Not quite a dartford warbler…….

Arne, Dorset
Arne, Dorset

Easter week found Jane and I down in the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset. It was a part of the world I’d never seen and it also seemed to be a good chance to see, and possibly even photograph, a dartford warbler. We treated ourselves to the luxury (cough……) of a holiday flatlet in Swanage. Our first full day we decided to do a cycle ride, and, not being the hardcore types, it was soon time for a coffee stop.

We arrived at the village of Corfe Castle. Talk about picture postcard pretty! The restored Swanage railway passes through the village too, and the steam engines gave it a real flavour of the past. Purbeck has a very strong Enid Blyton connection and one could imagine the Famous Five still fitting in quite easily. However the women dressed up as wenches were, I felt, taking Heritage Britain a little too far. The Castle itself is owned by the National Trust, with an entry fee of £9.00. We decided to give that a miss. It is a spectacular ruin, however, and the National Trust tea shop nearby provided a fabulous view of it from its back garden.

Relaxing with coffee and cake, I noticed that house sparrows were popping in and out of a severely pruned privet hedge. They were using conveniently positioned twigs as lookout posts in their search for crumbs. Although I wasn’t in photography mode that day I could see an opportunity to add some “birds in the landscape” images to my collection. I filed the idea away in my memory banks.

Jane may not have my perhaps obsessive interest in birds and/or photography but she can be very tolerant. So a couple of days later I spent the night alone in the camper van close to the Arne RSPB reserve not far from Corfe Castle. It was a fabulous still and misty morning, with the sun rising like a crimson ball though a layer of fog. I confidently set out in search of a dartford warbler. Maybe a pair. Or two. It would be easy to find them. Two hours later I still hadn’t seen or heard one and I walked back towards the van. I began to think that dartford warblers were a figment of other people’s imaginations. Then I heard an unfamiliar sound and located one of these elusive birds on the topmost twig of a gorse bush not far away. But it flew very quickly and proved impossible to track down. The same thing happened with a second bird I found a few minutes later. So I gave up.

House sparrow, Corfe Castle (click to enlarge)
House sparrow, Corfe Castle (click to enlarge)

After such an early start coffee was now calling and the memory of those house sparrows was getting stronger and stronger. It was time visit the Corfe Castle tea shop again. I introduced myself, told them about the project I was working on, and asked if it was OK to take some photographs in the garden. No problem.  I spent an hour there taking as many different compositions as the birds would allow.  Being at such close quarters to them I was only using the standard zoom on my Canon 5d3, so I didn’t look too conspicuous.  Ideally I would have had more time but the images have an interesting graphic quality to them, and who bothers taking photographs of house sparrows! I think there’s enough variety overall to create one triptych for the exhibition.

Not quite a dartford warbler…….but hey!


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5 thoughts on “Not quite a dartford warbler…….

  1. Close but no cigar!

    You may already know this, Jerry, but if you’re ever in the Suffolk area, especially early June, Dunwich Heath is a pretty reliable place for DF’s.


      1. To be honest Jerry, the ones I saw were quite chilled and didn’t appear to be heading anywhere with food. Maybe the young ones had already fledged..

  2. The way you describe it Jeremy I can quite believe it’s a mythical bird and imagine a long quest to see it! As for sparrows, well they’re much rarer now – there’s only one reliable place I know to see them nearby, so they’re still worth photographing.

    1. House sparrows are still quite common in Wales but they’re overlooked . If they were more scarce we would appreciate them more !

      Thanks for your comment, Andrea .


      From Jeremy MooreTales from Wild Wales wrote:

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