It is a common misconception that you have to travel hundreds of miles or get on a plane to find stunning wildlife. I find myself constantly to blame for this need to explore further afield. Not that there is any thing wrong with this - I love nothing more than exploring new stretches of coastline and discovering beautiful lochs and mountains to climb... but sometimes all it takes is a step outside your backdoor!
It all began with an idea - you have no doubt all seen that classic image of a Goldfinch feeding on Teasel. Even if you were not consciously aware of it, I am sure you've walked past a gallery or scrolled past a digital depiction of that colourful little garden bird sitting on the most unlikeliest of perches in either pixels or paint. I believe every photographer dreams of a shot they'd loved to have taken, I mean why question the classics? It was therefore a dream shot that began to unravel into a plan when I came across a branch of Teasel that had no doubt met the business end of Storm Doris that recently terrorised the South West. Apart from being dismembered from the roots, the branch was in one piece so I took it home to meet the local bird life.
Goldfinches have been a regular visitor where I live so I tied the Teasel branch to a piece of bamboo and placed it close to the niger feeder in the garden. Making sure the branch sat at the right height to have the fern hedge in the background, I placed my pop-up hide far enough away so as not to worry the finches and yet close enough to get a frame-filler.
A day passed of sitting in the hide for various stints and no Goldfinches left the safety of the feeder to take the spikey throne I had left for their enjoyment (although I had seen them do so in the times that I was indoors!) I kept waiting, watching the tit families flit around the trees and the odd greenfinch making a fleeting visit. But no luck with the goldies! After a while I did strike gold...but not with the gold I was after. A greater spotted woodpecker had flown down and taken a shine to a new fat ball hanging from one of the trees in the garden. It was a pleasure to see such an elusive and beautiful bird (see image above) and I was even lucky enough to film some interesting behaviour (see video below!).
I packed up the camera that day without the shot I was after but with fresh anticipation for the next day. The Goldfinches were indeed back out the next day which was a good sign so I settled back down in the hide and waited. I had noticed that the most likely time for a Goldfinch to visit the Teasel would be when the feeder was too busy with other birds. After an hour of waiting and seeing many pairs of finches visit the feeder but no more, I was eventually surprised by a single Goldfinch that flittered down the tree, went straight past the feeder and landed on the Teasel I had my lens trained on. The little character did this twice before I packed up from lack of light but feeling happy and positive that perseverance had paid off!
At the end of the following clip you can see the Greater Spotted Woodpecker pecking a small hole in the tree and then placing a sunflower seed into the gap. I thought at first that this was an attempt to cache the seed, however after inspecting the hole later on, I found the sunflower husk still there. I therefore suspect that this clever bird was using the hole it had created in the tree to hold the sunflower seed like a plate to enable it to crack open the husk and retrieve the sunflower heart. Wildlife never ceases to amaze me.