Singing Gropper

Local patches always yield good encounters and by knowing each inch of perfect habitat you are always in for a surprise. At the moment my patch has sprung in to life as spring continues to blossom and one little bird has hit my radar - the Grasshopper Warbler. Grasshopper Warblers are cheeky little birds that play hard-to-get as they duck and drive through the shrubs and thorns and as hard as they may be to see, locating them by song is much easier. Their call is distinctive and one everyone should listen out for each year. After hearing the call of the Gropper for several nights and not recognising it fully, I soon realised what was making this unique sound. After tracking the warbler down to a localised area of brambles, with the help of a little bit of playback, it wasn’t long before he was perched singing near the top of the bush. This was my first clear view of a Grasshopper Warbler and a welcomed bird to my long list of species. Given this was my first interaction with the birds, images were easier than expected to capture, however more often than not, twigs would sit just in front of their tail or face which was a little frustrating for me. As much as I kept persevering around these setbacks I still wasn’t creating any images I liked and after only two days I lost all sight of this Gropper… I eventually did find him again, only to struggle even more as it kept low and out of sight, preferring to be elusive!

Since I had no good images to show for my efforts I went on the hunt for another Gropper and it wasn’t long before their familiar call could be heard and lead me to track down its location, so all hope was not lost! After an hour of so of walking around the bramble-filled area, I eventually found the singing individual. Fortunately I was able to grab a few shots before it flew off to disguise itself within the reeds. Looking at the back of my camera, it quickly became clear to me that this was actually a different Gropper altogether - this one was ringed (353). This was amazing, two Grasshopper Warblers right next to each other and after a little more searching I managed to find a third! With a choice of birds to photograph I spent time with the ringed individual who played ball, so-much-so, it was almost flying between my feet as it made its way from reed to reed. It was also in better habitat for photography. I was quite surprised at just how confident this bird was, perching perfectly in full song allowing for stunning views and photographs and what I liked most about photographing this bird was that I was able to create so many different styles of images - not just my typical filling-the-frame close-ups. Making habitat shots was a joy, even with the 600mm it was easy and when the opportunities arose for close portraits my excitement levels were through the roof! Grasshopper Warblers have never been a focus of mine in all my years birding and photographing wildlife and I ask myself why? Why have I ignored such a stunning bird… Groppers have very quickly become one of my favourite birds. They are amazing and I am hoping that these encounters are the first of many to come and hopefully next spring more birds turn up on my local patch!