Siskins

It’s a year since I took up bird photography properly and I can tell that I’m getting better. Partly it’s the practice in using the equipment, partly it’s the opportunity, often it’s the time you’re willing to put in but mainly it’s the fieldcraft. It’s the skills to get really close to birds which make the biggest difference. People often ask “What camera do you use?” or say “I bet you’ve got a good lens”, yet no-one asks the most important question, “What fieldcraft do you use?”

Here’s a close-up of a Siskin. It looks like a female to me.

Siskin - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

In Italy they take their birdwatching seriously and have wooden hides with movable chairs and camouflage netting looking over beautifully arranged artistic miniature landscapes of logs, bark, twigs, lichen, berries and reflection pools laden with bird food. My fieldcraft today? Sitting in a tiny wooden shed in the Italian forest with The Puffin Whisperer.

Siskin - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

It makes a huge difference.

Here’s the first time I saw a Siskin, in Devon nearly a year ago:

“Oh look – there’s a Siskin.”

That one was a male. So is this one, with its brighter colours and darker cap:

Siskin - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

They are aggressive birds and guard their food stash with open beaks, fluttering wings and an aggressive lean-forward stance, even against the largest of competitors:

Siskin - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Whenever there’s an alarm call and the birds fly off, the Siskins stay until the very last moment. Later they are the first to return. They have real determination. In Italian they are known as Leucherino:

Siskin - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Here are some more shots showing how beautiful they were in the low January sunshine at the WWF reserve at Lago di Alviano:

Occasionally the reflection pool comes in handy for a shot:

Siskin - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

They are spectacular birds:

Siskin - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

What can we do to get beautiful birdwatching facilities in the UK?

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