10 tips for taking wildlife feeding on autumn fruits
Captive dormouse emerges at night to feed on hawthorn. 105mm Micro-Nikkor lens with twin flash
Around the autumn equinox is the time to keep an eye open for shots of wildlife feasting on fruits and berries, which make for more interesting images than static portraits and often provide additional colour.
1. Hedgerow fruits such as rosehips, blackberries and hawthorn berries attract a host of birds and small mammals. Butterflies, flies or wasps also home in on any ripe damaged blackberry fruits to feed on the juices. Use a macro lens with the longest focal length so you have a good working distance (180mm or 200mm are perfect but 105mm will work). Alternatively, use a zoom tele lens with a macro setting.
2. Keep an eye in your own garden to see which fruits attract birds. Set up a camera with a long lens on a tripod to take shots of the birds gorging themselves. Don’t delay, since once a flock of redwings or fieldfares find a rich resource, they soon strip a tree bare.
A cock blackbird feeds on crab apples at the RHS Wisley. 500mm f/4 lens.
3. If there is a fruit-laden shrub or tree nearby a window in a house, work inside and draw the curtains up to the camera, so the birds won’t be able to see you moving around.
4. Look also at rotting fruit such as plums, pears and apples – both on the tree and on the ground. These will attract butterflies as well as wasps and hornets. Several red admirals flew down to a barrow load of wind-fallen pears to feed on the rotting fleshy parts.
Red admiral feeds on rotting pear. 105mm Micro-Nikkor lens.
5. Seek out trees and shrubs in parks and gardens that produce plenty of accessible fruit – notably hollies (only trees that produce female flowers set seed and produce fruits), oaks, crab apples, rowan trees, cherries, sea buckthorn and sweet chestnut. Wildlife in these places is more approachable than in the wild because it is habituated to people, so tend to be easier to photograph. Even so, using a tele-photo lens will help.
6. Sweet chestnuts at Kew are attacked by both ring-necked parakeets, as well as squirrels that also horde them by burying them in the ground. This parakeet feeding on a sweet chestnut, blended in so well with the green leaves, it was difficult to spot.
Ring-necked parakeet feeds on sweet chestnut fruit at Kew Gardens, 500mm lens
7. Visit garden centres for plants which produce seedheads and colourful fruits to attract wildlife into your own garden such as teasels, Cotoneaster, Pyracantha, viburnums.
8. As well as fruits, provide bird seed mixtures, suet, black sunflower seeds, peanuts on a bird table, which will help to lure birds into the garden – albeit with a less attractive backdrop than a tree or shrub but they may then be tempted to feed on berries.
9. Regardless of the animal or the food they are feeding on, the aim should be to show the proboscis of a butterfly, jaws of a wasp or hornet or bill of a bird in the process of feeding. So backs of animals hiding the parts used for feeding should be avoided and either aim for head-on shots or side views.
10. Whilst waiting for wildlife to turn up you can always take some shots of the fruits themselves like this hedgerow collection below.
Wild fruits – rosehips, hawthorn berries and blackberries in a Hampshire hedgerow, 80-200mm f2.8 lens
© Heather Angel 2013
Autumn fruits – a wildlife bounty