As is usual, birders were out in force on the 1st eager to kick-start their yearlists. As is now customary, `Rossi' the Ring-billed Gull at Westcliff was top of the hitlist and duly obliged. Two Purple Sandpipers were found on the 1st on the Pier, the first time that more than one has wintered here since January 1990. Also at the Pier on the 1st were ten Guillemots and a single Razorbill. A Woodcock and four Tawny Owls were at Hadleigh Downs at dawn and nearby, Two Tree Island continued to host three wintering Greenshank. Somewhat unexpectedly the male Dartford Warbler at Vange Marsh present since 23rd December was joined by a second bird, a female although only for one day. The male remained through to the 14th. Two Green Sandpipers were found wintering beside a puddle at a construction site near Southend on the 1st where they remained all month. A Lesser Spotted Woodpecker at Belfairs Golf Course on the 2nd was one of only a handful of sightings away from Hockley Woods. Two Snow Buntings along Southchurch seafront on the 2nd remained through to early February and were quite likely part of the flock that have wintered here since December 2004. Towards the end of the month they could often be found further along at Shoebury Coastguards. A Bullfinch was logged at Wat Tyler on the 2nd and a Marsh Harrier was there on the 5th. A Merlin and a Spotted Redshank were seen along Benfleet Creek on the 3rd. Guillemots reached a high of twelve at the Pier on the 4th. A Common Pipistrelle at Thundersley on the 5th was remarkable and indicative of the generally mild conditions. Caspian Gulls were almost non-existent during the first winter period with just two at Hole Haven on the 6th contrasting strongly with the successes of last year. A Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was seen again at Hockley Woods on the 6th. A visit to the Pier on the 7th yielded thirty Mediterranean Gulls, seven Red-throated Divers, nine Guillemot and best of all, the wintering Purple Sandpipers now numbered three, possibly representing the largest `flock' in Essex this winter! White-fronted Geese were rumoured to be wintering at Wat Tyler with a report of five on the 10th the most reliable. Twenty Goldeneye and fifteen Pintail around Paglesham Lagoon on the 13th were the best counts of the month whilst Lapwing reached 3,000 the same day at Hole Haven. The 14th produced some excellent records starting with the return of the wintering Hawfinch at Hockley Woods for the fourth year in succession, which remained to mid-March. Harriers were few and far between this winter with two Marsh Harriers at Wakering Stairs the only multiple count of the winter whilst nearby a ringtail Hen Harrier was the sole record of the first-winter period. Short-eared Owls were also in short supply this winter with two on Potton Island representing the only record from the marshes around the Wakering area since November. By contrast, Avocet wintered in ever increasing numbers with 156 at Two Tree Island, 99 on the Roach, and 160 around Wakering mid-month. 2,800 Golden Plover at Wakering on the 14th were also notable and a Woodcock was on Benfleet Downs. The new lagoons at Wallasea held a Common Scoter and a redhead Goosander that stayed until mid March. A Small Tortoiseshell was on the wing in Rayleigh on the 14th, as was a Red Admiral on Hadleigh Marshes the same day with another at Hockley Woods on the 21st. A Short-eared Owl on the saltmarsh at Wat Tyler on the 19th was a good record with the same bird seen again on the 31st. Hockley Woods revealed a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker again on the 20th along with a Bullfinch which was seen again on the 25th and 26th. In a poor winter for Short-eared Owl, a single was noted on Two Tree Island on just three dates this month between the 21st and 27th. Nearby at Benfleet Creek on the 21st came an unconfirmed report of three Twite along the seawall whilst a Ring-necked Parakeet at Paglesham on the 21st was surely of dubious origin. 43 Corn Buntings on Canvey Island on the 22nd was the largest wintering flock in the recording area by far. A wintering Blackcap favoured Wat Tyler from the 22nd to the 25th, with two Greenshank and a Marsh Harrier also there at this time. Last month's Black-throated Diver at the Pier was seen just once this month, on the 25th but was joined by an obliging Great Northern Diver the same day with two there, both juveniles, on the 28th and 29th. Single Razorbill were noted on the 27th and 28th. A Great Northern Diver at South Fambridge on the 27th was almost certainly the same bird as the one at Wallasea three days later. The Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers at Hockley Woods performed daily from the 27th through to mid-March with three birds present, a pair and a single female. The Marsh Harrier at Wat Tyler and the three overwintering Little Stints on Wallasea were both logged on the 27th. A Blackcap was found in Leigh on the 28th and a Shag was on the Pier on the 29th. The only record of Bearded Reedling all month typically came from Wat Tyler with four on the 31st.
Southend Pier produced some good records on the 3rd with an impressive six Great Northern Divers now present along with six Red-throated Divers, a Black-necked Grebe and four Guillemots. Also on the 3rd a Marsh Harrier over Wallasea was probably the bird from the Wakering marshes and another Red Admiral braved the chill conditions at Leigh. Wallasea turned up a Black Brant, another Great Northern Diver and a Merlin on the 4th along with the Little Stints and Goosander which showed all month. The Black-throated Diver made one of its infrequent and erratic visits to the Pier on the 4th whilst nearby the two Snow Buntings along Southchurch seafront were seen for the last time, departing nine days earlier than last year. The Ring-billed Gull at Westcliff was seen on the 4th and this constituted the sole sighting all month and surely reflected a lack of observer effort rather than a genuine disappearance. An escaped Red-sided Eclectus brought some intense colour to a Leigh garden on the 4th. The Wat Tyler Marsh Harrier was noted again on the 7th and a Jack Snipe was reported on Two Tree Island the same day. A Crimson Rosella in a Prittlewell garden on the 8th continued the escaped exotic theme. The Two Tree Island Short-eared Owl remained uncharacteristically unreliable although two birds were reported on the 10th along the creek with further sightings of singles on the 13th and 18th. Wat Tyler held three Greenshank and two Bullfinch on the 15th. The second Small Tortoiseshell of the year flew around an Eastwood garden on the 15th and an Arctic Skua claimed off Canvey was equally unseasonal. Hadleigh Downs typically held a Woodcock and a Bullfinch on the 17th but the two Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers there were unexpected. Meanwhile, the Hockley Woods pair continued to show throughout the month. A Ring-necked Parakeet at Canewdon on the 17th was possibly last months bird from Paglesham and brings to three the number of different parakeet species seen in the area over the last two weeks global warming! On Wallasea on the 18th the Black Brant from earlier in the month surfaced again and 2,000 Lapwing were notable, the three Little Stints continued to show. A Merlin was hunting Hadleigh Marshes on the 18th and the two Green Sandpipers at the Southend construction site remained. Blackcaps visited gardens in Leigh and Rayleigh on the 19th and 20th respectively heralding a small influx with additional birds in Hockley Woods and Benfleet by the end of the month. The three Purple Sandpipers and a Great Northern Diver remained at the Pier on the 19th and 20th. An Adder on Benfleet Downs on the 21st and yet another Red Admiral at Rochford on the 24th held promise of spring yet contrasted with counts of 100 Fieldfare and eleven Goldeneye at Paglesham on the 24th where twenty Pintail were also present. Ten Nuthatch were counted in Hockley Woods on the 24th where the Hawfinch continued to entertain those with patience through the month. The Wat Tyler Marsh Harrier was seen again on the 24th when its smaller cousin, the Merlin was chasing smaller prey over on Wallasea the same day with a suburban sighting in Leigh on the 28th when one was chasing Starlings around the rooftops.
Two Red-throated Divers, a Great Northern Diver and two Purple Sandpipers were all recorded from the Pier on the 1st. A series of Peregrine sightings in central Southend started on the 2nd when a male took up residence on a tall office building. This was followed by the arrival of a female on the 21st with both birds making protracted stays through to mid May. The Wakering Marsh Harrier was recorded just once this month, on the 4th. A small movement of Woodcock was noted from the 4th to the 13th with up to three in Hockley Woods, two on Benfleet Downs and one near Belfairs during the period. The first potential migrant Blackcap was singing at Benfleet on the 7th with only four other birds arriving across the area by the end of the month. Chiffchaff fared a little better but were still comparatively few and somewhat late in arriving with the first bird singing at Wat Tyler on the 9th, and ten others by month end. Unusually, no Chiffchaffs were seen between mid October and mid March. Indeed only one was seen in the previous winter yet curiously up to five regularly overwintered until 2002. A pair of Little Ringed Plovers at Vange Marsh on the 7th equalled the earliest ever arrival date for Essex. They took a liking to the new habitat and remained through to the summer. Two White Wagtails there the next day proved that spring migration was managing to struggle through despite the persistent northerlies, even if it was only at Vange Marsh. The first Common Lizard and Comma of the spring were at Benfleet Downs and Eastwood respectively on the 10th whereas signs of winter lingered with a report of a Velvet Scoter off Two Tree Island the same day. Noticeable movements of Redwing occurred nightly between the 7th and 14th with a few hundred migrating north over the week with scarcely any remaining after the 14th. A Peacock butterfly at Wallasea on the 11th was the first of the spring and Common Pipistrelle became more active with records from Rayleigh, Southend Airport, and Shoebury all between the 12th and 16th. A Ring-necked Parakeet at Rochford on the 12th was probably the bird seen previously at Canewdon and Paglesham. Unlike the rest of the county, Common Buzzard remain scarce with only occasional passage birds seen. The first of six spring birds came in off the sea at Westcliff on the 13th. Between the 16th and 18th the Hockley Woods Hawfinch and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker were seen for the final time as were the Wallasea Goosander and Little Stints. The unusually elusive Two Tree Island Short-eared Owl was seen just once all month, on the 20th. `Rossi' the Ring-billed Gull was seen for the last time on the early date of the 22nd completing his eighth consecutive winter with us. 43 Snipe on Bowers Marsh on the 25th was a respectable count these days. Three Spotted Redshank were reported in the creek at Wat Tyler on the 26th. The 27th held a surprise in the shape of a male summer plumaged Brambling, a cracking record for a Rayleigh garden, and the sole record for the entire winter. The first Brimstone was in Belfairs N.R. the same day with another on Hadleigh Downs the following day. The first Common Tern were two seen offshore from Shoebury on the 28th. The first reported Swallow was a single at Wat Tyler on the very late date of the 29th, a day that saw two Marsh Harriers hunting together over the nearby reedbed. Finally, on the 31st twenty Pintail appeared at Vange Marsh which is unusual as there a rarely more than a handful of birds passing through here all year.
Ten Adders were found at Pitsea on the 1st. A superb Red Kite was watched flying north-east over a Benfleet garden on the 2nd. The two Green Sandpipers, which had wintered at a Southend construction site, were seen for the final time on the 3rd. A Little Ringed Plover at Wat Tyler on the 4th proved that Vange Marsh doesn't hold the monopoly on this delicate wader. The 6th produced several interesting records with four Red-breasted Mergansers on the Roach the last of the winter, a single Purple Sandpiper on the Pier also the last of the winter, and the Two Tree Island Short-eared Owl put in its last appearance. A Sandwich Tern fishing off the Pier on the 6th was the first of just five spring migrants, a Common Buzzard drifted north over Hadleigh Downs and three Sparrowhawks were also counted there. As is typical of recent years, Sparrowhawks became much more numerous and visible during April with 54 reported sightings during the month. The Short-eared Owl in the Wakering area was seen again on the 7th. The first of only nine Willow Warblers was at Wat Tyler on the 7th with all sites only holding singles. The most popular find of the month was a summer plumaged Slavonian Grebe on Paglesham Lagoon on the 7th which was joined by a second bird on the 10th with both still present on the 19th. Another Common Buzzard passed through on the 8th, this time at Canewdon. The first Yellow Wagtail was at Fleet Head on the 9th where numbers increased to twenty on the 24th. The national influx of passage Bar-tailed Godwits was felt from the 9th through to the end of the month with flocks of between ten and twenty at Two Tree Island, South Fambridge, and Wakering Stairs. The first passage Whimbrel was also seen around this time starting with a single in Benfleet Creek on the 10th and the first Sedge Warbler was singing at Paglesham Lagoon. Thirty-nine Common Seals at Buxey Sands in the Crouch estuary on the 11th are indicative of their continued upturn in numbers. A further haul-out off Westcliff also regularly attracts up to twenty. The first House Martins were prospecting at Canewdon on the 11th and the first Wheatear was on Hadleigh Downs also on the 11th and about four weeks later than normal. More Wheatear trickled through almost immediately with thirteen other birds at several locations but only ever as singles or occasionally as a pair. A widely appreciated first-winter Little Gull arrived at Wat Tyler on the 12th and was constantly in view in front of the hides until the 21st. A further four were at Vange Marsh on the 15th. The first Sand Martin and Whitethroat were both at Canvey West End on the 13th. Dawn at Vange Marsh on the 14th provided a stunning singing White-spotted Bluethroat for one lucky individual yet despite extensive coverage was not seen or heard again although a Lesser Whitethroat and a Common Sandpiper there were both firsts for the year. A Reed Warbler at Wat Tyler also on the 14th was the first as was a Cuckoo in Rawreth, the forerunner of about twenty five birds this month. Three Green Sandpipers were at Wat Tyler on the 15th as was a Water Vole with all still present the next day including the vole! A small influx of Nightingales occurred from the 16th starting with two in Gunners Park, one of which remained into May after taking up residence. Six others at five further sites arrived by the end of the month. The 17th saw three Little Ringed Plovers now at Wat Tyler and an adult Gannet was close inshore at Gunners Park. Good numbers of Dark-bellied Brent Geese remained with 270 still at Leigh on the 18th with a few birds lingering into May. A Guillemot off the Pier on the 19th was a little more unusual however. Hobby arrived back on the 20th with a single at Vange Marsh and a further four birds seen from three other sites before May. The Wakering Marsh Harrier was seen on the 21st and again on the 29th, these being the only sightings of the month from any location. Nearby, a single Ruff at Fleet Head was the sole spring record. The first Swifts of the year arrived over Leigh on the evening of the 22nd with a widespread arrival the next day when the first double-figure count of Swallows was finally made with ten at Gunners Park. Two reasonable counts of Corn Buntings were made with fifteen singing males at Fleet Head on the 22nd and twenty five in one flock near Stambridge on the 25th. A Common Buzzard was tracked from Southend Airport to central Southend on the 23rd with another followed from Rayleigh, over Eastwood and out across Leigh on the 27th. A Spotted Redshank was at Fleet Head on the 24th with another on Vange Marsh from the 28th where four Little Ringed Plovers were now present. The 28th produced some good records, the most notable of which was an unconfirmed report of a Hoopoe in a garden in Leigh. Other notable records on the 28th were eleven Whimbrel and a dozen Hare on Wallasea, confirmed successful breeding of Stonechat on Canvey, and the first Turtle Dove of what seems like a lean year was on Hadleigh Marshes along with a Clouded Yellow. Spring passage of Greenshank which had continued in very small numbers throughout the month gained momentum in the last week and reached eleven at Vange Marsh on the 29th and 30th. Also at Vange Marsh at this time was the first Small Heath of the year with another next day on Benfleet Downs. Cetti's Warblers continued their impressive expansion with three birds at Wakering Common on the 29th representing yet another new site for them and bringing to seven the number of sites they were recorded from in this month alone. A Garden Warbler was claimed, fittingly and perhaps unusually, from a Rayleigh garden on the 29th. On the last day of the month a Spoonbill flew in at Vange Marsh but was promptly flushed by a train and flew east where it was subsequently seen passing Wat Tyler but unfortunately continued onwards.
The Peregrines which had been frequenting the office blocks in central Southend earlier in the year made a surprise return on the 1st with up to three birds resident throughout the summer providing daily sightings. The Greenshank flock at Vange Marsh reached a spring peak of 15 on the 1st with numbers then dwindling to just one on the 20th. The Spotted Redshank also at Vange Marsh ended its four day stay on the 1st. A Great Northern Diver was reported off Canvey on the 4th, this would be one of only a handful of sightings in Essex in May if confirmed. Nightingales were vocal and widespread at the start of the month with five birds singing at four sites between the 2nd and 10th. The prairie-like landscape of Wallasea Island held 20 Corn Buntings, nine Yellow Wagtails, two Wheatear and seven Brown Hare on the 5th. The next day the newly created wetlands played host to a party of four Black Swans. Two pairs of Little Owl were seen with regularity around Ballards Gore and Canewdon from the 6th to the 21st. A Curlew Sandpiper on Wallasea on the 12th was an excellent spring record. Three Turtle Doves at Barling Hall the same day was the highest count in the area this month with just singletons or pairs reported from eight other sites in May. Wheatear passage peaked unusually late this year with six birds in Gunners Park on the 16th and a further 14 birds this month in ones and twos from ten coastal sites with the last bird on the 20th May at South Fambridge. Peregrines at Wallasea on the 13th and Wakering on the 16th appeared to be different from the Southend birds. Three Gannets and 79 Dark-bellied Brent Geese were watched off Canvey Point on the 14th. The resident but elusive Tawny Owl at Loftmans Corner was seen on the 15th and again on the 21st. A Marsh Harrier glided over Paglesham Lagoon and continued onwards over Wakering on the 16th, this being the only record all month. The highlight of the month was the Temminck's Stint found at Vange Marsh on the 16th where it remained to the 18th; also present were two Common Sandpipers. A Common Buzzard drifted north over Westcliff on the 19th and the same observer heard a reeling Grasshopper Warbler at Gunners Park the next day, sadly the only spring record. It would seem that we have lost the popular Two Tree Island birds, as they have not returned now since 2005. The second Red Kite of the year headed north-east over Benfleet on the 21st on the exact same trajectory as the first one had at the beginning of the April. A Tawny Owl was located in suburban Rayleigh on the 24th and 25th whilst a Treecreeper in Belfairs Woods on the 24th was a good summer record. Another Temminck's Stint was found at Vange Marsh on the 26th and was deemed to be a different bird to the one seen earlier in the month. Although it was reported through to the 29th it managed to elude the majority of the locals. The month concluded with two Little Ringed Plovers and a Bearded Reedling at Wat Tyler on the 27th and a late Common Sandpiper at Vange Marsh on the 29th.
A probable Common Buzzard was thermalling high over Rayleigh Mount on the 1st. A Little Gull early on the 2nd joined the pair of Little Ringed Plover at Vange Marsh. The sole pair of Spotted Flycatchers in the area returned to their central Southend location once more on the 2nd maintaining their precarious status as a local breeding species. Nearby, a Tawny Owl was heard to call from a suburban road later the same day. Hummingbird Hawkmoths were very scarce this year so it was surprising to have a record so early in the year with one in Belfairs on the 2nd. A Barn Owl hunted around Paglesham Lagoon on the 3rd and there were six Yellow Wagtails nearby at Fleet Head with another four at Barling on the 10th. A pair of Dark-breasted Brent Geese were happily grazing the algae at Wallasea wetlands on the 3rd seemingly oblivious to the fact they should be several thousand miles away by now. A White-eyed Conure was a colourful if not raucous visitor to an Eastwood garden on the 4th and 5th. A party of seven Yellowhammers, which included several young, were on farmland near Ashingdon on the 7th, the same day that the Goosander made a surprise return to Wallasea since disappearing in mid March. Most years there is a claim of Coal Tit and this year was no exception with a pair noted in a Benfleet garden on the 8th, quite why this species is so rare in this area we can only speculate but must be partly due to lack of coniferous woodland. Another much reduced resident, the Bullfinch was recorded with two on the 8th in Belfairs. A Tawny Owl showed well at dusk at Paglesham on the 12th and was twitched by several birders as it sat on its favoured telegraph pole each evening through to the 17th. Nearby, the pair of Little Owls also showed each evening and young were also heard to call. Other Little Owls were reported this month from Wallasea and Hadleigh Downs. A trip aboard the Lady Essex on the 12th yielded some interesting records from the Outer Crouch estuary and included three Fulmar, two Gannets, three Black Terns, 19 Common Seals, and a Harbour Porpoise. A Grey Wagtail in Belfairs on the 12th was a good mid-summer record as were two Treecreepers seen there the next day. Birders turned their attention to butterflies mid-month with the highlights being 40 Small Skipper, four Large Skipper, five White-letter Hairstreaks, two Brown Argus and eight Marbled Whites all on Hadleigh Downs on the 13th. Other notable records included 200 Heath Fritillary in Belfairs N.R. on the 13th, an Elephant Hawkmoth trapped at Prittlewell on the 14th, and twenty Marbled Whites along Benfleet Creek on the 17th. A Clouded Yellow was on Hadleigh Downs on the 28th, and there were four Painted Ladies from a scattering of locations throughout the month. The pager reported a Ring-necked Parakeet in Gunners Park on the 15th although it was not subsequently seen despite searching. Four Turtle Doves at Wakering Stairs on the 16th was a reasonable count these days whilst four Mediterranean Gulls on the scrape at Wat Tyler on the 20th were the peak of a small passage of adult birds here during the month. A Spotted Redshank on Two Tree Island on the 22nd signalled the start of return wader passage and was quickly followed by another the next day at Wat Tyler. Returning Green Sandpipers were also at Wat Tyler on the 23rd and 29th, whilst eight Bearded Reedlings were seen in the reedbed there on the 23rd and two Hobby and a Peregrine were also present on several days during the month. A single Dark-bellied Brent Goose at Leigh on the 25th may have been one of the Wallasea individuals. An unconfirmed report of a ringtail Hen Harrier and two Red-breasted Mergansers came from the creeks around the Roach on the 29th when both species were claimed from the Lady Essex boat trip. Seven Yellowhammers were at Lion Creek on the 30th.
Wat Tyler hosted two Peregrines, five Turtle Doves and four returning Green Sandpipers on the 1st. Newborn pups boosted the Common Seal numbers round the Crouch and Roach complex to a maximum of 27 seen on the 1st, which included eleven pups. A pair of Marsh Harriers put in sporadic appearances around Wallasea and the Roach area with sightings from the 5th to the 22nd. A Spotted Redshank at Wat Tyler on the 6th was reported daily through to the 16th and Mediterranean Gulls now reached eight on the scrape, and once again were all adults. Three White-letter Hairstreaks were on Hadleigh Downs on the 7th. Other notable butterfly sightings at this time were an Essex Skipper at Vange Marsh on the 8th, and a Clouded Yellow along with dozens of Marbled Whites at Canvey West End, also on the 8th. Evidence of local breeding success of Little Ringed Plover came on the 8th when a count of twelve at Vange Marsh included eight juveniles. Other juvenile Little Ringed Plover were seen this month at Wat Tyler and Fleet Head. A Water Vole was also seen at Vange Marsh on the 8th. Incredibly, the Goosander at Wallasea was seen again on the 8th moving it into the category of a summering individual of which there have only been four previous Essex records. Tetrad survey work on Wallasea on the 8th gave an impressive estimate of 100 pairs of Corn Buntings across the island. The 11th saw an immature Spoonbill flying very low over an Eastwood house, (mine!) which then settled at Wat Tyler on the 15th where it remained to the 22nd. It proved very popular and was the bird of the summer and thanks to modern technology could be watched from the comfort of your home via the RSPB webcam! One of the summering Dark-bellied Brent Geese was seen again on the 14th, this time at Wakering Stairs. Wallasea wetlands held 14 Greenshank, 20 Yellow Wagtails, most of which were juveniles and a Clouded Yellow on the 15th. Wat Tyler had a brief visit from an adult Arctic Tern on the 15th and Green Sandpiper passage became more discernible with birds now recorded here daily through to the end of the month including a maximum of seven on the 16th. As expected, Mediterranean Gull numbers along Southend seafront began to climb steeply, with diligent counting recording 86 birds on the 16th, 88 on the 17th, and 89 on the 28th. A Ring-necked Parakeet that flew over a Benfleet garden on the 17th may be the one wide-ranging individual that has been in the area since mid January. A Hummingbird Hawkmoth was at South Fambridge on the 18th. Good counts of several returning waders were made over the next few days, the best being 106 Avocet on Two Tree Island on the 21st, with 1,039 Black-tailed Godwit, 21 Greenshank and 15 Common Sandpiper all there on the 24th. Other good wader counts included 27 Whimbrel and 86 Greenshank at Wakering Stairs on the 22nd. Making up the numbers were six Ruff at Fleet Head on the 21st, a Spotted Redshank there on the 22nd, and an unconfirmed report of a Little Stint on Wallasea on the 21st. Common Tern already numbered 150 around Southend Pier on the 21st, and 15 Yellow Wagtails were at Fleet Head on the 22nd where 10 Brown Hare were also seen. Caspian Gulls have been much scarcer this year so it was good to have a first-summer individual on Two Tree Island on the 24th. An interesting record came on the 24th of a Hobby taking a Common Pipistrelle in mid-flight at dusk in Hadleigh, highlighting the incredible agility and speed these falcons possess. The first returning Wheatear of the autumn was at South Fambridge on the 28th. At least three Peregrines continued to roam around central Southend throughout the month.
Nine Green Sandpipers at Wat Tyler on the 1st equalled the best count of the autumn. A flock of 60 Linnets on Hadleigh Marsh on the 1st is worthy of note these days particularly as there were many juveniles among them. Small numbers of Arctic Terns passed through this month with nine off the Pier on the 1st the best count, with a further nine seen from Canvey towards the end of the month. Mediterranean Gulls smashed through the `ton' on the 2nd with an impressive 137 on the mussel beds off Southend seafront with 127 still there on the 4th. As hoped for, the central Southend pair of Spotted Flycatchers revealed themselves on the 2nd after being typically secretive since early June and it was pleasing to report that they again successfully reared three young. A garden on the outskirts of Rayleigh held two Bullfinch, two Purple Hairstreaks, and a Small Skipper on the 5th. Seabird passage was non-existent on the 8th at Canvey with the first Black Tern of the autumn the only record of note. A ringtail Hen Harrier was again reported from the Lady Essex boat as it sailed around the backwaters of the Roach. This lends credence to the earlier record at the end of June, and conceivably could even be the same bird that summered on Wallasea last year. Wader passage was sluggish with five Ruff and 35 Whimbrel at Fleet Head on the 10th and 917 Curlew on Two Tree Island on the 12th the only noteworthy flocks. A Grey Wagtail feeding a youngster in central Southend on the 10th was the first confirmed local breeding although it has been suspected for several years now. A first-summer Caspian Gull was found at Paglesham Lagoon on the 11th. On Hadleigh Marshes, a rufous phase Cuckoo was a most unusual find on the 11th, and two Whinchat were also there. On nearby Two Tree Island the first returning Curlew Sandpiper in a rather lean year was reported. A Spotted Redshank at Wat Tyler on the 16th may have been last month's lingering bird. After a quiet first half of the month, the second half kicked off with a bang when an adult White-rumped Sandpiper was found roosting on Canvey Point. The bird was a deserved reward for two birders who had meticulously scrutinised the myriad of roosting waders. The bird unfortunately soon departed on the falling tide before other birders arrived and despite searching the following day could not be relocated. Good fortune followed when it was again found roosting the following week on the 25th where it stayed long enough for a total of nine people to connect with it. This constitutes only the second local record and the eighth for Essex. An Osprey at Wakering Stairs on the 19th was another excellent local record particularly as it remained throughout most of the day. The first productive seawatch of the autumn was at Canvey on the 20th when 23 Black Terns, 40 Little Terns, 350 Common Terns and 70 Sandwich Terns were expectedly accompanied by their marauding brethren in the shape of eight Arctic Skua the first of the autumn. Also on the 20th, Rossi, the Ring-billed Gull famously returned for his ninth winter at Westcliff. Further seawatching at Canvey over the next three days produced some excellent records. The 21st was the most productive with all four skua species recorded. The totals were two Long-tailed Skua, two Pomarine Skua, 16 Arctic Skua and six Great Skua plus a supporting cast of a Fulmar, 170 Gannets, 20 Common Scoter, a Little Gull, 100 Kittiwake, 400 Common Terns, 28 Black Terns and a Harbour Porpoise. On the 23rd the highlights were 183 Gannets, 29 Arctic Skua, 26 Great Skua, 12 Black Terns and the Harbour Porpoise was still present. Back on land, several Whinchat moved through with three on Two Tree Island on the 25th and three at Canvey West End on the 28th and a further five other birds seen before the month's end. A Common Buzzard was seen over Westcliff on the 26th with it or another hunting over Hadleigh Downs the following day. Gunners Park held a few goodies on the 27th with the only Redstart of the autumn, a Spotted Flycatcher, and five Wheatear. 65 Little Terns at Canvey Point on the 27th was the best gathering of the autumn. A report of two Camberwell Beauties feeding on rotten plums in a private Thundersley garden on the 27th would have got many hearts fluttering had viewing been possible. A partially oiled Guillemot in the Roach on the 28th was the first of the autumn. A flock of at least 300 House Sparrows at Canewdon on the 29th was notable these days, and on Canvey Point on the 30th all was quiet apart from two Curlew Sandpipers. The Southend Peregrine clan continued their stay.
As hoped for, the month provided many highlights with a particularly good run of scarce Essex birds during the final few days. An Osprey at Wakering Stairs on the 1st and 2nd may have been a different bird to the one in August. Whinchat had been moving through since the end of August and five together on Hadleigh Marshes on the 1st was a reasonable peak. A Curlew Sandpiper and six Common Sandpipers were on Two Tree Island on the 2nd. The last Turtle Dove and Swift of the summer were seen on the 2nd at Wakering Stairs and Hadleigh Marshes respectively. A modest movement of seabirds on the 3rd off Canvey included a Pomarine Skua, 29 Arctic Skua, 14 Arctic Terns and 26 Little Terns whilst next day at nearby Tewke's Creek a near adult Caspian Gull was found. Vange Marsh had a fly-over Common Buzzard on the 5th and nine Green Sandpipers around the margins. A passage Spotted Flycatcher was in Gunners Park on the 7th. There was a cluster of Tawny Owl records between the 7th and 19th with birds strangely deciding to become vocal. Birds were calling from Benfleet, Thundersley, Leigh and Southend Airport; all the sites had produced no records all year and only one record subsequently. The `Big Little Egret' count on the 9th documented 107 around Fleet Head, 70 on Two Tree Island and 63 on Wallasea. Also around the Fleet Head area on the 9th were three Hobby and 36 Greenshank, whilst Wallasea also hosted four juvenile Curlew Sandpipers. Hadleigh Marshes had a Clouded Yellow and one of the last Whinchat on the 9th, nearby Two Tree Island held five Wheatear, and 60 Mediterranean Gulls were still loafing around the Pier. The middle of the month was surprisingly quiet. A Curlew Sandpiper was on Two Tree Island on the 12th. A Guillemot at Canvey on the 13th lingered to the 24th before moving to the Pier on the 29th where it was joined by a second bird. A Spotted Flycatcher was in a Thundersley garden on the 13th and a Clouded Yellow was at Tewke's Creek. Our flagship Essex bird, the Dark-bellied Brent Goose returned for the winter at Two Tree Island when a flock flew in on exactly the same date as last year, the 13th. Spotted Redshank passage was erratic but five were together at Vange Marsh on the 16th. Seawatching was slow on the 17th at Canvey although a Manx Shearwater was some reward along with a Pomarine Skua and eleven Arctic Skua. The garden in Rayleigh that appears to be a recent stronghold for Bullfinch had four birds present on the 19th. Towards the end of the month Kingfishers were recorded from almost every stretch of water, both inland and coastal including three rather showy birds in Southchurch Park East. A Bar-headed Goose at Canewdon on the 21st may well be the bird that has roamed the area for the last year. Two boat trips to the Outer Crouch estuary on the 22nd gave a record count of 41 Common Seals and three Grey Seals, whilst avian interest came in the form of a Razorbill alongside one boat and over 100 Little Egrets counted around the backwaters from the other. A Clouded Yellow was at Belton Hills on the 22nd with three next day in Gunners Park. The Black-tailed Godwit flock in Benfleet Creek numbered 1500 on the 23rd. There was an apparent arrival of Wheatear on the 23rd with four in Gunners Park, three on Hadleigh Marshes and three at Wakering Stairs. A rather dry Vange Marsh still managed to attract three Spotted Redshank on the 26th. During the next few days the region hit a `purple patch' with some truly excellent sightings. It all started on the 27th with a seawatch at Canvey yielding the first Red-throated Diver of the winter, 178 Gannets, 27 Arctic Skua, and a peak for the year of 28 Great Skua. A Hen Harrier was also watched crossing the Thames from Kent and what must have been the same bird was seen later that day at Fleet Head. Also of note were 15 Common Scoter off Southend seafront. The following day on the 28th, seawatching got even better with all four skua species recorded off Canvey when three Long-tailed Skua, nine Great Skua, 17 Arctic Skua and a Pomarine Skua passed by. Even better were the two Sooty Shearwaters that came up the estuary in the evening as well as five Little Gulls and an Eider. Quality birds continued to arrive the next day with three Red-throated Divers now in the Thames as well as a Long-tailed Duck, a very early Red-breasted Merganser, two Guillemots and a Harbour Porpoise all on the 29th. In Gunners Park a first-winter Great Grey Shrike was a truly excellent local find which then moved along to the adjacent Wakering Stairs where it remained to the 30th. Whilst birders were watching the Great Grey Shrike in Gunners Park yet another Osprey passed magnificently low and overhead and seven Stonechat were the advance party for a further 25 which arrived between Benfleet Creek and Wakering Stairs the next day. Even the waders got in on the action with a Little Stint and four juvenile Curlew Sandpipers on Wallasea where five Wheatear were also present. Further evidence of the changing seasons were the first Redwings with five at Butts Hill N.R., Canewdon. That was the 29th! The excellent run of scarce birds maintained its momentum on the 30th when the finder of the Great Grey Shrike found a juvenile Red-backed Shrike at Wakering Stairs, not bad! The Red-backed Shrike remained through to the 4th October and it was possible to experience the unique local opportunity of viewing both shrikes from the same place at the same time. Solitary Lesser Redpoll, Siskin and Spotted Flycatcher added yet further variety to the shrike watchers at Wakering Stairs on the 30th with two Clouded Yellows there barely getting a second glance. Another passage Spotted Flycatcher was in Gunners Park on the 30th.
The excellent run of birds continued with the last big seawatch of the autumn off Canvey on the 1st. The highlights of six hours of frenzied passage were a Black-throated Diver, a Fulmar, a Manx Shearwater, 168 Gannets, two Pomarine Skua, 31 Arctic Skua, eight Great Skua, 48 Little Gulls, two juvenile Sabine's Gulls, 15 Kittiwake and 17 Arctic Terns. Another long seawatch on the 2nd at Canvey yielded hardly anything of note except four Eider, which have become exceptionally scarce over recent years. A Barn Owl was in Southend on the 2nd with another on Two Tree Island the next day where 105 Little Egrets were also counted. A Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was at Belfairs golf course on the 2nd with it or another in Belfairs Woods the following day. A Sand Martin was caught up with a movement of House Martins through Gunners Park on the 3rd with no further records of either by the end of the month. Stonechat numbers continued to swell with another notable influx between the 3rd and the 7th with eight in Gunners Park, four on Hadleigh Marshes and eleven at Wakering Stairs among the more notable counts. The Red-backed Shrike at Wakering Stairs proved popular over the weekend of the 2nd and 3rd but was seen for the last time on the evening of the 4th. By contrast, the Great Grey Shrike had moved on. A Short-eared Owl had returned to Two Tree Island on the 4th although was not seen again by the end of the month. A small movement of Brambling was discernible mid month starting with four at Belfairs N.R. on the 6th with others later in the month at Leigh and Thundersley. As is typical at this time of year several Siskins were also noted passing through with a flock of ten at Belfairs N.R. on the 7th the best count with a further 18 birds reported at several other sites during the month. Clouded Yellows still continued to be seen with one on Hadleigh Marshes on the 7th the first of six this month. The Brent Goose flock at Leigh held the first Black Brant and Pale-bellied Brent Goose of the autumn on the 11th. Both can now be expected each winter among the thronging Dark-bellied Brent Geese and are deserved reward to those with the patience to scrutinise the flock. Five Fieldfare at South Fambridge on the 11th were also the first of the winter and two Common Lizards in Gunners Park on the 11th were making the most of the weakening sun. More patient scanning of 4900 Dark-bellied Brent Geese at Leigh on the 12th now revealed the presence of two Black Brant. Vange Marsh which had a poor autumn due to insufficient water levels still managed to hold four Green Sandpipers and a Spotted Redshank on the 12th. A Razorbill close to the shore and seen from the Pier on the 12th was a good record. A late Yellow Wagtail was reported on Two Tree Island on the 13th whilst nearby Benfleet Creek held six Bearded Reedlings which have become annual here each October as a result of this species renowned dispersal habits. The two Black Brants were still lurking among the 4500 Dark-bellied Brent Geese at Two Tree Island on the 14th and four Greenshank were still to be found in the adjacent creek. Another five Greenshank were on Wallasea wetlands the same day but the Little Stint there was far more appreciated and was probably the bird that first arrived on the 29th September. The Little Stint remained through to the end of the month at least. Also on Wallasea there was a very late peak autumn count of seven Wheatear on the 14th plus three Clouded Yellows and the first of a handful of Merlin to arrive with others around Two Tree Island and Benfleet Creek from the 20th. Wakering Stairs threw up a few surprises on the 14th with the Great Grey Shrike back again after a sojourn possibly to Tilbury or north Kent, a Short-eared Owl was the first record away from Two Tree Island this autumn, and a Little Auk was seen and photographed. A Firecrest in a Thundersley garden on the 18th was the first of just two this autumn with the other found just two days later in a Daws Heath garden. Two Purple Sandpipers were reportedly back on the Pier on the 18th when the Brent flock held just the Pale-bellied Brent Goose. Two adult Bewick's Swans briefly on the sea at Wakering Stairs on the 19th were seen further north in the county later the same day. A juvenile Curlew Sandpiper was still to be found on Wallasea wetlands on the 21st with ten Rock Pipits there also worthy of note. Late Clouded Yellows were at Wallasea and Canvey West End on the 21st with a Painted Lady also on Canvey. A Woodcock was flushed from Priory Park early on the 23rd. A tired Long-eared Owl in Gunners Park on the 23rd was clearly a newly arrived migrant and an excellent local record. The Ring-billed Gull at Westcliff became more reliable between the 23rd and 27th after being unusually erratic with its appearances. A Guillemot off Canvey Point on the 24th was the highlight of a very dull seawatch. A Bullfinch at Wakering Stairs on the 24th and another at Butts Hill N.R. on the 27th could equally have been migrants as opposed to resident birds. A Bahama Pintail on Leigh Marshes on the 24th could not pass as a migrant despite its best efforts. Seawatching at Canvey on the 25th produced few signs of passage with seven Little Gulls, and three late Arctic Terns providing the last signs of onward migration, whereas the Black-throated Diver and Red-breasted Merganser were more likely to overwinter. A Ring-necked Parakeet that was reported in a Shoebury garden on the 25th was probably the same lonely bird that has wandered around gardens from Paglesham to Benfleet and everywhere in between for the last year. A dedicated gull watching session at Canvey West End on the 27th uncovered a third-winter Glaucous Gull, two first-winter Caspian Gulls and eight Yellow-legged Gulls, all either bathing in the creek or foraging on the distant tip. A fly-over Lesser Redpoll was also heard, the only one of the month. Two Ring Ouzels at Butts Hill N.R. were a good record away from the more usual coastal hotspots and makes one wonder as to how many others pass through unnoticed away from the coast. A female Scaup on Paglesham Lagoon on the 27th stayed into November at least. The Peregrines continued their stay in Southend through to the end of the month. The last Swallow of the year flew through central Southend on the 29th and the last Wheatear was at Benfleet Creek on the 29th where it had been for the previous four days. A Common Buzzard was reported over Canvey on the 29th before being seen over Vange a short time later. A Whinchat was reported by a single observor at South Fambridge on the 31st and if true would be one of the latest ever Essex records. Finally, a Barn Owl appropriately ghosted along Benfleet Downs on the evening of Halloween.
One to two Siskins passed over Rochford on the 1st, Rayleigh on the 3rd, Wallasea on the 4th and Canewdon on the 10th. 86 Little Egrets were on the high tide roost off Two Tree Island on the 2nd. A Green Sandpiper was discovered at South Fambridge on the 3rd where it stayed all month. Wallasea Island on the 3rd held a very late passage Curlew Sandpiper and 15 Corn Buntings. Sunny conditions on the 4th found a Speckled Wood and a Clouded Yellow still on the wing on Hadleigh Downs and a Red Admiral was on Wallasea. A female Blackcap at Rochford on the 4th was equally appreciative of the mild conditions. Seven Stonechats were counted along Benfleet Creek on the 4th and thirty Common Scoter and a Great Skua were reported from the Pier the same day. A female Velvet Scoter was a good find off Canvey on the 5th with presumably the same bird seen again on the 11th. A Ring Ouzel reported in Gunners Park on the 6th was another fine find. A Harris Hawk did its best to roost on Hadleigh Downs much to the chagrin of the local corvids, which eventually managed to see it off. Another sighting of the Benfleet Coal Tit occurred on the 9th when it visited a bird feeder. It is likely that a pair are probably hanging on in the adjacent Coombe Wood. The weather on the 10th and 11th was conducive to seawatching especially as large numbers of Little Auk had been displaced down the east coast. Gunners Park, Canvey Island and the Pier were all well watched over the weekend and provided the following highlights: 25 Red-throated Divers, a Black-throated Diver, a Shag, 11 Gannets, a Long-tailed Duck, 12 Common Scoter, a drake Velvet Scoter, an early Goldeneye, a most welcome roosting flock of six (!) Purple Sandpipers, a Pomarine Skua, an Arctic Skua, 20 Kittiwake, four Guillemot, six Little Auks, and three late Arctic Terns. The Ring-billed Gull showed well at Westcliff seafront on the 10th and 11th whilst eight Yellow-legged Gulls and four Caspian Gulls at Hole Haven demanded a little more patience. A Red-breasted Merganser was at Wallasea on the 10th with another off Gunners Park on the 11th. Three Goldeneye had returned to Paglesham Lagoon by the 11th. Short-eared Owls revealed themselves on the 11th with one along Canvey seafront and two on Two Tree Island represented the first multiple count since early February. Also on Two Tree Island on the 11th, the Black Brant showed itself for the last time this year before presumably moving across to north Kent. A Common Buzzard was reported over Gunners Park on the 12th whilst its smaller cousin, the Merlin was represented with one on Two Tree Island on the 13th, and one on Wallasea on the 14th. Remaining with raptors, there was a movement of Marsh Harriers on the 15th with three passing over Wallasea and the wintering female obliged at Wat Tyler. A further small movement of Little Auks whizzed through mid-month with a respectable five reported off Canvey and a single at Wallasea. Wintering Greenshank were regular around Two Tree Island with four together on the 16th when there was another sighting of the Short-eared Owl. A female Brambling was regular in a garden by Coombe Wood, from the 16th to the 22nd. Stonechats could be found around most coastal points this month and included three on Two Tree Island and four at Wakering Stairs on the 16th and 17th. On the 19th a female Long-tailed Duck at Paglesham Lagoon was an excellent find and was considered to be different from the bird in the Thames present sporadically since late September. It proved popular although could go missing, presumably to feed on the nearby Roach and remained into 2008. Also on the 19th, two Whooper Swans were seen to fly over Paglesham Lagoon whilst on the ground 30 Skylarks and 200 Meadow Pipits in nearby fields were notable. An Arctic Skua was off Canvey on the 20th and subsequently went on to winter in the estuary. A Woodcock flying over a road in Hawkwell on the 23rd was the sole record this month. A male Brambling frequented a Thundersley garden on the 23rd and by the 24th it seems all the Bramblings had found one another and formed a flock of three in yet another Thundersley garden. Hole Haven creek and the nearby tip revealed a further five each of Yellow-legged Gull and Caspian Gull on the 24th. Somewhat surprisingly a drake Goosander chose to winter at Wallasea on the 24th repeating last years events when a redhead, possibly the same bird in immature plumage, wintered. Quite why the tidal saltwater lagoons attract and hold this typically freshwater bird is puzzling. Also present was a Greenshank. A Red-necked Grebe on the Roach was a good find on the 25th. The Scaup present since late October on the adjacent Paglesham Lagoon was now accurately aged and sexed as a first-winter drake following its moult. It remained through to 2008 and also proved popular alongside the long staying Long-tailed Duck. The record breaking Purple Sandpiper flock of six on the Pier had decreased to five on the 25th when another Little Auk was also seen leaving the estuary. A small flock of 15 Siskins were found in Hockley on the 26th where they remained through to mid December. A Green Sandpiper and two Caspian Gulls were at Hole Haven on the 26th. The Purple Sandpiper flock decreased still further to four birds from the 27th onwards when three Bullfinch were observed on Hadleigh Downs. Red-breasted Mergansers continue to be increasingly hard to find in recent winters with three on the Roach on the 28th the only multiple sighting this month. Two male Blackcaps and two Goldcrests were at Rayleigh Mount on the 29th and two of the Southend town centre Peregrines were seen most days throughout the month.
A Marsh Harrier was watched distantly from Wakering Stairs on the 1st the same day that a Common Buzzard was reported over Leigh. Two Siskins passed over Rochford golf course and the Long-tailed Duck was still present at Paglesham Lagoon although subsequently went missing until 6th January. Kingfisher sightings were numerous this month with two on Two Tree Island from the 4th onwards proving particularly obliging and were often seen with an equally obliging Water Rail. Sawbills were represented on the 5th with a drake of both Red-breasted Merganser and Goosander present on Wallasea. Further records of Red-breasted Merganser came from Paglesham and South Fambridge with six and three respectively. Last month's Harris Hawk was seen again over Hadleigh Downs on the 6th where it was again trying to roost to the consternation of the resident corvids. The region's sole Ring-necked Parakeet continued its local perambulations and was reported this time from Priory Park on the 6th and the 30th but still managed to elude the majority still trying to add it to their local lists. Green Sandpipers were reported from the 8th to the 24th with singles at Barling, Wallasea, Canvey, Brandy Hole, and Rochford. By the 9th the wintering Greenshank flock at Two Tree Island had increased to five whilst the Purple Sandpiper flock on the Pier held steady at four. A Merlin at Wakering Stairs on the 9th was one of only two birds recorded this month, the other being a settled wintering bird on Wallasea. The wintering Little Stint present since September on Wallasea was singled out again on the 9th and remained through to 2008 remarkably mirroring events of last year when three overwintered here. A Common Buzzard in a field at Paglesham on the 11th was a very good record. Birds `on the deck' are extremely rare in the Southend area largely due to there being no resident birds around so only migrants and wandering birds are recorded, all invariably as fly overs. In the adjacent fields a count of twelve Corn Buntings was depressingly the largest flock seen anywhere away from Wallasea since the spring. The Two Tree Island Short-eared Owl put in its one and only appearance of the month on the 13th. A Weasel ferreting through the rubbish on the platform at Rochford station on the 14th seemed somewhat out of place. The 15th produced the only record of Great Northern Diver in the latter half of 2007 with a single predictably off the Pier. The Scaup at Paglesham Lagoon showed itself more proudly on the 15th now that it had been correctly identified as a drake. Also present were a respectable 21 Pintail and an equally presentable twenty Goldeneye. A ringtail Hen Harrier at Wallasea on the 15th, 23rd and 26th was the only one recorded this month, a Greenshank was also present on all three dates. After reasonable numbers of fly over passage Siskins since October it was pleasing to locate a settled flock of twelve in a suburban residential street in Leigh on the 15th with the flock increasing to 23 from the 18th onwards. This is the same street that has held them in previous winters and they remained in the area albeit mobile into 2008. An unseasonal seawatch off Canvey on the 17th yielded three Arctic Skuas and a Pomarine Skua, all of which appeared to be wintering in the Thames estuary as they were reported on several more occasions through to early 2008. Two Blackcaps were reported from a garden in Southchurch on the 18th. A ground feeding flock of mixed passerines on Two Tree Island on the 19th encouragingly held six Siskins, ten Reed Buntings, and four Corn Buntings and was the inspiration behind the setting up of a feeding station on the island. A male Blackcap visited a garden in Thundersley on the 21st and two Firecrests were an excellent find in Pound Wood on the 23rd. Wallasea delivered a raptor fest on the 23rd with a Peregrine, Merlin, Marsh Harrier, and Hen Harrier all present. In a comparatively good winter for Siskins, a further flock of thirty was found in alders at Leigh recycling centre on the 24th and may well be from where the Two Tree Island birds originate. The 24th was a good day for the gulls, with the Ring-billed Gull at Westcliff, and six Yellow-legged Gulls and a Caspian Gull at Paglesham Lagoon. The Pier still held a healthy flock of five Purple Sandpipers on the 24th and a drake Eider which was the sole site record all year from this former stronghold. Barn Owls were delivered as early Christmas presents on the 24th at Paglesham and Wakering Stairs. Last month's Bahama Pintail could still be found loitering beside Two Tree Island on the 27th. The Wat Tyler wintering Marsh Harrier was recorded just once this month, on the 28th when at least 220 Fieldfare saturated the hedgerows and fields. As the year drew to a close a flock of nine Lesser Redpoll were found on the 30th feeding along Prittle Brook in Leigh although could not be relocated. On Two Tree Island six Siskins were still present on the 30th, as were five Stonechats and a Peregrine that was most likely one of the central Southend pair that were resident once more all month. Finally, another wintering Blackcap was found, this time atypically a female in a Benfleet garden and was present during the final week of the year.