National Nest Box week organised by The British Trust for Ornithologytakes place this year from the 14th to 21stFebruary. Since its launch in 1998 over five million nest boxes have been made and hung in gardens and woodland areas across the UK.In an attempt to help birds ranging from the Blue Tit right up to Barn Owls to find somewhere else to nest and raise their young in the absence of more natural nest sites in our ever diminishing countryside.Early spring is the best time to site your nestbox,giving the birds a chance to see and get use to the box,if they don’t use your nestbox to nest in then don’t be saddened as there is a very high chance they will use the box as a roost site during the winter months.
There will be events staged all around the UK by the BTO during that week and it’s a great way to get youngsters involved with nature.Click here for the BTO home page to see whats happening in your local area.Whether you’re a family with space for a box in your garden, a teacher, a member of a local wildlife group, or you belong to a bird club and could organise a work party, National Nest Box Week gives you the chance to contribute to the conservation effort in the UK whilst giving you the pleasure of observing any breeding birds that you attract to your garden.
Where you put your box is every bit as important as what it looks like. The highest priority when siting a nest box must be to provide a safe and comfortable environment in which birds can nest successfully.Ensure your nest box is sheltered from prevailing wind, rain and strong sunlight,The front of the nest box should be angled vertically or slightly downwards to prevent rain from entering the nest box.And the most important point is to ensure that it is not easily accessible to predators (cats and squirrels) which can more difficult than you’d think.Ideally keeping the opportunities for these predators to get close to the boxes to a minimal.
For a free information pack please click here and fill in your details.If you’d like to purchase a nestbox then click here.Many thanks.
Nature and wildlife photography is challenging but extremely rewarding,the creative side of things is a great challenge but also a lot of fun. If you like animals and learning about their characteristics and habitats then this photography is for you.Do your homework first!,taking the time to learn about the animal or subject is likely to pay off for you in creating opportunities for some great shots. Learning about an animal’s behaviour and routine will allow you to plan the best time for you to capture them. I tell people that learning about your subject is by far the most important discipline in wildlife photography far more important than the make of camera or equipment you use.With the weather in your favour you can capture nature in stunning light at dawn and dusk.
Don’t forget that patience really is a virtue when it comes to wildlife photography. Don’t expect to go outdoors and immediately find the creature of your choice,don’t expect it to stand still for you.,quite often the photographer has to wait in a un- comfortable spot for some time until there are signs of life. Animals cannot be forced to appear, or to stay for your pictures. All you can do is work with the situation when it is presented to you and be as fast and efficient as possible.When using a telephoto lens, use a higher shutter speed even if you are outdoors,a longer lens requires a decent shutter speed in order to get a sharp image and you may only have one opportunity. Also to help the sharpness of the image, choose a decent ISO, at least 400 since you will be dealing with a moving image.I teach people when and where possible to always use Aperture priority– F4,F5.6,F8,F11 are the key ones to use.Focus on the eye of the subject every time,birds in flight focus on the centre of the body between the wings @F8
Time of day
Although there are times where you may want to try night time wildlife photography,the chances are you will mostly be working in the day.Each situation is different but it is better to avoid the bright afternoon sun (unless it is a cloudy day) and the bright sun can affect how the camera interprets the image,animals may also hide away when it is too hot, looking for shade. As the sun goes down, you can also be treated to amazing light but you must remember to use a tripod because low light will result in camera shake without proper support. Different creatures may be accessible at different times of the day so bear this in mind
There are no hard and fast rules on composition although the general consensus is –get close.Check the background to make sure that it is interesting but not fighting for attention from the main subject,small distractions make a big difference to photographs and if you are trying to use the images for sale or a competition, you will definitely need to check there are no unwanted items in the picture. One of the most popular ‘rules’ in photography is the Rule Of Thirds,It is also popular amongst artists, It works like this:
Imaginary lines are drawn dividing the image into thirds both horizontally and vertically, You place important elements of your composition,”the subject” where these lines intersect, the diagram below shows you these
Compositon of the subject should be placed on one of the four inter-sections as shown in the diagram
Shown here perfectly with this Brown Hare running towards me and right on one of these inter-sections
Most of us will have Wildlife around where we live or have some kind of park where wildlife is rife. This doesn’t mean that they are any easier to shoot though! the key is being very patient and quiet, and remember to use a long lens.To begin with you may want to visit a zoo or bird sanctuary where the animals are tame or you can set up a bird table and put plenty of seeds on it and place the table close to where you want to shoot. If you sit there quietly waiting, sooner or later nature will appear. A 500mm lens is ideal if you want to crop out most of the background and frame the subject tightly. These lenses are very expensive so there is nothing from stopping you from using the lens you have and cropping the image down afterwards (although you will lose some quality).Morning or afternoon light is ideal for wildlife photography,It is bright but not harsh, morning light can have a beautiful,warmth to it that adds a dramatic effect,and animals can be stunning in this light – if you are shooting in your garden then you will probably attract some standard animals and birds, In this case, remember to be very observant,don’t just shoot mindlessly, look at what the animal/bird is doing that is interesting,is it drinking or eating?
Water droplets are nice to capture, so make sure you put out clean,fresh water for them. Photographing the birds landing and take off in your garden is brillant, capturing the movement of the wings looks stunning when done right,and looks so dramatic and beautiful.If you are trying to capture a bird in flight, you want to use the continous servo auto-focus feature on your camera since it will be too fast for you to focus on manually, combined with this function, where the camera will take photographs one after the other, you are more likely to get a good shot. If you take the time to study the birds behaviour and patterns then you may be able to accurately predict the place where the bird will fly to, so you could pre-focus on that spot and wait for the bird to pass through the next time.
And where possible try to get as level with the subjects eye(s) to give you a more level point of view and I feel making for a much better and balanced image as shown above
All in all, shooting wildlife and nature is both an extremely rewarding but a difficult task. The pictures you see in magazines and in adverts are not shot on a magic whim,they are most likely the result of many hours of investment,someone had to wait for the right weather conditions in the right spot possibly for days in order to capture the best shot. Patience is absolutely the key to getting good pictures of any type of creature.Don’t forget to select the best tools you can afford. If you are focusing on animals you may want to buy a telephoto lens first, If you are interested in plants and insect you may want a macro lens, It is always useful to have a standard lens, something that covers the 50mm mark, whether it is fixed focal or zoom, with a standard lens you can always choose a macro lens or less expensive alternatives such as an extension tube, which can work for macro or long distance work.
You will be spending alot of time outdoors and probably quite a lot of time low down, you should think about buying items like a roll mat, foldable chair, or some waterproof fabric you can place on the ground before you spend time with your knees in the grass, have little comforts too; wear comfortable clothing and footwear, carry some hot water with you for a cuppa,it warms you up from the inside and can lift your spirits if its really cold, and wear a hat if it is sunny and hot, keep warm if it is the winter the more comfortable you are, the longer you will be able to stay out and take more photographs,and the more photographs you take, the more chance there is that you will have a great shot and you will be getting better.Patience and luck is the key! I hope these few tips have helped you in some way and please feel free to contact me should you have any other queries.
With the on set of winter around the corner and the days getting shorter and colder spare a thought for the animals and birds this time of year as their food become’s less available and some mammals shock up before they go into hibernation.If you have a garden place some bird feeders out,fat balls,peanuts etc and clean drinking water in a shallow bowl, very important in hard weather when other water sources may be frozen.Ensure you are not marking it easier for predators to catch the birds, place them away from fences and dark corners ideal places for ‘next doors’ cat to be lurking and waiting for an easy meal.
Make your garden a paradise for birds/wildlife and you will reap the rewards by being able to watch them all year,plant berry-producing bushes and trees,also plants that enhance insects as they are key foods iteams for tits and sparrows in the spring.Use old fruit from local markets and shops to feed thrushes through the winter,spread the fruit out onto your garden in different sizes to give all the birds the chance before the thrushes monopolise it.
A key thing with feeders is to make sure you clean them out regularly as good hygiene is imperative as Salmonellais widespread in wild birds,and wooden bird tables are difficult to clean and best avoided, also don’t put to much seed/food in them as it can go mouldy increasing the risk of disease,so aim to top up your feeds regularly when they have almost become empty . The RSPB do some brillant feeders with 100% of the profits going to helping birds and wildlife.
Feeding the birds and animals in your garden can be so rewarding and offer you a chance to see these beautiful creatures up close and give you a vision into their world while in the comfort of your own home. So its an important thing to remember that feeding birds/animals in your garden is part of the overall management of your garden and planting trees,plants to provide natural sources of food to sustain the wildlife in your garden all year round is the key, but at this time of year you need to supplement this with more artificial sources ‘Fat Balls,Peanuts,Food Waste,Sunflower Seeds,etc,never put out desiccated coconut as it swells inside the birds.
The birds will get use to you feeding them so please try not to break the circle of feeding as it will be a place wildlife will see as somewhere they can rely on in harsh times. Hopefully you and your family will get some much enjoyment out of watching these birds/animals feeding, seeing the characters of each different bird played out in front of you.
Good luck and if you need any further help and advice on how to feed and what to do please click here ‘RSPB’ and this will help you.Thank you and good luck