The full suite of divers were present on the 1st with up to four Red-throated Divers, two Black-throated Divers, and two Great Northern Divers all frequenting the Pier during the first week. The Ring-billed Gull at Westcliff was duly ticked by keen year-listers. Along Southend seafront the Snow Bunting flock which now numbered nine were equally obliging throughout the month and a single Guillemot was offshore on the 1st. Siskin were around in good numbers from the beginning of the month onwards with up to 25 frequenting alders in a suburban Leigh road. The month’s only Chiffchaff was in Southchurch Hall Park on the 1st and a drake Mandarin was in Friar’s Park although not subsequently. Single Spotted Redshank and Greenshank were in Benfleet Creek and the two Hen Harriers and two Marsh Harriers from last month were seen with patience around the Wakering area. Three Bullfinch, a Woodcock, and 1,000 Lapwing were notable on Hadleigh Downs on the 2nd. A Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was at Belfairs on the 2nd with the Hockley Woods birds reported from the early date of the 4th intermittently through the month. On the 4th the Waxwings returned to their favourite habitat, that being supermarket car parks in Pitsea. Initially 24 of these beauties appeared with numbers building to 31 by the 15th. A Merlin and three Green Sandpipers were on Bowers Marsh on the 5th with another two Green Sandpipers wintering in Benfleet from the 7th onwards. All 21 Pintail from mid-December were still present on Paglesham Lagoon throughout the month. The Pier provided the only multiple count of Guillemot this winter with just two birds seen on the 8th with a Razorbill and the two wintering Eider still there. A fly past Fulmar was unseasonal. On the 11th, Hole Haven Creek hosted an impressive gathering of 1,500 Lapwings. Also there, careful scanning of the bathing gulls revealed an unprecedented passage of Caspian Gulls with eleven different birds this month alone. Repeating events from last winter, a Purple Sandpiper was found wintering along Southend seafront over each high tide from the 13th to the end of the month and was twitched by many an Essex birder. A skein of 50 White-fronted Geese flew over Two Tree Island on the 15th and were tracked heading up the Thames past Thurrock and Rainham. Also on Two Tree Island on the 11th was a modest peak count of 32 Common Snipe. A Guillemot was as far up the Crouch as South Fambridge on the 17th, and a Short-eared Owl was reported from Two Tree Island surprisingly for the only time this month. Bullfinch seem to be slowly increasing in the area so it was pleasing to record four at Wat Tyler on the 19th and again on the 25th with another at Belfairs N.R. on the 30th. The 19th will also be remembered as the day that the Northern Bottle-nosed Whale was first sighted as it swam up the Thames under the QEII bridge. In addition, there were unconfirmed reports of at least one other whale, possibly from the same family group off the coast of Southend at this time. Marsh Harriers were seen at Hole Haven on 21st and Wat Tyler on 22nd. Barn Owl reached four, and Short-eared Owl numbered three around Wakering on the 21st and a Merlin was hunting there from 21st to 28th. Blackcaps were recorded in gardens in Leigh on 21st and 29th, and Benfleet on 24th and 28th. 125 Redwing at Magnolia N.R., Ashingdon on the 22nd was the largest wintering flock by far. The single drake Mandarin was again present in Southchurch Hall Park from 24th to 28th before disappearing for the rest of the winter. The only Lesser Redpoll of the first winter period was a single at Wat Tyler on the 25th. An unconfirmed report of four Black-throated Divers flying past Canvey on the 26th would be one of the largest Essex counts in the last ten years if true. A Merlin was also claimed. At least one wide ranging Peregrine frequented Southend seafront through the month with an individual performing very well on the 29th when it spent the day hunting from an office block in the heart of the town centre.
On the 1st, a Merlin was reported at Fleet Head. A smattering of Blackcap records came from gardens in the first week with birds in Rayleigh, Thundersley and Benfleet. A Coal Tit found at Belfairs from the 2nd to the 4th was a local mega. Small numbers of Siskin were relatively widespread from the 4th to the 19th with between one and six birds at five locations most of which were gardens. At Wakering Stairs on the 4th came unconfirmed reports of a Pale-bellied Brent Goose and 15 Twite whilst next day 112 Avocet were counted along the Roach. A Woodcock in Gunners Park on the 8th was unusual in terms of location but a Red Admiral the same day on Hadleigh Downs was exceptionally early. The male Peregrine showed well at Wat Tyler from the 9th to the 13th with the Marsh Harrier also seen on the 9th. Hole Haven Creek turned up a first-winter Iceland Gull on the 11th with two Caspian Gulls bringing the total to 13 different birds that have passed through here so far this year. A Slavonian Grebe was a good find off Shoebury East Beach on the 12th whilst nearby the obliging wintering Purple Sandpiper was recorded for the last time along Southend seafront. A Bullfinch was seen again in Belfairs on the 12th but the best find of the day was the discovery of the Hawfinch in Hockley Woods that repeated events of the last few years with regular sightings into April. Two more Blackcaps were found from the 12th to the 15th with birds in Leigh and Benfleet. Six Red-breasted Merganser were at South Fambridge on 12th being somewhat scarce this winter with a Merlin and Common Scoter also claimed here on the 14th. On the 13th the nine strong Snow Bunting flock along Southend seafront were recorded for the final time although two birds were present on one date in March. A solitary Waxwing was reported from Canewdon on the 14th. The Lesser Spotted Woodpecker in Hockley Woods showed well from the 14th to the 18th with two birds reported on the 25th. A Little Gull hawking inland at Eastwood on the 17th was unexpected. The Pintail flock at Paglesham Lagoon reached an impressive high of 44 on the 18th. The 20th saw a lone Snow Bunting along the foreshore at Canvey at the same place as it was in December. The Waxwing flock at Pitsea had reached 44 on the 22nd. A Woodcock and four Bullfinch were at Hadleigh Downs on the 23rd. A Larus sp. closely resembling an Iceland Gull was seen in Hole Haven Creek on the 25th but was later deemed to be a hybrid. Nearby, a Great Northern Diver was reported off Canvey seafront the same day and an early Adder was enjoying the weak sunshine on Hadleigh Downs. The wintering Marsh Harrier and two Hen Harriers in the Wakering area were recorded again on the 26th when the Ring-billed Gull at Westcliff showed well after being sporadic in appearance earlier in the month. The only record of Long-eared Owl during the winter was a single roosting at a traditional site on the 26th. Canvey hosted two Common Buzzards on the 27th and a Merlin on the 28th with two Common Scoter also noted on the 27th.
A Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was in Pound Wood on the 1st with others at Hadleigh Downs, Little Haven N.R., Coombe Wood, and Shipwrights Wood during the month with the Hockley Woods pair also present throughout although elusive. Two Snow Buntings were reported from Southend seafront on the 4th, a full three weeks after the winter flock of nine were last recorded. The last Red-throated Divers of the winter were logged off Shoebury and Canvey on the 5th with a Slavonian Grebe also at the former site and a Red-necked Grebe at the latter. Hadleigh Downs hosted a good count of six Bullfinch on the 5th with a Woodcock also there with another nearby on Benfleet Downs the next day and a pair of Bullfinch were in Hockley Woods. A Merlin was at South Fambridge on the 6th and last month’s six Red-breasted Mergansers remained. The 9th was a good day for Owls with two Little Owls and a Barn Owl at a central Southend site and two Short-eared Owls were on Two Tree Island. Another first-winter Iceland Gull was found in Hole Haven Creek on the 11th along with another two Caspian Gulls and a Hen Harrier was quartering Wakering Stairs. The 12th produced a Woodcock in Hockley Woods and saw the Waxwing flock at Pitsea hit its peak for the winter with 56 birds reported. The humble House Sparrow rarely gets a mention in these pages but a flock of 120 roosting at Pitsea on the 16th are worthy of note these days. A Black Brant was at Paglesham Lagoon on the 17th as were the last five Goldeneye of the winter. A peak day count of five Caspian Gulls was made at Hole Haven on the 18th which, when coupled with the numerous other records over the last few months must now challenge this species status as a rare county visitor. The 18th was also the last day that the Waxwing flock at Pitsea was recorded, ironically just six days after reaching its peak. A Jack Snipe showed well on Wallasea on the 19th and five Common Scoter were off Wakering Stairs. Ten Siskin in a garden by Coombe Wood on the 20th were the best count during a relatively widespread and protracted passage. Small numbers were recorded from a further eight sites this month with the majority favouring seed feeders in back gardens. The Hawfinch in Hockley Woods continued to be seen throughout but offered views only to those present at dawn. A feral Barnacle Goose was at Wat Tyler on the 23rd where three Cetti’s Warblers continued to sing, as they had most of the winter. The first migrant Chiffchaff arrived on the 25th with eight others arriving at five locations between 29th and 31st. The Ring-billed Gull at Westcliff seafront was reported for the last time on the 27th, the same day that the first true migrant arrived with a Wheatear on Two Tree Island some eleven days later than last year, no doubt as a result of the prolonged northerly winds. It was joined by a second bird on the 28th. A Woodcock was in Shipwrights Wood on the 29th. Redwing departed surprisingly early with several birds over Southend Airport on the 30th and the last bird being a single on Benfleet Downs on the 31st, which coincidentally was the same date as the last bird in 2005. Swallows finally struggled through with singles at Canvey on the 30th and Wat Tyler on the 31st. The first migrant Blackcap was singing on Benfleet Downs on the 31st.
Willow Warbler arrived on the 1st with a single by Benfleet Creek where the Short-eared Owl remained through to the 4th. A pair of Little Owls showed well at Canewdon all month. A Common Buzzard reported over Wat Tyler on the 1st was the first of three passage birds across the area this month and Sand Martins were also there from the 2nd along with a Marsh Harrier on the 4th and 10th. Finch passage continued to be noted with a total of 47 Siskins reported from eight locations in the first week along with eight Brambling at three locations. Perhaps caught up in the same movement, a Hawfinch was visiting a feeding station at Wat Tyler during the first week with the Hockley Woods bird last seen on the 7th. Two passage Nightingales were singing in Gunners Park on the 6th with further singles recorded there on the 9th, 16th and 19th. A Marsh Harrier was at Wakering Stairs from the 6th to the 9th. Four Yellow Wagtails were in Gunners Park on the 8th along with six White Wagtails, the first of approximately twenty birds this month. Offshore from Gunners Park on the 8th were the first Sandwich Terns, and House Martins were noted at Wat Tyler. Vange Marsh hosted the first Sedge Warbler on the 9th and a Jack Snipe was also claimed. The first Whitethroat was reported on Two Tree Island on the 9th and a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was reported at Eastwood sewage works. The second Common Buzzard of the month was seen to fly high over Wakering on the 9th. A first-winter Iceland Gull at Wat Tyler on the 10th may well have been last month’s bird from Hole Haven. The Jack Snipe at Vange Marsh was reported again on the 14th. Gunners Park scored well on the 15th with the first Common Terns and Cuckoo coupled with a peak spring count of nine Wheatears and a female Ring Ouzel that stayed until the 18th. On the 16th, a male Ring Ouzel was reported on Two Tree Island, a Continental Coal Tit was in Gunners Park and the only passage Firecrest of the spring was in a garden in Leigh. Sparrowhawk records increased significantly this month partly due to resident birds being more prominent whilst displaying but also due to an influx of passage birds. In total there was over fifty records this month alone including five together over Leigh on the 16th. A healthy passage of Yellow Wagtails continued through the month with a good count of 42 at Paglesham Lagoon on the17th, the same day that the first Swift was recorded over Vange Marsh. Six Red-breasted Mergansers on the Roach on the 18th were noticeably late. Wader passage was pronounced between the 20th and the 26th with an obvious arrival of single figure flocks of Whimbrel, Spotted Redshank and Greenshank during the period coupled with single Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, and Little Ringed Plover. The first Hobby was observed at Fleet Head on the 22nd, the same day that Lesser Whitethroats arrived with singles appearing at three sites. Turtle Dove returned on the 23rd with a ‘purring’ bird in Gunners Park but worryingly few others recorded by mid-May. Two Grasshopper Warblers were heard reeling on the 23rd with birds at Wat Tyler and Canvey, and the third Common Buzzard of the month passed over Rayleigh. It was pleasing to report two Nightingales singing from suitable habitat along Benfleet Downs from the 24th onwards. Two Fieldfare which had been on Canvey from the 14th persisted to the late date of the 26th before departing. Equally reluctant to leave were two Dark-bellied Brent Geese still at Paglesham Lagoon on the 30th. A Garden Warbler was claimed in Hockley Woods on the 28th by which time there were two Little Ringed Plovers at Vange Marsh.
One to two Wheatear continued to push through from the 1st to the 11th with Gunners Park providing all but one of this month’s records. Two adult Little Gulls visited Wat Tyler on the 3rd where they remained through to the 6th. Also here were the regular pair of Hobby along with a third bird, and two Turtle Doves. Records of Hobby were widespread this month whereas Turtle Dove numbers are down on last year with just two representing the highest count. A Marsh Harrier was hunting over Paglesham Lagoon on the 4th and again on the 10th. A Nightingale reported in Gunners Park on the 5th was most likely a late migrant. After a report of two drake Garganey at Paglesham Lagoon on the 6th, one remained through to the 10th and was widely appreciated. Also here at this time was a Common Sandpiper and seven Yellow Wagtails. The month’s only other Common Sandpiper, and sole Greenshank were both reported at Vange Marsh on the 7th. Sighting of the week goes to an Osprey watched from a Southend front garden on the 7th, which could conceivably also have accounted for the record of an Osprey on Canvey on the 13th. Another local mega garden tick came on the 9th when a Ring-necked Parakeet circled an Eastwood garden, (mine!). A pair of Bullfinch and a Garden Warbler were reported from Belfairs on the 9th. A Short-eared Owl over Rushley Island on the 11th was notable given the time of year. The following day, a Red Kite joined the growing band of mega garden ticks this month when one flew past Leigh. The two Nightingales which performed well at Benfleet Downs from the 24th April were heard singing for the last time on the 12th, whilst nearby two pairs of Stonechat had clearly paired up along Benfleet Creek. A Common Buzzard flew over Hadleigh Downs on the 13th, the same day that a Marsh Harrier was seen nearby along Benfleet Downs. Spotted Flycatchers finally returned on the 13th with a migrant on Two Tree Island and a likely breeding bird at a central Southend location. Another drake Garganey was unfortunately all too brief on the scrape at Wat Tyler on the 15th. Vange Marsh continued to host a pair of Little Ringed Plovers to the 18th at least with the nearby reedbed and scrub holding four singing Cetti’s Warblers with a further three at Wat Tyler. A Firecrest seen and heard singing in Belfairs on the 20th was intriguing but could not be located subsequently. Two Muntjac also there the same day were notable, as they remain scarce in the recording area. Garden Warblers were heard singing on the 25th again at Belfairs, with another on Hadleigh Downs. The happiest news this month was the successful hatching of Avocet chicks on Two Tree Island on the 25th with 21 chicks by the month’s end. The previous two years have seen the eggs go missing in suspicious circumstances just prior to hatching but happily the increased security and around the clock wardening resulted in a more successful outcome this year. A Marsh Harrier on Wallasea Island on the 28th may well have been the same bird as that over Paglesham earlier in the month. A Peregrine along Benfleet Creek the same day further elevated this species’ status locally to virtually resident throughout the year. Finally, a pair of Wigeon at Wat Tyler on the 30th were notable and a Marsh Harrier was hunting the nearby reedbed.
On the 3rd, seven Stonechats were present along Benfleet Creek consisting of two family parties, each with young. The Spotted Flycatcher pair in central Southend continued to show well between the 4th and 7th before becoming famously elusive until mid-September when they were seen with two young. Owls were once again very evident this month with a Tawny Owl near Wallasea, three Little Owls at Canewdon and two Barn Owls at Vange Marsh all coincidentally on the 4th. A Bullfinch at Wat Tyler on the 6th raises hope of possible breeding. One of the most curious reports was of two Common Cranes reportedly flying over Benfleet whilst nearby on the river at Canvey a Common Scoter was seen. From Gunners Park on the 9th came a report of a Garden Warbler but the male Golden Oriole reported on the 10th at Canvey West End unfortunately eluded everyone except the finder. Some interesting raptor records were claimed mid-month starting with the month’s only Marsh Harrier on Wallasea on the 11th, followed by an Osprey over Hockley on the 12th, a Common Buzzard over Hockley on the 13th and presumably the same bird over Battlesbridge the next day. A male Peregrine was also regular around Leigh throughout as were Hobby. A Dark-bellied Brent Goose off Canvey on the 16th was unseasonal but the same observer was even more surprised the next day when he made the first land-based observation in Essex of a Bottlenose Dolphin in over one hundred years! By staying faithful to the entrance of Hole Haven Creek through till early August, the dolphin became a local celebrity and even made into the local newspapers and TV bulletins. Back on land, a Cetti’s Warbler was singing from yet another new site, this time by Benfleet station on the 17th, whilst Pochard hatched three young in the nearby borrowdyke and three Greenshank at Hole Haven Creek were possibly the first returning waders. The first Hummingbird Hawkmoth of a very good season was in a Westcliff garden on the 21st. Owls continued to show, with Little Owl at Canewdon and Paglesham, and Barn Owl also at Paglesham, all on the 23rd when over thirty Heath Fritillaries were on the wing in Belfairs. A cracking summer plumage Spotted Redshank at Fleet Head on the 24th was one of only a handful seen all autumn. Another family party of Stonechat was found on the 25th, this time at Canvey West End. Butterflies were abundant on the 28th when the following counts were made on Hadleigh Downs: 30 Small Skipper, 20 White-letter Hairstreak, 10 Ringlet, 6 Marbled White and 2 Large Skipper.
Some interesting moths were trapped in Prittlewell on the 1st with three Elephant Hawkmoths and an Eyed Hawkmoth the most notable, whilst in the daytime ten Heath Fritillaries were found at their other local site, Hockley Woods. The first returning Black-tailed Godwit were a group of 39 in Benfleet Creek on the 1st, closely followed by the first Common Sandpiper and Green Sandpiper, both at Vange Marsh on the 2nd. Also at Vange Marsh on the 2nd a very respectable local peak count of eight Little Ringed Plover was made. One of the most interesting records of the month was a ringtail Hen Harrier found summering on Wallasea on the 2nd, and reportedly present since 24th June which remained through to the 19th at least. Also on Wallasea at this time were two Marsh Harriers present from the 7th onwards plus 50 Skylarks, 30 Yellow Wagtails, 30 Corn Buntings and 300 Swifts. The first of two Clouded Yellows this month was on Benfleet Downs on the 8th and six newly hatched Ruddy Duck were seen in the area. Last months Dark-bellied Brent Goose from Canvey was swimming off Chalkwell seafront on the 12th. A Black Tern claimed at Wat Tyler on the 14th was all the more remarkable in that it was only seen through the webcam! The second Clouded Yellow of the year was recorded at Paglesham on the 15th. Wader passage was more noticeable in the second half of the month starting with the first returning Dunlin flock on Canvey Point on the 16th, three Spotted Redshank as Wat Tyler on the 20th and peak autumn counts of 12 Green Sandpiper and 34 Common Sandpiper both at Vange Marsh. Four Black Terns at Hole Haven Creek on the 22nd added variety but waders continued to impress with 15 Whimbrel at Fleet Head on the 23rd followed by another 14 on Two Tree Island on the 27th along with 26 Greenshank. The second Hummingbird Hawkmoth was in a garden in Hadleigh on the 28th. A Curlew Sandpiper was a good find in Potton Creek on the 29th. Gulls were much in evidence on the 29th with a huge count of 144 Mediterranean Gulls counted along Southend seafront, whilst at Paglesham Lagoon there was a respectable eight Yellow-legged Gulls and the first Caspian Gull of the autumn. Two pairs of Common Tern were with hatched young at Paglesham Lagoon on the 29th. The star of the summer, the Bottlenose Dolphin at Hole Haven continued to entertain all month.
The first Gannets of the autumn were three adults that cruised past Canvey Point on the 3rd, a flock of 16 Common Scoter also remained there all day. Only five other Gannets were logged all month in the estuary. The following day, on the 4th, the first Arctic Skua of a poor skua passage made its way past Canvey Point. In total, just seven Arctic Skuas passed through this month, with no records of the other skua species all month. The return of ‘Rossi’ the Ring-billed Gull at Westcliff seafront was eagerly anticipated this autumn but to find him back three weeks earlier than usual on the 4th was a surprise. This is now the eighth winter he has honoured us with his presence. There was a small movement of Common Sandpipers between the 5th and 7th with 12 at South Fambridge and 17 at Vange Marsh where three Clouded Yellows were also counted on the 7th. The first of nine Wheatear this month was at Wakering Stairs on the 6th, other early birds were at South Fambridge on the 8th, and Wallasea on the 11th. Peak numbers of Mediterranean Gulls were predictably lower than last month with 51 at Westcliff seafront on the 6th being the best count. A seawatch off Canvey Point on the 7th yielded good numbers of terns, including 125 Sandwich Terns, 150 Common Terns, 5 Arctic Terns, and 15 Black Terns with a Little Gull also keeping company. A Curlew Sandpiper was taking advantage of the newly created habitat at Wallasea on the 11th. A local record count of 19 Yellow-legged Gulls was made at Paglesham Lagoon on the 12th with four Caspian Gulls also present. There was a steady passage of Caspian Gulls this month with eleven different individuals passing through Paglesham. Little Tern arrived off Canvey Point a little later than the other sterna with 50 arriving on the 12th and ten Black Terns passed through the next day as did nine Arctic Terns, and a Porpoise was also present. At Belfairs N.R. on the 13th one observer was lucky enough to find a White Admiral, and a Silver-washed Fritillary as well as the expected Purple Hairstreaks. From the 16th onwards Whinchat were on the move with perhaps eight birds in the latter half of the month, all at either Paglesham Lagoon or Benfleet Creek where six juvenile Stonechats were also counted on the 16th. Two Stoat were an unusual record at South Fambridge on the 19th. Five young Cetti’s Warblers at Wat Tyler on the 20th were indicative of further success there. As this species fortunes go from strength to strength, the Turtle Dove had a dismal showing with no more than three birds counted at any site all summer, and the last birds of the year being two at Paglesham Lagoon on the 20th. A family party of four Hobby over Hadleigh Downs on the 25th were believed to have bred locally. A Curlew Sandpiper was on the tideline at Southchurch on the 26th when a Weasel was spotted at Benfleet Creek. Continuing with mammals, a Muntjac at Woodside Park, Thundersley on the 27th was the first site record. Two Spotted Flycatchers in Gunners Park on the 27th were the first passage birds. Good numbers of Hummingbird Hawkmoths were seen this month with 12 recorded, the majority of which were seen between the 19th and 28th. A Common Buzzard passed over Belfairs on the 30th.
A sprinkling of Hummingbird Hawkmoths remained following the influx over the last two weeks with sightings on 2nd at Rayleigh, 3rd in Leigh, 7th in Thorpe Bay and 11th in Thundersley. Wheatear peaked at a paltry three on Wallasea on the 2nd with a total of 16 passing through the recording area during September. Grey Wagtails were more noticeable from the 3rd onwards with 1-3 at several suburban sites. A Spotted Redshank was seen at Wakering Stairs on the 3rd with another along the Roach from the 6th to the 8th. Four Little Stints at Wallasea on the 3rd were the only ones recorded all month with two remaining to the 5th. A peak autumn count of 31 Greenshank was made on Two Tree Island on the 5th with five Whinchats on Canvey the same day also representing a peak autumn count. A respectable total of 15 passed through the recording area this month. An Osprey eating a fish at Shoebury East Beach on the 5th was an exciting find but soon departed and may conceivably have been the lingering bird on Sheppey. A Spotted Flycatcher at Thundersley on the 5th was one of just three passage birds recorded in the area this month, with no Pied Flycatchers or Black Redstarts reported at all this year and only one Redstart all year. As the fortunes of some species decline, so others improve as demonstrated by a huge count of 120 Little Egrets along the Roach on the 6th and 97 on Two Tree Island on the 9th. Curlew Sandpipers put on a reasonable showing from the 6th to the 16th when small parties of juveniles passed through at three coastal sites including seven along the Roach on the 6th. Marsh Harrier passage was modest with three on the 6th in the vicinity of the Roach the only multiple count, a Merlin was also logged and was a good autumn record. Arguably the best record from the backwaters was two Porpoise that remained in the Crouch off Wallasea from the 6th to the 8th. Two Swifts over central Southend on the 7th were surprisingly the last of the year, whereas six Fieldfare reported over Thundersley the same day were incredibly early. An estimated 50 Yellow Wagtails were counted flying to roost on Potton Island on the 7th, the largest concentration of the year. A passage Short-eared Owl was mobbed as it flew south over the estuary at Gunners Park on the 8th. An Auk that flew upriver past Canvey the same day may have been the Guillemot that was subsequently seen in the Crouch on the 11th. Interestingly the summering Hen Harrier on Wallasea was claimed again on the 8th although this record could even have been a different bird on passage. A small movement of seabirds occurred on the 9th with nine Arctic Skuas passing down the coast, whilst a Black-throated Diver past Canvey was certainly less expected. Large numbers of Black-tailed Godwit were present around Two Tree Island from the 10th onwards when 2,000 were estimated rising to 3,210 on the 20th. A Bar-headed Goose, which had previously been on Wallasea, took up temporary residence on Paglesham Lagoon from the 11th and consorted with the Canada Goose flock, which was counted at 670. A Common Buzzard was reported over Hadleigh C.P. on the 11th. Somewhat surprisingly, last weeks Osprey was reportedly fishing off Shoebury East Beach again on the 12th. At Canvey on the 12th, three Clouded Yellows were the best count of the month in which a total of eight were logged in the area. The first returning Dark-bellied Brent Geese were a flock of 24 birds seen flying south past Shoebury East Beach on the 13th. Two Kingfishers performed well in the weir pool at Battlesbridge on the evening of the 14th. Two Porpoise, possibly the river Crouch duo, were feeding along the tiderace off Canvey seafront early on the 15th. Favourable conditions on the 16th saw 27 Gannets, 40 Common Scoter, six Arctic Skua and seven Great Skua past Canvey Point. Also on the 16th a Ring-necked Parakeet flew over Vicarage Hill, Benfleet with possibly the same bird over Southchurch Park five days later. By the 23rd, the Dark-bellied Brent Goose flock at Two Tree Island had already reached three figures with 250 present. A Convolvulus Hawkmoth was an impressive find in a moth trap at Prittlewell on the morning of the 25th. Seven Bearded Reedlings buzzing over the reedbed at Wat Tyler on the 30th was the highest count for several months.
Last months Bar-headed Goose was still at Paglesham lagoon on the 1st. Conditions looked promising at Canvey seafront on the 6th where a surprisingly good number of terns were still present for the time of year, with 15 Sandwich Terns, 18 Common Terns, 5 Arctic Terns, and the last three Black Terns of the season. Also present were two Guillemot and an Eider these having become extremely scarce in recent years. Three Whinchat reported on Hadleigh Marshes on the 8th were the last of the year, nine Corn Buntings were also counted. A Little Stint was claimed on Two Tree Island on the 10th with another coincidentally the same day on the new habitat at Wallasea where two Merlin could also be found. The first Redwing were a flock of twenty flying in to Coombe Wood on the morning of the 12th. The Thames at Canvey was well watched from the 13th to the 15th during which time there was a good passage of Gannets with 33 on the 13th, 127 on the 14th, and 87 on the 15th. Skuas were also noted over the three days with three Arctic Skua on the 13th surprisingly representing the highest count of the month, a respectable 13 Great Skuas on the 14th, and the first two Pomarine Skuas of the season on the 15th. Other interesting records at Canvey included two Scaup on the 13th and two Little Gulls on the 15th. The last Hobby of the year flew over the Crouch on the 15th and the last House Martins were three over Southend the same day. The second Lesser Redpoll of the year was at Canvey West End on the 16th where a good count of five Clouded Yellows was also made. Two Tree Island hosted six Greenshank and an impressive 89 Little Egrets on the 16th whereas Wat Tyler C.P. hosted five Cetti’s Warblers and five Spotted Redshank which were captured on the webcam. During the RSPB Brent Goose watch at Leigh on the 17th, a Black Brant and a Pale-bellied Brent Goose were claimed amongst the 6,000 Dark-bellied Brent Geese. Two pioneering Bearded Reedlings on Hadleigh Marshes on the 21st were noteworthy. Ruff have been scarce this year so it was pleasing to find 26 at Fleet Head on the 21st whilst nearby at Wakering Stairs a Pomarine Skua flew by. Some interesting observations were made on the 24th starting with the first Red-throated Diver of the winter at Canvey Point, whilst the same observer witnessed a Short-eared Owl coming in off the sea. Also at Canvey Point a Merlin could be found harassing the waders for the next two days and 33 Pintail flew upriver. Along the seawall, the last Wheatear of the autumn was found and the final three Swallows of the year were across the creek on Two Tree Island. Canvey seafront hit the jackpot on the 25th with the best seawatching day of the year. Records included a Manx Shearwater, surprisingly the only shearwater of the year, 43 Common Scoter, all four skua species including six Pomarine Skuas and the only Long-tailed Skua of the year, an impressive 147 Kittiwake and a lingering Little Auk. A Woodcock in Thundersley on the 27th was the first in the recording area since the spring. On the 28th, two Caspian Gulls were found at Barling as was a flock of 30 Corn Bunting.
The first week of the month was highly productive, largely dominated by good records from the Thames. Early morning on the 2nd saw two Guillemot, a Black-throated Diver, an Arctic Skua, a Gannet and an impressive 16 Little Auks all off Canvey. Large numbers of Redwing also arrived en-masse early on the 2nd with probably several hundred passing through across the area. On the 3rd, a Little Auk was found swimming in the Crouch at Wallasea and a Harris’ Hawk complete with jesses was being mobbed by corvids on Canvey. Another Little Auk was close inshore off Canvey Point on the 4th with a Gannet also there. Further down river on the Pier, two Black-throated Divers and a Guillemot were on the sea along with a roosting Purple Sandpiper and 22 Mediterranean Gulls on the Pier structure. Meanwhile, Paglesham Lagoon produced a first-winter Glaucous Gull, two Caspian Gulls and a Black Swan. A Common Buzzard flew north over Wat Tyler whilst two Greenshank resided on the scrape through to the 6th. A Snow Bunting on the seawall at South Fambridge on the 4th remained to the 5th mirroring a similar find last November when three were present. The last Clouded Yellow was flying around Canvey Point on the 5th and the final Little Auk of the influx was off the Pier on the 6th. A Barn Owl flew from Wat Tyler towards Vange Marsh at dusk on the 6th. The next day, the two Black-throated Divers were seen again off the Pier. A Woodcock flew over Rochford early on the 10th when the female Marsh Harrier was hunting again over Wat Tyler. Events quietened down significantly after the 10th with little to report. The 12th produced a Greenshank on Two Tree Island and a Barn Owl on Wallasea. There was a small passage of Stonechat mid-month with two at Wat Tyler, three at Wakering Stairs, two at Fleet Head and one in Gunners Park. A Peregrine performed well along Thorpe Bay seafront terrorising the wader flock between the 16th and 24th. A Tawny Owl visited a Thundersley garden twice in the latter half of the month. A female Marsh Harrier and a good count of three Short-eared Owls were all patrolling the marshes and islands around Fleet Head on the 19th. One or two Green Sandpipers were recorded throughout the month at South Fambridge and Wat Tyler with the latter site reaching a peak of three on the 21st where the Marsh Harrier showed again on the 23rd and the 30th. A male Marsh Harrier was seen over Fleet Head on the 26th with the Short-eared Owls maintaining their numbers from last week with three still present. Nearby, a Merlin was reported from Haven Point. A Little Owl was seen at a traditional central Southend site on the 27th and two Woodcock were reported from Pound Wood, Thundersley on the 30th.
A Cetti’s Warbler singing from scrub beside
Benfleet station on the 1st was unusual in terms of location. One of
only two Woodcock records all month
came from Hadleigh Downs on the 2nd. Green Sandpiper seemed to be wintering in relatively high numbers
with six at Wat Tyler on the 2nd plus a further four on nearby Vange
Marsh and a single at Wakering Stairs. Very strong winds from the 5th
brought some interest to the Thames with 65 Kittiwake, three Little
Gulls and a Razorbill among the
highlights off Canvey where the next day a Merlin
was hunting around the Point where it was seen again on the 23rd. A
wing-tagged Red Kite over Two Tree
Island was a super record on the 5th with what was surely the same
bird over Benfleet shortly after. Leach’s
Petrels were being reported around the country so local birders persevered
with the Thames and were eventually rewarded with one close inshore by the Pier
on the 7th with a further two the same day off Canvey. Other
sightings of interest on the 7th were last month’s Black-throated Diver still at the Pier
and two Razorbill seen from Canvey. Bearded Reedlings are rarely recorded
away from Wat Tyler so to find three birds in the borrowdyke opposite Two Tree
Island on the 9th was good although not unprecedented. A Shag was reported off Canvey Point on
the 9th and a Red Admiral
flying around an Eastwood garden was notably late. A session on Wallasea on the
10th yielded some good birds with a male Hen Harrier representing the only record of this species in the
area this winter, a Merlin, a Short-eared Owl, and three Little Stints that appear to have
remained on the new wetlands since the autumn. 100 Skylarks across the network of nearby fields was an impressive
count these days. Three Greenshank
were found typically wintering on Two Tree Island from the 10th
onwards. Two male Blackcaps were
visiting a Thundersley garden on the 12th with one of them or
perhaps a different bird in another Thundersley garden between the 20th
and 22nd. Another session off Canvey on the 16th saw the Black-throated Divers and Razorbills still present although 21 Gannets were more unseasonal. The 17th
saw a Great Northern Diver seen from
a boat off Leigh that was surprisingly the only report this winter up to the
end of the year at least. The 17th also saw the welcome return of
our wintering Purple Sandpiper along
Southend seafront that remained into 2007. A Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was a pleasant find in Hockley Woods on
the 21st, whilst a male Siskin
on a garden feeder in Ashingdon on the 22nd was surprisingly the sole
record for the area since the spring. A contender for local bird of the year
was the Dartford Warbler found at
Vange Marsh on the 23rd that was seen most days through to 2007 with
a little patience and luck. At Paglesham Lagoon on the 23rd another Caspian Gull was found as were seven Yellow-legged Gulls, and at Two Tree
Island a Spotted Redshank was
present and remained throughout the month. Christmas Eve failed to deliver any
surprises although it did provide some good peak counts of local birds with 32 Red-throated Divers, two Black-throated Divers and 14 Guillemots off Canvey Point, and 18 Goldeneye and 105 Avocet along the Roach. Unsurprisingly, not much was recorded over
the next few days with 11 Guillemot
and a Gannet off the Pier and a Woodcock over Benfleet Creek the
highlights. A Slavonian Grebe was a
good find off Two Tree Island on the 29th and was seen again the
next day and on the 1st January. Paglesham Lagoon on the 30th
held 18 Pintail, another Caspian Gull and remarkably, an adult Ring-billed Gull that was a different
bird to ‘Rossi’. Eight Stonechat