Over the last couple of years it has become a bit of a tradition for me to take my Birthday off work and head out for the day with the camera. This year my birthday fell on a Monday but the forecast was poor and so it was postponed to the following day when the forecast was for some clear sky and sunshine. The choice of venue for this year's birthday session was really dictated by the weather, and an early start saw my friend Steve and I heading south to a well known car park where the birds have been fed for many years. This site requires some tolerance by the photographer as there is a lot of disturbance from visitors passing through who usually seem to have little respect for the birds or the fact you are trying to take some photographs. However, it does have the benefit of plenty of birds and the fact you can set up a temporary mini feeding station to your liking.
The site does not usually offer anything unusual to the photograph although is frequented by the scarce Willow Tit and a number of Yellowhammer. As we drove in to the car park I was looking forward to a relaxing day, spent in good company, photographing some small common birds.
The first job on arrival was to set-up the mini feeding station giving due consideration to the path of the sun and backgrounds. We came prepared with some small branches and an old log. Birds started visiting the perches instantly and even while we were still strategically placing out the feed. It was then back to the car yto use as a temporary hide. For this small bird photography at close quarter I usually use a 25mm extension tube on the 500mm lens as it makes the bird a little larger in the frame. The other important consideration is to use a reduced aperture to increase the depth of field (the depth of the photograph in focus) which is very narrow at close range with a long lens. This reduces the potential problem of the head being in focus and the feet out of focus which always looks a bit odd. A steady stream of birds started arriving.
Despite being a common bird there is no denying that Blue Tits look superb at this time of year.
Another common tit species and the largest, the Great Tit.
The broad black mid-line markings showing this to be a male bird in fine early 'spring' plumage.
I must admit I could happily sit for hours photographing these common birds when the light is so good and they are looking so beautiful.
At the other end of Tit size scale, the smallest species the Coal Tit.
This next bird is one of the best looking Coal Tits I have seen in a long time and had excellent colour and markings.
Of the Tit species when it comes to looking 'cute', the award would certainly go to the feathered pompom that is the Long-tailed Tit.
I have always had a fondness for this species and it was great to have two or three birds periodically visiting the temporary feeding setup.
Another species that occasionally called in for the free handout, and the most frustrating to photograph, was the scarce Willow Tit.
Photographing small birds is never easy and requires quick reflexes but the feeding behaviour of the Willow Tit compounds the problems as it dashes in grabs a seed and then flies off very quickly. They are also one of those species that rarely seem to be looking in the direction of the camera.
In addition to the constant arrival and departure of nearly all the UK tit species, the occasional Nuthatch would bring welcome change.
This one captured in typical Nuthatch hanging off a tree pose.
There was also an occasional Yellowhammer putting in a brief appearance and a wonderful bird that topped of a productive and enjoyable day.