ensured that they would be in just the right place for the early morning sunlight to light them up. Also the morning is when the birds would be most active when it came to feeding. All the tree trunks that you see, I'm sure you will agree, have quite a natural look about them. How could I ensure though that the birds would land where I wanted them? Well I simply made some holes out of sight that I could fill with bird food, and left the rest to nature!

Add water either as a birdbath, or small pond and this will be an addittional bird magnet.

Ensure your props are as far away from the background as possible. this way it will keep your backgrounds clean.

There will always be a limit to the number of species you can attract, but as with feeding, the greater the variety the more species will visit. Next year I am going to make a mud puddle in the hope that I can entice some swallows and House Martins to use for their nest building. By my tent being mobile I could position it by the pond to photograph washing and drinking. Move it under the apple trees and get Redwings and Fieldfare feeding on the fallers. In fact really the sky literally is the limit!

Below are just a few photo's to illustrate just how natural you can get photo's to be. Plus if you get bored by the same props, just swap them for some different ones, they are free after all. I hope this may just give you a few ideas that you could try.


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