The drake Mandarin in Friars Park was joined by an apparent albino from the 1st to the 7th before they both typically disappeared once again. As expected, Woodcock were seen early in the month with two on Hadleigh Downs and two at Wat Tyler C.P. on the 1st. Hockley Woods continued to host two Firecrests, two Coal Tits, a Nuthatch, and up to four Treecreepers during the first half of the month. The Thames produced some interesting records with a light passage of up to five Little Gulls each day from the 2nd to the 11th along with at least one lingering Great Skua from the 3rd to the 9th, and six Guillemots. A Slavonian Grebe on the scrape at Wat Tyler C.P. on the 3rd was a good find and proved popular but was gone the next day. A dead Minke Whale washed up against Shoebury Boom on the 3rd sparked quite a lot of interest from both the media and the general public until it eventually drifted away towards Foulness on the 7th. The 6th saw another visit to a Coombe Wood garden by last month’s female Hawfinch. It was typically erratic and only appeared once a week through to mid-February. The pair of Egyptian Geese which were now residing at Shoebury Park were much more dependable although far less exciting and were noted from the 6th to the 14th. The Thames again held some interest on the 8th and 9th with 14 Red-throated Divers, a Black-throated Diver, and a Great Northern Diver along with 20 Gannets and 20 Kittiwakes. Eight Lesser Redpolls visited a niger feeder in a Hockley garden on the 11th whilst a flock of six similarly visited a Leigh garden throughout the month. An area of set-aside near Great Stambridge held a mixed finch and bunting flock from the 12th with up to 40 Corn Buntings, 30 Reed Buntings, 75 Goldfinch, 40 Chaffinch, two Lesser Redpolls, and a Brambling through to the end of February. On the 13th a Great Northern Diver flying over Wallasea was unusual; also present daily on the island were up to four Short-eared Owls, two Hen Harriers, two Merlin, a Peregrine and a Buzzard. The other owl species were well represented this month across the region and included 1-2 Long-eared Owls at two traditional sites in the south. A total of five Chiffchaffs and six Blackcaps were reported this month with multiple sightings mid-month. Caspian Gulls numbered a modest six on Pitsea Tip on the 16th whilst nearby at Wat Tyler C.P. the elusive and erratic Glossy Ibis was seen coming to roost from the 17th to the 21st. Two Short-eared Owls were on Two Tree Island on the 17th and 18th only. One or two Spotted Redshanks were seen most days in the creek at Wat Tyler C.P. with three present there on the 21st. Other wintering waders included seven Green Sandpipers and five Greenshank across the area. One lucky observer was fortunate to glimpse a Dartford Warbler on Wallasea on the 23rd which was typically associating with some of the six Stonechats on the island, a further five Stonechats could be found at Bowers Marsh and another ten were at several widely scattered coastal sites. The often elusive Water Pipit at Vange Marsh present since the end of December showed most days through to the 24th when Red Admiral, Peacock, and Brimstone were all seen in Hockley. A Great White Egret was seen distantly over Foulness from Paglesham on the 28th. The month drew to a close with the now expected wintering Bittern seen for the first time at Wat Tyler C.P. on the 30th where it remained typically elusive through to March.
The Hawfinch in Combe Wood visited its favoured garden on the 10th and 11th of the month whilst up to six Siskins and four Lesser Redpolls continued to frequent the feeders in a Leigh garden all month. A single Short-eared Owl was seen on Two Tree Island on the 11th only and a Long-eared Owl was reported on the 21st. Hockley Woods continued to host two Firecrests, three Coal Tits, a Nuthatch and two Treecreepers from the 11th through to the end of the month. Other sightings of Treecreepers came mid-month from Belfairs Golf Course, Coombe Wood, and Thundersley Glen. The Glossy Ibis at Wat Tyler C.P. was only noted on the 12th this month, whilst the Bittern continued to be seen most days with luck and patience. The Great White Egret presumably wintering on Foulness was seen around Wakering on the 12th. Seawatching from Canvey on the 13th yielded a few notable records with a Red-throated Diver, a Great Skua, two Little Gulls, 15 Kittiwakes, and a Guillemot all seen. A pair of Blackcaps visited a Benfleet garden on the 13th with singles at two other sites this month. Chiffchaff numbered just two singles but did include a singing bird at the end of the month in Leigh. The first Adder of the year was found on Benfleet Downs on the 14th. An obliging male Firecrest was a surprise find in Priory Park on the 15th. It remained until the 20th and was joined by a Coal Tit from the 17th and a Blackcap on the 20th. The mixed finch and bunting flock near Great Stambridge still held ten Reed Buntings, eight Corn Buntings, three Yellowhammers, two Lesser Redpolls, and a Brambling on the 20th. Three Bewick’s Swans arrived on Wallasea on the 24th and proved popular during their stay until mid-March as they offered the opportunity to also catch up with the four Short-eared Owls, two Hen Harriers, Merlin, Peregrine, and Buzzard which continued to be seen most days. A female Eider was off Shoebury East Beach on the 25th and 26th and was the only record in the first-winter period. The Great White Egret took a sortie from Foulness on the 28th when it flew along the southern seawall of Wallasea at dusk towards Lion Creek.
The month started slowly with the only birds of note being the first Jack Snipe of the year on Vange Marsh on the 4th and a Slavonian Grebe seen from a boat on the Roach on the 7th. A pair of Red-breasted Mergansers frequented the Crouch at Fambridge from the 11th to the 22nd. The first of three Red Kites this month flew east along Benfleet Downs on the 12th. The family party of three Bewick’s Swans on Wallasea were seen for the last time on the 13th. After dark on the 13th the local RSPB group received a description from a lady with a passing interest in birdwatching of a small bird with a bandit mask feeding daily for the last week on reedmace in an insignificant reedbed in Ashingdon! Alarm bells rang as thoughts immediately turned to Penduline Tit. The area was staked out from dawn and sure enough, soon after midday a Penduline Tit flew in from the west and proceeded to rip apart the reedmace heads much to the delight and astonishment of the gathered crowd. The bird attracted twitchers from afar and remained until at least the 16th and was a first for the area. Other birds of interest noted at the time were a Siberian Chiffchaff present each day in the reedbed until the 25th, a singing Siskin on the 14th, and a Woodcock on the 15th and 17th. The Bittern at Wat Tyler C.P. was recorded on the 15th, 20th, and 23rd this month and the pair of Egyptian Geese in Shoebury Park were still present on the 16th and 25th. A presumed migrant Long-eared Owl was an excellent find in the scrub at Gunners Park on the 17th. An adult male Hen Harrier was seen for the last time on Wallasea on the 18th whilst the ringtail remained there until the 25th; two Short-eared Owls were also still present on the 18th with one remaining until mid-April. A ‘black’ Adder was an unusual and rare find on Belton Hills on the 19th. A single Firecrest persisted in Hockley Woods through to the 20th. Three Red-crested Pochards dropped in to the Wat Tyler C.P. scrape on the 21st but had gone the next day. The second Red Kite of the month passed over Southchurch on the 21st when there was a small passage of Bramblings with a single at Canewdon followed by a pair at Daws Heath on the 24th and a pair in Shoebury on the 27th. Similarly there was an uptick in Woodcock sightings with singles on Benfleet Downs, Bowers Downs, and Hadleigh Downs all between the 21st and 24th. Up to six Siskins and four Lesser Redpolls continued to visit a Leigh garden mid-month with five Siskins also visiting an Ashingdon garden on the 23rd. Summer migrants began to trickle through with Swallow on the 23rd, and House Martins and Yellow Wagtail two days later. The 25th produced the third and final Red Kite of the month with a bird over Rayleigh. Also on the 25th there was an interesting record of two adult Whooper Swans on the mud off Shoebury East Beach and a continental Coal Tit in Gunners Park. The Short-eared Owls on Wallasea had potentially relocated to nearby Lower Raypits where there were two birds on the 29th and a single through to early May. A pair of Red-breasted Mergansers were loafing off Leigh seafront on the 30th the same day that a Ring-necked Parakeet flew over Westcliff. The first Common Terns of the year flew upriver past Canvey on the 31st.
Somewhat surprisingly, 29 Redwings were still lingering at Eastwood S.W. on the 1st; by contrast the first Sandwich Tern was off Two Tree Island on the 2nd when Gunners Park hosted the first Wheatear. A Firecrest in Gunners Park the following day was further evidence of the spring passage slowly gaining momentum as were two Little Ringed Plovers reported from Vange Marsh on the 4th. Spring exploded on the scene on the 6th when a cracking adult Purple Heron arrived at Wat Tyler C.P. It was the first of the year in the UK and the first ever twitchable one locally. It was typically elusive but remained loyal to the reedbed in front of the hide through to the 9th where it occasionally showed very well especially in flight. On the 7th birders waiting for the Purple Heron to show were treated to a fly-past from the Glossy Ibis. One visiting birder had the good fortune to photograph a Raven in Gunners Park on the 7th the first ever in the recording area. A Manx Shearwater past Gunners Park on the 8th was totally unexpected and an excellent spring record whereas six White Wagtails on Wallasea the same day were more typical. A female Muntjac with a fawn was seen on Hadleigh Downs on the 8th. Seawatching from Gunners Park on the 10th was predictably slow but did produce the first Razorbill of the year; male Redstarts were found at Canvey Wick and at Wakering the same day. The 11th produced good views of three Porpoise off Southend Pier and the last Red-throated Diver of the season. An adult Spoonbill dropped in to Lower Raypits on the evening of the 11th when the first Cuckoo arrived back on Two Tree Island. Short-eared Owl numbers increased this month and included three on West Canvey Marsh from the 13th to the 24th, singles on Two Tree Island and Wallasea on the 13th plus 1-2 on Bowers Marsh, Canvey Wick, and Lower Raypits. In total up to ten individuals were present mid-month. Grasshopper Warblers arrived at three locations in quick succession with singles on Two Tree Island on the 13th, Canvey Wick on the 17th, and Bowers Marsh on the 19th. Hot on their heels were Nightingales with singles on Wakering Stairs and Canvey Wick on the 17th. Little Ringed Plovers remained unusually scarce this month with a single on Wallasea on the 18th the only record other than the two on Vange Marsh on the 4th. Single Common Sandpipers were on Vange Marsh on the 21st and Lower Raypits on the 24th. A female Redstart in Wakering on the 22nd was the third individual of the spring. Four Arctic Terns lingered in the Thames off Canvey on the 28th and 29th and the first Swifts were noted at several sites on the 28th when a Hedgehog was seen in a Canewdon garden. A smart drake Garganey on Lower Raypits on the 30th was surprisingly the only record this spring. A Turtle Dove was at Stambridge on the 30th and a Muntjac visited a Coombe Wood garden that evening.
A female Redstart was reported at Wakering Stairs on the 1st. Lower Raypits continued to host a late Short-eared Owl which was present from the 3rd to the 8th. The 4th produced the somewhat surprising record of a Purple Heron flying north over Benfleet. Turtle Doves returned to Wakering Stairs on the 4th, although each year sees fewer and fewer records from across the area with a peak of just two birds at one site this month and singles at only two other sites. A Black Redstart was photographed on private land at Southend Airport on the 5th. A Spoonbill dropped in briefly to Wallasea on the 6th. The first of five Red Kites this month sailed over Battlesbridge on the 8th. On Canvey, the only reliable local site for Green Hairstreaks held up to four individuals from the 8th to the 16th with a Clouded Yellow also there on the 9th. The last Merlin dashed through Wallasea on the 12th where a pair of Little Ringed Plovers were attracted to the newly created habitat. The 14th was a red letter day locally. It started with a pair of Black-winged Stilts on Vange Marsh which had been reported late the previous evening and then got significantly better when an obliging female Red-footed Falcon was found hunting dragonflies over the adjacent reedbed. It is a sign of the times that the Black-winged Stilts were anticipated after a pair have lingered in each of the two previous springs. The Black-winged Stilts were restless and moved around frequently between Vange Marsh, Bowers Marsh, and Wat Tyler C.P, before eventually settling down at the latter site where they spent several weeks prospecting and pair bonding. Meanwhile the Red-footed Falcon proved to be the first twitchable individual locally and performed well through to the end of the month commuting regularly between Vange Marsh, Bowers Marsh, and Wat Tyler C.P. Two Red Kites passed through on the 15th when singles were noted over Pitsea and Rochford, and two Black Terns were photographed from a boat in the Roach estuary. The Egyptian Goose pair in Shoebury Park appeared with four young on the 17th, the first record of breeding in the area by this formerly locally scarce species. A Spotted Flycatcher was reported from a Prittlewell garden on the 19th, the only record of the spring and summer. Nightingales peaked at five on Wakering Stairs on the 22nd along with a further three on Canvey Wick and singles at Cupids Corner and Wat Tyler C.P. this month. Moderately good numbers of Wall butterflies were at Bowers Marsh on the 22nd when 18 were counted, along with smaller numbers at five other sites this month and the second Clouded Yellow of the spring was at Vange Marsh on the 23rd. Two Black Terns which flew through Bowers Marsh on the 26th were noteworthy, this species being particularly scarce in the springtime. A seawatch from Canvey Point on the 27th was relatively productive and produced one of the highest ever counts locally of Razorbill with 15 birds counted with all of them still present on the 2nd June. Also noted were four Guillemots, a Shag, and a Fulmar which have become extremely scarce in recent years, now averaging only three records a year. The month closed with single Red Kites over Daws Heath on the 30th and Leigh on the 31st.
Unusually the first few days of the month were dominated by unseasonal seawatching conditions which led to a series of interesting records. Canvey Point on the 1st produced 107 Gannets, 45 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, and remarkably, a very close Roseate Tern which was well photographed. Continued seawatching on the 2nd produced the hoped for Roseate Tern again off Canvey Point along with the previous week’s 15 Razorbills, two Kittiwakes, and 85 Gannets, whilst at Gunners Park a fine drake Eider lingered close inshore on the 2nd and 3rd. The first of three Red Kites this month passed over Ashingdon on the 2nd. Further seawatching on the 4th at Canvey produced the second Fulmar of the year along with a continuing passage of 45 Gannets, and two Porpoise. Small numbers of Painted Lady butterflies were noted at seven sites this month from the 4th onwards. Four Dark-bellied Brent Geese dropped into Wallasea on the 5th where the Little Ringed Plover pair was now nurturing their chick. An unseasonal Short-eared Owl was hunting over Bowers Marsh on the 7th. The first Heath Fritillaries were recorded on the 9th and although their numbers have plummeted in recent years they were noted at three sites this month reaching a maximum of 38 in Hockley Woods. Red Kites were noted over Wakering on the 11th and Ashingdon on the 19th. A Grasshopper Warbler was reported from the Wat Tyler C.P. hide on the 14th. A Barnacle Goose on Wallasea on the 15th lacked any credibility but would have kept the year-listers happy had it lingered, but there were now two pairs of Little Ringed Plovers present with four chicks between them. A Coal Tit in Priory Park on the 17th was a good record and was most likely the bird present in February. At Bowers Marsh on the 18th a group of three juvenile Stonechats was indicative of successful breeding nearby. Four Nightingales were still in song at Wakering Stairs on the 19th with another found in Barling on the 23rd. Toward month’s end a Muntjac which was in Pound Wood on the 29th and three White Admirals along with four Marbled Whites in Belfairs on the 30th were the only records of interest.
Red Kites continued their good showing with four records this month which included fly-overs at Daws Heath on the 2nd and Bowers Marsh on the 4th. Long-eared Owl was found to have enjoyed a successful breeding season when three juveniles were discovered at a site in the south-west on the 2nd. Return wader passage was already very much evident from the 3rd onwards with several Spotted Redshanks, Green Sandpipers, and Common Sandpipers all present across Vange Marsh, Fleet Head, Wat Tyler C.P, and Bowers Marsh. The first Purple Hairstreaks were on the wing in Belfairs from the 4th where their numbers increased rapidly to an impressive 22 on the 11th. The White-letter Hairstreaks on Benfleet Downs were also on the wing around the same time, peaking at 16 on the 6th with an additional record of three along Belton Hills. An exceptionally early returning Wheatear was at Bowers Marsh on the 7th. The first Southern Migrant Hawker was noted on the 9th at Wat Tyler C.P. with numbers soon increasing towards the end of the month. Up to three Bullfinch were seen at their local stronghold on Hadleigh Downs whilst a lone female Bullfinch was found on the 15th in Pound Wood, a former stronghold. A Silver-washed Fritillary was an unusual record in atypical habitat at Bowers Marsh on the 13th. The 17th produced some interesting records with two each of Gannet, Dark-bellied Brent Goose and Turtle Dove at Wakering Stairs along with a very early Whinchat at Bowers Marsh and a Red Kite at Hullbridge. Returning Garganey appeared at Bowers Marsh from the 18th through to the end of the month with four there on the 24th. A Grasshopper Warbler also decided to take up territory at Bowers Marsh from the 18th where it could be seen and heard reeling regularly through to the 31st. Another Silver-washed Fritillary was found on the 19th, this time in more typical habitat in Belfairs Woods where it remained long enough for several people to successfully twitch and photograph it. Little Ringed Plover numbers began to build from the 20th with four at Bowers Marsh through to the end of the month. Turtle Dove was still clinging on at Star Lane Pits where one was seen in the scrub on the 21st. Southern Migrant Hawkers became more numerous and widespread around the 23rd with 12 at West Canvey Marsh, four at Wat Tyler C.P., three at Hockley Woods, and three at Bowers Marsh. The second Wheatear of the month was discovered along the Benfleet seawall on the 25th when White Admirals peaked at a rather lowly five in Belfairs and two in Pound Wood. The first Yellow-legged Gulls of the autumn were two adults at Bowers Marsh on the 28th when a rather uneventful seawatch from the Pier produced little more than three Porpoise. At dusk on the 28th a family party of five Tawny Owls were seen and heard at a traditional site near Canewdon. A juvenile Turtle Dove reportedly feeding under a garden feeding station in Hadleigh on the 29th was a welcome report whilst one was also seen in a mixed flock in a field at Lower Raypits on the 29th and two continued to be seen and heard at Wakering Stairs. Three Wood Sandpipers at Bowers Marsh on the 30th and 31st was an excellent record. The month’s only Clouded Yellow was also there on the 31st the same day that another Silver-washed Fritillary, the third of the month, was claimed from Benfleet Downs where a Red Kite also passed over nearby.
The last White Admiral was noted on the 5th in Belfairs. The following day a rather impressive count of five Nightingales was made on Canvey Wick where unusually most of them showed well in the open and were perhaps a family party. Another Wood Sandpiper dropped in to Bowers Marsh on the 7th where it remained through to the 11th, and Southern Migrant Hawker remained widespread with up to 14 reported at seven sites. A Glossy Ibis seen flying over Bowers Marsh on the 10th was subsequently found on Vange Marsh on the 12th where it remained all month. Garganey were more prevalent mid-month with three at Bowers marsh, three at Vange Marsh, and two on Wallasea. An immature Spoonbill visited Wallasea on the 10th where it remained through to the 15th. Three Barnacle Geese also appeared there on the 10th and remained all month. Three Painted Lady butterflies there on the 10th was the highest count in a poor autumn for them. A pair of Egyptian Geese was seen on Vange Wick on the 11th before visiting Bowers Marsh on the 23rd whilst the family party in Shoebury relocated to Gunners Park on the 19th where they remained intermittently throughout the autumn. The first Willow Emerald Damselflies were at Star Lane Pits on the 12th and Purple Hairstreaks still numbered ten on the 15th in Belfairs. Three Little Stints were present on Wallasea from the 15th to the 26th and the first Curlew Sandpiper of a protracted passage was seen in Potton Creek the same day. By the month’s end twenty Curlew Sandpipers had passed through at five sites. Passerine return passage was heralded by the first Spotted Flycatcher and Garden Warbler of the autumn in Gunners Park on the 15th. The first Arctic Skua of a generally poor seawatching season passed Canvey Point on the 19th. The first of only two Pied Flycatchers this autumn was predictably in Gunners Park on the 21st with four Spotted Flycatchers present there on the 24th. A Lesser Yellowlegs was an excellent find at Vange Marsh on the 22nd. It remained through to the 4th September although would often go missing towards the end of its stay. There was a pulse of Tree Pipit passage between the 23rd and 29th when six birds passed through at four sites; small numbers of Whinchat and Wheatear were also on the move, evidenced by three of each at West Canvey Marsh on the 24th. A Great White Egret visited Vange Marsh on the 25th and 26th where it could be seen in the company of the Lesser Yellowlegs, the Glossy Ibis and up to 17 Spotted Redshanks, ten Ruff, ten Common Snipe, and eight Green Sandpipers. The only Hummingbird Hawkmoth of the month was reported from a Shoebury garden on the 26th. The 27th was one of the few good days for seawatching this autumn. Canvey Point yielded a Sooty Shearwater, 26 Arctic Skuas, 22 Arctic Terns, five Black Terns, three Little Gulls, and the autumn’s only Sabine’s Gull. At the end of the month at least 150 Yellow Wagtails could be found on Wallasea where a Blue-headed Wagtail was found among them on the 28th.
Last month’s Lesser Yellowlegs dropped in very briefly to Vange Marsh on the 1st. Good numbers of waders were still present there on the 2nd and included 16 Spotted Redshanks, 11 Green Sandpipers, and three Ruff along with the Glossy Ibis again. Bowers Marsh hosted a Black-necked Grebe and up to four Garganey from the 3rd to the 11th, and a pair of Egyptian Geese were also present on the 3rd and 4th. Curlew Sandpipers continued to pass through in small numbers during the first week of the month, with a high of four in Tewke’s Creek on the 3rd. The Lesser Yellowlegs was recorded again at Vange Marsh on the 4th for the final time and the Glossy Ibis was also present again. A Redstart in Gunners Park on the 5th was the first of just two records this month. Seawatching at Canvey on the 5th produced a Sooty Shearwater and up to three Manx Shearwaters but little else of note. The following day saw a huge movement of terns off Canvey, the best of which was a juvenile White-winged Black Tern, the first local record since 1992! The supporting cast included 725 Common Terns, 32 Sandwich Terns, 31 Arctic Terns, 13 Black Terns, a Little Tern, two Little Gulls and seven Porpoise. Continuing with seawatching, Canvey again produced some further good records on the 7th with another Sooty Shearwater, three Manx Shearwaters, the only Pomarine Skua of the autumn (up until the end of October), seven Arctic Skuas, and a Guillemot. Also on the 7th, two Spoonbills reportedly flew over Two Tree Island. Good numbers of Whinchat passed through this month including a peak count of eight on West Canvey on the 10th. There was a small fall of Spotted Flycatchers on the 11th with five in Gunners Park, one on Wakering Stairs and one on Canvey Wick, with several remaining through to the 19th. Another arrival of Curlew Sandpipers was apparent from the 11th through to the 14th with three on Two Tree Island and three on Vange Marsh, with stragglers remaining until the 29th. Last month’s trio of Barnacle Geese on Wallasea were seen for the last time together on the 11th. A Little Stint arrived on Vange Marsh on the 11th where it remained for the rest of the month and was joined by a second bird from the 19th. The second and last Redstart of the month was seen at Wakering Stairs on the 12th when an Osprey was seen flying east over Southend. The month’s only Tree Pipit, and the last of the autumn, flew over Gunners Park on the 15th. A Pied Flycatcher was found in Gunners Park on the 16th where it remained until the 18th. Surprisingly this was the only record this month, and following a single in August was the second and final bird of the year. Another seawatch at Canvey on the 17th produced the highest counts of the month for Arctic Skua and Great Skua with a paltry 11 of the former and 17 of the latter. Additional interest came in the form of a Long-tailed Duck, a Merlin, a Razorbill, and five Black Terns. A Red-crested Pochard was reported to be on the scrape at Wat Tyler CP on the 17th but there was no sign the following day. Two Turtle Doves at Wakering Stairs on the 17th were depressingly the only record all month and not surprisingly the last of the year – the decline continues. Two Mandarins were a surprise find in Gunners Park on the 21st and included the albino one from last winter. Small numbers of Clouded Yellows were seen at many sites this month with nine at Bowers Marsh on the 25th the highest count. Whinchat enjoyed a protracted autumn passage with 24 birds this month including a decent count of eight at Bowers Marsh on the 28th. The second Osprey of the year passed over Canvey Wick on the 28th. The final bird of note this month was a Great White Egret reported from the creek at Leigh-on-Sea flying to roost on the 29th.
The Glossy Ibis was seen again at Vange Marsh on the 1st before popping up at nearby Wat Tyler CP on the 4th where it remained throughout the month and looks set to overwinter. A Purple Sandpiper was reported from Holehaven Creek on the 1st and was most likely the same individual that roosted at Canvey Point on the 12th and throughout much of November. Clouded Yellows were widespread throughout the month although the highest numbers were understandably at the start of the month when 12 were on Canvey Wick on the 3rd. A Little Stint was seen on Wallasea on the 3rd whilst a single persisted at Vange Marsh through to the 4th. Seawatching from Canvey on the 5th produced a few sightings of interest with two Manx Shearwaters, an Arctic Skua, 15 Common Terns, an Arctic Tern, two Sandwich Terns and two Guillemots among the more notable. There was an obvious window of passerine migration from the 5th to the 8th with some great local birds found. Common Redstarts were in Gunners Park and Shoebury East Beach on the 5th, with a Black Redstart joining its brethren in Gunners Park on the 6th when a Firecrest was also present. The much anticipated and hoped for Yellow-browed Warbler invasion finally arrived on the 6th with three at Wakering Common and singles in Gunners Park at Shoebury East Beach the following day. Ring Ouzels arrived from the 7th to the 9th with up to eight in Gunners Park and a single at Star Lane Pits. Finch passage was evident on the 7th and 8th when Siskins, Bramblings and Lesser Redpolls passed through a number of sites. Another Firecrest was found on the 8th in Coombe Wood and the last Osprey of the year was seen crossing the Thames the same day. The last of three Wheatears this month was seen along Shoebury East Beach on the 9th. Short-eared Owl returned to Wallasea with a bird showing each evening from the 11th to the 13th. A Great Northern Diver flew upriver at Canvey on the 13th where the influx of White-fronted Geese was witnessed when 38 birds in two flocks flew past. Another pulse of Siskins, Bramblings and Lesser Redpolls on the 14th and 15th brought with them an excellent passage of Tree Sparrows. With an impressive 18 passing through Gunners Park on the 15th and at least one more single on the 17th and 18th this almost doubles the total number of birds seen across the area over the last 25 years and represents the first double figure in that period too! Up to two Hummingbird Hawkmoths visited a Shoebury garden on the 15th and 16th, with these having been notably scarce this year. A Canvey seawatch on the 16th was largely unproductive producing the month’s only (!) Great Skua, a Little Gull and a Gannet. One of the suspect Barnacle Geese trio was noted again on Wallasea on the 18th. A small stint sp on Vange Marsh on the 18th was intriguing but the views were inconclusive and so it entered the diary as nothing more than a rather late Little Stint. It could not be found the following day although a late Curlew Sandpiper and four Spotted Redshanks were some consolation. Wallasea provided a raptor fest on the 21st when accompanying the first Hen Harrier of the autumn there were three Marsh Harriers, three Kestrels, two Merlins, a Sparrowhawk, a Buzzard and a Peregrine! The Short-eared Owl and Hen Harrier were both reported again on the 23rd when a Red Kite passed over Bournes Green. The high number of Shore Larks arriving further up the East coast resulted in one being found at Wakering Stairs on the 26th and 27th, this being only the second local record since the new millennium. A Short-eared Owl was reported from West Canvey on the 27th and a Great White Egret was seen on Potton Island from a boat in the Roach the next day. Red-breasted Mergansers have been much scarcer in recent years and so three off Wakering Stairs on the 29th were notable. A Shag was seen on a number of occasions through the month off Gunners Park including the 30th, by which time three Short-eared Owls could now be found on Wallasea.
A Leach’s Petrel off Canvey on the 1st was the first since 2013 and livened up an otherwise uneventful seawatch. Reflecting movements elsewhere in the country a flock of 18 White-fronted Geese touched down on Vange Wick on the 1st before relocating to Bowers Marsh where they spent the winter. Following up on a report from the previous day a Snow Bunting on the seawall at South Fambridge briefly on the 3rd was an excellent record and was the first of the year. A Pale-bellied Brent Goose was at Shoebury East Beach on the 4th and later at Wallasea on the 16th. The Purple Sandpiper present on Canvey since 1st October continued to frequent either Holehaven or the Point daily through to the 19th. Canvey produced some great records on the 6th and 7th with the first Goosander of the year, the second Pomarine Skua, the only two Little Auks of the year, and the last three Swallows, all on the 6th, followed by an excellent day of seawatching on the 7th. Highlights of the seawatch included a record equalling three Black-throated Divers, single Red-throated Diver, 28 Gannets, 13 Scaup, a Long-tailed Duck, 125 Common Scoter, five Goldeneye, three Pomarine Skuas, an Arctic Skua, 14 Great Skuas, 365 Kittiwakes, eight Guillemots and a Razorbill. By the 10th, single Woodcock were settled at Canvey Wick and Hadleigh Downs. As expected, the Glossy Ibis at Wat Tyler CP was reported on a number of occasions this month including the 11th, 15th, and 20th. Three adult Little Gulls flew upriver past Canvey on the 12th whilst the next day the first Great Northern Diver of the winter had taken up station off Canvey and the last Common Darter was seen at Fleet Head. Red-breasted Mergansers have declined in recent winters so it was pleasing to have a group of four off Two Tree Island on the 13th where some of the group remained into 2017. The now seemingly annual Scaup conundrum at West Canvey Marsh raised its head again on the 19th with the eventual conclusion being a male Scaup along with a female and an immature aythya hybrid. A Red Kite reported over Two Tree Island on the 19th was the last of the year. A ringtail Hen Harrier at Wat Tyler CP on the 20th was an excellent site record. A Velvet Scoter off Canvey Point on the 24th turned out to be the vanguard of a small influx with three on the 27th, four on the 28th, and an impressive eight on the 2nd Dec which were augmented by another three wintering along the Roach where a Smew was also seen briefly on the 26th. Six Green Sandpipers at Bowers Marsh on the 25th was unusually high for late November. Wallasea produced some impressive raptor action on the 26th when Short-eared Owl numbers surged to seven and Hen Harriers reached three. Other raptors present were four Marsh Harriers, three Peregrines, two Barn Owls, a Merlin, a Buzzard, a Sparrowhawk, and six Kestrels. The Thames produced another set of good records on the 26th and 27th with all three Diver species, two Long-tailed Ducks, 350 Common Scoter, three Velvet Scoter, five Eider, a Pomarine Skua, a Razorbill and a Guillemot all off Canvey, and four Eider, three Goosander, an immature Glaucous Gull, and a Shag from Gunners Park. At the end of the month, a female Scaup was singled out on Paglesham Lagoon on the 28th.
An Eider on the Crouch at South Fambridge on the 1st was a good record, it remained into 2017. Two Snow Buntings flew along the Roach on the 2nd but did not linger. A flock of six Barnacle Geese which arrived at West Canvey Marsh on the 3rd had some credibility for having ‘wild’ origins from at least as far as Suffolk, but maybe further afield. They stayed at West Canvey Marsh until the 9th before moving to Bowers Marsh on the 10th where they remained into 2017. The Glossy Ibis was seen on at least two days this month at Wat Tyler CP, on the 4th and 8th. Careful searching in suitable habitat in Hockley Woods yielded three Firecrests on the 4th with two still there the following week and one remaining into January; thirty Goldcrests were also counted. Four Bullfinch were a welcome find at one of their former haunts on the 5th when two pairs were noted in Magnolia NR. An overwintering flock of Twite is something that has been sadly missing from the local scene for many years so an obliging flock of a least five on Wallasea on the 7th were well received and proved popular. Four of the flock overwintered from the 14th into 2017 and included a colour ringed bird from the Pennines. Last month’s Scaup on Paglesham Lagoon was recorded again on the 8th. Good numbers of winter thrushes were present on West Canvey Marsh on the 9th when 700 Fieldfare and 100 Redwing were present. Another Firecrest was braving the winter in scrub at Ferndale, Rayleigh on the 10th. The 11th produced both a Pale-bellied Brent Goose and a Black Brant along the Roach as well as a Water Pipit which continued to be reported through to New Year’s Day. Alongside the raptors, Wallasea also hosted good numbers of passerines with 200 Corn Buntings, 40 Reed Buntings, and six Stonechats recorded on the 11th. The humble Great Crested Grebe rarely gets a mention but a count of 118 off Canvey on the 13th was notable. The first of five Blackcaps this month was in an Ashingdon garden on the 16th whilst a pair visited a South Benfleet garden in the last week of the year and singles were in Rayleigh and Southend gardens in the closing days. Typically, by contrast there was just one Chiffchaff this month which was in Friars Park on the 17th. A count of 300 Linnets at Bowers Marsh on the 18th was impressive for this Red Data List species. Five White-fronted Geese flew south over Wallasea on the 22nd and were thought to have landed near Paglesham. Sure enough on the 24th they were found in fields adjacent to Paglesham Lagoon where they remained until the 27th. The last butterfly of the year was a Red Admiral which flew around a Rochford garden on the 23rd. The only Brambling of the month was a most welcome visitor to a garden in Canewdon on the 26th. An adult Bewick’s Swan was an unusual visitor to Vange Marsh on the 27th before it relocated to Bowers Marsh on the 1st January after Vange Marsh froze over. A mightily impressive nine Short-eared Owls were all in the air together at Wallasea on the 28th whilst another single was at Two Tree Island the same day. Raptor numbers remained high on Wallasea with three Hen Harriers, two Marsh Harriers, a Sparrowhawk, a Buzzard, seven Kestrels, two Merlins, and two Peregrines present most days. The Thames still held a Shag at the Pier on the 29th and all three Diver species on the 31st as well as a surprise fly-by of two Goosanders for one grateful yearlister at Canvey. The east coast Waxwing invasion finally reached us on the 31st when three Waxwings were found in a retail park in Rayleigh and were equally well received by the local yearlisters; the Waxwings remained through to 11th January. In summary there were 215 species reliably reported this year which represents an average year. After a cracking spring, the autumn passage did not quite meet expectations. Highlights included a photographed Roseate Tern, several Yellow-browed Warblers, Siberian Chiffchaff, the first ever Raven – seen and photographed by a visiting birder, Black-winged Stilts, Lesser Yellowlegs, an adult Purple Heron, an obliging & long staying Red-footed Falcon which just got edged out of top billing by the Penduline Tit, an indisputable first for the area and an arguably long overdue addition.