A couple of weeks ago when I was looking ahead to the upcoming topics for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge, I was doubtful I’d have a suitable entry for this week’s animal theme. It’s not that I don’t see animals and birds – I see lots – deer, birds of prey, all kinds of nature’s finest. But photographing them is another story! However, it’s amazing how life works out sometimes and a recent day out, that didn’t go quite as planned, led to us visiting a local country park.
This woodland park is an old family haunt of ours. Our children have spent many happy hours here over the years – exploring in the old woods, paddling in the stream, and watching wildlife in close-up from the bird hide.
For anyone whose life has not been enriched by a visit to a bird hide, it is basically a wooden shed in which you literally ‘hide’ whilst watching the birds or animals going about their normal busyness outside. You might imagine bird hides normally attract serious bird-watching types dressed in green, up-market, rustle-free outdoor gear, clutching large binoculars or spotting scopes and cameras with huge camo lenses.
Well, sometimes that’s true. In this bird hide you do see serious birders. There were a couple there the day we chanced to visit (complete with cameras with huge camo lenses!). But here you are equally likely to meet the next generation of ecologists. Today’s party were aged about seven years old, visiting from a Newcastle primary school. We find the children have always been ‘well prepared’ by staff before they make their way over to the hide so it’s always a surprise when a group of about 10-15 children suddenly creep up on you in the hide!
“Can we come in?” their teacher asked in hushed tones as the group stood expectantly outside. “Of course!” I replied enthusiastically, but in equally hushed tones. I’m not sure why I was answering on behalf of the public hide! I guess I’m just very keen to encourage everyone, especially young ones, to learn about the natural world. I shuffled our belongings to make more space. Today the children seemed to have come particularly to see a new owl nest box that had been fitted within sight of the hide, but set back into the woodland.
Unfortunately, by the time they arrived, the children had missed the exciting animal antics we had just enjoyed. Right outside of the hide windows are several feeding stations which are kept stocked several times a week with bird food, supplied by kind supporters of the woodland visitor centre. We had seen several species of small birds including nuthatch, chaffinch, dunnock and robin. We watched two grey squirrels doing acrobatics to reach the food in the carefully constructed feeding areas. Delightfully, at one point, a roe deer wandered through our view. It’s always wonderful to watch from the hide.
This very enjoyable and unplanned visit to the hide gave me the chance to take a few photos too – just what I needed for for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week!
I think the squirrel that amused me most was this cheeky one. It was close enough for me to quickly snap a shot as it hopped up onto the low table right in front of us.
It swiftly dived straight into the wire mesh cage … which is really there to prevent larger birds like wood pigeons coming down and clearing all of it at one sitting! Grey Squirrel was happy to sit there and feast for a while.
Not to be outdone, we then saw this pheasant poking his head inside another wire mesh cage to reach the tasty seed food. He was quite happy to stay there long enough for me to capture a few shots.
Here’s another kind of woodland animal that I’ve photographed a few times! This was a good few years ago, but teaching our kids to care about nature just seems the right thing to do, I think.
J Peggy Taylor