January, 2015


We're about more than just birds (though obviously we like them a lot).

Notes on nature

We love nature... from every little bug on a blade of grass to birds, butterflies, otters and oaks!
  • How to take better photos

    You've put out your food. The birds are there. Now, you'd like to photograph them.

    Here's some tips from RSPB Wildlife Adviser Ben Andrew on how get some great photos and make the most of your birdwatch.

    Blue tit. Image by Ben Andrew (http://www.benandrewphotography.co.uk/)

    1. Perches – place natural and nice looking perches next to your bird feeder for the birds to land on before they land on your feeder so you can photograph them in a pleasing way. Make sure to choose a perch of suitable dimension for them to happily sit on and also think about your backgrounds – a diffused and natural coloured background works well. Move the perches and change them for more variety.

    2. Drinking pool – Rather than a bird bath why not build a reflection pool, create something that the birds will happily drink from and bathe in, build it at eye level (on a table) to get perfect reflections and make it look natural by using mosses, ferns, pebbles and other natural foliage around the edge of the pool.

    3. Behaviour – birds will often squabble over prime feeding perches on the bird feeders, this is a great chance to capture birds in flight and birds fighting, be prepared for these sort of squabbles, make sure to use a fast shutter speed to capture the action sharply but don’t be afraid to be creative, a slow shutter speed can also show the dramatic movement of the birds.

    As we leave winter starts to fade, and now is a good time to think about how you can improve your photography in preparation for spring. For me there are no “right or wrong” way to photograph wildlife but it is important to consider some of these things:

    1. Colour – not always but in many cases complimenting the colour of your subject with the background and even Red deer stag by Ben Andrew (http://www.benandrewphotography.co.uk/)other materials in the photograph works really well. For example, a red squirrel in autumnal leaves with a soft brown/red background. In the wild these situations do not always present themselves perfectly but do try and think about where your subject is standing, can you move around to alter the background colour and make the image more pleasing?

    2. Light – Often breaking the rules when it comes to light is part of the fun so experiment with your position in relation to the sun and your subject. There is nothing nicer than a warm front lit image but doesn’t always have to be front lit, back and side lit images can be just as interesting and give a fresh perspective on a familiar subject. Be careful with backlighting, creating a rim of light around the subject is great but often the subject has to be of a certain shape or structure to be distinguishable.

    These articles are adapted from articles that appeared in Nature's Home, our member's magazine, and Wingbeat, one of of children's magazines. Become a member and you can get these magazines free.

  • Who's hiding under Santa's hat - the results!

    Thanks to everyone who took part in our pre-Christmas competition - Who's hiding under Santa's hat.

    Jenny Osborne was the lucky winner of a Country Barn bird table worth £79.99 from our online shop. Just in time for Big Garden Birdwatch! Jenny correctly identified our five birds hiding under Santa's hat. And here they are, without their festive headgear:

    Mystery bird 1

    Robin. Picture by Andy Hay (www.rspb-images.com)

    Mystery bird number 1 is, of course, a traditional Christmas favourite, a robin. Seen in gardens all year round, the robin is known as the gardener's friend due to their bold behaviour!

    Mystery bird 2

    Bittern. Picture by Andy Hay (www.rspb-images.com)

    Mystery bird number two is the secretive heron, a bittern. Once so abundant that if you lived in the fens you might see roast bittern on your Christmas menu, numbers nosedived to just 11 males in 1997. Thanks to some serious hard work, there are now over 120 males booming away in England.

    Mystery bird 3

    Turtle doves. Picture by Andy Hay (www.rspb-images.com)

    Mystery bird number 3 is actually two turtle doves. Made famous in the song 'Twelve days of Christmas' these summer visitors to the UK are having a bad time of it. Declining rapidly, we're working in the UK and Africa to work out exactly why.

    Mystery bird 4

    Kingfisher. Picture by John Bridges (www.rspb-images.com)

    Mystery bird 4 is a family favourite, the kingfisher. With their bright blue and orange feather, kingfishers liven up any trip to a river, canal or lake. This one is perched above a river, scanning for signs of fish below, ready to plunge head first into the water and pull out a tasty treat.

    Mystery bird 5

    Blue tit. Picture by Ray Kennedy (www.rspb-images.com)

    Mystery bird 5 is the ubiquitous blue tit. A regular visitor to garden feeders, it's easy to overlook this familiar bird. But look at little harder and you'll see that, being blue and yellow, it's actually a very attractive bird.

    So that's it, there's the five mystery birds. Thanks for taking part!