The Dark Room

Thursday 28 December 2017

Hawfinch invasion

I may of arrived late for the party this year in seeing Hawfinch as the invasion started back in October but I did really try and find my own on the patch-but failed....

However this morning at Thorndon CP in my own home county of Essex at least 30 birds showed well, some on the deck which was a real treat as these birds are really shy. Obviously I had the normal view of a bird high in the tree in the distance but most views were excellent even through the bins. One male was about 30 feet away feeding on the ground amongst some Redwings-superb!

After parking up and paying 3 quid to Brentwood council it took just 30 mintues for my first view of a single bird in flight, they are so distinctive with a large white broad wing bar and short tail tipped in white, cracking birds and here them call was the icing on the cake.

In the past I've always visited Lyford Arboretum for my year fix, so it was a real bounus to just drive 20 minutes from the door step. Thorndon Cp is a 500 acre woodland so thanks to Dave Mo, Paulboy and Lee for the info as it was spot on.

Trying to photograph them- that wasn't so easy.....

Sunday 24 December 2017

Head to the Med

Despite the grey overcast conditions at Southend-on-Sea yesterday I used the poor light to my advantage for once. At the end of pier a few Mediterranean Gulls were sitting nicely on the handrails and nice and close to, so I set the camera up to overexpose the image and blow the whites so they bended into the background and up the ISO for a more artistic image.

Both images set at F5.6

Sunday 12 November 2017

Dungeness for the afternoon

Last Sunday I spent the afternoon down at Dungeness in Kent with Mick S and Richard S & co for some Gull action by the fishing boats.The regular 1st winter Caspian was pointed by Mick almost as soon as we arrived on site . See below

1st Winter Caspian Gull

Good numbers of Kittiwake were seen off shore with one or two coming close like the one below.


Add in the 3 Great white Egrets on the Arc pits and some good banter with the boys it was a good afternoon.

Saturday 4 November 2017


 A grey and cloudy sky with light drizzle this morning at the valley as I done the circuit was quickly brighten up by 2 Brambling  going over, one near the top fields and one over the viewing area. Sadly still no Hawfinch or Firecrest so the year list stays at 104 but 2 Brambling in one day is good for here.

As for images the camera has been tucked away in it's bag so the below images are from last week in Norfolk at Holkham.

Pink-footed Geese

Sunday 29 October 2017

Fire at Holkham

We spent two days up in Norfolk mid-week for some relaxing birding and coastal walks and lots of eating out etc. Enjoyed Cley and Wells but it's Holkham that does it for me - love the place.

Great White Egret, Marsh Harriers and loads of pink feet in just a few minutes of getting out of the car.Add in 8 Bearded Tit, 7 Grey Partridge ,Tree creepers, Siskins and Bullfinch it was a great start to the morning. The highlight though was just pass the Jordan hide along the path where we found four Firecrests! Super birds and showed pretty well.

ISO 1000 1/250

Sunday 1 October 2017

Red-throated Pipit

The Red-throated Pipit at Landguard NR Suffolk was showing well Saturday morning through the scope just before a dog walker flushed it. I only had about five minutes of it near the boardwalk before it flew off calling towards the common-smart bird.  Other birds noted around the reserve were Male and Female Common Redstart near the cottage, a few Wheatears on the beach, Med Gull and Sandwich Terns off shore and a few more common migrants were added to make a very pleasant morning out.

Female Common Redstart

Tuesday 26 September 2017

Still Spotted

The Juvenile Spotted Crake is still showing well at the Ingrebourne Valley from the viewing area and has been for the last 11 days. Here are some more images from Suday morning.

Saturday 23 September 2017

Juvenile Red necked Grebe

With Andy T kindly putting the news out early doors that the Juvenile Red necked Grebe was still present at Roding Valley meadows NR in the south east corner of the lake, Paulboy and I quickly made our way across town to Buckhurst hill. We found the bird with no problem as its only a small lake in the morning mist.

Once again a high ISO and a slow shutter was my choice and I got to work as did Paul and by looking at my twitter feed most the Londonbirders did too-and why not its a stunning bird to see in a rare plumage (not seen a Juv before)

Thursday 21 September 2017

Spotted Crake

After good views of the Juvenile Spotted Crake at the weekend on the patch I still wanted more action so  I returned Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday expecting the same, sadly it didn't show from 6pm to 7.30pm each evening. However Thursday evenings views were superb-shame the light was crap. but as the cattle have been grazing the front reed bed for the past few days it's now allowing good views to all visitors who visit the valley.

All above images ISO 1600 1/160 5.6

And add in Wednesday evenings  Osprey  seen by my wife and I over the reservoir (probably the same Juv seen Wedsnesday by Tom Bell) the patch is delivering the goods.........

Saturday 16 September 2017

Spotted Crake

After adding Whinchat and Greenshank recently to the patch year list today's Spotted Crake found by Andrew Gouldstone a visiting birder was much more like what us valley birders are after. The Juvenile crake which is my second one for the Ingrebourne Valley showed on/off all day in front of the viewing area in the first set of reeds below the wooden fence. Luckily I had my camera with me as Andrew didn't have his to record this local rare.

Monday 4 September 2017

Audouin's Gull

Audouin's gulls were seen daily in Ibiza but trying to photograph them in the bright sunshine is a no no as the light is just so harsh. So the below images were taken on a late evening with the sun starting to set behind me. Armed with some slice's of brown bread I got to work for just ten minutes before them being flushed by a few late sunbathers leaving the beach.

Sunday 20 August 2017

Drinking and birding in Ibiza

I've just returned from a weeks holiday in Ibiza in the resort of Santa Eulalia,which was very relaxing as most days were spent down on the beach and the evenings drinking the biggest Vodka and lemonade you could ever ask for. With its cool bars around the marina which was only a short walk from our hotel and Sardinian Warblers, Turtle Dove, Serin, Audouin's Gull and Spot flys all seen around our hotel and only a two hour flight it was prefect for a return short break.

Below this Turtle Dove showed really well beside the pool on the metal fence-stunning birds up close and good numbers seen over the 7 days.

Serin was recorded daily around the pool/beach and even the bars!

Audouin's Gull are very smart birds and the most photographed bird of the holiday, so will do a separate blog just for them later and probably the hardest to photograph too.

Thursday 22 June 2017


The garden list for Red Kite is two in twenty three years living in Hornchurch but on Saturday morning after Dave Mc phoned to say that one was heading my way. I made a quick dash inside to grab the camera to get a record shot of the 3rd for garden. Not long after two Buzzard went over and then another two Red Kite flew over together.

A Sunday morning jog around the Ingrebourne Valley over near Berwick ponds yielded a patch year tick in form of a Bearded Tit calling in the cut, which was a bonus and then on Wednesday evening the patch served up a young Tawny Owl calling in the woods for a whopping 92 for the patch year list.

One of three Red Kite over the garden on Saturday.

Monday 29 May 2017

Grasshopper Warbler

The sound of a mechanical sir'r'r'r'r'r'r... reeling Grasshopper Warbler deep down in cover seems to have been the norm lately but on Saturday morning I finally had good views of one. Although it was a bit distant for the 400mm lens I'm just happy to see one this year after blanking for the last few weeks.

Sunday 14 May 2017

Brown hare

Normally the view you get of a Brown hare is one of it's rear running away fast in the distance across a field but on Saturday morning this Hare broke all the rules. Defiantly the best views I've ever had.

ISO 400 1/640 plus 1 stop and used the  mono pod and slowly crawled along the path.

Tuesday 9 May 2017

Singing Quail at Rainham Marshes - is that your phone?

Rainham Marshes continues it's good run of form with a singing male Quail on the hill 100m West of Aveley car park on Saturday 6th May, my 2nd for London but my first self found. The first one was found by Paul Hawkins at Rainham Marshes  on 5th May 2007. I started off at around 9.30am from the car park with 2 Northern Wheatear and a cracking male Stonechat along the metal fence line. After checking the river with nothing noteworthy I concentrated on the large over head passage of common Swifts only to be interrupted by a call ( 'wet-my-lips' ) which was repeated 3 times -it's a bloody Quail!

Quickly after my excitement two birders came walking towards me, one being James Heal from Wanstead who was looking at his phone? Is that your phone James? and before I went in to detail the Quail called again- phew! A scarce bird nationally but a good one for London and therefore twitched by many over it's 3 day stay.

Sadly no images of the Quail unlike the 5 Whimbrel on the same hill that did show quite well.

Tuesday 2 May 2017

Face off

With light showers on and off all day yesterday I did hope to find some more newly arrived migrants late afternoon but more than happy to find this Short-eared Owl drying out in the long grass. Not close but still cracking views. Watching it preening and cleaning itself to get ready to start hunting after getting wet was a great way to end the bank holiday, specially when a male Pheasant walked past and stopped to have a face off like boxers do before a fight and carried on walking by - quite comical!

Monday 1 May 2017


With Peregrine, Cuckoo, Egytian Goose, Swift, Hobby, House Martin, Wheatear and finally Mistle Thrush added over the bank holiday, the patch year list stands at a gigantic 89 for the Ingrebourne Valley. Yep, it's the 1st of May and Mistle Thrush is my 89th - no rules on when you see them, just as long as you do.

Missing though is Grasshopper Warbler, Garden Warbler and Whinchat the latter is one of my favourites so I had to go to Rainham Marshes RSPB to get my annual fix Sunday afternoon. Not a great image below but happy to see 3 together and spring males are just stunning to look at......

In between the grass that's a male Whinchat

Sunday 23 April 2017

In the bag

With Whimbrel, Common Tern added on Friday evening at Rainham Marshes plus Yellow Wagtail and Corn Bunting late Saturday afternoon it was just nice to unlock the camera from its bag and get a few keepers for what seems like months. So much so when my first Whimbrel of the year flew towards me on Friday the camera was still in the bag but I did managed to keep one of the images from the 10 fired off the camera. However on Saturday with the camera unlocked , 10 Wheatears near the tip provided some good photo opportunities and even better to hear the male Wheatear below singing which is something you don't hear often in London bird recording area was a real bonus too.