The Urban Birder Phonescoping Day Course

All you need is your smartphone!

In association with Viking Optical

Dates & Location

  • Rainham Marshes RSPB Reserve

    • September 18, 2021
    • October 16, 2021
    • November 13, 2021
  • Price: £60 per person
  • Group size: up to 15 participants
  • Time: 10am – 2pm
  • Lunch plus coffees and teas available
  • Address: RSPB Rainham Marshes, New Tank Hill Rd, Purfleet, Essex, RM19 1SZ
  • Please contact us if you have any other queries


To Book

Group size: up to 15 participants

£60 per person


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Photography has now become a big part of nature observation. Just take a stroll around any nature reserve and you will see people hauling heavy DSLR cameras with humongously long lenses. Just to own such equipment would cost an arm and a leg – or two! The next step down from owning one of those expensive beasts is to possess one of the array of bridge cameras now currently available. Much more compact and lightweight than their mighty DSLR cousins they still pack a good punch in the photographic stakes.

But what if your photographic equipment only spans to a smartphone is it possible to take amazing wildlife images?

The answer that question is a resounding YES! By putting your smart phone on the end of a telescope – phonescoping – you will effectively be able to take pictures using a long lens. The results will astound you.

To learn how to master this skill join Paul Hackett, one of the UK’s (and indeed, the world’s) leading bird phonescopers on our Urban Birder Phonography Day Course. He has pioneered many of the techniques that are used in the field today and will gladly teach you how to take stunning images.

The Urban Birder Phonescoping Day Course will be a great introduction to capturing the images birds that you have always dreamt about. Aimed at beginners, the course will give you the know how for taking great urban bird images.

Based at the fantastic Rainham Marshes RSPB Reserve you will have a brilliant setting for some amazing photography. (Please see the description of this incredible birding location under the Urban Birder One Day Course). Easily accessible by public transport this superb 411 hectare urban reserve is home to a large number of species including Little Egrets, Northern Lapwings, Common Kingfishers, Cetti’s Warblers plus many more.

The courses will be held on Saturdays (and occasionally Sundays) starting at 10am finishing at 2pm and there is a sumptuous café on site for lunch too.

The topics that will be covered include

  • A general look at kit
  • Setting up your smartphone for photography
  • Framing and focusing tricks
  • How to find subjects to photograph
  • Videoing birds using your smartphone
  • Processing your images
  • Above all it will be fun, irreverent, factual and educational

Equipment needed

Please bring your smart phones fully charged to avoid disappointment.

Most of the components for this course will be held outdoors so please wear clothes appropriate to the season. Always dress warmer than what the day appears to be because hours in the field can be surprisingly chilly. Also, try to wear adequate footwear as it could get muddy or slippery.

If you have a telescope please bring it along as we only have a few loan telescopes. Any telescope used for birding will be adequate as we will have a number of universal attachment fittings for smartphones.

Please inform us if will be bringing your own telescope at the time of booking.

TUBW in association with Viking Optical

About your guide

Paul Hackett

Is a keen birder with a passion for photography and fabulous people skills. He is the digiscoping consultant for Kowa UK, an Ambassador for Panasonic/Lumix and a RSPB photography volunteer.

In this course Paul will use his amazing birding images and video to discuss how to create great bird and wildlife photography with outdoor practical workshops (weather permitting).

He uses telescopes to achieve his images and will share his techniques, the best way to set up the smartphone and great accessories to help achieve the shot.

How to get here

By train

The nearest railway station to this reserve is Purfleet. Purfleet train station is on the C2C line from Fenchurch Street. The reserve is a 20 minute walk from the station following the brown pedestrian signs along the riverside path. Turn right out of the station and then join the path at the Royal Pub. Follow the River wall path and then cross the Mardyke Bridge to the Visitor Centre.

By bus

The ensignbus 44 bus route which runs between Lakeside and Grays, stops near the reserve entrance on New Tank Hill Road. This bus runs every hour and up to 30 minutes during peak periods.

By road

The reserve is located off New Tank Hill Road (A1090) in Purfleet which is just off the A1306 between Rainham and Lakeside. This is accessible from the Aveley, Wennington and Purfleet junction off the A13 and J30/31 of the M25.

We are now resuming our courses acknowledging strict Covid-19 prevention measures with full adherence to the current social distancing measures.

Please note: the courses may be cancelled at short notice if the government enforces new restrictions. Of course, you will be entitled to a refund or to have your course date deferred.

If you have booked a previous course that had to be postponed due to the lockdown measures your existing booking can be transferred onto any of the newly confirmed dates.

Please refer to the course guidelines and information for more details.

Be careful, be mindful of others and keep looking up!