Some years ago I spent a magical few days at a birding bed and breakfast called "The Inn at Chachalaca Bend," in the Rio Grande Valley. The inn was truly enchanting, for a variety of reasons, but one of the features I liked best was a bird blind they had built for the guests. The blind was pretty fancy--a covered structure deep in a mesquite thicket, with lots of portholes at various heights that looked out over a small, man-made stream with running water. Oh, the birds that came to that water! They were close enough to touch.
I came away from that trip determined to build my own little piece of enchantment right in my own backyard, and set about creating a habitat designed to attract and observe a diversity of bird life. Planting the garden and setting up a feeding station was fun and fairly easy to accomplish, but there was one thing with which I had a lot of trouble: I couldn't make up my mind about where to put the blind. No matter where I envisioned placing it, I could see that if I situated it for the best light, it had the potential to stick out in the otherwise flowing garden design like a sore thumb.
Back and forth I went with myself: Should I put it here? Or over there? Finally, I decided to be undecided. I built a portable blind. It was a simple structure, not as fancy as the one in the thicket at the B&B, but it was easily moved by two people. So if I tried it in one place and found it wanting, I could move it someplace else. And since I only feed birds in the winter months, it could be stored in the summer months, when I like the garden to be looking its best. Here is a picture of the blind in storage:
You can see that it was indeed a very simple structure, strictly utilitarian in nature. Still, I got a lot of wonderful photos of birds while sitting behind that blind.
But one day last spring, a big wind storm blew up and damaged the blind. However, instead of simply repairing it, I decided to re-design it altogether. It happened that I've also been wanting a potting bench, so I thought it might be fun to see if I could create a multi-purpose structure, a bench/blind, with the material from the old blind.
And so here is the result, along with a few photos of the process:
The legs were put together with lap joints. I cut the joints with a radial arm saw passed along to me earlier in the year by my friend and fellow woodworker, Jim. (The radial arm saw is now set up with a dedicated dado blade.)
Here I am measuring the old blind boards against the back standards to see how many I will need. It is also clear to me at this point that I'm going to have to take the project outside the shop to get a little working room.
The glue-up of the porthole, which is leaning against what will be the back of the bench.
The innards of the bench construction, before putting the final slats on.
The photography setup, with the camera and lens resting on a pot and bean bag.
Through the porthole.
And a full view of the finished product. The whole thing took roughly a day to build.
So far, it seems to work well. Birds know when I am behind the blind, but they settle down pretty quickly if they can't see me moving around. I'm sure there is something I'll wish I could change, but so far it fits my purposes quite nicely.
Right now it is in a back corner of the farm, looking out toward a feeder that has a lot of nice foliage around it for a backdrop. If I get tired of it there, I can always move it, so I have retained the advantage of portability. And, as a bonus, just as soon as my seed order comes in I'll put it to its other use.