May is a great month to photograph pied flycatchers
. This summer migrant has a widespread but patchy distribution in the UK, its stronghold being the mature sessile oakwoods of Wales. As a hole-nester, it readily takes to nestboxes and can become quite confiding, often breeding in the region’s rural gardens.
I photographed a female returning to her nest close to a farmhouse. Here, the pair had become indifferent to humans, enabling me to observe their behaviour without disturbing them.
I noticed that the birds would occasionally alight upon a nearby hawthorn tree and longed to capture the image of one of them perched among the blossom. However, obtaining a clear shot through so many branches would not be easy – I needed to improvise.
I cut a small branch, attached it to a pole and placed it on a route used regularly by the birds, making sure nothing distracting was in the background. I threw the background out of focus, creating a pleasing diffused backdrop.
I then sat quietly with my camera, well away from the nest. Soon, the birds began using the perch and I was rewarded with the photo I’d hoped for.
Top wildlife photography techniques
Late to bed, early to rise
This may elicit a groan, but it’s worth it for the special light you get at these times of day. It also means that you will be on site when many diurnal birds and mammals are at their most active. You might even be lucky enough to grab a few shots of some of our nocturnal and crepuscular species before they rest up for the day.
Leave some space
It’s always nice to get a frame-filling image of a wild animal, but where possible, leave a little space around your subject. This will enable you to do more with your photo, such as cropping to improve its composition. It may also help to get your images published, since editors often like to have space for text, especially on a cover or opening spread.
It is often the songs of birds that first alert you to their presence, so learning these calls is invaluable when trying to locate your subject. It’s also worth memorising their alarm calls, as these may be a warning that you are too close and causing distress. Give the bird more space and you’ll have a better chance of achieving a relaxed, natural image.
To enjoy more of David’s spectacular wildlife photography click here (coming soon) or visit his website here.