Southend Ornithological Group Area

The SOG recording area is shown as the white region on the map below. It is mostly bounded by water, the River Crouch to the north (Bridgemarsh Island is included), the North Sea to the east (Wallasea, Potton and Rushley Islands are included but the Foulness/New England/Havengore Island complex is excluded) and the Thames estuary to the south. To the west, the boundary follows the creek north from the Thames at Hole Haven, around the western edge of Pitsea and Vange marshes, to the A13 road. It then follows the A13 east to Sadlers Farm roundabout and from there it runs north along the A130 until it meets the River Crouch near Battlesbridge. Any bird recorded within this area, or seen from this area, is considered recordable for the SOG list.

The following site descriptions are taken from the SOG book and copyright is retained by the authors (Steve Arlow, Tim Jones and Ian Prentice). It was written in the mid 1990s and is in some respects out of date.

1. BRANDY HOLE

Typical sa1t-water tidal habitat, with some salt marsh. Probably best in winter, with occasional raptors, and grebes recorded on the river.

2. RAYPITS

Again, typical Essex coastal habitat. It is hoped that the recent purchase of Lower Raypits by the Essex Naturalists' Trust will result in management more suitable for both breeding and wintering marshland species

3. LION CREEK

Extensive salt marsh and tidal creeks. Essex Wildlife Trust Reserve. Occasional migrant waders, ducks and grebes on the river.

4. WALLASEA ISLAND

Basically one vast amble farm, but houses wintering raptors and geese, as well as Mergansers etc. on the river. Initially held a Red-breasted Goose in January 1994 until it became more nomadic; Long-tailed Duck recorded on the river at the same time.

5. PAGLESHAM BOATYARD

More of the same(!). Female/immature Smew seen between here and Paglesham Lagoon in January 1994, with two in the following winter. Tawny Owls are known to frequent Paglesham East End and Little Owls are occasionally seen in the general vicinity of Paglesham.

6. PAGLESHAM LAGOON

One of the few reasonably-sized areas of 'fresh' water, (actually part of the Paglesham Sewage outfall system) serving as a major roost site for wi1dfow1. Wintering Ruff are often found on the river by the outfall, Black-necked Grebes are recorded occasionally on passage as well as waders, raptors and Barn Owls. The lagoon is very occasionally drained for maintenance, and if only this were to happen at the right time of year, there is great potential for interesting wader records. Nearby Stannetts Farm produced a record of 2 juvenile Bee-eaters in 1987.

7. BARTON HALL CREEK

Salt marsh and coastal farmland with a good selection of the usual waders and occasional Little Owls.

8. STAMBRIDGE MILLS

A mixture of farmland, mature trees surrounding a pond and the Mills themselves (processing grain). Attracts large numbers of Collared Doves as well as the occasional Kingfisher and Sparrowhawk, and in recent winters a large flock of Black-tailed Godwits on the river.

9. ROPERS FARM

More typical Essex coastal habitat, with a good view across the Roach to Paglesham lagoon and consequently a respectable selection of wi1dfow1 in winter. The nearby tip attracts large numbers of gulls.

10. BARLING GRAVEL PITS

A good area for migrants, with old gravel diggings, some reedbed and other general vegetation as well as the estuary. Records in recent years include Red-footed Falcon, Barred Warbler and Wryneck Also commoner wi1dfowl, and Kingfishers used to breed.

11. FLEET HEAD

One of the most-frequented parts of the Southend area by local birders. Freshwater fleets and dykes make this an excellent area for waders at any time of year; Barn Owl, Short-eared Owl, harriers (even Montagu's in 1992 and 1994) and Merlin may be seen, Kingfishers occasionally, the odd Stonechat in winter, a large population of Stock Doves, roosting gulls (including a first-winter Glaucous in l990/91) .... the list goes on.

12. POTTON ISLAND

Although not accessible, can be viewed from the sea wall at Fleet Head and is consequently relatively undisturbed. Raptors in winter, Crane for three successive years in the late 1980's and again in 1994, and Little Egret has occurred.

13. WAKERING BOATYARD/TIP

The boatyard pond was, until very recently, much more extensive, and included a sizeable phragmites reedbed. This led to probable breeding of Bearded Tits in 1990 and a record of Spotted Crake. Pochard has also bred here, as well as Reed and Sedge Warbler, and the area has been used as a roost by large numbers of hirundines in past autumns. It has also been an attractive temporary home for a selection of transitory waders including Wood Sandpiper and Temminck's Stint. Unfortunately, quite recently and despite vehement protests, the pond was partially enveloped by the tip and the reduction in size coupled with the resultant contamination has caused a huge reduction in the potential of this site.

The tip itself attracts large numbers of gulls and is a regular site for partridges (but watch out for Chukars!).

14. WAKERING COMMON

A mixture of open fields, scrub, ditches and ponds. Corn Buntings common, plus other common species. Kingfisher was regular in the eighties

15. OXENHAM FARM

Grazing and arable land alongside the usual estuarine habitat. Good for Barn Owl and Little Owl, partridges. Scan across Rushley Island for Short-eared Owl and Hen Harrier in winter, Marsh Harrier in summer.

16. WAKERING SEWAGE FARM

Can be viewed from atop the sea wall by Havengore Bridge. Occasionally Jack Snipe and Water Pipit in winter, often Green Sandpiper. Worth checking for migrants, particularly in spring.

17. WAKERING STAIRS

Although under military jurisdiction, this is usually open at weekends and on summer evenings, but it is essential to keep to marked rights of way. The mixture of scrub, marshland, farmland and a wide view of the Thames Estuary make this an attractive area all year round for a variety of species. Havengore Creek attracts waders and is an annual site for migrant Curlew Sandpiper and Little Stint. Bushes and trees on the western side are a resting place for migrant passerines, and Cuckoos are very common here in summer. It is also a reliable site for Sparrowhawk and other raptors are often seen, especially by viewing across Havengore from the eastern sea wall.

The sea wall where it meets the public road is a good point from which to seawatch (obviously best at high tide), especially for autumn terns and skuas, or winter auks and divers and a regular flock of Eider. Great Grey Shrike has wintered on a couple of occasions recently, and Red-backed and Woodchat Shrikes have both been recorded. A Lesser Grey Shrike was the jewel in the crown, frequenting the border between the MOD land and the adjoining Oxenham Farm in August 1989.

18. SHOEBURY EAST BEACH

Wader roosts are the speciality here, the sandy nature of the beach attracting Sanderling and Ringed Plover particularly. Look east into the MOD area for these, as well as Purple Sandpiper on the rocks in winter. A large boom projects from the shore, attracting resting gulls which sometimes include Kittiwake.

19. GUNNERS PARK

Formerly part of Shoebury's military firing range, the park consists of open mown grass bisected by a large storm drain and an access road. The perimeter vegetation forms a migrant 'corridor' and there are mature trees lining the access road. The southern end of the park is a fenced-off reserve, slightly heathy in nature with some gorse in the south-west corner. The south-east edge overlooks a scrubby area still under MOD protection, and there are various bushes and trees dotted around the park. Probably the best site in the area for migrant species, previous records include Woodchat Shrike, Red-rumped Swallow, Golden Oriole, Alpine Swift and Pallas's Warbler, and it is well worth visiting in spring or autumn given appropriate conditions. All vegetated areas should be thoroughly checked, but the trees and bushes around the pond halfway along the west side are especially good for warblers. Kingfisher is also occasionally recorded here. Wheatears are regular on the reserve and Stonechats have been known to frequent this area all year round. Grey Wagtails are often seen in the storm drain and spring sometimes produces one or two singing Grasshopper Warblers on the MOD land at the Southeast corner. Records vary from year to year but may include Redstart, Black Redstart, Tree Pipit (although becoming much scarcer), Ring Ouzel and even occasional raptors.

20. SHOEBURY COASTGUARDS

In view of its position, this is a good seawatching point, and although it does not match the Pier or Canvey Island, passing seabirds (terns especially) can venture quite close. At low tide in winter, Sanderling often frequent this area and large flocks of Knot can usually be found west to the pier.

21. SOUTHCHURCH PARK

Not particularly noted for birds; however, the eastern section houses a pond lined by reeds which occasionally harbours little grebe or tufted duck

22. SOUTHCHURCH HALL PARK

Landscaped garden with a moat surrounding a small museum. A motley selection of pinioned wildfow1 has been known to be accompanied by one of Southend's nomadic Mandarin drakes

23. SOUTHEND PIER

Due to the dedication in recent years of a few hardy souls who have braved cold and windy conditions, the Pier (said to be the longest in the wor1d at one and a quarter miles) has proved to be an excellent seawatching point. Autumn records now include most of the seabird records normally to be encountered in the UK, although hard work and favourable conditions are needed. Best in winds with an easterly bias (preferably after overnight mist or fog), the Pier has nonetheless been productive in all types of windy weather. Usual birds in autumn include Gannet, Arctic and Great Skua and various gull species (including Kittiwake, which is also often present in winter). It is also well worth visiting in winter for Red-throated and occasionally scarcer divers, grebes, seaduck, Shag (in some years) and auk species. Mediterranean Gull is also regular, and one frequented the Pier-bead for several years in the late 1980's and early 1990's.

24. SUTTON ROAD CEMETERY

The cemetery is approximately half a mile square and is dotted with trees and bushes; most of the paths are tree-lined, and it is surrounded by various trees and shrubs, including some tall pines. These, and the pines beside one of the chapels were home to a small flock of Crossbills during June of the 1991 irruption year. Kestrel is regular, as is Mistle Thrush, and Spotted Flycatcher are known to breed. Finch flocks may sometimes be found in autumn and winter.

25. PRIORY PARK

This park is one of the largest in Southend and is the best adapted for a variety of bird species It is amply supplied with mature trees which often house migrants (especially in spring) and these have included Redstart, Pied Flycatcher and Garden Warbler. There is a large pond and the Prittle Brook runs right through the Park: Grey Wagtails are regular. A number of other water-based species have been recorded, including Mandarin, Little Grebe, Water Rail and occasional Kingfishers. Redpoll, Stock Dove, Tawny Owl and Spotted Flycatcher have been known to breed, but the park is well worth scouring at any time of year. The beeches across Victoria Avenue may support a few Brambling in some winters.

26. PRITTLE BROOK

This stretches all the way from Leigh to Rochford where it joins the River Roach. Records include Grey Wagtail (probably present at several points along its length), Mandarin and occasional Kingfishers.

27. EASTWOOD SEWAGE FARM

The fenced-off sludge-beds often contain Water Pipit and Grey Wagtail in winter and the surrounding woods are well worth checking for wood1and species, including Sparrowhawk. The adjacent filter-beds are especially good in winter, again often housing Water Pipit and Grey Wagtail (as well as Meadow Pipit and Pied Wagtail) and Green Sandpiper, and in hard weather, Snipe and Woodcock are not unknown. Wintering Chiffchaffs have been recorded in the surrounding hedgerows.

28. HOCKLEY WOODS

Marginally the best woodland site in the area (above Belfairs), Hockley Woods contains all three woodpecker species, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Coal Tit, Goldcrest, Bullfinch and Redpoll. In winter these are supplemented by occasional Siskins, Hawfinches and Brambling. Sparrowhawks are commonly seen, as are Tawny Owls, especially in winter roost sites. It is also worth visiting in spring to check for passage migrants, which in some years have included singing Wood Warbler. Arctic Redpoll was recorded in early 1991.

29. BELFAIRS WOOD

30. POUND WOOD

31. DAWS HEATH

32. WEST WOOD

33. SHIPWRIGHT'S WOOD

These remaining woodlands in the complex to the west side of Southend are headed by Belfairs which runs Hockley Woods a very close second. Belfairs, too, is home to most common woodland species, and on 28th February 1994 it held a flock of ten Hawfinches, the largest recorded in the Southend area. Both Belfairs and Shipwrights Woods have been known to contain wintering Woodcock and these may even have bred at some time. Shipwrights Wood is the last site in the locality in which Marsh Tit was recorded, and unusual recent records in Belfairs include Golden Oriole and Nightjar.

34. LEIGH COCKLESHEDS

Mainly known as a haunt of numerous gulls between tides, but the deposits of emptied cockle shells also provide a refuge for roosting waders (especially Turnstone) with large numbers during poor weather and at particularly high tides

35. TWO TREE ISLAND

A national nature reserve, the surrounding mudflats produce large amounts of eel grass, thus supporting huge Brent Goose flocks in winter. These included a Red-breasted Goose in late 1985. The East end of the island was once a rubbish tip, but now is a mixture of rough open areas and scrub, attracting migrants in spring and autumn. Waders abound in the salt-marsh, which also serves as a home to occasional finch flocks and housed a Little Egret in 1992. One or two Stonechats can usually be found on the Island in winter, together with Twite flocks, and in the past, Tree Sparrow and occasionally Lapland Bunting and Short-eared Owl. Rock Pipits can usually be seen on the southern shore in winter. At the western end there is a large sluiced brackish lagoon which is a good site for waders and gulls. The adjoining creek often contains Greenshank and Black-tailed Godwit at the appropriate times of the year. Other records include Great Grey Shrike, and amazingly, two Little Crakes in spring 1973.

36. HADLEIGH COUNTRY PARK (HADLEIGH DOWNS & MARSH)

The 'marsh' consists of a combination of arable fields and grazing marsh, and supplied Southend's most famed record, the 1984 Cream-coloured Courser. The sea wall overlooks Benfleet Creek with its attendant gulls and waders, and the reedier fleets on the north side support Reed and Sedge Warblers in summer. A Common Rosefinch frequented the sea wall with a flock of Linnets and Goldfinches in September 1989. Hadleigh downs is an extensive area of scrubland and more open fields, interspersed with a few mature trees. It is well worth checking, but migrants tend to move through quickly. Because of this, and its size, coverage is relatively sparse, but records of Black Kite, Cetti's Warbler and Red-backed Shrike hint at its true potential.

37. RAYLEIGH MOUNT

A small area of park/scrubland land surrounded by mature trees with a medium-sized pond. One of the few remaining reliable sites for Bullfinch; the pond is the most-favoured spot for a local roving Mandarin drake.

38. CANVEY POINT

This forms a huge wader roost at high tides (care must be exercised when visiting, as the point is cut off at high tide) and the salt marsh is good for finches, buntings and pipits, with Snow Buntings in some years and the areas only records of Shorelark (now fading into a distant memory). More unusual wader records include Kentish Plover and Red-necked Phalarope. In winter, Rock Pipits are common, and offshore, divers, grebes and auks are worth scanning for. In windy conditions (especially westerlies) the concrete sea wall adjacent to the salt marsh forms a wind-break making this a good place to sea-watch from. Produced a record of 2 to 3 Leach's Petrels in westerly gales in December 1989.

39. CANVEY SEAFRONT (COASTGUARD'S LOOKOUT)

Probably the most popular sea-watching spot in the area. Has produced some excellent records, including Cory's, Great, Sooty, Manx and Mediterranean Shearwaters, Leach's Petrel, all four Skuas, Sabine's Gull and all the other commoner seabirds. Like the Pier, early mornings in Autumn with easterlies following overnight mist or fog are ideal, but it is worth a visit in any type of windy weather. The nearby field beside the Labworth Cafe is favoured by a Mediterranean Gull which is sometimes joined by up to two further individuals.

40. BOWERS MARSH

An extensive area of mixed arable farmland and wet grazing marsh, Bowers Marsh is home to a fair-sized population of Reed Warblers (along reedy dykes and ditches), occasional breeding Lapwing and a small flock of feral Greylag Geese. Various raptors have been recorded, especially in winter, and the marsh was home to a group of 3 Whooper Swans in February 1987. A Hoopoe was seen here in Spring 1990.

41. PITSEA HALL CP (Formerly WAT TYLER CP)

One of the best all-round birding sites in the area, the Country Park incorporates a mixture of habitats a freshwater fleet with extensive phragmites reed-bed (good for wi1dfow1, Little Grebe, Water Rail and Bearded Tit), salt water creek (waders and Teal), extensive scrub (occasional Long-eared Owl, summer migrants (including Nightinga1e) and sometimes wintering Chiffchaff and Blackcap), and a new scrape, which shows much promise for migrant fresh-water waders. Hobbies are regular in summer. There is also a ringing group based here. The list of species recorded is impressive and includes Olive-backed Pipit (early 1994), Cetti's, Savi's, Great Reed, Icterine, Barred and Yellow-browed Warblers, Temminck's Stint, Wood Sandpiper, breeding Little Ringed Plover, Grey Phalarope, etc., etc..

Hides overlook the Fleet/reedbed and the adjacent sewage works attracts pipits and wagtails.

However, the Country Park can get extremely busy on summer weekends due to other attractions such as craft shops, miniature railway, picnic areas, museum etc., etc., exacerbated by the close proximity of Pitsea and Basildon.

Vange Marsh, alongside, shows great promise, being one of the largest areas of freshwater marsh in the vicinity. In June 1994 it held a Little Egret followed in July by a Marsh Sandpiper and in September by a Pectoral Sandpiper and a record count of 74 Little Grebes.

Status: not logged in.