The feeding station hide, at Home Farm, was started in March of this year with a view to serious feeding in the autumn and winter. Before any thought went into how we were going to build it and what materials we were going to use we had to give a lot of consideration about where we would site it. The location for any fixed hide is crucial, as it is not a movable fixture, and once up, you are committed to its position. You will need to consider a number of factors and spend some time around the general area before committing to anything permanent.
- Will there be enough light to photograph? Too much tree cover, particularly in the summer months, can dramatically reduce the amount of light and make photography virtually impossible.
- Where will the sun be during the times you are likely to be using the hide? – You don’t want to be photographing directly into the sun, although a degree of side-lighting can help to give a strong sense of form to the birds. You could check it out with a compass to determine sun rise and sun set at various times of the year.
- What sort of background is available? It is important to have space behind the branches the birds are likely to land on so that the background becomes considerably out of focus. This will help the birds to stand out and therefore become far more prominent in the frame.
- Is there enough suitable cover for the birds? Too far into an open space will result in wary and nervous birds. Good cover is essential for the birds to retreat to quickly when the need arises.
- Are there enough branches for the birds to perch on before alighting on the actual feeders? You probably don’t want the birds on the feeders but rather on natural branches, which they use prior to the feeders.
- Is the location away from natural predators, particularly cats, and is it reasonably quiet? Birds will get used to constant background noise but will not tolerate erratic movement or unexpected noise.
- Can you easily get to the the feeders to top them up?
- Is it possible to clear an area, if it appears to be suitable in all other aspects? A little bit of heavy work may make all the difference in the long run.
- Is the location on private or public land? If it is on public land there may be the possibility of it being stolen or vandalized. Private land is a better option and out of the public view is even better.
Once you have satisfied yourself over these issues you need to ask a few more pertinent questions:
- How many people will be using the hide at any given time? This will determine the size it needs to be.
- Do you want to be able to sit in the hide or are you comfortable standing? If you are going to be staying for long periods then sitting is essential.
- Is a roof necessary? If you are only photographing in good weather conditions and the hide is fairly close to another building, where shelter and storage is possible, it may not be necessary to include a roof. Often a screen is all that is effectively required.
- What sort of ground is the hide to be built on? Rocky ground can be difficult to penetrate with frame supports, whereas soil is so much easier to deal with.
When the location, size and type of hide has been established you can begin to think about its construction. In part 2 of this article we will look at the construction and materials used in the making of the feeding station at Home Farm.