Typically, there were some excellent sightings on the 1st the best of which was a Common Crane flying over Coombe Wood and a Dartford Warbler by Hadleigh Castle which remained until the 14th and was often in the company of a pair of Stonechats. The area around Paglesham was also productive on the 1st with a Great White Egret on Potton, a female Red-crested Pochard and drake Scaup on Paglesham Lagoon, 30 Goldeneye on the Roach, and the only Brambling of the winter in a nearby field. Red-breasted Mergansers continue to decline with two off Gunners Park on the 2nd and a single the following week off Canvey the only records all month. Water Pipits were found at Vange Marsh from the 2nd, Roper’s Farm on the 4th, and Bowers Marsh from mid-month. Two each of Nuthatch and Treecreeper were present in Hockley Woods on the 5th. A respectable 27 Red-throated Divers, two Black-throated Divers, 35 Gannets and three Razorbills were all lingering off Canvey on the 5th and 6th whilst 12 Eider and four Guillemots were present off the Pier on the latter date. A small number of White-fronted Geese wintered commencing with two at Bowers Marsh on the 7th increasing to seven by month’s end. A far scarcer find was the discovery of the Hanningfield Reservoir duo of Tundra Bean Geese at Vange Marsh on the 10th; they remained until the 19th before relocating to Bowers Marsh the following day. The only Great Northern Diver of the first winter was present off Gunners Park on the 18th and 19th; a Shag was also seen from there on the 18th and then roamed around the outer Thames for a week. Nearby in Shoebury Park, the pair of Egyptian Geese were either foolish or optimistic having hatched six young in the frosty weather on the 18th. The decline of the Bullfinch continues with a pair on the 18th on Hadleigh Downs the only sighting this month. The ringtail Hen Harrier on Wallasea was joined by a second bird from the 19th until the 29th and Short-eared Owl numbers there peaked at three on the 19th. Encouragingly, two sites in the south held at least four Long-eared Owls between them. A Siberian Chiffchaff was a surprise find in a South Fambridge garden on the 19th, six Common Chiffchaffs and seven Blackcaps were also scattered around the area this month. A Bottlenose Dolphin was seen and photographed off Canvey Point on the 20th actively feeding and breaching, a quite exceptional record particularly in winter. A drake Goosander visited Wallasea briefly on the 21st. Eider continued to enjoy a small resurgence with 16 off the Pier on the 25th the best count from there for seven years. Wintering wader interest was provided by four Green Sandpipers at West Canvey Marsh on the 26th with a further four singles elsewhere, three Jack Snipe at Vange Marsh all month, three Spotted Redshanks around the creek at Wat Tyler CP as well as a single on Wallasea, six Ruff on Bowers Marsh, and one or two Greenshanks at three sites. Seawatching from Canvey on the 29th was uneventful save for a Little Gull, the only sighting of this species in the first three months.
Redpolls were conspicuous by their absence this winter with 12 on Canvey Wick on the 2nd the only record other than two Lesser Redpolls at the end of the month in Pound Wood. Canvey Wick also held four Woodcock on the 2nd whilst a single was on Hadleigh Downs. The month’s only Red-breasted Merganser was on the Crouch at South Fambridge on the 3rd. Seawatching from Canvey on the 4th was slow but did produce the month’s only Black-throated Diver along with 12 Kittiwakes and a Guillemot. The Scaup on Paglesham Lagoon was seen for the final time on the 6th when a Red Kite passed overhead there. Continuing this species surge in numbers in the county it was perhaps not unsurprising to have three Great White Egrets together from the 11th to the 23rd around Paglesham with a fourth bird joining them on the 16th. Common Scoter have been almost entirely absent since the end of November so a drake on the Roach on the 11th was a little unexpected. Two redhead Goosanders frequented Wallasea from the 12th to the 20th where two Hen Harriers, two Short-eared Owls, a Merlin and a Peregrine continued to winter. The two Long-eared Owl roosts were still occupied this month with a single bird remaining at one site and an exceptional eight birds at the other. A Bullfinch at Wat Tyler CP on the 17th was unusual but given that this is a former site for the species perhaps a few undiscovered birds still hang on deep within the blackthorn thickets. Eider continued their relatively good show with eight still off the Pier on the 19th along with the second and last Guillemot of the month. A Ring-necked Parakeet over Shoebury on the 19th was unusual and was surprisingly not seen anywhere else subsequently. Two White-fronted Geese visited Wallasea on the 20th whilst the wintering flock of seven continued their stay at Bowers Marsh with occasional sorties to West Canvey Marsh. Unusually there were no overwintering Firecrests this year, the only record in the early part of the year being of one in West Wood on the 21st the same day that the first Adders of the year were noted with three on Hadleigh Downs. Goldeneye were seen for the last time this winter on the early date of the 24th when just four remained on the Roach at Paglesham. A small pulse of Siskins was noted between the 24th and 27th with one or two passing over a handful of sites. By the end of the month five species of butterfly had been recorded with Brimstone, Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, and Comma all noted.
A solitary Siskin was in Gunners Park on the 5th, the only sighting all month of this species. Jack Snipe enjoyed a strong spring passage with four birds at Vange Marsh on the 9th with a single remaining there all month and Water Pipit numbers were also starting to build there. Yellowhammers are only just clinging on locally with a flock of 12 at Lion Creek on the 11th the best count of the winter. Water Pipits peaked at an impressive seven at Vange Marsh on the 15th with five still present at the end of the month. On the 20th six Gannets appeared off Gunners Park and two of last month’s Great White Egrets resurfaced on Potton. Last month’s pair of White-fronted Geese on Wallasea also reappeared there again on the 20th whilst the wintering flock at Bowers Marsh had reduced to two also. There were still two each of Hen Harrier and Short-eared Owl on Wallasea on the 20th although Hen Harrier slipped to a single thereafter. Woodcock were on the move from the 20th to the 28th with five birds seen, all at non-traditional sites. After a Brambling dropped in at Gunners Park on the 19th there was a small passage from the 22nd through to early April with up to three this month in Coombe Wood. A Spoonbill on the north side of the Crouch on Blue House Farm on the 23rd once again stretched the limits of our recording area however as it was viewable distantly from the high ground at Ashingdon it passed muster. Garganey and Little Ringed Plovers began arriving with both present on Bowers Marsh on the 24th and both present on Vange Marsh on the 30th, a pair of Little Ringed Plovers were also seen on West Canvey Marsh on the 28th. Red Kites were noted on the 25th and 30th at Bowers Marsh and Westcliff respectively, and the first Whimbrel passed over Bowers Marsh on the 29th. The last day of the month yielded a Great Skua and two Sandwich Terns off Gunners Park and 27 Sand Martins and a Swallow over Vange Marsh.
A Jack Snipe was seen for the last time this spring on Vange Marsh on the 1st where there was still a remarkable five Water Pipits, numbers of which then declined thereafter until the final sighting of a single on the 13th. A Firecrest in Gunners Park from the 1st to the 3rd was the only spring passage record of this species whilst a Red-throated Diver past there on the 3rd was the last diver of the winter. A smart adult Spoonbill visited Bowers Marsh early on the 5th before relocating to Vange Marsh later the same day where it could still be found on the 6th. There was an increase in Short-eared Owl numbers with returning birds passing through with up to four on Wallasea on the 6th where one lingered through to the 22nd, and another loitered around Bowers Marsh for a week mid-month. A female Black Redstart was a good find in Gunners Park on the 7th; it was unusually elusive at times but remained until the 9th. Numbers of Little Ringed Plover began to swell from the 7th with four at Bowers Marsh followed shortly after by two at Lower Raypits, four on Wallasea and four on Vange Marsh. Inclement weather on the 8th saw five Little Gulls, a Black Tern, and what was almost certainly a first-winter Bonaparte’s Gull drop in briefly at Vange Marsh. Another Little Gull was on Bowers Marsh on the 9th when the third local drake Garganey of the spring arrived at Lower Raypits. Four Red-breasted Mergansers and a Great Skua were off Canvey Point on the 9th when an impressive 150 Redwings were amassed in Gunners Park first thing in the morning. The first of 14 local Wheatears this month was in Gunners Park on the 10th. Nightingales arrived back on the 11th with at least five holding territory across two sites and the wintering Merlin on Wallasea was seen for the final time. The arrival of a pair of Black-winged Stilts at Vange Marsh on the 12th was eagerly anticipated but unlike recent years they did not stay long and departed the following day. An adult Little Gull was at Vange Marsh on the 13th when a White Wagtail was at nearby Bowers Marsh with another White Wagtail seen a few days later in Gunners Park. The last two wintering White-fronted Geese at Bowers Marsh finally moved on after being seen for the final time on the 14th when a Red Kite passed over Rochford and another over Coombe Wood two days later. Vange Marsh experienced an incredible arrival of Garganey on the 15th with five drakes and two females present, an unprecedented spring count in recent times although curiously none were seen subsequently at either site in the spring or summer. The last Hen Harrier of the winter was seen on Wallasea on the 17th where 20 Yellow Wagtails and a Channel Wagtail were present on the 20th. A drake Mandarin at Southchurch Park East from the 21st to the 27th was rather too tame but was a stunning looking bird nevertheless. A Grasshopper Warbler reeling at Bowers Marsh from the 21st to the 28th became increasingly more elusive during its stay and was sadly the only bird holding territory this year. Marsh Frogs continued their range expansion with one calling near Leigh-on-Sea from the 22nd to the 24th. A Fieldfare on Wakering Common on the 22nd was remarkably late. The first Green Hairstreak was seen on Canvey Wick on the very early date of the 23rd. Three splendid summer plumaged Black-necked Grebes arrived at Bowers Marsh on the 24th with all three remaining into late May at least. Water levels on Vange Marsh were perfect for attracting spring waders which was proved on the 24th when a Wood Sandpiper, five Spotted Redshanks, six Ruff, 11 Greenshank, a Common Sandpiper and a Green Sandpiper were all present but it was the following day, on the 25th, that it really excelled itself when a superb Marsh Sandpiper was found early in the morning and remained throughout the day. Incredibly, this site has a good track record of attracting Marsh Sandpipers with four records now in the last twenty years. An Emperor Moth was attracted to a lure in an Eastwood garden on the afternoon of the 25th. A Fulmar and several Arctic Terns passed through the Thames on the 27th. A Grey Partridge at Bowers Marsh on the evening of the 28th was a good record. A drake Ring-necked Duck at Bowers Marsh on the 29th proved to be the bird ringed at Abberton Reservoir exactly three months earlier and was a long overdue and much anticipated first for the recording area. It remained until the 18th May before debunking back to Abberton Reservoir. An excellent month finished in style with an Osprey and 14 Little Terns passing Gunners Park on the 30th, both very notable spring records.
An adult Whooper Swan on the lagoon at Bowers Marsh on the 1st was a rather bizarre record given the time of year. Other highlights at Bowers Marsh on the 1st were the long staying Ring-necked Duck, a pair of Black-necked Grebes, the last Wood Sandpiper and Green Sandpiper of the spring, four Little Ringed Plovers and an Egyptian Goose. Nearby, Vange Marsh played host to the last Ruff of the spring whilst further afield, a Barnacle Goose was on Wallasea. An interesting harrier flew high over Lower Raypits on the 2nd and was considered by the observer to most likely have been a Montagu’s Harrier. The Thames produced two Eider and six Black Terns on the 4th. On the 6th, Canvey Wick held up to five Nightingales and a singing Garden Warbler, whilst the Grasshopper Warbler at Bowers Marsh was reported again along with almost daily sightings of a Red Kite throughout the month. Also on the 6th, a Short-eared Owl was reported from Wallasea. The last Wheatear of the spring was at Bowers Marsh on the 7th where a cracking Whinchat was also recorded which was the only one of the spring. Green Hairstreaks numbered 18 on Canvey Wick on the 7th where four Arctic Terns headed inland on the 9th the same day that a Black Tern flew past Gunners Park. A Manx Shearwater passed Gunners Park on the 10th where a female Red-crested Pochard visited the lake there the same day and remained through to the 19th before relocating to Southchurch Park East from the 23rd until the month’s end. A drake Garganey showed for the day on Wallasea on the 11th the same day that Turtle Doves arrived back with a male in Canewdon and five at Wakering Stairs. An Osprey carrying a fish over Gunners Park on the 12th was an excellent spring record. Lower Raypits held a late Snipe on the 13th along with a pair of Little Ringed Plovers; other pairs of the latter were on territory at Bowers Marsh, Vange Marsh, and Wallasea. On the 13th a Short-eared Owl was watched from Wakering Stairs hunting over Havengore Island whilst two Nightingales were holding territory in the nearby scrub there. A Spoonbill dropped in briefly to Bowers Marsh on the 14th. Seawatching in the spring is usually coupled with disappointment but 57 Gannets, 16 Arctic Terns and a Razorbill off Canvey on the 17th offered some reward. A drake Garganey on Paglesham Lagoon on the 18th could conceivably have been last week’s bird from Wallasea. Also on the 18th the drake Ring-necked Duck was seen for the last time at Bowers Marsh before returning to Abberton Reservoir on the 19th. A ringtail Hen Harrier over Fleet Head on the 18th was interesting given the late date. Green Hairstreaks at Canvey Wick peaked at 20 on the 20th with up to six also present at Bowers Marsh a few days later. The reeling Grasshopper Warbler at Bowers Marsh popped up one more time on the 21st and the last Common Sandpiper of the spring was seen there the next day. Heath Fritillaries were recorded from the 24th with a single in Hockley Woods and five in Pound Wood. A Barnacle Goose of highly dubious origin was at West Canvey Marsh on the 25th and was predictably the only record of note in the final week of the month.
An adult Long-eared Owl along with three juveniles were seen at a traditional site in the south-west on the 4th. The roaming female Red-crested Pochard moved from Southchurch Park East, where it had spent the beginning of the month, to Bowers Marsh on the 5th but was not seen anywhere else subsequently. The first ever Scarce Chaser for the recording area was photographed in Belfairs Woods on the 6th. The first of three Red Kites this month was over West Canvey Marsh on the 12th where two Stoats were also seen together mirroring events on Wallasea where another two Stoats were also present together the same day. Two Greenshanks and two Green Sandpipers at Lower Raypits on the 13th were potentially the first returning waders. Painted Lady butterflies were widespread from the 14th onwards. Another successful brood of Long-eared Owls was found at the south-west site on the 15th when two groups, each of three juveniles were seen along with an adult. Heath Fritillaries peaked at 96 in Belfairs Woods on the 15th and a very impressive 193 in Hockley Woods on the 17th where a Treecreeper was also watched visiting a nest cavity. The first White-letter Hairstreaks of the year were noted on the 17th along Hadleigh Marshes. After going missing in the reedbed at Bowers Marsh since the 12th, the pair of Black-necked Grebes emerged triumphant on the 20th with three chicks in tow. Unfortunately they lost two of the chicks over the next two days but were successful in raising one through to fledging in mid-July when they all departed. Bullfinch records have reached a nadir with a male on Hadleigh Downs on the 21st presumed to be one of the pair there that are quite possibly now the last across the entire region. Two Barnacle Geese were at Bowers Marsh on the 21st when the first returning Spotted Redshank was at Vange Marsh. A Coal Tit was in Coombe Wood on the 22nd, they seem to be very slowly increasing now across the area. Two Serotine bats were recorded over Shoebury East Beach on the night of the 22nd. Southern Migrant Hawkers were noted from 23rd onwards when one was on Benfleet Downs. A Stone Curlew was a great find at Bowers Marsh on the 24th; unfortunately it did not linger for long thanks to the unwanted attention it received from the local Avocets. It seems incredible that we waited twenty years for a local record and then Bowers Marsh produces two records in consecutive years. The first Purple Hairstreaks of the summer were seen on the 26th in Belfairs Woods and the year’s first White Admiral was in nearby Pound Wood the following day. The Bowers Marsh Grasshopper Warbler surprised everyone when it started reeling again on the 27th after being quiet since May. A Ruff at Bowers Marsh on the 29th was an indication that return passage was slowly gathering momentum.
There was very little of avian interest early in the month with three Spotted Redshanks at Vange Marsh on the 1st the only record of note. Butterflies took centre stage with by far the best records being the Purple Emperors found in Belfairs Woods on the 4th and Thundersley Glen on the 5th, a first for the area of this stunning lepidoptera. A handful of Silver-washed Fritillaries were also recorded at several sites including Belfairs Woods, Benfleet, Canewdon, Hadleigh, and Wat Tyler CP. Clouded Yellows were recorded from the 7th onwards on Wallasea where up to five were present, and Purple Hairstreaks reached 75 in Belfairs Woods on the 10th. The Bowers Marsh Grasshopper Warbler was reportedly heard again on the 11th for the final time. The first of only two Red Kites this month passed over Leigh on the 12th with the other over Rayleigh on the 17th. A drake Garganey was still loitering around Bowers Marsh on the 13th. A Wood Sandpiper and a Ruff were present on Bowers Marsh on the 23rd with both still present on 26th and 27th respectively. A Southern Emerald Damselfly was found on only one date this month which was on the 23rd at Canvey Way. Return passage continued to gain momentum with 11 Green Sandpipers at Bowers Marsh on the 25th, and six Common Sandpipers with three Garganey there the next day. The local pair of Egyptian Geese successfully raised another brood of four at Shoebury Park mid-month. A Merlin at Fleet Head on the 27th was very unseasonal. The first returning Wheatear was a very early bird feeding on a lawn in a South Fambridge garden on the 28th. Seawatching from Gunners Park and Canvey on the 28th produced up to six Little Terns, four Black Terns, an Eider, a Dark-bellied Brent Goose, and three Porpoise whilst a Fulmar past Gunners Park the following day was only the second bird of the year after one in April.
The first Willow Emerald Damselfly of the year was noted at Bowers Marsh on the 2nd with another taking up residence in a South Fambridge garden from the 4th onwards. Good numbers of sandpipers were around at the start of the month with seven Green Sandpipers at Bowers Marsh and seven Common Sandpipers at West Canvey Marsh on the 2nd and up to two Wood Sandpipers at Fleet Head on the 3rd and 4th along with the second Wheatear of the autumn there. Yellow Wagtails reached 50 at Wallasea on the 3rd with similar numbers present there throughout the month. An eclipse drake Garganey was at Bowers Marsh from the 3rd to the 6th. The first of two Red Kites this month drifted high over Rayleigh on the 6th. What could arguably be the best sighting of the year came on the 7th when a continental Swallowtail briefly visited a garden in Leigh. A Muntjac at Rochford Golf Course on the 7th was a first for the site and a Southern Emerald Damselfly was seen for the second and last time at Canvey Way on the 8th. A seawatch at Canvey Point on the morning of the 9th was productive with an Eider, seven Common Scoter, a Pomarine Skua, two Great Skuas, a Sabine’s Gull, 405 Common Terns, 23 Arctic Terns, 13 Little Terns, and 12 Black Terns. Two Wood Sandpipers at West Canvey Marsh on the 13th were the last of the year. The first returning Whinchat frequented Gunners Park on the 18th where the first of the autumn’s six Tree Pipits passed over, with all six records concentrated between the 18th and 26th. A high tide roost of Little Terns was discovered at Shoebury East Beach on the 18th when 16 were present with numbers increasing to an impressive 38 on the 21st; nearby an equally impressive count by today’s standards of ten Eider was made from Wakering Stairs on the 18th where an Osprey remained from the 19th to the 20th. Diligent searching of the ponds on Hadleigh Marshes on the 20th resulted in the year’s best count of 14 Willow Emerald Damselflies. The 22nd saw the beginning of a remarkable build-up of Cattle Egrets at Wat Tyler CP with one initially, then four the next day, and an impressive eight on the 26th through into September. The first of five Spotted Flycatchers this month was at Bowers Marsh on the 22nd with the other four records all falling between the 27th and 29th, including two at Butts Hill NR on the 27th with a Pied Flycatcher. A total of eight Pied Flycatchers arrived between the 24th and the 29th which included two at Gunners Park and two at Shoebury East Beach as well as the first site record for Wallasea. The second and last Red Kite this month was seen over Hadleigh on the 24th. The 25th saw the first Redstart arrive with a female at Wakering Stairs followed by a further three singles before the month’s end with birds in Gunners Park, Benfleet, and West Canvey Marsh. Two Nightingales were seen and heard at Canvey Wick on the 26th and were unsurprisingly the last of the year, and two Ospreys were reported south over Wakering Stairs the same day. A total of 15 Wheatears continued to trickle through this month with four in Gunners Park on the 27th the best count of the autumn. Whinchats fared better after the first bird in Gunners Park mid-month with a further 17 passing through this month including seven at Bowers Marsh on the 30th. A juvenile Harvest Mouse was caught by hand at West Canvey Marsh on the 30th before being photographed and released and was incredibly the first sighting in the area of this delightful but elusive rodent. A Curlew Sandpiper, the first of the autumn, was found in Potton Creek, a traditional site for this species, on the 31st whilst nearby at Wakering Stairs it transpires that a White-tailed Eagle from the Isle of Wight reintroduction scheme spent several hours near the foreshore before roosting overnight in a nearby tree and yet managed to avoid being seen by anyone!
The 1st produced some interesting sightings with seven Eider and an early Dark-bellied Brent Goose at Wakering Stairs, an Osprey over Coombe Wood along with a Hummingbird Hawkmoth in an adjacent garden, two Pied Flycatchers and a Garden Warbler in Gunners Park, and another Garden Warbler along with a Spotted Flycatcher inland at Hawkwell. The first of two Red Kites this month was over Lower Raypits on the 3rd where two juvenile Turtle Doves were also seen on the 6th. Seawatching from Canvey Point on the 7th produced a Manx Shearwater, 15 Arctic Skuas, a Long-tailed Skua, two Great Skuas, 33 Arctic Terns, 11 Black Terns, and a Porpoise. Meanwhile the Cattle Egret flock at Wat Tyler CP returned on the 7th after a one week absence with seven birds all of which remained through to the 25th. Whinchat passage remained strong with another good peak count of eight at Bowers Marsh on the 8th. A Willow Emerald Damselfly at Rayleigh Mount on the 13th was a new site record, with additional sightings this month coming from Benfleet Downs, Bowers Marsh, Canvey Wick, Gunners Park, and Wat Tyler CP. A Spoonbill was reported briefly at Bowers Marsh on the 14th but did not linger. The following day at Bowers Marsh a Spotted Crake was an excellent find at dusk on the 15th. It was far from confiding and often elusive, but proved very popular and was present until the 22nd. Two Ravens flew north over Bowers Marsh on the 16th but were only seen by the one fortunate observer; there is yet to be a widely available local bird and so it remains missing from almost everyone’s local list, although it is surely only a matter of time. A walk across some inland fields at South Fambridge on the 16th revealed an unexpected post-breeding flock of 16 Yellowhammers which increased to 18 the following day. Wallasea played host to a Curlew Sandpiper and a Great White Egret on the 17th and 18th whilst at Canvey Point a group of 13 Arctic Skuas were loitering offshore ready to beat up anything that came upriver on the 18th, fortunately the Sabine’s Gull there managed to avoid their unwanted attention. The following day a Black-necked Grebe was seen off Canvey Point where it remained through to the 22nd and the first double figure flock of Dark-bellied Brent Geese arrived with 25 off the Point on the 19th with numbers swelling dramatically to 343 at Two Tree Island just one day later. Singles of Guillemot, Puffin, and Eider were all recorded past Canvey on the 20th and a Water Shrew was seen at Bowers Marsh. The fencelines at Bowers Marsh were busy on the 21st with seven each of Whinchat and Stonechat present. A Fulmar was reported past Canvey and then Wakering Stairs on the 21st. Canvey was again reasonably productive on the 22nd with a Long-tailed Skua, three Arctic Skuas, two Great Skuas, and three Porpoise all noted. A Great White Egret frequented the Wat Tyler CP environs on the 24th and 25th, and the last two Little Terns of the year flew past Canvey on the relatively late date of the 26th when the last of the month’s ten Spotted Flycatchers visited a Benfleet garden. The third Curlew Sandpiper of the autumn was found on Two Tree Island on the 29th and a surprise passage Purple Sandpiper frequented the seawall at Gunners Park the next day when a Red Kite was mobbed over Battlesbridge.
Four of the Cattle Egret flock were reported again at Wat Tyler CP on the 1st but were not seen again subsequently. Two Hobby over Gunners Park on the 1st were the last of the year where by contrast Merlin were just arriving with one at Bowers Marsh on the 3rd where the last Whinchat of a good autumn passage was also present. Seawatching at Canvey on the 5th produced the first Red-throated Diver of the autumn which was soon eclipsed by a summer plumaged Black-throated Diver; a Manx Shearwater there was the last of a poor autumn and a Little Gull added variety. A Shag appeared off Gunners Park on the 8th where ten Ring Ouzels were part of a nationwide influx with smaller numbers remaining through to the 15th; additionally a group of four were at Bowers Marsh on the 9th. Six Bramblings flew over Gunners Park on the 10th and were unfazed by the Merlin which flew hurriedly past and south out to sea. A handful of Siskins moved through from the 12th to the 14th with up to three birds at Canewdon and Gunners Park. A Merlin at Wallasea on the 15th was the first non-transient bird of the autumn; it stayed into November at least. Wallasea also hosted a ringtail Hen Harrier on the 17th and 18th, and rather unexpectedly, seven Curlew Sandpipers and a Little Stint on the 19th when the first returning Short-eared Owl was photographed there that evening. Nearby at Butts Hill NR the first Firecrest of the autumn was a pleasant surprise on the 18th. Another Ring Ouzel, the last of the autumn was skulking in Gunners Park on the 20th along with a Brambling whilst another two Brambling were just up the coast at Shoebury East Beach. A flock of 25 Lesser Redpoll were present around Rochford Golf Course on the 20th and were the only ones of the autumn. The last ten days of the month produced three very productive seawatches the first of which was on the 21st when a mightily impressive 628 Gannets passed Canvey along with a Red-throated Diver, a Merlin, 12 Great Skua, a Little Gull and 11 Guillemots. A Yellow-browed Warbler and a Firecrest were both trapped and ringed in Gunners Park on the 22nd with neither seen subsequently although the two Black Redstarts there offered a pleasant diversion, one of which remained until the 24th. After a handful of sporadic appearances on Wallasea, Great White Egret looked set to become a permanent feature with three present on the 25th remaining through to mid-November at least. A small fall of Firecrests was noted from the 26th to the 28th with one or two birds at Shoebury, Bowers Marsh, and Gunners Park. Four Whooper Swans were a great find on the 27th when two were present on Paglesham Lagoon and another two on Barling Marsh which remained into November whilst nearby on the seawall at Barling up to three Water Pipits were also present. Woodcock were disturbed from atypical habitat between the 28th and 30th as they arrived from the near continent with singles flushed at Gunners Park, Wallasea, and Belton Hills. Seawatching from Canvey on the 29th and 30th resulted in some excellent birds being seen. The highlights on the 29th were two Great Northern Divers, a Great White Egret, a pair of Long-tailed Ducks, 220 Common Scoter, 16 Red-breasted Mergansers, a Little Stint, a Purple Sandpiper, a Pomarine Skua, a Little Gull, two Short-eared Owls, and two Guillemots. By contrast, on the 30th there was less variety although a remarkable count of six Leach’s Petrels more than compensated. Other highlights included all three diver species, four Red-breasted Mergansers, two female Long-tailed Ducks, a Pomarine Skua, two Little Gulls and a Razorbill whilst a ringtail Hen Harrier was reportedly hunting the nearby saltmarsh there and a Shag was at Gunners Park again. The month closed with a report of three Short-eared Owls on Wallasea, a Brambling and two Coal Tits in a Hockley garden and the two Long-tailed Ducks which were now lingering off the Pier.
A late Curlew Sandpiper was on Wallasea on the 1st when two Bramblings, two Coal Tits and a Blackcap were all present in a garden near Hockley Woods. A Red-breasted Merganser was present along the Crouch at Fambridge on the 3rd when the last Red Admiral of the year was also recorded in Eastwood, and the final odonata of the year was a Common Darter at Canvey Wick the following day. The Short-eared Owls on Wallasea gave a good showing from the 4th onwards with a minimum of three birds resident throughout the month peaking at seven on the 10th, and three Hen Harriers were also often to be seen patrolling the island from the 6th onwards. A group of four Ring-necked Parakeets descended briefly upon a Canewdon garden on the 8th and were probably responsible for the subsequent sightings of three in Rayleigh on the 16th and a single in Leigh on the 17th. A walk to Paglesham Lagoon on the 9th was rewarded with a pair of Red-crested Pochards and the first three returning Goldeneye. Coombe Wood produced a few notable sightings on the 9th with the first Nuthatch there for nine years bolstered by a female Brambling. The 13th brought a most unusual report of a Mandarin on Wallasea and was not unsurprisingly the first for the island. Six Eider were off Canvey Point on the 15th with two seen there again on the 23rd. A Purple Sandpiper was also present on Canvey Point on the 15th and 16th and was the third passage bird of the autumn. Siskins were in very short supply this year with five at Gunners Park on the 16th constituting both the highest count of the year and the last record of the year although pride of place goes to the female Bullfinch which dropped in briefly on the 16th and was only the second record for the park in the last twenty years. A Short-eared Owl at Wakering Stairs on the 17th was the only record away from Wallasea this month. A Common Sandpiper was seen at Lower Raypits on the 7th and the 18th. A second Firecrest was trapped and ringed in Gunners Park on the 19th with both ringed birds seen intermittently through to the end of the year. The only Red Kite of the month was over West Canvey Marshes on the 20th. Five Barnacle Geese at Bowers Marsh from the 22nd to the 27th had the best chance, albeit slim, of being wild. A cracking Long-eared Owl winter roost was found at a traditional site in the south-west when an impressive seven birds were counted there on the 24th increasing to eight by early December. The last day of the month produced a few notable records with a Shag and nine Eider off Gunners Park, four Nuthatch and three Treecreepers in Hockley Woods, and a pair of Blackcaps in a garden in Leigh.
The month opened with a report of a Velvet Scoter off Canvey which was the only record all year. Two Bramblings were with a flock of 60 Chaffinches at Wakering Common on the 1st and 2nd before the flock dispersed later in the month. A Blackcap on Benfleet Downs on the 5th was the first of only two records this month. The Crouch at South Fambridge held two Shags on the 7th and 8th along with a male Merlin on the earlier date. There continued to be good numbers of Stonechats around, peaking at seven on Bowers Marsh on the 7th with a further three on Wallasea and two along the Roach. A Treecreeper at Wakering Common on the 7th is worthy of note being miles away from any other population and in sub-optimal habitat near the coast, and would have warranted closer inspection had it stuck around. Good numbers of Woodcock were seen at dusk mid-month with four at Wat Tyler CP, six at Canvey Wick and a single on Hadleigh Downs. Red Kites were seen this month near South Fambridge on the 13th and West Canvey Marshes on the 17th. A Black-throated Diver was reported daily from the 14th onwards off Canvey. Two Great White Egrets and two Hen Harriers became a daily fixture on Wallasea from the 15th through to the end of the year. The last Small Tortoiseshell was seen at Paglesham Lagoon on the 15th. Six Yellowhammers at Lower Raypits on the 19th were noteworthy given how scarce they have become in recent years. The last butterfly of the year was a Peacock at South Fambridge on the 21st where a Kingfisher was attempting to fish in a flooded lawn. The two ringed Firecrests in Gunners Park continued to be seen from the 23rd onwards and remarkably another three were wintering less than a mile away in Shoebury. Up to five Short-eared Owls were seen daily around Wallasea and its environs from the 24th onwards along with a Merlin, two ringtail Hen Harriers and 150 Corn Buntings from the 25th. One of the highlights of the year for local birders was the arrival on Wallasea of a Raven on the 25th. It was relocated on Fleet Head on the 27th before two were seen from the 29th through to the 31st commuting between Barling Tip, Potton Island, and Fleet Head. These represented the first twitchable Ravens in the area and indeed the first seen by any of the local birders and were a long overdue and much anticipated addition to local lists. The only Chiffchaff in the last two months was seen along Leigh cliffs on the 26th. A stroll along Southend Pier on the 26th produced an unseasonal Great Skua and four Guillemots whereas next day Canvey Point produced 38 Red-throated Divers and three Guillemots, whilst at Fleet Head two Whooper Swans flew south. One of the last remaining resident Bullfinches was seen on Benfleet Downs on the 30th and the year came to a gentle close with a male Blackcap visiting a garden near Hockley Woods on the 31st.
A total of 203 species was reliably recorded in the area this year, the lowest total since 2006. Highlights included the first twitchable Ravens, the first Ring-necked Duck, Black-winged Stilts, Stone Curlew, Spotted Crake, Tundra Bean Geese, Dartford Warbler, Common Crane, Siberian Chiffchaff, Yellow-browed Warbler, an influx of Cattle Egrets, six Leach’s Petrels, and a satellite tracked White-tailed Eagle which avoided detection, along with Bottlenose Dolphin, Purple Emperors and a Harvest Mouse. Bird of the year would have gone to the Bonaparte’s Gull had it lingered just a little longer to confirm identification but instead the twitchable Marsh Sandpiper at Vange Marsh narrowly takes the accolade ahead of the Ring-necked Duck.