Introduction

Wild Time

Spring

Feel the beat of spring

Be dazzled by bluebells

Harken to a bittern's boom

Seek a swooping sand martin

Pen poetry among daffodils

Sway with dancing grebes

Get sent packing by a grouse

Take a ringside seat

Track down a tiger

Watch a rare sky dance

Chatter with a natterjack

Enjoy the great rush north

Look up in awe

Shine a light on newts

Eavesdrop on a nightingale

Go spotting early orchids

Follow a sat-tagged osprey

Gape at hunting hobbies

Nurse a passion for purple

Scour riverbanks for Ratty

Tip-toe among fritillaries

 

Summer

Hail the success of avocets

Go batty as night falls

Bewitched by a buttercup

Play the summertime blues

Thrill to damsels and dragonflies

Go after Dartford warbler

Make a splash with gannets

Stake out a badger sett

Hurrah for the king

Rejoice in Manxie's chorus

Delight in a glow worm

Fall for THE fastest bird

Be spellbound by orchids

Journey to a seabird city

Exalt at a skylark's song

Party with the puffins

Lounge with a lizard

Haunt a churring nightjar

Head seawards on safari

Discover the rare spoonbill

Join the toadlet exodus

Spot our largest butterfly

Wear a hat for terns

Hunt woodland beauties

 

Autumn

Admire our eager beavers

Marvel at migration

Forage for Autumn's bounty

Go nuts over squirrel nutkin

Ramble through purple

Gaze in awe at reds' rut

Wander in the wild wood

Cheer on the salmon run

Try a wild goose chase

Foray for fungi

 

Winter

Pay homage to the Russians

Go on a winter ghost hunt

Wonder at wintering waders

Fall in love with a seal pup

Hear Britain's tallest bird

Revel in roosting wagtails

Kiss beneath mistletoe

'Ooh' & 'aah' at murmurations

Lie in wait for an otter

Rock 'n' roll with geology

Wrap up for a raptor roost

Go after a Dartford warbler

Dartford warbler © Amy Lewis

Listen for the rattling of this jaunty little bird.

A warm, still day is best, as little birds tend to stay hidden if it’s windy

Named after Dartford in Kent, near to which it was first noted as a breeding bird in 1773, the Dartford warbler is a bird of lowland heathland in the south east of England and south Wales. A perky little character, the Dartford warbler is slate-grey above and deep wine-red below. Its long tail is often held cocked at a jaunty angle while it sings its scratchy, rambling song from a perch on the top of a gorse bush.

This tightly packed, spikey shrub is a favourite for many reasons. As well as providing the perfect platform from which to sing, it also provides a safe nesting place and offers the perfect hunting ground for a bird which specialises in picking spiders and caterpillars from their hiding places.

Unusually for a warbler, this is a resident bird, staying put through the winter rather than migrating to warmer climes. This isn’t always such a good strategy, as many birds died during the hard winters of recent years.

How to do it

First find your heathland.  A warm, still day is best, as little birds tend to stay hidden if it’s windy.  As well as listening out for the rattling song, pay attention to the other birds around you.  Dartford warblers have a habit of following stonechats around, so if you see a stonechat perched up, check out the bushes around and below it.  You may find a Dartford warbler quietly picking off insects nearby.

If you can’t get to the special places listed below…Try looking out for a close relative of the Dartford warbler, the whitethroat which has a similar liking for gorse bushes, as well as hawthorn hedges and other spiny bushes: the whitethroat can be found throughout the country, so you shouldn’t have to go far to find one.

Special spots

Once famous and the focus of nightly news reports, Greenham Common has replaced its missiles with wildlife, and is now a peaceful nature reserve in the Berkshire countryside, a haven of heathland and ancient woodland.  Dartford warblers can be seen here singing from the gorsey heath around the former nuclear bunkers.

Channel Islands, Alderney

Devon, Bovey Heathfield

Devon, Chudleigh Knighton Heath

Dorset, Higher Hyde Heath

Dorset, Lytchett Bay

Dorset, Tadnoll and Winfrith

Dorset, Upton Heath 

Norfolk, Roydon Common and Grimston Warren

Suffolk, Blaxhall Common

Surrey, Brentmoor Heath 

Surrey, Chobham Common 

Surrey, Wisley and Ockham Commons


 

Dartford warbler © Amy Lewis