John's Wildlife Photography Blog

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Cold weather visitors

Nov 10, 2014

The recent cold snap here in Southern England has brought a lot of woodland birds out into the open in search of food to give them the extra energy they need in low temperatures. Here a Gooday Towers we're seeing a lot of Great Tits all of a sudden.

(Image: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF500mm f/4L IS II, 1/400 sec @ f/4, ISO 1250, tripod, hide)

(Image: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF500mm f/4L IS II, 1/400 sec @ f/4, ISO 1250, tripod, hide)

Great Tits are the largest of the British Tits and the second most  numerous (after Blue Tits) with an estimated 2.5 million breeding pairs. You can tell the difference between males and females by looking at the black stripe running down their front: it's wider and longer  in males.

(Images: LEFT (male)  - Canon EOS 1DX, EF500mm f/4L IS with 12mm extension tube, 1/640 sec @ f/5, ISO 1600, tripod, hide; RIGHT (female) - Canon EOS 1DX, EF500mm f/4L IS with 12mm extension tube, 1/320 sec @ f/3.5, ISO 2000, tripod, hide )

(Images: LEFT (male)  - Canon EOS 1DX, EF500mm f/4L IS with 12mm extension tube, 1/640 sec @ f/5, ISO 1600, tripod, hide; RIGHT (female) - Canon EOS 1DX, EF500mm f/4L IS with 12mm extension tube, 1/320 sec @ f/3.5, ISO 2000, tripod, hide )

Although they are not as territorially aggressive as Robins, Great Tits will challenge other birds over access to food and water supplies, especially in winter. They feed on seeds and nuts for most of the year (I've found sunflower hearts to be the best bait for attracting them to feeders), but consume mainly insects during the breeding season. Young are fed mainly on caterpillars.

having Great Tits around can also increase your chances of seeing smaller birds of prey. Sparrowhawks are rather partial to a meal of Great Tit. We occasionally see one lurking in the garden bushes hoping to grab an unsuspecting bird at the nearby feeders.

(Image: Stand-off between a male Blackcap and a Great Tit  over access to a drinking pool. Canon EOS 1DX, EF300mm f/4L IS + 1.4x III, 1/1000 sec @ f/7.1, ISO 1600, tripod, hide)

(Image: Stand-off between a male Blackcap and a Great Tit  over access to a drinking pool. Canon EOS 1DX, EF300mm f/4L IS + 1.4x III, 1/1000 sec @ f/7.1, ISO 1600, tripod, hide)

(Image: Canon 1DX, EF300mm f/2.8L IS + 1.4x III, 1/1000 sec @ f/4, ISO 640, tripod, hide)

(Image: Canon 1DX, EF300mm f/2.8L IS + 1.4x III, 1/1000 sec @ f/4, ISO 640, tripod, hide)

(Image: Canon 1DX, EF500mm f/4L IS II + 1.4x III, 1/500 sec @ f/5.6, ISO 2000, tripod)

(Image: Canon 1DX, EF500mm f/4L IS II + 1.4x III, 1/500 sec @ f/5.6, ISO 2000, tripod)