Wednesday 14 November 2018

A New Start ?

   It’s been almost two years since I last wrote on my blog. I wondered at the time wether I would ever get around to continue it - or even if there was a point to it ? After writing off both my 7D2 and my 500mm in the summer of 2017 in an unfortunate ‘wash’ in the sea, I did loose a bit of interest in wildlife photography - although I did still have the 5D3 and 100-400mm (plus several other lenses). So for a while, I concentrated on landscapes and also spent more time trying to improve my night time picture taking. Although I haven’t done the blog for quite a while, there are quite a few images on my Facebook page ‘albums’ from the last two years. Over the next few weeks or so, I’ll update the  page layout, so bear with me 😀

  After the ‘success’ of a hide I’d built down at the shore, I’d started to think about another one to enable me to get a bit lower down and nearer to ‘eye level’ with potential subjects. What I had noticed from the house was that, either side of a rising and falling tide, mergansers and several species of duck ( plus a few waders etc) would come in to the muddy pool at the bottom of our field. My idea was to make a hide I could lie down in which, at the highest tide the camera could potentially be less than 12” above the water level. What this meant, was that the outside of the hide would have to be completely water tight and that the timber hide would have to be on a raft that should potentially be able to float during an extreme high tide. 

  So, with the plans ‘drawn up’ in my head I set about construction. The hide itself, was to be around 8ft long, by 30” wide by 30” high. The hinged entrance door at the rear was around 30”x 24” and the camera ‘port’ was around 12” high by 20” wide ( three sided for flexibility). The raft consisted of  two plastic pipes filled inside with solid round polystyrene tubes and then sealed at each end. The hide then sat on 4x2 timbers securely bolted to the tubes (prior to the pipes being filled and sealed). The inside of the hide was insulated and then covered in thin ply, with carpet and foam to lie on - very snug indeed ! The camera port also had scrim netting to cover the lens.  The outside had heavy duty polythene underneath and 6” up the sides (folded, not cut to keep it water tight) which then had two layers of roofing membrane to keep out the weather and fixed by timber battens. The last job was to make a towing frame to attach it to the quad for moving it around - I was surprised how heavy the whole thing had become !

The tow bar for the hide and floats
  So, in early October 2017, I towed it into place to where I thought would be a good position. The quad did struggle to start with, but once moving, it went ok. I then left the hide in place for a few days so the birds could get used to it - which coincided with a forecasted high tide in a few days time. 

  Well, the first time I used it a few days later, was part of a learning curve which often goes hand in hand when using anything new for the first time. Firstly, while the location was ok, it wasn’t ideal - after watching the Mergansers fishing at the far end of the pool, I knew I’d have to move the hide. Secondly, I was going to have to learn to have faith in what I’d constructed! As the tide rose, the water level got nearer and nearer to the camera port-hole; in fact, it was just 2” below ! It gave a great view over the water, but I was more concerned about getting flooded out - having had a previous experience of mixing salt water with camera electronics. I decided to leave - just in case the hide was too heavy to float - but in the process I got very wet as by now, the hide was surround by over a foot of water. A few days later, I moved the hide to a better location - where it has remained - and has proved to be very successful. 

  Later on in early December, we had another very high tide which coincided with a gale (Storm Caroline ) which in turn gave us an even higher tide. I was worried  that the gale could maybe roll the hide over,  so, not only did I strap the hide down to the raft, I roped the whole thing down to posts into the ground. That last piece of action turned out to be a mistake as, when the tide rose, it did in fact stop the hide floating which resulted in water getting inside through the camera port hole (it took ages to dry out) . 

A little bit more water than I expected 😀

  While the hide was proving to be very effective at allowing very close views of a numerous number of birds - Common & Jack Snipe, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Turnstone,  Red-breasted Merganser, Curlew, Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Greylag Goose and several other species, it was frustrating, as although I could still use my old 500mm, it was only on manual focussing, which restricted the types of shots quite a lot. 

A panoramic view from the hide on a very high tide.

The height of an ‘average’ tide.

  Using the ‘coffin hide’ as it’s called by some (due to its shape, not - hopefully - because of what one is normally used for) can be quite time consuming. Depending on the forecasted tide height, the time in the hide can be from just a couple of hours through to five or six hours ! While lying down for 5 or 6 hours has quite a few positives, there is one negative - answering the call of nature ! 

  Below are a few images from the hide over last winter with my old 500mm lens and also a couple from earlier this autumn with my replacement 500mm. 

Common Snipe

Female Red-breasted Merganser

Drake Wigeon

Water Rail


Grey Heron

Greylag Goose

Drake Teal

Drake Wigeon

  This blog update has been done using ‘BlogTouch Pro’ on my iPad rather than using my pc at home. If it doesn’t look right on the webpage, I’ll edit it in a few days time.
Robbie. Nov 2018