Building a Bird Gymnasium

Over the past few months, my bird posing sticks have been occupying more and more space at the boundary of our property, each attached to the party fence and probably becoming a bit of an eyesore to our neighbours…they were also just a bit too far away to comfortably photograph from my present “hide” with a 400mm lens. I’ve seen bird gyms made for indoor use to amuse pet budgies and parrots…so a couple of weeks ago, in late September, I decided that’s what I needed…a series of outdoor natural branches and twigs to support “posing sticks” that can be changed periodically. The structure would provide an anchorage for hooks, from which feeders could be hung. I had become frustrated with the birds sitting on the metal supports of the feeders, so the new arrangement would need to be totally natural looking.

Luckily, the present wooden bird feeding post was attached to a ground spike. That made it easy to remove from its present position and drive into the ground elsewhere. We did that together with one holding it upright, the other up a ladder with a sledgehammer, driving it in. At the other end we firmly fixed another upright into a heavy square section terracotta pot, originally made as an underground drainage section. Between the two we fixed a curving branch from one of our birch trees. With several small branches tied to this structure and some cup hooks below the main branch to hold feeders, the gym was ready (shown in the gallery, with an obliging great tit sitting on one end). Each perch has been carefully positioned so that the background is far enough away to blur. The background trees are also varied in colour…and the sticks are high enough so that they are above the party fence from the camera position. The third upright stick in the pictures is my original “shepherd’s crook” posing post that I’ve had for the last couple of years, which is anchored separately in a Christmas tree base.

The first day or two, the birds seemed a bit reluctant to try it out, though that might have been partly due to the good weather and quite a lot of insects and berries about. On the first cool wet day, the birds arrived in some number and they are now totally happy with the set-up.

I also have a “stick nursery”…a pile of small branches that are huddled together under a bush, in a damp part of the garden. They are growing mosses, lichens and fungus, to provide perches with more interest over the coming months. I swear this lock-down is doing strange things to me as a photographer!

Below are some of the images I’ve taken over the last couple of weeks or so, with birds sitting on various parts of the structure. Some of the young birds that appeared in the summer are still regular visitors, though the long tailed tits haven’t been seen for almost two weeks now and the nuthatch is a very occasional visitor. The chiff chaff (top three images) was only seen twice and may have now migrated. Randy the robin is in an aggressive mood at the moment, chasing off all and sundry. Fingers crossed for some interesting shots over the winter.

error: © Christine Widdall - Kirklees Cousins
© Christine Widdall