Thursday, October 30, 2008

There was a bitter east wind cutting into the trees and Scrag Copse, being on the east side of the overall woodland block, feels it the most. However, I still had to ensure all the feeders were stocked as well fill the woodpecker logs with more lard. Thankfully, the new squirrel-proof feeders, despite a few teething problems (no pun intended!!) now appear to be working well and are lasting, as far as a fill of seed or nuts are concerned, around three times longer. This is great news both for the birds, who have a more continuous food supply, as well as for me as it means I don't have to drive so often to Scrag just to stock the feeders and the overall cost is lower as I'm not feeding the squirrels.
Please take a look at the image of a nuthatch on a feeder I posted several days ago and compare it to the one on the left which I took this afternoon. This is what I teach on my Woodland Birds workshops at Scrag; how to take natural and intimate images of woodland birds and not on feeders! Please visit the courses page on the website
to book a place on one of these workshops, there are just a few places left.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Another spectacular bright autumn day though with a decided chill in the air today. Most of my attention is around New Meadow at the moment in ensuring the feeders are stocked and the baiting logs are full of lard for the woodpeckers. This is a relentless task especially trying to repel the squirrels who are repeatedly tearing open nut and seed feeders. They cost me a lot of money in feed as well as the damage they do. I am now seriously thinking of control measures!
On a brighter note, there were some new faces around the feeding area today with coal tits joining the usual suspects. These appear to be at the bottom of the pecking order, getting out of the way of just about every other bird. However, they have a trick up their sleeve; they cache food and as such have incredible mapping skills in their brain. This has actually resulted in an enlarged hippocampus in coal tits, an area of the cerebral cortex responsible for mapping. London cab drivers have an enhanced hippocampus apparently. Anyway, although coal tits get pushed off good feeding sources easily, they can resort to their substantial caches dotted around the woodland and so circumvent the avian bullies. I like that nature of behaviour.
A nice sight and sound today was of redpols in the tops of birches and one drinking from the pond. There were also the sounds of goldfinches all around the area and my suspicion is that they will imminently start feeding again from the niger feeders. I have missed them being around and it will make for good and certainly easy subjects for photographers on the Woodland Bird's workshops. I am looking forward to the worshop tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Unfortunately, the van broke down last week, so I've been unable to get to Scrag for about 9 days! Anyway, I got there today and what spectacular autumn weather it was. The birds were all around me including woodpeckers and nuthatches constantly. The squirrels, however, have destroyed a couple of feeders and even removed one without trace!! Grrr, where's my air-rifle! I have now repaired several old feeders with heavy-duty wire, how long they will last I'm not sure but I have 2 new 'squirrel proof' feeders to put up but they are locked in the back of the van which is sadly still being repaired.
All the leaves are sadly off the wild service tree but the woodland floor is now a beautiful gold bronze mosaic.
I ended the day with a lovely view of the barn owl sitting in the sun outside the barn owl box!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Woodland Bird's photography days start again this coming Sunday, so I have been increasing the bait out for the birds in the form of seed and nut feeders as well as baiting logs for woodpeckers and nuthatches. Today in the gorgeous Autumn weather I was also generally tidying up around the main bird hide and re-constructing the woodpecker hide. Woodpeckers have a large fear circle, so it is generally better to try photographing them alone and obeying good hide discipline; 3 or 4 twitchy photographers is a sure way to scare off a great spotted woodpecker! Hence the separate 1-person hide. Within 5 minutes of sinking and baiting a log in front of this hide a lovely male Great spotted was down onto the log, which certainly ensures things should be OK this coming Sunday.
For the whole afternoon, as I worked, several nuthatches were also coming in to either the nut feeders or the baiting logs. Nuthatches are not very shy and I often get them just a couple of metres away as I'm re-stocking the feeders. Marsh tits are even less shy and although give way to the other larger tits will often stay until the last second as I approach.
If you are interested in learning about woodland bird photography, please visit the courses page on the website

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

There is now a gradually spreading yellow filter across Scrag as the leaves start their colour change . The oaks, one of the last to come into leaf in the spring is still a strong dark green, however the hornbeams and the one single (as far as I know) beech tree are definitely switching from green to yellow. The bracken is already on the way to that lovely autumnal russet brown which is good for me as it will create a lovely backdrop for the upcoming woodland bird's photography days. the wild service tree is probably producing the most dramatic seasonal change with leaves of green, yellow, scarlet and bronze found on the same tree!
Last week, lifting any of the corrugated iron sheet laid down for reptiles was regularly revealing up to 8 slow worms and the occasional grass snake - the one shown in the image was a very young snake and probably one of the most docile I have photographed before. Grass snakes do not have the protection of venom and often will opt for a rapid escape instead of sitting tight as an adder often will. However, since the colder nights at the end of last week, lifting the corrugated sheets is now revealing nothing - the reptiles have already left to find more snug winter shelter. Last year I created some large bracken piles with branches underneath so that reptiles and amphibians can find a safe warm place to hibernate - hopefully they are now being used as the autumn changes take more of a grip.