A bird-themed digression


I hope you will forgive a spot of self-indulgence, but I’m so chuffed with my new bird hide I felt compelled to share it. Here’s the background. We moved to this house thirty years ago this year. It’s in a small rural village a few miles south of York; we’re surrounded by farmland. Four or five years after we arrived the opportunity arose to buy the field behind our house, so that’s what we did. I then set about fulfilling a lifelong ambition of digging a big pond. Well, I didn’t do the digging, a man with a large JCB did that, scooping out the blue clay and spreading it on the surrounding land. I ended up with a fairly sizeable hole in the ground, probably about an acre-and-a-third in area, albeit only maybe 4ft deep. I sunk a borehole to fill it and to keep it topped up. I put some fish in it: 100 brown trout and a handful of coarse species: carp, rudd, tench and bream. I was aware that this wasn’t the best environment for trout, and indeed as the weeks and months went on the trout that I caught from time to time were thin and clearly struggling. In retrospect I reckon they were simply out-competed by the carp. The tench and bream also dwindled (in fact the bream seem to have got some kind of disease – I found several belly up a few months later). The carp and the rudd thrived however, despite the attentions of the local heron. The carp grew fat and the rudd simply multiplied, while remaining pretty small.

As the years rolled by bullrushes sprung up and trees began to appear around the fringes. A few years ago I was puzzled to find the odd skeleton of sizeable carp some distance away from the water – too big and too far away for a heron to have been the culprit. One sunday morning all became clear when from my bedroom window I spotted an indistinct dark shape splashing in the water and when I gingerly approached the water in my dressing gown found myself staring at an otter struggling with a fish. On one of the islands was his sibling, tucking into one of my better carp. I had mixed feelings, but decided to be philosophical about it, reckoning that nature would somehow balance itself out. Indeed that seems to have been the result, as there are good numbers of rudd and certainly a few carp still around. I do find the odd shrivelled fish skeleton now and again, so Mr Otter and his brood have presumably not gone away (the river Derwent runs along the bottom of the field and there are plenty of otters there these days).

We get a good amount of bird life on the pond. Canada geese, coots, rail, mallards, the odd kingfisher and the like. Now and again a shelduck will pass through and the odd swan. So this year I decided I’d build a hide. The aim was to place a modified garden shed on 6ft high stilts.

So here is Hopelessly’s DIY elevated bird hide. Ingredients: 1 modified 6x4ft pent-roofed shed, unassembled. Instead of a single glazed window by the door the local shed company was happy to put a slit-window on the short side of the structure. The raised platform consists of four 4×4 posts, sunk and concreted 2ft into the ground and braced laterally along the top and diagonally across each side, fixed with 10mm coach bolts, topped with 4×2″ joists. For anyone interested in the vulgar topic of cash, this all cost about nine hundred quid (we used good quality, pressure-treated wood all round).

Fortunately I have two strapping sons-in-law who are willing and handy. Here’s what we did (incidentally, because I took these pics I don’t appear; I want the record to state that I did indeed do my bit).

Posts are in (a non-trivial task to get four posts all facing the same way, forming as near as makes no difference a precise rectangle and all at the same height) and side braces on:

Next up the front horizontal braces, all nice and level:

On with the diagonals:

and the joists:

All ship shape and level (thankfully) so the base of the hide can be pinned onto the joists:

The side panels go up and are pinned in with 70mm screws:

On with the roof and roof felt:

Tra-la, six hours’ of hard graft (not including the three hours it took me to get the posts right) and we’re there:

And the view from across the pond:

Well, I’m off to get my binoculars. Apologies if that was boring. It’ll be back to the trouting when and if we ever get any summer.

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  1. Looks good to me. Have you got a drop-down window inside to keep the Yorkshire weather out. You need to graffiti on the inside walls and light a fire in the corner to make it a realistic hide.

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