Following a memorable encounter with a Dartford Warbler in the early part of last year, I decided to head south once more to try and capture some more images of this wonderful warbler. Given that these birds are a Schedule 1 species, extreme care has to be taken to ensure that any photographs are taken far from any nesting location or activity (which requires a licence) and it is imperative that no disturbance whatsoever is caused to the birds. I am always extremely conscious that the welfare of my subjects is the key priority during any wildlife photography and that is regardless of the rarity of the species.
I was told of a site where a lone male bird was frequently singing and foraging next to a public footpath in an area well removed from the known Dartford Warbler locations. It appears that this normally sedentary bird had probably been displaced from its usual territory by the extremely cold winter of 2010 and had moved in response to a local shortage of insect prey. The unusual situation of a solitary bird seemed to present an ideal opportunity for some photography.
In the absence of any partner, the parental behaviour mode coupled with some confusion had taken over and the bird had taken to fostering a brood of recently fledged Common Whitethroat which are a closely related species. No doubt the food begging behaviour of these young proved irresistible to the errant male. Therefore I was confident that there was no possibility of causing any disturbance to a breeding pair.
As with other Sylvia warblers these birds appear to have an insatiable curiosity.
The bird has certainly settled well in to its new temporary home and was in immaculate condition due to the abundant food supply.
The sight of any passing Whitethroat, which have a similar basic shape, caused the bird to immediately burst in to its distinctive scratchy warble in the vain attempt that it might prove to be a partner.
Between bouts of singing the bird was collecting caterpillars to take to the waiting Whitethroat fledglings. A rather odd situation but interesting to watch how efficient it was at collecting caterpillars from the scrub.
This was a brief but memorable session. I paid one more visit to the bird (which I will show in another post) , before it eventually gave up with trying to find a partner and went wandering once more. I hope he managed to find his way back to a traditional breeding area where his efforts would be more appreciated and fruitful.