Dove on the table

Feed the birds (and camera!)

It's amazing really how Covid-19 has impacted so many people, all around the world, and its impact on business, welfare and daily life. Respect to key workers, NHS and everyone keeping the frontline moving.

Leaving the politics aside, one of the many challenges for so many locked down in their own homes, is keeping busy. For me, keeping busy is the key to retaining sanity in this current mad world. To quote lyrics from a Greta Van Fleet song (Anthem) - "The World is only what the World is made of"....how true is that, upon reflection.

So, getting back on track, there are lots of inspiring stories around social media, oh how to keep busy within the confines of our homes. I even produced a guide myself - 10 Photography Lockdown Projects

We all get visitors to our gardens constantly on the lookout for food. A way to harness this is to use a bird feeding station. Many of you probably have one or more already. They are great environments for attracting and feeding birds.

I have a couple of bird feeders. One is gangly looking pole feature upon which hangs a number of seed and nut feeders. Very popular and is great for birds (and camera). The other was a old battered wooden table, falling apart through rot and was too rustic by design to photograph birds using it. The best shots were actually birds standing on its roof!

This got me thinking and making the most of home time I set myself a challenge! To build a new bird table that was much larger, robust and designed in a way that would offer good 360 visibility for taking photographs of visitors (hopefully). 

To make the challenge even more difficult I chose to use only materials/ wood lying around in the garage and garden, thus retaining isolation and non-impact on society.

Challenge accepted!

The old bird table

The old bird table

Seen better days and in need of replacement. Not the best for photographing the visitors!

Wood Pigeon

Wood Pigeon

I've outgrown this seed tray, can you build me a bigger table please?....cooo....

So, I am not going to teach you how to construct a bird table lets get that clear. If you are expecting a step by step build guide then sorry you are in the wrong place :-)

It's far easier to buy one and I'm no carpenter.  But that's not the point as 1) I need something to keep busy, and 2) I'm tight.... 

....and off I went in search of wood. I emptied the garage, found enough to wedge a door so went for a walk around my garden, found another door wedge and then walked down to my adjacent field (Yes I'm fortunate to have a bit of land). There's always plenty of stuff lying around down there and before you know it I had an old wood pallet and various fence panels to work with.

I had an idea of the design in my head. It had to be much larger in surface area (to accommodate plenty of birds) and a double tier. The double tier, I felt was important, as it would add another feeding level and double up as a roof. In addition, I wanted it to look contemporary, so streamlined was in order. Finally, I wanted a design that would offer clear spaces, for photography,

With all that in mind I set to task. The weather has been very kind over the last month, with clear skies day and night. This in itself kept me very busy, in evenings, filling the Sky at Night gallery.

Starting with the table sections I pieced together the wooden scraps.  Armed with a hand saw, sandpaper, wood glue, screws and nails, piece by piece the bird table components started to take shape, just like 'Little Nelly, in the Bond film (a different type of bird!) Finishing each piece of wood with an environmentally (and animal) preservative coating and a week later I was looking at the final fit. 

Once all parts were fixed, painted and the table standing upright I could take one step back and admire my handiwork. I was impressed, it actually looks pretty fab. 

So off it went to sit at the foot of the garden. Not having a level garden meant securing each foot to the ground with a tent pin. All that left now was to fill the table with seed, fat balls, nuts and wait!

My experience of placing new features in the garden for birds, or other wildlife will take a few days bedding in. Our wildlife friends are naturally cautious and with time (a few days)  they slowly adjust to surroundings before diving in to reap the rewards.

The bird table has been in place a few weeks now and is now incredibly popular with both the larger visitors, such as Wood Pigeons, Jackdaws, Crows and Magpies together with smaller such as Robins, Tits, Blackbirds, Sparrows and Finches. Only today I had a grey squirrel climbing onto the table to feast.

Now the local birds (and wildlife) are all happy customers it's now time to satisfy the hungry photographer (not literally!).

The new hand built bird table

The new hand built bird table

Fully seeded up

Next job was relatively simple. Set up the camera on a tripod, watch and wait (& click). With a zoom lens it is possible to shoot from the garden, inside the house and even remotely shoot using a mobile phone application. 

The Olympus Image Share app is a great tool for the remote shooting even if you don't have a zoom lens. By leaving the camera in the garden located close to the bird table one can simply walk away and remotely operate camera from the app. When the wildlife arrives you control the camera without being intrusive. Simple!

Well that's pretty much it from the bird table and some of the camera results of the table visitors are in the gallery below. Most captured with Olympus OM-D, EM-1 mk3 & 300mm pro lens.

....and finally.....before I go, there is a PS project!

The Tiny Table

The Tiny Table

An after thought to complement the main bird table.

The PS project.....

With a few small bits of wood left over, and inspired by a picture I saw on social media there was an addition to build and add to the collection. It only took a day but hopefully should now provide a bit of feeding comfort for the squirrels, away from hustle and bustle of the feeding table?

Im still waiting for Mr Squirrel to sit and pose mind and I can't wait to start using the Olympus pro-capture mode for those close up action shots in coming weeks!

...and yes it would be easier to buy a bird table! ....but that's not the point  ;-)

Happy bird watching, snap safe and catch up with all the latest posts on twitter.


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