Photographing Garden Birds

In this article I want to run through how I’ve set up a couple of feeding stations for wild birds in my front garden. Whilst the back garden is considerably larger and arguably more ideal from a photographic perspective (since I could set up a hide), it’s ruled out because we have two house(ish) cats who have access to the garden. I want to encourage birds to visit but not have them attacked by the felines, so the front garden was the only real solution. The primary reason for setting up some feeding stations is to be nice to the birds, but it I can use that to capture some nice closeup photographs it’s win-win.

I’m lucky enough to have the space for two separate areas – one is over amongst some shrubs and I can use the available trees to hang the feeders at a reasonable height. This is by far the more popular of the two areas for the Sparrows. The second area is right in front of the living room window. I’ve got a couple of pole feeders, with various seed holders attached. These are placed in front of a nice spiny bush/shrub which gives the birds protection and a perching site as they are queueing up to feed. As you’ll see from the photos in this article, it’s worked out rather nicely from a photographic perspective too, giving an arguably more natural backdrop than just the bird-on-feeder type photo. I’m not averse to a feeder shot by any means, but I love to see a bird on a natural perch as opposed to man-made. I’ve also placed a couple of water bowls close by for them to clean themselves and drink from.

It’s crucial to keep all of these items clean – it doesn’t take long for the feeders to get bunged up in the colder months and seed in the bottom to rot – so I advise you to wash them out with some bird-friendly cleaner every now and then.

I’ve not found any particularly successful way to entice birds in other than put out food and wait. And wait. I stick to a general seed mix, wheat-free which includes a whole variety of seeds including sunflower hearts. Since I’m vegan I don’t put out fat balls which are generally made with beef suet. So far a combination of the seed mix, bread scraps and any fruit leftovers is working nicely anyway.

The main visitors are Sparrows with upwards of ten at any one time. There is a growing clan of Pigeons, a few Doves, two Wood Pigeons, a couple of Robins, the occasional Great Tit, Blackbirds and, more recently, some Blue Tits. I’m pleased with this since we are on a main road close to an industrial estate, so it’s more concrete than trees.

The thing I want to stress is this: it doesn’t matter if you are taking photos or not, but by putting feeders very close to the window it gives you such an insight into the behaviour and characters of these lovely creatures. For me, I can sit for hours watching them without taking any photos, but to be able to record their visit is an added bonus. I’d strongly recommend that if you have any garden space, put some feeders up and wait. You won’t be disappointed.

Note: All of the following images were taken *through* a double-glazed window – not ideal but workable.
I’d recommend setting up a hide if you have the space, but I wanted to illustrate that if shooting through glass is the only option, it’s not the end of the world. If you read my last article, you’ll see I bought a big zoom lens. To be honest it’s almost too long for shooting birds outside the window, so I had to stand a fair way back in the room – handy as I wasn’t up close to scare the birds. Here’s a selection of House Sparrows.

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Whilst I adore Sparrows, I’ve been thrilled to see some Blue Tits arrive on the garden and fortunately one decided to hang around for a few seconds and let me capture a couple of shots.

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And just to prove that I’m not averse to the odd feeder shot…

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I’m looking forward to more experimentation in the coming months. If nothing else, it should force me to keep the windows a bit cleaner.

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