On Tuesday the 5th March 2013 I decided to pay a visit to Chambers Farm Wood in Lincolnshire. This was mainly due to a heads up from a fellow bird photographer Matt Latham who had informed me that the Siskin's and Redpoll's were showing pretty well at the feeding station at the wood. Thanks for that Matt.
The weather forecast for Tuesday was for it to be foggy and clear slowly throughout the day. Should I take a chance and hope it cleared earlier than forecast or leave it until another day. I decided to take a chance and go for it. Was I pleased I did. I set off just after 09:00 in thick fog, four miles up the road I ran out of the fog into brilliant sunshine. It stayed sunny for the rest of my journey and I arrived at the wood around 10:00 with the sun still shining
Matt had told me that the lighting on the feeding station wouldn't be much good until around lunch time when the sun had got a bit higher in the sky. However, as I had never attempted any bird photography at this spot before I had no idea of which lens I would need or what position I would need to be in to get the photographs. So, my early arrival was to give me chance to suss the situation out and decide what equipment I was going to use. I had taken both the 400mm and 500mm lenses with me. I decided that the 500mm would be the best bet under the lighting conditions, although I would have to be careful with the depth of field as I would be pretty close to the birds. I also took a feeder with me for niger seed. The Siskin and Redpoll are very partial to niger seed.
I also took peanuts and mixed seed for the other birds. The feeders at the wood are hung on a wire stretched between two trees. Fine for the birds but not a good photography setting. I had to rearrange things a little and set up my own perches for the birds using branches that were readily available from other people doing the same thing. As it happened one of the volunteers who normally tops the feeders up was about, so I explained to him what I was doing and assured him I would put things back as they were when I had finished. He was more than happy with this as It meant all the feeders would be topped up by me saving them the cost of the seed and nuts. A pleasant attitude, manners and respect for others goes a long way in a situation like this. By the time I had finished chatting to the volunteer and got my perches set up it was around 11:15 and I could see the light on the feeding station was getting better all the time.
Within a few minutes of me setting up a female Redpoll put in an appearance, however she landed directly on the feeder I had taken rather than on one of my perches. A slight adjustment to my perches and the next time she came in it was onto my chosen perch. Not quite the side view I wanted but good enough.
There were Great, Blue and Coal tits coming back and forth in good numbers. I took a few photographs of them but was more keen to get the Siskin and Redpoll.
Just before lunch time a couple of Siskin's came in. I managed a good photograph of the female but the male eluded my efforts. By the time I had got a photograph of the female the male was already on the feeder.
It was lunch time already. A quick sandwich and a cup of soup was consumed where I was rather than go back to the car. Luckily it wasn't too cold where I was as it was sheltered from any wind by the building immediately behind me. I made a quick telephone call home to my wife, more out of curiosity than anything to find out if the fog had cleared at home. Sue informed me it was still thick fog at home. I had definitely made the right decision. If I hadn't gone to Chambers Wood I had planned to do some local in flight ducks and geese. That would have been a no go in the fog. The light on the feeding station was excellent now. Next to come in was a male Redpoll. What a fine looking specimen as well with his red cap and streaked red breast. He landed not on one of my perches but on the tree itself even nearer to me. I fired a burst of shots off just hoping that I had managed to get him all in focus with him being so near. I checked them on the camera LCD screen and was happy with them.
The Long-tialed tits kept popping in now and again but were more inclined to land on the ground and then fly up to the feeders or the table. After many attempts I finally managed a decent photograph of one in a tree rather than on the ground.
The next hour was rather frustrating as a Sparrowhawk decided it would fly through. Obviously all the birds took cover when it came through. It was great to see this male Sparrowhawk coming through at great speed. Over the next hour he came through four times, the last time nearly taking my head off he was that close. Although I was at the ready for him there was no way on earth I was going to get a photograph of him. The shutter speed was too slow as were my reactions Lol.
After what seemed a long wait the small birds began to return and the male Siskin was one of them. He perched more or less in a perfect position for me and a burst of shots ensured a lovely photograph of him.
Throughout the rest of the time I was there the Siskin's and Redpoll's returned several times and more photographs were taken. By 15:15 I decided I had as many photographs as I needed and I put the feeding station back as I found it. I also topped up the feeders with the surplus nuts and seed I had left. The light had been a bit challenging at times. Sometimes my perches were in full sun, sometimes in shade which meant I was altering the exposure compensation quite often.
A great days photography though and my first decent photograph of a Redpoll. The journey home was good and I didn't run into any fog until I approached the same spot as it cleared on my morning journey. Not as thick a fog as in the morning but enough to blot out any sunshine.