I was out with my camera today, looking for kingfishers, when I found myself committing a cardinal sin. A flash of movement caught my eye, I whipped my camera around and focused. But instead of firing off a shot, I lowered my camera and said, “It’s only a robin.” Now, I know I was specifically looking for kingfishers, and (in my opinion) most birds pale in comparison, but I think we often overlook the beauty and character of the more commonly seen birds, and this is a shame.

So I dug around in my recent archives for pictures of some of the more common British birds, photographed in my back garden. I’ve spent many happy hours in the garden, watching the birds, but only recently did I decide to turn this into a photo opportunity. I found a broken branch and attached it to a tree, next to a feeder. Then I got out a step ladder (to get level with the branch), climbed it, with my camera on a tripod, and covered myself with a camouflage net.

IMG_0499 (1)

Great tit. Canon EOS 500D and Sigma 150-500mm lens @ 500mm, f/6.3, 1/250, ISO 800.

Most of the birds we get in the garden are tits (please get the giggles out of the way now, this word will crop up a lot). The great tit used to be my favourite; it seemed to have the most attitude, always being confident and brave, visiting the feeders even when people were close by. But then I got to know this next bird, and realised he has far more attitude.

IMG_0503 (1)Coal tit. Canon EOS 500D and Sigma 150-500mm lens @ 500mm, f/6.3, 1/250, ISO 800.

I was coming out to fill up the feeders one day, and a coal tit was washing in the birdbath. I got closer and closer, yet he still refused to move, even when I was a foot away. Finally, he was done with his bath. He gave an indignant whistle and flashed past my head, into the bushes. The great tits fled as soon as they saw me, but this little guy held his ground, making him my favourite garden bird. Plus, I love the white streak that runs down the back of a coal tit’s head.

IMG_0481 (1)

Blue tit. Canon EOS 500D and Sigma 150-500mm lens @ 500mm, f/6.3, 1/250, ISO 800.

Blue tits are great little birds, with their bandit-mask pattern. They love the fat balls we put out, and as soon as I attached the branch to the tree they formed an orderly queue on it! They would shuffle along the branch, taking turns on the feeder. And then a squirrel came along and destroyed the branch. With nowhere to queue, visiting the fat feeder became more of an aerial battle for the blue tits.

IMG_0666 (1)Chaffinch. Canon EOS 500D and Sigma 150-500mm lens @ 500m, f/6.3, 1/1000, ISO 400.

Chaffinches are always hanging around beneath the feeders, waiting for the inevitable cascade of seeds from above. No ladder required for this one, down on my belly in the grass. Chaffinches have a really rich plumage, when the sun strikes their feathers the colours are beautiful.

So take my advice. Make sure you always take the time to appreciate a bird, no matter how often you see it. It’s always rewarding.

Incidentally, my kingfisher walk was eventful for all the wrong reasons! But that’s a story for another day.

About TM HIbbert

Naturalist, photographer, fiction-lover.

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