Autumnal Fires

November 07, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

With bonfire night having recently passed I thought it fitting to share some new images with their own fiery element. This weekend saw me spend a decent amount of time at my recently set up feeding station. My last visit was under leaden skies so it was nice to spend a few hours in the hide in much brighter conditions.

Both Saturday and Sunday were chilly but clear so I had some very bright sunshine to contend with. The downside of this meant the feeders and perches were in shadow for long spells due to a mighty oak behind the hide that is still in leaf. The plus side meant the oaks behind the perches were a blazing mesh of yellows and oranges giving a really autumnal feel to things. The colours this year seem a lot more vivid!

During Saturday, the usual suspects dropped in and the makeshift bird table was very popular with the coal tits and nuthatches though the former were always in and out at hyper-speed and rarely stayed still.

Coal TitCoal Tit The woodpeckers were fairly frequent visitors as were a party of cock pheasants. The highlight though was the first jay that came down three times on Saturday. Unfortunately and unsurprisingly, it was extremely timid and was off in a flash at the slightest sign of movement so I came home with no images but a real sense of hope, bouyed by the fact that the jay knew there was food present and would likely be back. 

I returned for more on Sunday morning and arrived to a superb winter scene with a heavy frost coating the grass and fallen leaves underfoot. It wasn't long before my fingers were feeling the pinch of the freezing air but I was soon warmed up after rearranging some perches and topping up the feeders. I settled into the hide with a nice hot coffee and began my wait to see what would come in. It didn't take long for a male great spotted woodpecker to appear though it unusually went straight onto the peanut feeder rather than landing on a nearby perch first, as it has been doing. A short while later, I noticed movement to the left and at first glance though it was a pheasant in the frosty grass. I did a rapid double take when my brain clicked into gear and I realised it was a stunning fox! It didn't twig that I was nearby but by the time I had the fox in my viewfinder it had changed direction and was heading away from me, showing a beautiful, big, bushy tail. Thankfully it stopped and turned to allow a few profile shots. A magnificent specimen and it soon headed into the woods, seemingly without a care in the world.


Another woodpecker later flew in, posing very nicely on the top of a perch with the background absolutely glowing. The shadow wasn't ideal but was just about manageable with a bit of post-processing.

Great Spotted WoodpeckerGreat Spotted Woodpecker

I then had the moment I was really hoping for and that was the much anticipated visit of a jay. After Saturday's frustrations, I decided to stay completely still and not even try and get a photo. This allowed the jay to have a good look at the food on offer and for me to enjoy having such a stunning bird at close quarters. The jay had a bit of seed and a few nuts from the bird table before moving onto the other perches and even trying to pose woodpecker-style on a birch trunk I'd put in place. Amazing to see! It then dropped to the floor for a quick forage before disappearing. A fab few moments and it showed that the jay was getting more comfortable. I'm confident this could be a great subject over the winter period and was buzzing at the prospect!

The next hour or so saw more woodpecker activity, plenty of tits, a few more pheasants and very frequent raids by the nuthatches. I have such a big soft spot for these charming woodland birds that I cannot resist taking photos of them. I was therefore very pleased when one landed on my much favoured birch log and posed perfectly for a split second. Thankfully the D500's ten frames per second gave me the one image I wanted. I doubt I'd have got this with the four frames a second that my D800 offers. A split second pose captured for eternity.


A little while later I noticed a jay land in the hedge just to the right of the hedge. Perfect! For once I had a heads-up that I might have a chance of getting set-up before the jay was where I wanted it. I'd been amazed at just how quiet they'd been when coming in. The woodpeckers can be heard swooping in but I'd heard nothing with the previous jay visits. Stealth mode in full effect! Anyway, it was only a minute or so before my viewfinder was full of jay! Wow! What a beauty! I had to restrain my trigger finger and let the jay start feeding for a bit before trying to get a shot. I had my teleconverter on so couldn't actually fit the whole bird in a shot so I picked a moment when the jay was looking over it's shoulder to avoid a branch that was in the background and fired off a single frame to get a head shot. No reaction. Phew! I did this a few more times before stopping and just watching. Confidence of this bird was definitely increasing, assuming it was the same bird. It filled its crop before flying right at me and landing in the oak tree above/behind the hide. What a treat.


I was soon out of time so packed up and headed home to get ready for a Sunday lunch at the folks'. I'd had a fantastic weekend at the feeding station and am delighted with how things have gone so far. It's incredibly satisfying to have set everything up from scratch and to start getting results. I've still got a few things to tweak but I'm optimistic that the jays will prove a worthy subject as they are one of my biggest bogey birds when it comes to photography. They are very intelligent but wary birds so I'm trying not to get too excited but I'm already desperate to get back behind the camera and get one of these magnificent corvids in my viewfinder. With winter fast approaching and the trees losing an increasing amount of leaves, the scene will be ever-changing but no doubt beautiful. Is snow too much to ask for as well?!


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