Typically, some good local birds were found at the start of the year as birders went out in force keen to kick-start their year lists. A Bewick’s Swan was found among the Mute Swan herd at Barling Marsh on the 1st, with three there on the 3rd when a Black Swan and a peak count of 56 Mute Swan was made. A skein of 14 Pink-footed Geese flew east along the Roach on the 1st, whilst on the river itself, Goldeneye numbers reached 30. Flocks of Siskin are always scarce in the area so it was good to find up to 14 birds along a suburban road in Leigh on the 1st and 2nd .Ten Gannets following fishing boats off Westcliff on the 2nd were unseasonal as was the Greenshank on the foreshore. The regular Ring-billed Gull put in its first appearance of the year here on the 2nd . The first of several Pale-bellied Brent Goose records was an adult on the foreshore off Thorpe Bay on the 2nd and 3rd . Barling produced some good records on the 3rd with a male Merlin, a Green Sandpiper, an adult Caspian Gull and a flock of 20 Twite briefly. Nearby on the Roach, 80 Avocet and 13 Little Egret were counted and a Jack Snipe was a good find. At sea, a Shag was at the Pier and two Eider and two Common Scoter were seen from Canvey. On the 4th a Pale-bellied Brent Goose was in Benfleet Creek with another two at Fleet Head along with a fine adult Black Brant. Also on the 4th were some interesting wader records with a Little Stint at the favoured site of Potton Creek, with a Common Sandpiper also there and a good count of 46 Ruff nearby at Fleet Head. A Spotted Redshank was reported at Wakering Stairs. 21 Corn Buntings on Two Tree Island on the 4th was the best count there this month and a Greenshank was also present. The Waxwing flock at Pitsea grew to 26 birds on the 4th and 5th before falling away to 18 birds on the 14th and then none after this date. Hot on the heels of the areas first confirmed Dartford Warbler last October, what was conceivably the same bird was located further up the estuary at Haven Point, Wakering on the 10th and 11th only. The Pale-bellied Brent Goose sightings continued as the two or three local birds moved around the coast with a bird at Fleet Head on the 10th and it or another along the Roach on the 11th. Also on the 10th, the Little Stint was again recorded in Potton Creek, the wintering Green Sandpiper remained at Barling and another Caspian Gull was found on the nearby tip along with two Yellow-legged Gulls. On the 11th, a ‘new’ flock of Waxwings were found, this time in Eastwood with seven birds roving around two key sites. They proved popular and numbers rose to 12 by the end of the month. Mid-month saw a distinct increase in wintering Blackcap records. Following two in Leigh gardens earlier in the month a further five birds were found, all in gardens, and all between the 13th to the 17th with reports from Hockley, Thundersley, and Shoebury. A Pale-bellied Brent Goose was seen yet again at it flew past Wakering Stairs on the 17th, the same day a Lesser Redpoll and a Bullfinch were at Hadleigh Downs. Treecreepers were found away from their Hockley stronghold with two in Belfairs Woods on 18th and another on the golf course on the 24th. The restless Black Swan was seen again on the 18th, this time at Canewdon. Short-eared Owl numbers were low this month with just one bird present in the area which was reported on a number of dates from the Wakering area. Barn Owls were a little more numerous with three in the Wakering area throughout and another on Two Tree Island at the start of the month. Two Long-eared Owls were at their usual haunt. Mandarin were present all month at Southchurch Hall Park with a peak of four on 20th, curiously all records from here this year have been drakes only. A Kingfisher graced Butts Hill, Canewdon on the 23rd, the first here for three years and next day there were 30 Corn Buntings here too. Nearby on the Crouch, ten Pintail were counted on the 24th. The third Caspian Gull of the month was claimed on the 24th, once again Barling Tip being the host site. The same day three Stonechats were at Wakering Stairs and a Black-necked Grebe was reported offshore. A Hooded Crow seen from Wakering Stairs on the 25th was an excellent Essex bird and was possibly one of the two north Kent birds on a sojourn. A Marsh Harrier at Fleet Head on the 25th was the only winter record whilst four Hen Harriers wintered here during the month. The Pier produced a good count of Guillemots on the 25th with 20 and a rather modest monthly peak count of five Red-throated Divers. Three Cetti’s Warblers and three Water Rails were recorded at Wat Tyler on the 25th and a Common Sandpiper was reported in Benfleet Creek. The last record of note were three Siskins reported in Gunners Park on the 29th. ‘Rossi’ the Ring-billed Gull was fairly reliable and seen throughout the month.
A good count of 61 Ruff was made at Fleet Head on the 1st along with 17 Corn Buntings. On the same day at Hockley Woods, two Lesser Redpoll were notable. An obliging female Brambling first appeared at the feeding station at Hadleigh C.P. on the 2nd and was seen daily through to the 24th. The semi-resident Peregrine at Wat Tyler was reportedly joined by another bird on the 3rd and two Cetti’s Warblers were occasionally seen and heard throughout the month. A Spotted Redshank was claimed on Two Tree Island on the 3rd and 15th. Woodcock were more widespread this month with 1-2 birds typically flushed from Canvey, Eastwood S.F., and Hadleigh C.P. Hen Harrier numbered just two birds this month, both in the Wakering area. Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers are always sought after at this time of year and Hockley Woods remains one of the few places to see them. A female was found here on the 7th, and from the 10th onwards a male could also be found with a little luck and patience. More unexpected was the female Hawfinch seen feeding in the woods on the 7th, representing the first bird here since March 2001. Incredibly a male Hawfinch was seen on the 12th and by the 14th both birds could be found together and could be relied on most days throughout the month. On the 8th, last months Black Brant was seen again at Wakering and the Ruff flock at nearby Fleet Head had reduced to ten. Two Green Sandpipers were reported at Wat Tyler on the 8th. A very respectable count of 26 Red-breasted Mergansers was made at South Fambridge on the 10th with 14 Corn Buntings there on the 14th. Just when it seemed that Two Tree Island had been overlooked by the Short-eared Owls this winter, one finally took up residence from the 13th and was subsequently seen on two more dates this month. Staying with Owls, a Tawny was heard calling in Hockley Woods on the 12th, two Barn Owls frequented the Wakering area and the two Long-eared Owls remained at their favoured site. A Bullfinch was seen in Benfleet on the 11th increasing the number of different sites for this declined finch to three this winter. Water Rails were recorded regularly from Wat Tyler with a peak of three birds there on the 12th. Nearby, a Yellow-legged Gull was at Vange Marsh and the Ring-billed Gull was seen at Westcliff. One of the Pale-bellied Brent Geese was seen again, this time at Fleet Head on the 15th. We were lucky enough to have another Hawfinch in the area when one was seen well near the car park at Hadleigh C.P. on the 17th. The Eastwood flock of Waxwings reached 12 on the 20th. Three or four Blackcaps survived in gardens at Leigh and Thundersley mid-month, curiously they are nearly always males. A Marsh Harrier passed through Wat Tyler on the 21st with possibly a different bird there on the 26th. A trip up the Pier on the 22nd gave some interesting records with eight Red-throated Divers, last months Shag, two Common Scoter, which doubled the number seen in the estuary so far this year, 12 Mediterranean Gulls, two Guillemots and two Razorbills. The Ring-billed Gull was logged for only the third time this month. Three Waxwings were reported at Wakering Common on the 23rd and five Twite were reported on Two Tree Island on the 28th.
A Firecrest at Hadleigh Downs was first found on the 2nd, being subsequently joined by a second bird on 6th with one remaining to the 17th. A Muntjac was claimed in Hockley Woods on the 4th and a Spotted Redshank and a Greenshank were reported from Tewkes Creek. Next day, a Water Pipit was reported on Canvey. A drake Scaup was noted on Paglesham Lagoon where it remained into April. A Blackcap was in a Benfleet garden on the 6th when three Common Scoter were off the Pier remaining until the 7th . The roving Dartford Warbler had returned to the lagoon on Two Tree Island on the 6th where it gave fleeting views daily until the 17th before disappearing once again. The only multiple count of Short-eared Owls on Two Tree Island was made on the 6th when two birds were seen. 45 Corn Buntings at South Fambridge on the 7th was an excellent site count. Further down the river, two Green Sandpipers and a Barn Owl could be found at Wallasea whilst at sea 60 Great Crested Grebes, 14 Mediterranean Gulls and three Guillemots were off the Pier. After disappearing for a week the Eastwood flock of Waxwings were relocated in some nearby gardens with 11 birds present for a few days from the 7th. Both a Marsh Harrier and two Hen Harriers were at Fleet Head on the 7th with a Greenshank also noted. Vange Marsh typically provided three Water Rail, a Cetti’s Warbler, and two Bearded Tits on the 11th. A flock of 19 Yellowhammers remained at Barton Hall. A Fulmar was seen from the Pier and Canvey on the 9th no doubt giving rise to the unsubstantiated claims of Cory’s Shearwater from other observers minutes later. A Siskin was in a Shoebury garden. Seawatching from Canvey on the 10th gave a peak winter count of 12 Red-throated Divers with a Black-throated Diver adding variety. The Peregrine at Wat Tyler was not very reliable this month being seen only on the 11th and 24th. A Purple Sandpiper spent the day on the Pier on the 11th being the only record of the first winter period. A Kingfisher made a surprise visit to a Rayleigh garden the same day but did not leave before helping itself to a goldfish! The pair of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker in Hockley Woods present daily since early February were last seen on the 11th. After an excellent run of records, a juvenile Pale-bellied Brent Goose was found at Two Tree Island on the 13th where it remained into April. A Short-eared Owl at South Fambridge the same day was a good find, a Firecrest was a welcome visitor to a Shoebury garden, and the wandering Black Swan was on Barling Marsh. The first Wheatear of the year was reported at Haven Point on the 14th, two Siskins graced a Thorpe Bay garden on the 15th. Following the first migrant Chiffchaff at Southchurch on the 16th, there was a broad arrival every day for the rest of the month with multiple birds reported from twelve localities by the month’s end. By contrast, Blackcap passage was extremely lean with just four birds reported over the same period, and all but one of those were in gardens. 40 Fieldfare at Hampton Barns on the 16th were the last birds reported this month. A Jack Snipe at Two Tree Island on the 17th was an excellent find and doubled the number seen in the area this year! Also present on Two Tree Island were two Spotted Redshanks and the first butterfly of the Spring, a Peacock. 1-2 Bearded Tits and Cetti’s Warblers were seen or heard most days at Wat Tyler from the 18th onwards. A Black Redstart at Gunners Park on the 19th was the only one of the month. By the 20th, 95 Avocets could be found around Two Tree Island with a Greenshank and Spotted Redshank both there next day. The 20th was the last day that ‘Rossi’ the Ring-billed Gull was seen at Westcliff seafront, departing on schedule. It has always left us between the 14th and 24th of March in each of the last four years. The 20th was also the last time the Hawfinch pair were seen in Hockley Woods after proving to be most reliable and seen almost daily since early February. A Mandarin at Butts Hill N.R. on the 21st was a surprise find and a Woodcock was also there. 50 Corn Buntings were counted at Fleet Head on the 21st proving that they can still be found in numbers around the coastal farmland. Last months Hawfinch at Hadleigh C.P. was seen again on the 22nd. The first two Sand Martins were hawking over Paglesham Lagoon the same day. Garden feeders proved attractive to finches late month with two Brambling at Canewdon and up to three Siskin in Thundersley, with a further two in Shoebury and one in Canewdon. The most exotic garden bird though was a Silky Starling at Canewdon on the 28th. A Little Ringed Plover had returned to Wat Tyler on the 24th and a Hen Harrier was reported past Canewdon on the 25th. The first Sandwich Tern was seen from the Pier on the early date of the 26th. Yet another Waxwing flock was found in the area, with 13 birds showing very well in Leigh from the 27th into April. A single Mandarin was at Southchurch Hall Park on the 27th and a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was in Pound Wood. Marsh Harriers were reported from Wat Tyler on the 27th and Fleet Head on the 28th. Pintail numbered 12 along the Roach on the 27th. Wintering wildfowl remained on the 28th with 18 Goldeneye and 11 Red-breasted Mergansers still present around Paglesham and a fine adult Black Brant at Two Tree Island which remained with the Pale-bellied Brent Goose into April. A Little Owl showed well at Paglesham on the 28th, when a Barn Owl was hunting at The Dome, Hullbridge, 1-2 Long-eared Owls remained, and the Short-eared Owl at Two Tree Island was still present on the 31st. As the month drew to a close a Woodcock was at Hadleigh Downs and two Green Sandpipers were reported from Wat Tyler on the 31st.
1-3 Siskins continued to be reported from gardens in Canewdon, Thorpe Bay, Shoebury, and Thundersley between the 2nd and the 9th. A Spotted Redshank was at Two Tree Island from the 2nd to the 5th and the first Whitethroat of the year was in Gunners Park on the 3rd with the first Swallow also there and a Black Redstart. On the 4th, a Firecrest was found in Gunners Park, two Little Ringed Plovers were at Wat Tyler, a Common Tern was off the Pier, and Avocet numbers peaked at 72 on Two Tree Island. Next day, a Jack Snipe was reported on Two Tree Island as was the first Reed Warbler. A Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was seen at Little Haven N.R. on the 7th, with another next day at Belfairs golf course. The Little Owl at Paglesham showed well from the 7th to the 13th. The only Brambling of the month was at Canewdon on the 9th on the same day the Waxwing flock was last reported from Leigh with five birds there. The Two Tree Island Short-eared Owl was last seen on the 9th along with the first Hobby of the summer and a Merlin. A White Wagtail was at Benfleet on the 10th whilst next day a Black Redstart arrived in Gunners Park and stayed to the 12th. Willow Warbler arrived on the 12th with one at Two Tree Island, the first Sedge Warbler was there on the 16th and Lesser Whitethroat in Gunners Park on the 17th. The Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was seen again at Belfairs on the 13th with the last Redwings of the winter also there. A pair of Bullfinch were a pleasing sight in Ashingdon on the 13th with one seen there again on the 20th. 33 Little Egrets roosted near Fleet Head on the 14th with two Barn Owls also seen there and a reasonable gathering of 27 Yellow Wagtails. The first of three spring Ring Ouzels was located in Gunners Park on the 15th with another bird found on Hadleigh Downs on the 17th. A relatively good passage of Grasshopper Warblers occurred between the 16th and 24th with up to five reeling birds from four localities including one showy bird on Two Tree Island. The second and final Firecrest of the spring was found typically in Gunners Park on the 16th. Tawny Owl were reported from Hockley Woods and Hadleigh Downs on the 16th and 17th respectively. Last months Black Brant at Two Tree Island continued to be seen most days with the last sighting on the 17th, whereas the Pale-bellied Brent Goose stayed on until the 23rd. A male Hen Harrier flew past Wakering Tip on the 16th one day prior to a notable passage of Marsh Harriers with 1-2 birds at Wakering Stairs and Wat Tyler from the 17th to the 29th. A Peregrine lingered around Wakering mid-month. A marked passage of Sparrowhawk occurred throughout the month with approximately 25 different birds recorded including four together at Leigh on the 30th. A Common Sandpiper was at Wat Tyler from the 16th to the 18th, along with the first Cuckoo on the 16th, and at Gunners Park on the 17th a fly over Serin was claimed. The first Swifts surprisingly preceded House Martins by two days with the former at Wat Tyler on the 18th and the latter there on the 20th. A male Redstart on Canvey on the 19th was a good spring record and another two were in Gunners Park on the 23rd. The last week of the month saw small flocks of up to 9 Whimbrel passing through coupled with 1-2 Spotted Redshank and Greenshank at a handful of locations and one more Green Sandpiper. A large fall of Wheatear occurred across England on the 22nd. Gunners Park provided a less spectacular but still very respectable count of 24 birds whilst offshore several Arctic Terns were picked out from the 300 Common Terns wheeling around. A most obliging Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was found drumming right beside the car park at Hadleigh C.P. and remained loyal to one large poplar tree through to the 26th. Nightingale are surprisingly rare in this part of Essex so one singing on Canvey from the 24th onwards was most appreciated particularly as it did not mind showing itself regularly too. A Buzzard circling over Wat Tyler on the 24th was yet another good local record with the Cetti’s Warblers there being very reliable with three different birds singing on the 24th and 25th. Turtle Doves finally arrived on the 25th with birds at both Wakering Stairs and Wallasea. Also at Wallasea on the 25th, excellent counts of 100 Corn Bunting and 30 Yellow Wagtail were made. 42 Great Crested Grebes were offshore from Gunners Park on the 24th whilst next day a Fulmar and the last Red-breasted Merganser were there too. An Osprey was reported over Southend Airport on the 28th and a trickle of seabird passage also occurred with three Little Terns and seven Gannets reported past Canvey. The last day of the month saw the final Ring Ouzel of the spring at Gunners Park and a Whinchat at Wakering Tip. The drake Scaup at Paglesham Lagoon surprisingly stayed throughout the month.
Two Marsh Harriers at Wat Tyler on the 1st were the only record from here this month. A Water Rail at Southchurch Park was a good local record and a Short-eared Owl at South Fambridge also on the 1st was late. Passerines were represented on the 1st with a good continuing passage of Wheatear including eight at Gunners Park, the Ring Ouzel first found there on 30th April remained, and a Redstart was at Hadleigh C.P. Next day, offshore from Gunners Park, two Gannets and the last eight Brent Geese were recorded, whilst the Scaup at Paglesham Lagoon put in its last appearance too with 12 Yellowhammers also there. A Bullfinch on Canvey on the 2nd was the first record from the island in many years. A Little Gull was a welcome find at Vange Marsh on the 2nd as was a Yellow-legged Gull nearby at Wat Tyler. A passage Black Redstart was at the favoured location of Gunners Park on the 3rd. Wat Tyler on the 3rd was rewarding with a Little Ringed Plover, two Common Sandpipers, a Grasshopper Warbler and two Bullfinch, along with the expected two Cetti’s Warblers, three Bearded Tits, and two Hobby. A solitary Little Tern past Wakering Stairs on the 3rd was alarmingly the only record of the month. The only Spotted Redshank of the month was on Two Tree Island on the 5th along with 11 Greenshank. A female Marsh Harrier was quartering the ground at Fleet Head on the 7th and an unconfirmed report of a Red-rumped Swallow was claimed here on the 9th. Following a nationwide influx of Temminck’s Stints, two very confiding birds were found at Vange Marsh on the 13th where they remained until dusk on the 14th. They proved very popular and afforded excellent views during their stay. Also at Vange Marsh at this time were two Common Sandpipers, a Little Gull and the last Wheatear of the spring, with an Arctic Tern and Garden Warbler there on the 16th. Another Garden Warbler was at Belfairs N.R. the same day. Whimbrel continued to pass through in modest numbers in the first half of the month with 16 over Gunners Park on the 15th the best count. Two Marsh Harriers on Canvey on the 17th may have been wandering birds from Wat Tyler although no records were forthcoming from there since the 1st. Meanwhile the Bullfinch on Canvey had paired up by the 20th giving hope that maybe a few more pairs of this handsome bird may still remain undiscovered in other undeveloped areas. A flurry of owl records were received in the last half of the month starting with a Short-eared Owl over the car park at Hadleigh C.P. on the 14th , followed by a Little Owl at Fleet Head from the 20th to the 23rd, and a Barn Owl there on the 22nd. Three Tawny Owls showed well on Hadleigh Downs on the 20th, and another Little Owl was at Paglesham on the 31st. A Black Redstart at Shoebury East Beach on the 22nd was extremely late for a migrant. Also on the 22nd a Caspian Gull was photographed at Wat Tyler where two Yellow-legged Gulls were also present. The third Garden Warbler of the summer was singing in Belfairs Woods on the 22nd and last months Grasshopper Warbler was seen briefly on Two Tree Island. The 23rd saw the female Marsh Harrier recorded at Fleet Head and Wakering Stairs, a Little Ringed Plover at Wat Tyler, 16 Yellow Wagtails at Fleet Head and the first of only two spring Spotted Flycatchers with a bird in Gunners Park. Last months showy Nightingale on Canvey continued to be seen and heard regularly through to the 26th and the next day the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker at Hadleigh C.P. put in another appearance at the car park. In summary, most summer migrants appear to be present in much greater numbers than in recent years. Approximately 14 different Hobby were seen this month, Turtle Dove were found at 15 different sites including six birds together at Hampton Barns. Lesser Whitethroat were at eight sites including eight birds on Canvey, good counts of Whitethroat included 67 on Canvey, and Cuckoo were at 15 different sites including eight birds together on Canvey. The only migrant giving serious cause for concern is Spotted Flycatcher which by the end of the month had still not returned to their only breeding site in the area. Finally, three pairs of Stonechat appear to be summering although curiously no records were received from their stronghold on Two Tree Island, and a pair of Grey Wagtails were present in suitable habitat in Southend.
The month was typically quiet with little of note throughout. The Lesser Spotted Woodpecker continued its stay at Hadleigh C.P., still desperately trying to attract a mate and was recorded on the 1st, and again on the 13th. The second, and what turned out to be the final Spotted Flycatcher of the spring was seen in a Benfleet churchyard on the 2nd. The Bullfinch pair on Canvey were last seen on the 5th when the Stonechat pair there were seen along with a juvenile. A Cetti’s Warbler at Wat Tyler was still vocal during the first week of the month with 1-2 Bearded Tits there on several dates. Three Tawny Owls were hooting in Hockley Woods early in the month and a Muntjac there on the 7th was a surprise find. Turtle Dove and Hobby continued to be reported from many widespread locations throughout. Barn Owls nested successfully at Canewdon, as did Ruddy Duck at Wat Tyler and Oystercatcher at Barling and Wallasea. A Greenshank at Two Tree Island on the 6th was the last of the northward wader passage. Mid-month was very quiet with a single Gannet seen from a boat off Maplin Sands on the 12th. An aythya hybrid superficially resembling a Lesser Scaup that was found at Vange Marsh on the 15th nearly livened things up, but it wasn’t to be. The bird remained until 1st August. A Brent Goose was a surprise find on the mud off Westcliff on the 20th and later seen at Shoebury the same day. The first returning wader was a Green Sandpiper at Wat Tyler on the 20th. Whilst most local birders were chasing a Glossy Ibis at Hanningfield on the 25th, there came an unconfirmed report of a fly-over Raven at Wat Tyler. If accepted, this would be a first for the recording area. On the 26th, the Brent Goose was seen again, this time at Wakering Stairs along with six Greenshank, and a systematic count of Mediterranean Gulls along the coast revealed 56 different birds between Wat Tyler and Wakering Stairs. Vange Marsh hosted a Little Ringed Plover, a Ruff, six Green Sandpipers, and 15 Teal on the 26th. Another Gannet was seen from a boat offshore from Shoebury on the 27th and two Little Terns were at Two Tree Island. Two pairs of Herring Gull had three unfledged young between them on Southend town centre rooftops on the 29th. The last day of the month found a Little Ringed Plover, a Barn Owl, and an Avocet on Wallasea Island.
35 Corn Bunting and 10 pairs of Yellow Wagtail were on Wallasea on the 1st perhaps allaying fears of local population crashes. A Kingfisher was seen on the 2nd close to last years nest site in Southend. A Red-breasted Merganser was certainly unexpected on the sea off Southend on the 5th. A party of four Bearded Tits at Wat Tyler on the 5th included three juveniles. Little Egret numbers increased rapidly through the month with peaks of 54 on the roost near Fleet Head on the 5th and 51 on the high tide roost at Two Tree Island on the 18th. A Hummingbird Hawk-moth was a good local find at Edwards Hall Park on the 6th. Seawatching at Canvey on the 7th was expectedly slow although 11 Common Scoter and 51 Common Tern were notable. Spotted Redshank were few and far between with one at Fleet Head on the 8th and eight there on the 10th the only records of the month. Owls were much in evidence this month with up to three Barn Owls in the Fleet Head area and two on Wallasea. Little Owls were also showing well with up to three in the Lion Creek area plus other birds at Fleet Head and Barton Hall Farm. By far the most popular owl was a Tawny Owl, which could be found most evenings at Canewdon from the 11th to the month’s end. The annual, and arguably expected fly-over record of Crossbill at Belfairs N.R. this month occurred on cue with one bird on the 8th and another on the 18th. Whimbrel numbers were impressive mid month with 46 at Fleet Head on the 10th, of which 43 were still there on the 17th before numbers tailed off. The Peregrine at Wat Tyler was noted on 13th, 17th and 18th with the aythya hybrid resembling a Lesser Scaup nearby at Vange Marsh from the 13th to the month’s end. Good numbers of Marbled Whites were on the wing mid month including 50 on Canvey on the 12th. Other interesting butterfly records were a Dark Green Fritillary at Belfairs N.R. on the 17th and a White Admiral there on the 23rd; neither being recorded there for approximately fifty years. Mediterranean Gulls were religiously counted most days as in recent years numbers swell as birds arrive from the near continent in July. This year, numbers around the coast reached a total of 51 different birds on the 17th with Southend seafront the most popular venue. Small numbers of Yellow-legged Gulls were seen, with singles at four locations mid month and three in Benfleet Creek on the 24th. Wader passage continued apace in the last two weeks with five Little Ringed Plover at Wat Tyler on the 17th, and 26 Greenshank at Two Tree Island on the 17th with a further 21 at Wakering Stairs. Vange Marsh hosted 16 Common Sandpipers and eight Green Sandpipers on the 18th, whilst up to seven Ruff could be found at Fleet Head. A Grey Wagtail in Belfairs N.R. on the 17th was a good mid summer record. A roost of Common Pipistrelles was discovered near Eastwood during the month with a peak of 11 counted leaving the house at dusk on the 17th. A pair of Bullfinch were reported from a central Southend garden mid month. The Pier gave the first reported Black Tern of the autumn on the 19th along with four Common Scoter. Passage Marsh Harrier began to trickle through in the last week with two birds at Fleet Head on the 23rd, and three there on the 25th. A Water Rail in the borrowdyke at Wakering Stairs on the 24th was unusual for the time of year, and a Gannet flew by there next day when 50 Yellow Wagtails were on Wallasea. A Mandarin was found hiding among the reeds at Friars Park on the 25th and a Wheatear next day at Benfleet Creek was exceptionally early. Numbers of Little Tern were very poor this month with the only count greater than two being 29 past Canvey on the 29th. Also there, were nine Sandwich Tern and a single Gannet. Finally, a Serotine bat was seen along with the Tawny Owl at Canewdon on the 31st.
The aythya hybrid resembling a Lesser Scaup and present since June at Vange Marsh was last seen on the 1st. Also there, a Little Ringed Plover surprisingly represented the last one of the autumn in the area, and the peak counts of Common Sandpiper and Green Sandpiper was made with 25 and 15 respectively. Sadly, no Wood Sandpipers were reported from anywhere in the area this year. A Wheatear was reported at South Fambridge on the 1st and the first autumn passage Snipe appeared with two at Fleet Head. Two Painted Ladies were in an Eastwood garden on the 2nd and Clouded Yellow’s were at Hadleigh C.P. on the 7th and 11th. The Tawny Owl at Canewdon was last seen on the 3rd. The third and final Crossbill of the autumn passed over Belfairs N.R. on the 4th, the same day that a splendid adult summer Red-necked Grebe was found on Paglesham Lagoon where it remained until the next day. Spotted Redshank continued to trickle through with four along the Roach on the 7th and 8th being the best count of the month. Little Tern numbers remained in single figures other than ten at Two Tree Island on the 8th. Black Terns were logged off Canvey on the 9th with eight birds feeding in the river. The 10th saw the first Arctic Skuas off Canvey with three birds lingering although the three plus Harbour Porpoise there were a much more exciting find. Twenty Eider were off Wakering Stairs on the 10th. Following a large fall of Pied Flycatchers along the east coast on the 10th, two were found in Gunners Park but did not linger. Little Egret numbers continued to increase yet again with 140 counted at roost from near Fleet Head on the 11th. Nearby, Whimbrel numbers peaked at 32, Ruff at eleven, and the Yellow Wagtail flock reached 45. On the 12th, a Barnacle Goose at Wat Tyler which stayed until the 16th could not pass itself off as anything other than feral although the Garganey also there the same day was a much more welcome find and was the only record of the year for the area. Spotted Flycatchers surprised everyone by finally revealing themselves in Priory Park for the first time this year on the 12th, and shortly afterwards were proudly showing off their three young. Greenshank numbers peaked mid-month with 95 at Wakering Stairs on the 14th and 73 there the next day before declining to 17 by the month’s end. A Water Vole espied at Rochford Golf Course on the 15th was notable. The patient counting of Mediterranean Gulls continued this month and revealed a staggering 86 birds on the Southend foreshore on the 19th of which forty percent were juveniles. Also on the foreshore on the 19th was a fine example of the diminutive Little Gull with a lovely juvenile photographed. Steady Marsh Harrier passage continued during the month with up to three birds present around the Wakering area. Likewise, Hobby passage was pronounced and widespread this month but with no more than three birds counted at any one site. Small numbers of Yellow-legged Gulls were seen again this month with four adults in Benfleet Creek on the 22nd the largest gathering, with a pair of Stonechat and their three young also there. Whinchat passage commenced on the 21st with two birds in Gunners Park and continued through to mid-September. The Peregrine at Wat Tyler was only reported once all month, on the 22nd. A Redstart in Gunners Park on the 24th was the first of eight birds seen during the autumn. A poor Black Tern passage peaked at 17 birds moving up river past Canvey on the 27th. Passage Spotted Flycatchers were found at their favoured site at the end of the month when five birds were in Gunners Park from the 28th to the 30th. Curlew Sandpipers have been rather scarce this year with just five birds in total all autumn, the first of which was a juvenile at Wakering Stairs on the 30th. Meticulous counting of three large groups of Black-tailed Godwit off Two Tree Island on the 30th revealed an impressive total of 910 birds. The final bird of the month was our old friend ‘Rossi’, the Ring-billed Gull who returned to his usual place along Westcliff seafront on the 30th where he settled down once more for the winter.
The noticeable passage of flycatchers continued through to the 4th with up to three Spotted Flycatchers recorded daily in Gunners Park and two Pied Flycatchers there on the 2nd and 3rd. Another Spotted Flycatcher was at Leigh on the 3rd. Perhaps caught up with the flycatcher movement, Redstarts were reported from Daws Heath on the 1st, central Southend on the 3rd and Friars Park on the 6th. The juvenile Curlew Sandpiper at Wakering Stairs was recorded again on the 3rd when the Peregrine at Wat Tyler was seen on one of only two dates this month. An organised Little Egret count from Wakering Tip on the evening of the 4th shattered all records once again with 206 birds recorded. Other birds did not go unnoticed either with peak autumn counts of Marsh Harrier, when seven birds went to roost, six Whinchat, a minimum of 130 Yellow Wagtails on Potton and two Short-eared Owls. Earlier in the day 49 Mediterranean Gulls were counted along Southend seafront comprising mostly adults. A Pintail on Paglesham Lagoon on the 5th was the sole record of the autumn. Strong easterlies on the 6th and 7th resulted in excellent seawatching conditions, and some of the highest one day counts of skuas in recent years. Canvey on the 6th saw the first of only two Pomarine Skuas recorded this month as well as an adult Long-tailed Skua, 63 Arctic Skuas and five Great Skuas, along with six Little Gulls and 25 Arctic Terns. The following day the seabird passage was even more impressive with another Pomarine Skua, at least six juvenile Long-tailed Skuas, and a whopping 129 Arctic Skuas and 97 Great Skuas. For variety, two Fulmar, 13 Gannets, 97 Little Egrets, 15 Little Gulls, 75 Arctic Terns, and six Black Terns all added to an impressive tally. Vange Marsh on the 8th hosted peak monthly counts of several wader species with seven Ruff, 12 Green Sandpipers, eight Common Sandpipers, three Spotted Redshank and four Cetti’s Warblers. Nearby, off Canvey the seabird passage was petering out with a further two Little Gulls and ten Arctic Skuas. Away from the coast a Black Redstart at Paglesham on the 9th was one of only two autumn records and the resident Little Owl put in its only appearance of the autumn. A most unusual record of six Ring-necked Parakeets flying over Leigh was claimed on the 9th. It seems surprising that such a garish and raucous flock of birds were not reported elsewhere in the area, raising speculation as to whether they simply returned to their aviary shortly afterwards. The first returning Brent Geese were three birds at Two Tree Island on the 10th with several other small flocks arriving around our coast during the next two weeks. The claim of 150 Sandwich Terns off Canvey on the 10th was surprising given that tern numbers had rapidly declined following the start of the month, three Black Terns were also there. Whinchat passage continued throughout the first two weeks with five birds in Gunners Park on the 10th notable. Kingfishers were widespread this month with two birds in Gunners Park proving particularly reliable and remaining through to the end of October at least. Two Curlew Sandpipers were found in Potton Creek on the 11th. As expected, summer migrants were departing this month with the last Swifts seen on the 12th although a Swift sp. was seen at Chalkwell on the 3rd November. After a good spring passage, Turtle Doves were disappointingly scarce during the autumn with a peak count of five, and only one record in the whole of September being two birds at Wakering Stairs on the 12th. Coal Tit are astonishingly scarce in this area, just a single bird was claimed all year which was in a Thundersley garden on the 14th as was a Hummingbird Hawk-moth, with another Hummingbird Hawk-moth in a Leigh garden the next day. The first Siskin of the autumn took a fancy to a niger seed feeder in an Eastwood garden on the 17th where it was seen again on the 25th. A Manx Shearwater flew past the Pier on the 18th. Hobby were fairly widespread during the first half of the month although there were no more records this month after the 19th when a juvenile was at Paglesham. There was a second distinct wave of flycatcher passage on the 18th and 19th when three Spotted Flycatchers and two Pied Flycatchers arrived in Gunners Park and in keeping with the last flycatcher movement, a Redstart was also present. A Tree Pipit also claimed in Gunners Park on the 19th was the only autumn record. A Clouded Yellow was on Two Tree Island. Late afternoon sunshine on the 21st saw more than 20 Common Lizards sunning themselves at Canewdon and two Hummingbird Hawk-moths in a Benfleet garden. A Tawny Owl calling from central Leigh on the 23rd was a good suburban record. Seawatching off Canvey on the 24th saw seven Gannets moving upriver, a Common Scoter, and more unexpectedly, a Purple Sandpiper which roosted on the seawall over the high tide and was reported again the next day. Back on land the Peregrine at Wat Tyler was seen for only the second time this month and two Spotted Redshank were on the scrape. Another Redstart was in Gunners Park on the 24th where another Spotted Flycatcher and the last Yellow Wagtail were logged on the 26th. A Siskin on a garden feeder in Leigh on the 25th may conceivably have been the Eastwood bird seen earlier the same day. Vange Marsh saw a small flurry of wader passage at the end of the month with 2-3 Little Stints and a Curlew Sandpiper from the 26th to the 28th. The Two Tree Island Short-eared Owl was reportedly back for the winter on the 27th.
A female Merlin at Canewdon on the 1st was the first of the autumn whilst a Hobby reported over Southchurch on the 3rd was the last. The Siskin visited the Eastwood garden for the last time on the 4th. A Spotted Flycatcher in Priory Park on the 6th was unusual in terms of location for a migrant and lateness too. A Yellow-browed Warbler was seen well but briefly by one observer in Gunners Park early on the 8th but eluded all other birders. There is still yet to be a widely twitchable one in the area. A female Redstart was also present. Nearby at Southend seafront the first Red-breasted Merganser of the winter and a Purple Sandpiper were reported. From the 9th to the 13th weather conditions were once again favourable for seawatching and a good selection of birds were on offer at the various coastal watchpoints. The highlights over the period were four Manx Shearwaters between the 10th and 11th, approximately 120 Gannets including 85 off Gunners Park on the 9th, up to four Leach’s Petrels lingering daily in the estuary, 40 Common Scoter and up to 24 Arctic Skuas and nine Great Skuas daily. A single Long-tailed Skua was off the Pier on the 9th, four Pomarine Skuas passed Gunners Park on the 10th, up to 30 Little Gulls were seen daily, and 50 Kittiwakes were present on the 9th and 10th. The last Sandwich Terns, Arctic Terns, and Little Terns were all recorded at this time. Also present were a few Guillemots off the Pier along with a Shag, and the first Red-throated Diver and Black-throated Diver of the winter off Canvey. Back on land there were some interesting records too during this time with the last Wheatear at South Fambridge, another Purple Sandpiper, this time at Wakering Stairs, a late Curlew Sandpiper on Two Tree Island, the last of eight autumn Redstarts in Gunners Park on the late date of the 10th, and the first Redwings over Leigh. Maintaining the momentum there was an interesting record of a Brambling landing exhausted on the Pier and the first returning Hen Harriers with two at Fleet Head including an adult male. Passerine passage continued over the next few days with some more good birds recorded. The 14th saw a Firecrest and Brambling at Gunners Park and a Ring Ouzel in a Westcliff garden which remained to the 15th when a different bird was located on Two Tree Island along with the second and last Black Redstart of the autumn. The 15th also saw the last of the Sand Martins in the area with a flock of 40 passing over Gunners Park where a Red-necked Grebe could be found offshore. Gunners Park again demonstrated its prominence for passage migrants on the 16th with the first Fieldfares of the winter and the second Firecrest in three days. Five Black Terns off the Pier were particularly late and a full five weeks later than the last birds off Canvey this year. A Pin-tailed Whydah on Two Tree Island on the 16th could easily have led to some wild claims of vagrant bunting particularly at such a classic time of the year and at a coastal location too. A flurry of House Martin movement occurred on the 16th and 17th with 25 birds passing through Gunners Park, these being the last of the year. The Black Swan from the beginning of the year was found again among the Mute Swan herd at Hullbridge on the 17th. There was a trickle of Lesser Redpoll passage on the 18th and 19th with one on Canvey and three at Canewdon. Also on Canvey, four Common Lizards could still be found making the most of the weakening sunshine on the 19th. A Grey Phalarope at Vange Marsh from the 18th was a surprise find occurring almost exactly a year since the Two Tree Island bird in 2003 which had been the first twitchable one for several years. This year’s bird was even more obliging and was easy to find on the water each day through to the 23rd at least. A Jack Snipe was reportedly flushed at Vange Marsh on the 19th. A Swallow passed over Leigh on the 22nd. A Common Seal in the Crouch on the 23rd was notable for being as far upriver as South Fambridge. The Siskin which was now favouring the Leigh garden was seen again from the 24th to the 26th. Twenty Corn Buntings were at Oxenham Farm on the 24th. A Common Buzzard sitting in a tree at Paglesham on the 24th and 26th was certainly unusual however a report has recently been received of two escaped captive birds from Foulness around this time. Short-eared Owl numbers began to increase at the end of the month with at least four birds on the 29th and 30th in the Fleet Head area where a Marsh Harrier was also seen. A Merlin at Two Tree Island on the 30th was only the second bird of the winter and a Peregrine was also hunting there. The Ring-billed Gull at Westcliff was recorded during the last week of the month and the period ended with the first two Goldeneye of the winter at Paglesham Lagoon and 148 Avocet on the nearby Roach.
The 3rd saw a very late, mini-influx of hirundines with three Swallows on Canvey and two at Chalkwell. Also at Chalkwell on the 3rd was a tantalising record of a Swift sp. at a time when a number of Pallid’s were recorded along the south and east coasts. A Woodcock was seen leaving a Rayleigh wood on the 5th. A Snow Bunting at Wakering Stairs on the 6th was a good local record, as was a Siskin heard flying over a Leigh garden. A minimum of three Green Sandpipers could still be found at Barling where 1-2 usually stay most winters, and 88 Avocet were on the nearby Roach. A day on Wallasea on the 6th yielded a good count of 3-4 Short-eared Owls, a ringtail Hen Harrier, 15 Rock Pipits, 54 Skylarks, 1,000 Golden Plover, and arguably the scarcest of all, 16 Twite. The Purple Sandpiper was seen at Southend seafront again on the 9th, this bird subsequently wintered and could be found into early January at least. Also along the seafront, six Red-throated Divers, three Gannets and a Guillemot were fishing offshore. A Tawny Owl was calling at Hadleigh C.P. on the 9th. A very late Common Tern was reported at Canvey on the 9th, as was a flock of 47 Common Scoter flying west. A wintering male Marsh Harrier at Wat Tyler was first noted on the 9th, remaining into early January at least; the Peregrine was also present again. A male Brambling visited a Canewdon garden on the 11th and a male Peregrine was hunting along Southend seafront. Close scrutiny of the Brent flocks once again revealed an adult Black Brant in the Paglesham area on the 13th. It proved popular and was firmly attached to the local wintering flock and could be found throughout the month in the Fleet Head / Paglesham area. Four Short-eared Owls and three Hen Harriers could be found hunting over Potton on the 13th and 14th. A massive movement of Little Auks down the east coast saw several coastal watchpoints manned on the 14th and 15th. Although we did not see much of the influx here, a handful of birds did finally make it this far south and were seen by the lucky few. The first was seen near Gunners Park on the 14th, with probably a different bird past the Pier a few hours later. Two more were reported past Gunners Park the following afternoon. A Razorbill, a Guillemot, 25 Common Scoter, and 23 Mediterranean Gulls were all noted from the Pier on the 14th, the scoter flock remaining until the 21st. An apparent escaped Common Buzzard was most obliging sitting in a tree at Paglesham on the 14th, whilst a Buzzard sp. seen from Wakering Stairs leaving the north Kent coast and thermalling above the Maplin Bank was more interesting. Also at Wakering Stairs on the 14th, a male Peregrine was seen to plunder a wader from the roost. A Greenshank was found at Two Tree Island on the 14th and a Bullfinch at Wakering Common the same day was the first here for several years. Four Water Rail heard at Wat Tyler was a good count, and finally on the 14th, the last butterfly of the season was seen with a Red Admiral at Haven Point. A female Common Scoter took up residence along the Roach on the 20th and remained there until at least the end of the year. Nearby at Paglesham, a first-winter Caspian Gull was claimed and a mixed bunting flock comprised 24 Yellowhammers, 18 Reed Buntings, and 20 Corn Buntings. Four Bullfinch were present on Hadleigh Downs. On the 21st, two Merlin were hunting over Fleet Head and a flock of 36 Ruff there were notable. A fishing trip on a boat on the 21st afforded one fortuitous observer good views of two Little Auks in the Thames between the Pier and Canvey. A Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was a welcome visitor to a Benfleet garden albeit briefly on the 27th. The Black Swan which first started touring the area this time last year was still trying to fit in discreetly with the 25 Mute Swans at Hullbridge on the 28th. A Sandwich Tern off the Pier on the 28th was extremely late; a Shag was also present. A late Marsh Harrier was quartering Rushley Island on the 28th whilst across the Roach, on Wallasea, five Short-eared Owls and a Merlin were doing their bit to reduce the rodent population. Further up the Roach, near Paglesham, the mixed bunting flock of Yellowhammers, Reed Buntings, and Corn Buntings maintained their numbers from the previous week, whilst the river itself hosted three Spotted Redshank and 40 Snipe. The Ring-billed Gull was reliable throughout and was recorded almost daily, and up to 12 Stonechats appeared to be wintering around the seawalls.
A Lesser Redpoll at Belfairs G.C. on the 2nd was the only winter record for the area. On the 4th, a flock of seven White-fronted Geese were found grazing among the 100 Greylags at Wat Tyler. Although still present in the New Year they kept a low profile and were only seen on a handful of dates and were apparently on several occasions. Red-breasted Merganser numbers are lower this winter compared to previous years with a peak count of seven made on the Roach on the 4th. Also on the 4th, a Waxwing flew over Belfairs N.R., with another passing overhead there on the 18th. These two records represented our entire quota of the large invasion further north and west in the country. An evening visit to Hadleigh Downs detected two Tawny Owls calling on the 4th. Thanks are due to birders from the north, well South Woodham, for finding a Black-throated Diver and two Velvet Scoter at Brandy Hole on the 5th. It was possible to view these birds from South Fambridge where it was adjudged they had violated our boundary and could therefore be counted. This was much appreciated, as both species are difficult birds to see locally. Much further down the Crouch on the same day at Wallasea, a different Black Brant to the Paglesham bird was found along with two Pale-bellied Brents, and 15 Rock Pipits still frequented the saltings there. Hen Harriers were few in number this month with just one ringtail and one male present, both in the Fleet Head area and both only seen once, on the 5th and 26th respectively. Likewise, Merlin was only seen once this month, with the 5th being the chosen date again, and Fleet Head predictably being the site. Peregrine faired slightly better with three different birds seemingly wintering around the coastline including the now regular bird at Wat Tyler. Away from the coast, garden feeders continued their near monopoly on the Siskin records with three birds in a Rochford garden on the 5th. The only Woodcock of the month was at Belfairs N.R. on the 8th and the first and only Brambling of the winter so far visited a Rayleigh garden between the 10th and the 18th before disappearing until January 4th. Six probable Tundra Bean Geese were seen briefly at Paglesham Lagoon on the 11th with an adult Caspian Gull also there. 83 Black-tailed Godwits at Wat Tyler on the 11th was an unusually high number away from the estuaries. A Greenshank was also wintering there along with another still on Two Tree Island. The Pier was fairly quiet on the 12th although two Gannets and five Kittiwake were noted. Wallasea hosted a Jack Snipe and a rather interesting leucistic Lapwing on the 12th. On the 15th, one final Siskin of the year was claimed, this time at Gunners Park. Short-eared Owl numbers were impressive in the last half of the month with a respectable five birds on Wallasea on the 18th, two at Fleet Head on the 30th, and three claimed at Two Tree Island on the 31st. The two Pale-bellied Brents from Wallasea were relocated at Paglesham on the 18th and remained until the end of the year being seen around the Barling and Fleet Head area along with up to 2,000 Dark-bellied Brents. Also at Paglesham on the 18th was a sizeable flock of 1,000 Golden Plover and a modest flock of 32 Skylarks. The 19th saw four Snow Buntings discovered at Thorpe Bay. They were typically confiding and proved extremely popular particularly once they settled down at Shoebury Coastguards from the 27th where they attracted birders daily through to early January at least. Christmas Eve saw the return of Mandarin to Southchurch Hall Park for the winter albeit with only one drake which could be surprisingly elusive, but remained into January. The only record of wintering Blackcap came from a Shoebury garden on the 24th. Time off work over the festive period allowed many to catch up with the Ring-billed Gull at Westcliff which was logged daily from the 24th to the 29th. The final Pier trip of the year on the 27th yielded a peak winter count so far of four Guillemots, 23 Mediterranean Gulls, and a Shag, with another Shag at Shoebury East Beach the same day. On the 28th, the Roach area hosted 20 Goldeneye, a rather impressive 147 Avocet, 75 Stock Dove, and 20 Corn Buntings. A single Long-eared Owl had returned to the traditional roost site from the 28th onwards. In the estuary, 15 Common Seals were hauled out off Westcliff on the 29th and a solitary Eider was off the Pier. Where have all the Eider gone? Since the end of August there has been just one solitary bird, a female, reported on a number of dates in the estuary – Eider down! The final day of the year saw 1-2 Cetti’s Warblers singing at a new inland site in the area, two Bearded Tits were at Wat Tyler, and a single Snow Bunting took a liking to Canvey seafront for a few days.