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Woodland Bird Photography ~ by David Plummer

Woodland Bird Photography

Probably one of the most evident wildlife groups you have in your woodland are the birds, but I can guarantee that if you set out into your wood with your camera over your shoulder and hope to sneak up to small birds in your wood you will be very, very lucky to get a good, relaxed, frame-filling shot of your quarry.  The best thing to do is to start baiting the birds to concentrate them into a certain area.  This area should be carefully chosen, probably facing north and in a clearing.  This means that you make most of the light and that the background is not too close to your foreground subject so will be pleasantly blurred and not distracting to the overall image.

Once you start baiting, probably with seed and nut feeders, it is amazing to observe just how quickly birds like blue tits and great tits take advantage of the new food source and will normally be on to it within a day or so.  If the food is constantly replenished you will get a high numbers of birds taking advantage of your generosity. 

Now, a shot of birds on feeders is one thing but a shot of a small woodland bird on a natural perch is something entirely different and requires a little cunning.  Once you have some good steady bird traffic coming in, move the feeder to a suitable spot and watch their approach routes.  They will normally like to make a few approach perches instead of flying to the food source direct, so if you place a nice thin twig or a rotten, broken branch at a convenient distance from the food source with a little tweaking you should get the bird to repeatedly perch more or less in your chosen spot as if on cue.

OK, so now you’ve manipulated the bird’s behaviour you now have to get into what is known as the fear-circle.  To do this you need to set up a hide.  In essence, a hide can be made out of any material and if you have your own woodland you should not be short of materials.  A simple piece of camouflage netting can suffice for many birds or you may have to use something more concealing for shyer subjects.  The hide itself means that you can just set up the camera, preferably on a tripod, pre-focused on your chosen spot and you just need to wait for the bird to appear, minimally adjust your focus and composition and shoot.  At a regularly baited area, I can lure birds onto pre-arranged perches within a couple of minutes.  This technique is known as bait-and-perch and I teach this in great detail on my Woodland Birds photographic courses at Scrag Copse in Sussex.  Although, I don’t like to use the word ‘guarantee’ with wildlife photography the chances of photographers getting full-frame natural shots of great spotted woodpeckers as well as many other species are very, very high on these courses and the image of the blue tit was taken by a student on one of these days.  For more details of these and other courses please visit www.davidplummerimages.co.uk and go to the ‘courses’ pages.  Good luck!
blue tit

Posted in: Woodland Activities ~ On: 28 March, 2008

3 comments so far

Las Vegas Photographer
12 January, 2010

very nice photo here, I will add you to my RSS and look forward to more of your blogpost..

7 July, 2009

I find it really hard to do this – thanks for the tips!

Tracy Pepler
11 April, 2008

Thanks for this great advice David – and for the other camera advice you gave us. We are looking forward to coming on one of your courses soon!

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