One of my favourite little birds,The Dartford Warbler
I have spent nearly four years taking photos of this species and it is one of the most difficult birds to photograph. They are very flighty and move about in the heather and the under growth only to pop up to see where they are and then back down again out of sight. The best place to find them is on the heath that is a mixture of heather, gorse, brambles and small trees. At first light thats a good time to see them, they will fly up to the silver birch tree saplings or the small pine trees and sit on the top calling out their early morning song. At this point you can get some good photos, because they will fly up from the top of the tree and then decend down to the lower vegetation like the heather hoping to attract a female or as a warning to other male dartford warblers to keep off my patch so to speak.
With most dartford warblers the colours of their plumage can look different, but it depends on the time of year and the light of the day. The sunlight can change the appearence of the plumage as can a dull day, if you look at the image on the left it looks much more red in colour, but that was down to the fact this was taken on an early winters day. The sun was rising and had a warm orange glow so that would explain why this image is warmer in colour. The one top left, was taken on a dull day in late spring so the colours are a lot colder but rich in colour. The photo at the top of the page, was taken this year a few weeks ago and at first light with a strong rising sun so a lot brighter with natural colours that look again a bit different to the other images. The biggest problem when photographing any bird in warm summer sunlight is the heat haze, it is a big problem and renders the photos unsharp, even if you get close to the bird it will still have an impact. The summer time is not a good time especially with long warm weeks of sunshine, that is why its best to go out at first light while the air is still cool or late evening. The other problem is most birds at the end of the summer are a bit raggered after raising chicks and constantly flying about catching food untill there young fledge, by the end of fledging period most birds look very untidy and the plumage is very worn out.
This Dartford Warbler photo is a bit different because of the lovely ferns it was sitting on. The ferns where on the edge of a fire break in the dense heather on the heath. After a long day the dartford came off the heather and landed on the lush ferns and just sat there resting for more than an hour, not usual for them to do that so I was lucky to have been there and got some great photos of the bird on the ferns. What makes this photo is the contrast between the soft green ferns and the dark colours of the bird, personally I love this photo for that reason and the fact that this dartford warbler sat so long without flying off.