Photographing my Feathered Friends

I’m lucky to have a lovely little 1930s mid-terrace house in a hidden neighbourhood in Glasgow which comes with a relatively small (made smaller by a huge garage full of junk) garden.  When I moved in I rarely saw any birds other than the odd blue tit or robin but over the years I’ve worked hard on attracting them and in 2017 regularly had goldfinch, siskin, house sparrows, starlings, robins, blue tits, great tits, dunnocks, wood pigeons, collared doves, magpies, feral pigeons and rarer visits from wrens, blackbirds, chiffchaff, bullfinch and a brief few days of long-tailed tits.  I eat my breakfast looking out over the garden most days and it’s a joy to watch the birds squabbling over the sunflower hearts.

However, photographing the birds has proved more problematic.  The neighbourhood is full of cats – both my next door neighbours have two apiece.  And although they don’t venture into my garden too often, they might change their habits if I started putting out photogenic ground level feeding/drinking/bathing/perching areas.  And of course there’s Murphy, my hound.  He loves bird food (well, any food, actually).  So again, nothing can be where he can access.  All my flower/vegetable beds are surrounded by horrible fencing to prevent him stomping all over them, not that that stops him!  My kitchen/diner windows are original and not only a little on the dirty side at times but glass that my camera can’t cope with, and they are nailed shut due to a security conscious previous owner which is a shame as it would be a great place to sit with my tripod.

I have however managed to photograph a few of the birds perched on top of my feeding stand:



…and some in the tangle of rose/clematis and other shrubs at one side

Juvenile house sparrows
punk-rockin’ blue tit
Long-tailed tit –  I was SO excited to see this!
Chiff chaff

…on the fence:

Male blackbird
Juvenile jackdaw

…and this, a mobile phone picture, out my kitchen window of the goldfinch sitting on the telephone wires which became an album cover for the Peter Bruntnell Trio.


So… I’m going to try and figure something out this year, but last year I resorted to hanging out of my bedroom window photographing the birds in my next door neighbour’s cherry tree – not sure what all the passers-by made of this, but I was able to take some lovely images!

In winter/early spring before the leaves and blossom appear, it was fairly straightforward to locate the birds in the tree.  I tended to use my Nikon crop-frame camera with the Tamron 150-600mm, allowing a focal length of 900mm, perfect for these little birds, mounted on my tripod with gimble head and often cable release.


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…and one slightly “arty” shot


However it was a tad trickier once the leaves and blossom appeared, although it was definitely more photogenic  – I’d spot a bird but couldn’t find it through the viewfinder and the bird had often descended to the feeder before I located the spot.


Love this blue tit!



One bird I was really keen to photograph with the new leaves was the male bullfinch.  The orange of its breast feathers matched that of the unfurling leaves.  This took bucket loads of patience and frustration.  Mad dashes upstairs to the window whenever I spotted it often resulted in failure (Murphy thought I was quite crazy), or not quite the image I was looking for.

Missed the tree completely!
Colours right, but telephone wire wrong
The blurry leaves at the fore-front ruin this shot and not enough orange
Not enough orange and the blurry pink are the problems here although I like the expression

but finally!  I succeeded.  My most satisfying image of 2017.


So I’ve done okay in 2017, and hopefully I can do something to make the garden work better for me this year – especially as the cherry tree has been cut right back and probably won’t bloom in 2018.  I’ll keep you updated!

Highland based nature photographer and guide specialising primarily in Scottish wildlife but available to cover live music and events.

2 thoughts on “Photographing my Feathered Friends

  1. Hehe! I am exactly the same. My neighbours must think I am potty hanging out of my bathroom with a camera. I am on a similar mission this year to try and get something that works for me set up!! Look forward to seeing your changes.


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