The Dark Room

Thursday 31 December 2020

Top spot

 With 2020 coming to a end - thank god! Thought I'll update the blog as it's been a while. The 29th November saw me take a small catch of birds, the highlight of that morning was a smart male Sparrowhawk. The 11th and 20th December were also small numbers of birds ringed solo. Redwings and Chaffinches mostly on both dates. A short ringing session in our garden on the 30th December produced new Blue and Great tits and 2 new Starling - the most popular bird ringed in the garden this year.

On the patch I reached 115sp  to take top spot for the first time as I normally always come second. No rares found just passage migrants but still fun with the boys ie Paulboy, Dave Mo, Monkey, Lee and Steve Smith.

Let's hope 2021 will be better for everyone

stay safe and happy new year!

Sunday 22 November 2020

2 nets

 The conditions were perfect on Friday morning for a solo ringing session - a drop in temperature, low cloud and light winds. A silhouette of a Woodcock flying low over the path as I was walking to the site was a great start too.

I set up 2 nets and ringed 42 new birds and had only 3 retraps including a 1cy male Brambling, Other highlights of the morning were 1 Fieldfare, 3 Redpoll, 6 Redwing, 2 Chaffinch a whopping 25 Reed Bunting! The 1cy female Fieldfare is only the 4th to be ringed at our site and my second. However more than 30+ were seen through the morning but no more were in the catching area. 3 teas and a coffee kept me warm and the 45 birds proceesed kept me busy.

1cy male Redpoll

Reed Bunting



All images were taken with the Iphone.

Tuesday 17 November 2020


 Reached a small milestone for the garden this week as I've now ringed over 150 birds of 20 species. A female Chaffinch was the 20th Species and a Long-tailed Tit was 150th to be ringed. It all started back in February when I got my C-permit and all the data has been given to the BTO. A full list of the birds are below.

Blackbird 3

Starling 63

Blue Tit 13

Great Tit 4

Parakeet 4

Goldfinch 22

Dunnock 4

Woodpigeon 2

Robin 3

Green Woodpecker 1

House Sparrow 4 

Magpie 11

Crow 1

Collard Dove 1

Chiffchaff 1

Goldcrest 3

Blackcap 2

Long-tailed Tit 9

Sparrowhawk 1

Chaffinch 1

Just 1 control and that was a male Chaffinch ringed at our own site not that far away on 13:9:20.

However Jackdaw is always seen in the garden daily but are just to clever and see the 9m net!

 Long-tailed Tit




Thursday 22 October 2020

Tick and ring

 With time off work last week I squeezed in some ringing on  the 12th. 14 species were ringed Redwing and Redpoll added a spalsh of autumn colour. 14th 7 Redwing, 2 Goldcrest were the highlights of 17 species ringed. The 16th in my garden this time produced 12 birds 3 Goldcrest, 3 Long-tailed Tits (both new for the garden list) and Blackcap were best. Brambling and Coal Tit over was also very good. Back at our site on the 17th with PH we ringed 2 Brambling and another 14 flew over as did 2 Crossbill making it a very good morning.The Brambling were new for the both us and our site to be ringed!


Male Brambling 1cy code 3


Goldcrest from my garden

This Adult Blue Tit above ringed in my garden had a bill length of 15mm!

The afternoon on the 17th I crossed the Dartford bridge to Kent and successfully twitched the 1cy Masked Shrike at Shuart. It showed really well and I now regret not taking my camera as I went straight away after ringing without poping home first. I've seen them abroad before in Turkey but this was a UK tick for me. All in all a great week off and I got the jobs done too in doors so Mrs H is pleased too.

Tuesday 20 October 2020

Bearded Vulture

 Last week I had the week off work to do a couple of jobs around the house and to go birding/ringing. So on 15th October I went see the Bearded Vulture that's been wandering Britain with Howard down in East Sussex. We arrived before dawn with a small crowd scoping the tree that she roosted in the night before- wow! We spent the next two and half watching her in tree before seeing her in flight and being chased by a gang of covids. Really pleased I made the effort,  it was amazing experience to see her!

After all the excitement calmed down we went looking for our own birds and added Ring Ouzel, Datford Warbler, 2 Firecrest, Black Redstart, Merlin, Corn Bunting, 2 Peregrine, 7 Brambling and 5 Crossbill for the day list and also had more views of the Lammergeier going over Birling gap.





 Male Black Redstart


Female Merlin having just chased a lucky Skylark.

Tuesday 13 October 2020

 10th October

Processed 31 birds of 13 species on Saturday the highlight was the 1st Redwing of the autumn to be ringed. 


1cy Male Green Woodpecker

12th October 

A short solo session produced 14 species : 4 Redwing, 3 Song Thrush, Redpoll, 2 Goldcrest, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, 4 Blue Tit, Great Tit, 2 Wren. 

1cy Redpoll

1cy female Goldcrest

Overhead was a good passage of Redwing and Finches along with the 1st Fieldfares of the autumn. I also had a Tawny Owl calling whilst setting in the dark.   

Sunday 4 October 2020

Ringing update

 On the 30th September I done a 2 hour solo ringing session before work 19 birds processed 6 Chiffchaff, 4 Blackcap, Cetti's Warbler, Greenfinch, 2 Robin, 3 Blue Tit, 2 Great Tit and the first Goldcrest of the autumn.

 1st October  with PH was much better with 70 birds being processed over a 4 hour period. Chiffchaff numbers were in double figures and again Greenfinches were too. Other highlights was Kestrel, 2 Redpoll and a site first Snipe to be ringed.  


1cy Snipe



1cy Female Kestrel

1cy Redpoll


Sunday 27 September 2020

Common Cranes at Rainham Marshes

After Saturday's poor sea watch off  Margate with PH and only 4 Bonxie and 3 Artic Skua and 2 Snipe being the highlight of a long day, I was keen to go out Sunday morning and make the most of not ringing due to high winds all weekend.

I started off with a river watch at Rainham Marshes RSPB but singles of Dunlin and Black tailed Godwit was not what I was after. A juvenile Wheatear and a Stonechat were feeding along the rocks near Aveley bay car park was a nice distraction. With the river being quiet I had a look on the local Whatsapp group. Jono and some of the boys at Wanstead flats amazingly  picked up 2 Common Cranes  going east that were seen minutes before at Tytenhanger GPs.

So I jumped into my car and drove to Ferry lane as your a bit nearer the river. I thought - as the Cranes went east from Wanstead they may follow the river?- I know I got very lucky!

Both went over my head at height and carried on going east over the reserve. And to be honest the speed I got my camera out of the bag was record breaking :)


Nice to get the dust of the camera again, I think this is the only Wheatear to be on my blog all year.


Tuesday 15 September 2020

Processed birds

 The past two weekends I've ringed on both days with Paul H but on the 5th we were joined by PRO and Sunitha and on 6th Dave Mo joined us.

5th September - 82 birds processed

6th September - 69 birds processed

12th September - 38 birds processed

13th Sepember - 30 birds processed

The 5th and 6th saw a good passage of Willow Warblers and Greenfinch with 32 ringed on the 6th. The star birds were on that weekend was a 1cy Spotted Flycatcher and a 2cy male Kestrel -both were first for the site.

The 12th and 13th saw us ring the first Meadow Pipits of the Autumn and a Yellow Wagtail - first for the site on the 12th. And again good numbers of  Greenfinch. 

Birds seen around the catching area 2 Whinchat, 2 Spot fly, Hawfinch over, Marsh Harrier, Hobby, Barn Owl and Redstart are all note worthy.


Spot Fly




1cy Meadow Pipit

Wednesday 2 September 2020

Another Tree Pipit

31st August with PH produced 73 birds


29 & 1 rt Blackcap

5 & 1rt Dunnock

1 Tree Pipit

8 Chiffchaff

2 Wren

2 Greenfinch

1 Common Whitethroat

1 Lesser Whitthroat

3 Reed Warbler

2 & 2 rt Blue Tit

1 Goldfinch

3 &2 rt Great Tit

1 Robin

1 Woodpigeon

1 Blackbird

2 &2 rt Long tailed Tit

A mixed bag of birds but another good morning.

Tree Pipit code 3 (juv)

Lesser Whitethroat code 4 (adult)

Thursday 27 August 2020

A busy August

 I've been busy ringing the last few weeks with PH and enjoyed some good results at our little site. So here are a few highlights. The 8th of August saw us smash our morning total with the help of PRO with over 100 new birds ringed 2 Grasshopper Warbler, 2 Kingfisher and good numbers Garden Warbler were notable.


Juvenile Kingfisher

Grasshopper Warbler 

The 11th and 13th August saw more Juvenile Warblers go through the site - Reed & Sedge, Blackcap.

 The 20th which was a  solo ringing session produced a stunning 1cy Male Pied Flycatcher.

The 24th August highlights were 9 Willow Warbler and 2 Tree pipits both Juveniles.

Tree Pipit

And a total of 7 ringing sessions so far this month plus 4 working visits, we've been busy. And on one of those working visits we had a fly over Great white Egret!


Sunday 16 August 2020

A short break

 On the 31st August I drove up to north Norfolk with the wife for a short 3 day break in sweltering heat. We stayed again  in The Wiveton Belle like last year. Most of the time was spent on the beaches or enjoying the food in the Dun Cow and  the Black Lion, which are both very nice pubs.

On our last morning in Norfolk we walked around Salthouse enjoying Bearded Tit, Spoonbill, Little and Sandwich Terns, Fulmar etc. All common birds in Norfolk but not here in Hornchurch - so it made a nice change and so was firing off a few images on the camera as most of mine are from the phone when I'm ringing......

Adult Sandwich Tern



Sunday 26 July 2020

In the garden

Made two visits to our ringing site on the 14th and 17th July with PH catching double figures of common warblers on both dates - these figures will rise as the season goes on........

Back at home in the garden this 2cy Male Sparrowhawk was ringed on the 21st after work. A first for the garden.

 A increase in Golfinches this week with 6 being ringed and no doubt the Sparrowhawk has noticed more birds visiting the garden. A Chiffchaff  was seen on 25th as was a Red Kite over. Other than that Magpies and up to 8 Jackdaw are eating up all the fat balls that were meant for the Rose-coloured Starlings!

Monday 13 July 2020

Ringing ticks

Saturday morning I joined up with PRO up at the farm with PH for a woodland/garden species ringing session. Over 50 birds processed was a decent total and PH finally got to ring a Pied Wagtail after a five year wait. A code 5 Male was also a first in the hand for me to to be fair - smart birds.

I was up again before 5am Sunday morning with PH ringing at our little site. With over 40 birds processed the highlights were recapturing a male Common Whitethroat ringed back in May 2019 by me as a code 4, which has certainly done some milage migrating back and forth to the south of the Sahara . But bird of the weekend was a beautiful Adult Green Sandpiper, which was a massive surprise when I picked it out of the mist net!

Sunday 5 July 2020

Barn Owls

Before work on Monday morning 30th June I had the pleasure along with PH to ring two young Barn Owls. Both were in good condition and was quickly placed back into their nest box.

Also thanks to Dave Mc and Mick for their effort to make the morning run smoothly.

Sunday 28 June 2020

Gull-billed Tern

Yesterday I drove over to Kent to see the Gull-billed Tern on the Arc pits. I parked in the car park that was now reopened and got it straight away as two kind birders pointed out where the tern was feeding. A quick view of the Black-winged Stilt which was also on the Arc pit showed nicely. Then I drove around to the otherside of the pit to the main road to gain a better view. Most birders were now gathering here and was by far a better place to view it from and was really easy to pick out amongst the Common Terns. I stayed for about a hour then had a walk around the lighthouse at Dungeness enjoying the 2 Black Redstarts being blown about in the strong wind. And I finshed up having lunch from the fish hut- which is highly recommed!

Gull-billed Tern

Tuesday 26 May 2020


Hope your all well and good and apologies for not updating the blog of late. Anyway here is a quick update.

Since the ease of some of the lockdown rules I've managed some ringing out on our site but missed the main passage of birds going through, however still got to ring a mixed variety of Warblers : Common,Lesser,Willow, Chiffchaff, Reed and Blackcaps.

Most of my ringing when time and weather has permitted throughout the lockdown has been in the garden ringing mostly Starling - 50+ but a male Blackcap on 3rd May was a decent record. The first Juv House Sparrow was ringed on the 8th May and the first juv Starling on the 25th May.

Male Common Whitethroat

Reed Warbler

Juv Starling

Saturday 18 April 2020

Looking up

Like most if not all birders I'm also keeping a #Lockdown list but as a key worker that means I spend more time at work than looking at the birds in the garden. Anyway, I've added Tawny Owl and Pheasant to the Bungalow list after 25 years of trying, partly due to the lack of car's on the roads and spending large amounts of time listening in the silly hours of the day and night just to try and keep up with some of the members of the Whatsapp group of birders doing the same in around London and Essex/Kent - who are getting some great birds in or over their gardens/balcony.

This afternoon however was a special moment for any garden lister/birder as I had a Osprey circle over the garden then flew north only to be picked up by Paulboy in his garden via my Whatsapp message!


The Osprey is my 90th species for the garden list and along with House Martin seen today that puts me on 50 for the #Lockdown list so far, things are looking up!

Tuesday 7 April 2020

Half locked

With the Government lockdown in place I've only been able to do some ringing in my garden and being a key worker in a Hospital, it's only been a hour before work or at weekends.

So, not a large number yet - just 19 but I'm gratfull to be able to do some ringing and log some data!

But in the long term it will be very interesting to see how many species get recorded and how populations might change.

Here are some images I've taken on my iPhone below.


 Male Green Woodpecker

 Male Starling


 Female Starling

 So far in the garden : 2 Blackbird, 4 Starling, 3 Blue Tit, 2 Great Tit, Woodpigeon, Ringed - necked Parakeet, Robin, Dunnock, 2 Goldfinch, Green Woodpecker.

Monday 16 March 2020

Saturday 14th March

Once the small shower passed over on Saturday morning PH and I put 2 nets up and caught a small catch of 26 birds. Highlights were 2 GSW, 2 Goldcrest, Yellowhammer and 2 Chiffchaff - one was a retrap from last year!


 Male Great Spot

 Female Goldcrest

 Female Yellowhammer