12th June 2013
Based on intelligence gleaned from fellow bird photographer Rick Stead, I headed off to Fishers Green to visit a secret hide or, actually, a suite of four hides. Having parked up, I decoded the instructions and set off, looking over my shoulder to ensure that no-one was following. At a predetermined point up the track I diverted into the undergrowth up a scarcely visible path through the jungle of vegetation. Weaving past brambles and under overhanging trees, I eventually came to my destination, the four small hides.
And when I say small, I was not exaggerating. These were not your usual hides. They were designed for wildlife photographers and, because you ideally want to be at eye-level with your subjects, are just four feet high!! I bent down and crawled into one and knelt down on the ground. This was because there were no seats. I opened one of the flaps and pulled back the curtain, yes they have curtains, and there just 14 feet in front of me was a Jay. So down to business.
There were three pallets stacked along the wall of the hide which I quickly arranged into a makeshift seat. Even then, with my knees either side of my face, I had to keep moving to maintain a flow of blood. By now the Jay had moved off but I didn't have to wait long before a Grey Squirrel came along for a drink. The feeders were empty and the small pond was dry, despite a battery of water butts, sadly empty due to the lack of rain. The squirrel more or less had to push aside the duckweed to get a drink, but then cavorted around on the branches positioned strategically in front of the hide, allowing a couple of shots.
Next on the scene was a Magpie. I have tried to photograph Magpies in the past but they are difficult as, due to the fact that they are often against a sky background, their black and white appearance washes them out. This one, however, was on the ground and although not perfect, is probably the best I have taken so far.
So now on to the real business. A male Great Spotted Woodpecker is obviously used to coming down to the feeders for peanuts but, even though the feeders were empty, still felt a conviction to visit the site. He came within just 12 feet most of the time and posed at different angles for some photographs. The red dot behind the head shows that this is the male.
But now on to the star of the show, the Jay. I have photographed Jays at close quarters from the Bittern Hide, but this bird was something different. Most of the time it was so close that I couldn't get it all in the frame. These hides are something else and remain a closely guarded secret.