The highly secretive and stunningly beautiful Dartford Warbler photographed here among its health land habitat further North from its more Southernmost stronghold in the UK. A tiny, secretive bird, often only ever glimpsed darting between bushes on lowland heaths. They emit a harsh rattling call before vanishing into cover, only to reappear somewhere else having worked their way through the thick cover they love to live in. I have been really lucky to have seen this bird so close after travelling to many wonderful places in the UK on the lookout for this attractive bird with a hope of seeing and photographing its beauty. The Dartford Warbler is rare in the UK and lives almost exclusively in the South. It was first found in England in 1787.
To watch him was amazing, his lively and very nimble movements, hoping from one perch to another, twitching his wings and tail every so often. He spent long periods concealed in the vegetation offering only the briefest of glimpses, his bright red, angry looking eye peering at me from the thick, thorny thickets. Every so often he’d appear and gain the highest vantage point in which to sing from, his song was very distinctive and harsh and high in pitch once heard you never forget this call and then he’d vanish for a while. The first indicator he was around was his call, as it stood out among the other bird calls on the moors.
The challenge was to second guess where he’d appear allowing me a clean, full length photograph of him, using fieldcraft and blending in, as I was not using a hide making it hard to pin down a certain place he’d appear and come out from cover using the many natural perches open to him. The colour of these birds set them apart from many UK birds for me, a dark grey head and back with a dark wine-red chest and underside with white fine spots on and the most beautiful eyes you’ve seen in a bird, bright red, almost angry looking in appearance, just a stunning bird standing as proud as punch singing away among the heathlands, an amazing time with this amazing bird.
What truely amazed me was how well the different colours of this bird blended into his environment, where the colours of mother nature worked together so well in letting this shy bird completely blend in and become totally unseen. The rich colours of the heathland lending their colours almost identically to those of the Dartford Warbler , a clear view to just how wonderful nature his.
In the past the bird has been vulnerable to changes in climate and two harsh winters left just 11 pairs of the bird in 1963, but Britain’s most colourful warbler is spreading its territorial wings having returned to Wales, the Midlands and East Anglia, there are now more than 3,000 pairs – the highest tally for more than 40 years. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds says the recent rise in numbers – to an estimated 3,208 pairs from 1,890 in 1994 – is due both to milder winters and improvements in the conservation of heathland habitats.
But the latest reports indicate after the two harsh winters the birds numbers may have dropped significantly, Cold weather in 2009, 2010 caused a 90% reduction in warbler numbers across the South of the UK . However, freezing weather and snow in the early parts of 2009 and 2010 and earlier this year have caused great concern that these small birds could die out, with a crash in numbers in their southern stronghold of the UK.
A truely stunning bird with a call you’ll never forget once you hear it, just amazing to see these birds within their natural habitat and I will be going back soon where hopefully he will have stayed and may have a mate around as during all the time there I never saw a female and his behaviour would indicate with his ever present singing he was looking for the female, marking his patch, defending his territory from other birds, more so Stonechats that share the same habitat. I hope to photograph this amazing bird again during the year.