Pool Bridge Farm
Pool Bridge Farm, near York, has a number of photography hides that can be hired through Yorskshire Wildlife Photography (see links on the right hand side of this page). I visited in June 2013 and had a terrific time visting three of the hides and photographing kestrels, green woodpeckers and a little owl.
The day started at 8am. I was met by the farmer who took me to the first hides of the day overlooking an area where a pair of kestrels feed. There were two hides to choose from so it was possible to select an angle most suitable for the morning light. I was provided with a box of bits of chick to use as bait for the birds. The kestrels were most obliging and frequently visited the range of perches set out in front of the hide. From the hide I was using I would recommend a 400mm lens if using a crop camera like my 7D or a longer lens if using a full frame model.
There was room in the hide for a tripod but I preferred to use the window ledge that was comfortably wide enough to rest my camera on. A bean bag would be a useful accessory here.
Around noon I was collected by the farmer who took me to a small wood where a hide was setup with a view of a green woodpecker's nest hole. This proved to be a much more challenging environment to photograph in with the wood being dark even during the early afternoon of a sunny summer day. I was forced to use high ISO settings (ISO 3200) and also to use my 2x teleconverter as the hide was some distance from the nest. Despite these issues I still managed to get some shots and enjoyed watching the activity at the nest hole. A 600mm F4 lens would have really helped! I shot from a monopod though in this case a tripod would have been a better option.
At 2:30pm I was collected again and taken to the final hide of the day, the little owl hide. The farmer explained that as the little owl chicks had recently fledged there was a chance that I wouldn't see any owls, however I was fortunate and an owl did visit the old tree stump in front of the hide in order to eat the worms left as bait. The owl only made one visit and that only lasted for around five minutes but it did provide the opportunity to get some nice shots. The afternoon light was good and the hide well positioned to take advantage of it. I shot from a monopod at a focal length of 420mm using a 1.6x crop camera.
There is a cafe on site at the farm where toilets are available, however the hides are located some distance from the cafe and with so much to photograph I would advise taking a packed lunch and eating in the hide.