Guardian photographer branches out!

Clive Nesbitt


Clive Nesbitt


WITH lockdown in full flow and plenty of spare time to sit in the garden and take advantage of the nice weather, I had noticed the lack of wildlife in my back garden - with the most notable absence being garden birds.

I’ve always enjoyed bird-watching and taking photographs of wildlife would be one of my favourite escapes from my everyday photography work.

So with plenty of spare time and a limited budget I decided to try and attract the local birds to my modest garden in Newpark in Antrim.

Rather than buy a traditional bird table I bought a feeding station. The bird tables can be quite expensive but you can buy the feeding stations online from Argos or Amazon from about £20. I got mine from the local pet shop.

The stations let you hang two or three feeders and usually come with a small tray and a water dish.

I don’t use the water dish on mine because loose food falls into the water and its a bit of a pain cleaning it all the time. I got myself a separate stand alone bird bath from Home Base but these can be bought cheaply online.

It’s important to keep the bird bath topped up with clean, fresh water and I change mine every couple of days or so.

I bought two standard seed feeders and a nyjer seed feeder for my station. I got these from my local pet shop but you can pick them up from ASDA and Tesco without too much bother.

I chose to put sunflower seed hearts in the standard feeders because pretty much all the garden birds enjoy this food. I don’t use mixed wild bird seed or whole sunflower seeds because they can make a mess with loose seed spilling from the feeder onto the ground when the birds visit the station.

With the sunflower seed hearts the birds just take one at a time with only a small amount of mess caused by spillage and you will find some of the birds hoover up the small amount of hearts which have ended up on the floor.

The reason I got the nyjer seed feeder is because I wanted to attract Goldfinches and Redpolls to my station. Nyjer is a tiny seed and can only be used with a special feeder and the Goldfinches and Redpolls slender beaks can pick the seed from the small holes in the feeder.

I also put loose peanuts and mealworms on the tray on the station and scatter a few on the ground so the birds can root about for them. If you have any apples that get past their best, cut them in half and you’ll find that Blackbirds love to peck away at them.

I put my station with the full feeders in a safe place away from the fence and waited for arrivals. Things were quiet for a couple of days and then a Blue Tit landed on a feeder and started to tuck in and within no time at all my station was full of birds enjoying the sunflower seed hearts. It took a week or so before my nyjer seed feeder saw any action but now I get regular daily visits from Goldfinches and Redpolls.

The station is now a hive of activity and is great fun to watch from the kitchen window. The birds are starting to get used to me wondering around the garden and allow me to get pretty close to them with my camera.

So far I’ve ticked off Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Wren, Robin, Goldfinch, Redpoll, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Collered Dove, Wood Pigeon, Starling and Blackbird. I love it!

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