Richard and Diane Van Vleck Personal Pages
The Home Habitat

Making and using a blind in the home habitat

Black vultures at trailer blind

All home habitats come equipped with one ready made blind for observing wildlife - the house. All we need do to get close to several species of birds is to place a bird feeder in front of a convenient window or even on the window sill, itself, and then, sit back and watch the show.

However, on all but the smallest properties, there is much more to be seen than what takes place at a bird feeder. And, while a daily walk on a well-trodden path will frequently lead to a pleasant surprise, most creatures will hear or see us and disappear into the landscape long before we see them. The key to discovery in the home habitat is sitting still and keeping quiet. And, if, at the same time, we are hidden from view, so much the better. Using a blind not only hides us, but allows us some limited movement. We can fiddle with cameras and scopes, take notes, and fidget to our heart's content, while remaining undetected by surrounding wildlife. Only after the torture of trying to remain motionless for many minutes amidst deer flies and mosquitoes can one appreciate the ecstacy of having freedom to fidget.

The trailer blind at tomato cages Blind Construction
Portable blinds designed to be used away from home must easily break down to a compact unit for carrying in a back pack or a crowded car trunk. However, a blind to be used only on your property need not necessarily break down at all if it is light enough to carry. Or, it may be constructed of five panels that hook or bolt together to form the four walls and roof, with one wall being hinged for access.

The ideal summer blind is well ventilated, including a vent near the top to allow hot air to move upward and escape. It should also be light in color to reflect sunlight. A winter blind is better made as tight as possible. Outdoor plywood or other salvaged building material can be used for the panels of a winter blind.

The trailer blind in the gardenWhile commercial blinds are usually made of camouflage canvas, I doubt there is an advantage in trying to make your blind appear to be something else. Wildlife living near humans are afraid of us, but not of our inanimate possessions. Once a blind is left in place for a few days, surrounding wildlife accept it as part of their natural world. A red fox has entered my canvas blind and a great blue heron has landed on top of it.

A variety of material can be used to cover a summer blind. An aluminum pipe frame covered with muslin served as my creek blind for five years, until sudden high water washed it away to the river. The cheapest, and, perhaps the worst choice is the plastic drop cloth. Plastic doesn't breath like canvas, and, makes an annoying noise in even the slightest breeze. It also has a short life, especially when exposed to sunlight day after day.

The dimensions of your blind should conform to your specific needs. First, choose the seat you intend to use and any photo equipment, including a tripod, if one is to be used. By putting this equipment in position and sitting on the seat, you will be able to measure the dimensions you require. Allow yourself enough headroom to sit up and stretch, and, set the tripod high enough to avoid getting a stiff neck during prolonged use.

The observation opening can simply be a slit through which the camera or scope can protrude, or, it can be a large opening with a flap to tie closed when not in use. The entrance to the blind can be a flap with several ties or a zipper. I use ties simply so I will never have to deal with a stuck zipper. Ideally the top should slope, or, at least, not sag so much as to collect a large pool of rain water.

Anchoring the blind can be done with conventional tent stakes and ropes, unless it is heavy enough to not require it. The blind can also be secured to objects such as fence posts or trees.

The solar powered creek blindThe Creek blind
This blind along the creek was built from all recycled material. It has a floating floor which has withstood several floods. The solar panel keeps a deep cycle marine battery charged to power video equipment and a laptop. The solar panel can be moved to other locations and the battery is removed from the jeep when needed at the blind.

Using Your Blind
You will probably already have one or more sites planned for locating your blind before you build it. Any water source will likely produce some interesting observations, including a garden pond or the smallest creek. Field edges, fence rows, and forest edges are good bets, also. But, previous experience will be your best guide. For instance, if you have observed from a distance an owl or hawk or kingfisher using a snag, you can finally get a closer look by setting up your blind nearby. Luckily, almost any location in a well planted yard will likely turn up some interesting discoveries.

The creek blind at flood stage After deciding on a likely area, the exact location of the blind will be determined by visibility, lighting at the time of day you plan to use the blind, and, easy access to the blind without disturbing the subject. Perhaps the most effective time to use a blind is very early in the morning. This means entering the blind well before sunrise. But, if this isn't your style, mid morning and evening are pretty good times also. Mid day in summer is a pretty slow time for birds and mammals. Whatever time you plan to use the blind, be sure the sun won't be in your eyes. Also, if the blind can be located in the shade of a tree, so much the better.

Your blind can also be an excellent retreat from an all too hectic life, allowing you to focus your attention on things like bull frogs and muskrats, if you wish. You may want to hang a "Do not disturb" sign on the back of your blind, the side facing toward civilization.

The garden blindFront yard blind A similar scaffold and roofing metal blind at the front yard flicker cavity. I actually erected this blind to photograph the flickers at their nest site, however, they were driven off by starlings the next day. I then used the upstairs porch door as a shooting blind to remove many starlings from the sycamores.

Inside a sunflower stalk blind at the front yard pond. The stalks are all cut to a uniform length in a straw cutter and wired together near the top, bottom and center to form a flexible mat. Holes are cut for windows after wiring around each opening. The mat is drawn into a spiral, forming a door in the rear. The blind can be rolled up for storage and will last many years if stored out of the weather when not in use.

A thatched straw blind Thached blinds have a neater appearance than sunflower or corn stalks and can be waterproof. A garden cover crop of rye will give you enough straw to thatch a blind or a shelter roof. You will need to wait until mid summer to harvest the rye, so early vegetables will have to go elsewhere that year. The grain should be threshed with a flail to avoid breaking the stems. I have simply clipped off the heads before threshing, thus keeping the straw aligned just as I cut it with a cradle or grain binder. Thatch with the butts down and each tier overlapping about 1/3 to 1/2 its length. But, don't forget to thresh out the grain, or birds and mice will do it for you.

A winter blind This was my first blind. Not very imaginative, but it lasted quite a few years until it was swept away in a a raging creek, along with an old tripod. Now I tend to use permanent blinds made from whatever materials I can salvage. The creek blind in wintertripod head mount in blind

In the creek blind, rather than use a tripod, I affixed a 2x6 plank shelf on the three viewing sides and drilled a hole in the shelves under each camera port to receive the post of a tripod head. This allows the tripod head and camera to be instantly moved to another cam port. It also positions the camera close to the wall and eliminates the sprawling tripod legs.

A small table in the trailer blind provides space for a laptop to enable working while waiting for the intended subject to arrive. The creek blind shelves also provide space for a laptop and video equipment for monitoring a turtle float.

A sunflower stalk photo blind

The sunflower stalk blind doesn't have a roof and allows good airflow between the stalks.  The one at right is now well over 10 years old, but it has been stored in a building when not in use and has only been used 4 or 5 times.


Use of nest boxes and nest box traps by starlings and house sparrows

the house sparrow in America

the European starling in America

the pellet gun - a valuable tool in house sparrow and starling control

2022 update - Return of the barn owls
2021 Chimney Swift tower success!!!
2020 Barn Swallow nesting
Barn swallow nest cups
2019 Barn Swallows and Black Rat Snakes

2018 - The Barnyard Balance of Nature Goes Awry
Black rat snakes vs barn swallows, Northern flickers, kestrels and others

2018 Purple Martin preference for clam shells
2017 - Return of the Monarchs!
2017 Purple Martin prey photos
2010 - 2016 Northern flicker nestings
2014 house wren gourd use
2014 - A dramatic loss of many types of insects
2019-2020 Purple Martin nesting
2014 barn owl nesting - prey study
A new barn swallow shelter for 2013
2010 barn owl nesting
2010 Update
2016-2017 Kestrel nestings
Starling traps
Using blinds in the home habitat
Providing perches for birds
Providing snags for wildlife
The ugly young maple
2001 - 2013 nest cams
Use of tomato cages as hunting perches by insectivorous song birds
Vultures, beetles and the resurrection of life


Species of interest in our yard - photos and articles
barn owl American kestrel purple martin barn swallow Eastern bluebird
tufted titmouse Eastern phoebe yellow shafted flicker tree swallow chimney swift
house wren big brown bat Carolina wren brown thrasher catbird
cedar waxwing Northern mockingbird
Yellow warbler Acadian flycatcher

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