STEP 1: CHOOSING A LOCATION
With the above considerations in mind, I spent several months just driving around trying to envision my blind at different locations around the property. Ultimately, I narrowed my choices down to 3 different spots. Two were on the extreme back of the property and the third was more in the center. Ultimately, I choose the center location as 1) I thought the surrounding scrub would provide the most cover for the wildlife, 2) the background was covered mostly with green bushes that would provide a nice background, and 3) the layout was naturally circular and would only need to be mowed before I could start construction.
STEP 2: BUILDING A WATER FEATURE
The location I chose doesn’t have access to water, so I picked up a 24” x 18” x 4” black plastic pan, two bags of pond stones, a 5-gallon bucket, and bulkhead adaptor to fit a waterhose. I drilled a hole in the bottom of the bucket and installed the adaptor which I connected to a drip hose that I had purchased on Amazon. I leveled the ground under the plastic pan and added the pond stones in a slope, so the water was deeper in the front (closest to me) and shallower toward the back. Next, I created a base for my bucket so it was higher than the plastic pan, hooked everything up, filled the bucket and pan with water, and let gravity keep the drip going. I have a stand made out of rebar and metal tubing that I use to put a branch over the water feature to serve as a staging area for birds waiting their turn in the water.
STEP 3: SETTING UP PERCHES
While driving around our property evaluating different locations, I kept my eye open for interesting pieces of wood that I could use for perches. My goal was to find pieces of wood that have an interesting shape plus places I could hide seeds, as I didn’t want the seeds to be in the pictures. I found a flat piece of wood that I ended up putting behind the water feature and a few others that I have scattered around the blind. Additionally I hauled out a 5’ tall tree limb that my husband had trimmed from one of our oaks, and set it into the ground with the hope that woodpeckers will visit. Each morning I place seeds (a sunflower and nut mixture) on the various perches and suet on my woodpecker stump.
STEP 4: SETTING UP THE SHOOTING LOCATION
Ideally, it would be wonderful if my shooting location was dug down a few feet putting me eye level with the birds, but I’m not 100% committed to this location so I wanted something portable incase I decide to move it. This being the case, I opted to use a hunting tent that I staked into the ground so it can stay in place without blowing away. Having it there “permanently” allows the birds and wildlife to get use to it. Initially I had it set up about 10’ from the water feature, which is the closest perch to my shooting location, but I ultimately moved it back to 15’ as I thought it was too close and made the birds uncomfortable. I’m shooting with a full frame camera and 150-600 lens, so this distance seems to be working fine.
STEP 5: MAKING ADJUSTMENTS
After a few months of feeding, I finally had a chance to spend a morning in my blind. This first day, although tons of fun, was primarily for recon: to see how things looked through the camera, where the birds were landing, and what was cluttering my shots. That morning I discovered that the birds were “staging” on a log I had pushed off to the side near some bushes, so I replaced it with a more interesting perch. I also pulled out the mini-chain saw and cleared out some brush that was detracting in my backgrounds, mowed down some grass that had popped up, cleared out the dead foliage from the bushes, and moved some perches around a little bit so the lighting was better. This is also when I moved my tent further away from the water and rearranged the pan so the long side was facing me rather than the short side. The Yellow Rumped Warblers like to land on the sides of the pan so I'm pondering how to add something to push them to the back where the rocks are.
The blind is most certainly a work in progress. I’m continuing to keep my eyes open for interesting things I can use for perches so all my shots don’t start looking the same. Additionally, I had trimmed a branch that the birds seemed to like to land on, and all the cut marks make it looks rather fake to me so I need to come up with something to replace it with that is more interesting. I’ve been shooting at the location for about a month and it’s nice to see that traffic is increasing plus the birds are becoming much more comfortable with the location. When I first started shooting, a Long Billed Thrasher became a regular visitor. At first, it would dash in, pick up a peanut, and dash back to the cover of the shrubs. Now, it comes out and struts around like it owns the place! The thing about blinds is that they improve with time, attracting old and new visitors each season. I can’t wait to see who comes to visit next!