An adult Whooper Swan on the lagoon at Bowers Marsh on the 1st was a rather bizarre record given the time of year. Other highlights at Bowers Marsh on the 1st were the long staying Ring-necked Duck, a pair of Black-necked Grebes, the last Wood Sandpiper and Green Sandpiper of the spring, four Little Ringed Plovers and an Egyptian Goose. Nearby, Vange Marsh played host to the last Ruff of the spring whilst further afield, a Barnacle Goose was on Wallasea. An interesting harrier flew high over Lower Raypits on the 2nd and was considered by the observer to most likely have been a Montagu’s Harrier. The Thames produced two Eider and six Black Terns on the 4th. On the 6th, Canvey Wick held up to five Nightingales and a singing Garden Warbler, whilst the Grasshopper Warbler at Bowers Marsh was reported again along with almost daily sightings of a Red Kite throughout the month. Also on the 6th, a Short-eared Owl was reported from Wallasea. The last Wheatear of the spring was at Bowers Marsh on the 7th where a cracking Whinchat was also recorded which was the only one of the spring. Green Hairstreaks numbered 18 on Canvey Wick on the 7th where four Arctic Terns headed inland on the 9th the same day that a Black Tern flew past Gunners Park. A Manx Shearwater passed Gunners Park on the 10th where a female Red-crested Pochard visited the lake there the same day and remained through to the 19th before relocating to Southchurch Park East from the 23rd until the month’s end. A drake Garganey showed for the day on Wallasea on the 11th the same day that Turtle Doves arrived back with a male in Canewdon and five at Wakering Stairs. An Osprey carrying a fish over Gunners Park on the 12th was an excellent spring record. Lower Raypits held a late Snipe on the 13th along with a pair of Little Ringed Plovers; other pairs of the latter were on territory at Bowers Marsh, Vange Marsh, and Wallasea. On the 13th a Short-eared Owl was watched from Wakering Stairs hunting over Havengore Island whilst two Nightingales were holding territory in the nearby scrub there. A Spoonbill dropped in briefly to Bowers Marsh on the 14th. Seawatching in the spring is usually coupled with disappointment but 57 Gannets, 16 Arctic Terns and a Razorbill off Canvey on the 17th offered some reward. A drake Garganey on Paglesham Lagoon on the 18th could conceivably have been last week’s bird from Wallasea. Also on the 18th the drake Ring-necked Duck was seen for the last time at Bowers Marsh before returning to Abberton Reservoir on the 19th. A ringtail Hen Harrier over Fleet Head on the 18th was interesting given the late date. Green Hairstreaks at Canvey Wick peaked at 20 on the 20th with up to six also present at Bowers Marsh a few days later. The reeling Grasshopper Warbler at Bowers Marsh popped up one more time on the 21st and the last Common Sandpiper of the spring was seen there the next day. Heath Fritillaries were recorded from the 24th with a single in Hockley Woods and five in Pound Wood. A Barnacle Goose of highly dubious origin was at West Canvey Marsh on the 25th and was predictably the only record of note in the final week of the month.
An adult Long-eared Owl along with three juveniles were seen at a traditional site in the south-west on the 4th. The roaming female Red-crested Pochard moved from Southchurch Park East, where it had spent the beginning of the month, to Bowers Marsh on the 5th but was not seen anywhere else subsequently. The first ever Scarce Chaser for the recording area was photographed in Belfairs Woods on the 6th. The first of three Red Kites this month was over West Canvey Marsh on the 12th where two Stoats were also seen together mirroring events on Wallasea where another two Stoats were also present together the same day. Two Greenshanks and two Green Sandpipers at Lower Raypits on the 13th were potentially the first returning waders. Painted Lady butterflies were widespread from the 14th onwards. Another successful brood of Long-eared Owls was found at the south-west site on the 15th when two groups, each of three juveniles were seen along with an adult. Heath Fritillaries peaked at 96 in Belfairs Woods on the 15th and a very impressive 193 in Hockley Woods on the 17th where a Treecreeper was also watched visiting a nest cavity. The first White-letter Hairstreaks of the year were noted on the 17th along Hadleigh Marshes. After going missing in the reedbed at Bowers Marsh since the 12th, the pair of Black-necked Grebes emerged triumphant on the 20th with three chicks in tow. Unfortunately they lost two of the chicks over the next two days but were successful in raising one through to fledging in mid-July when they all departed. Bullfinch records have reached a nadir with a male on Hadleigh Downs on the 21st presumed to be one of the pair there that are quite possibly now the last across the entire region. Two Barnacle Geese were at Bowers Marsh on the 21st when the first returning Spotted Redshank was at Vange Marsh. A Coal Tit was in Coombe Wood on the 22nd, they seem to be very slowly increasing now across the area. Two Serotine bats were recorded over Shoebury East Beach on the night of the 22nd. Southern Migrant Hawkers were noted from 23rd onwards when one was on Benfleet Downs. A Stone Curlew was a great find at Bowers Marsh on the 24th; unfortunately it did not linger for long thanks to the unwanted attention it received from the local Avocets. It seems incredible that we waited twenty years for a local record and then Bowers Marsh produces two records in consecutive years. The first Purple Hairstreaks of the summer were seen on the 26th in Belfairs Woods and the year’s first White Admiral was in nearby Pound Wood the following day. The Bowers Marsh Grasshopper Warbler surprised everyone when it started reeling again on the 27th after being quiet since May. A Ruff at Bowers Marsh on the 29th was an indication that return passage was slowly gathering momentum.
There was very little of avian interest early in the month with three Spotted Redshanks at Vange Marsh on the 1st the only record of note. Butterflies took centre stage with by far the best records being the Purple Emperors found in Belfairs Woods on the 4th and Thundersley Glen on the 5th, a first for the area of this stunning lepidoptera. A handful of Silver-washed Fritillaries were also recorded at several sites including Belfairs Woods, Benfleet, Canewdon, Hadleigh, and Wat Tyler CP. Clouded Yellows were recorded from the 7th onwards on Wallasea where up to five were present, and Purple Hairstreaks reached 75 in Belfairs Woods on the 10th. The Bowers Marsh Grasshopper Warbler was reportedly heard again on the 11th for the final time. The first of only two Red Kites this month passed over Leigh on the 12th with the other over Rayleigh on the 17th. A drake Garganey was still loitering around Bowers Marsh on the 13th. A Wood Sandpiper and a Ruff were present on Bowers Marsh on the 23rd with both still present on 26th and 27th respectively. A Southern Emerald Damselfly was found on only one date this month which was on the 23rd at Canvey Way. Return passage continued to gain momentum with 11 Green Sandpipers at Bowers Marsh on the 25th, and six Common Sandpipers with three Garganey there the next day. The local pair of Egyptian Geese successfully raised another brood of four at Shoebury Park mid-month. A Merlin at Fleet Head on the 27th was very unseasonal. The first returning Wheatear was a very early bird feeding on a lawn in a South Fambridge garden on the 28th. Seawatching from Gunners Park and Canvey on the 28th produced up to six Little Terns, four Black Terns, an Eider, a Dark-bellied Brent Goose, and three Porpoise whilst a Fulmar past Gunners Park the following day was only the second bird of the year after one in April.
The first Willow Emerald Damselfly of the year was noted at Bowers Marsh on the 2nd with another taking up residence in a South Fambridge garden from the 4th onwards. Good numbers of sandpipers were around at the start of the month with seven Green Sandpipers at Bowers Marsh and seven Common Sandpipers at West Canvey Marsh on the 2nd and up to two Wood Sandpipers at Fleet Head on the 3rd and 4th along with the second Wheatear of the autumn there. Yellow Wagtails reached 50 at Wallasea on the 3rd with similar numbers present there throughout the month. An eclipse drake Garganey was at Bowers Marsh from the 3rd to the 6th. The first of two Red Kites this month drifted high over Rayleigh on the 6th. What could arguably be the best sighting of the year came on the 7th when a continental Swallowtail briefly visited a garden in Leigh. A Muntjac at Rochford Golf Course on the 7th was a first for the site and a Southern Emerald Damselfly was seen for the second and last time at Canvey Way on the 8th. A seawatch at Canvey Point on the morning of the 9th was productive with an Eider, seven Common Scoter, a Pomarine Skua, two Great Skuas, a Sabine’s Gull, 405 Common Terns, 23 Arctic Terns, 13 Little Terns, and 12 Black Terns. Two Wood Sandpipers at West Canvey Marsh on the 13th were the last of the year. The first returning Whinchat frequented Gunners Park on the 18th where the first of the autumn’s six Tree Pipits passed over, with all six records concentrated between the 18th and 26th. A high tide roost of Little Terns was discovered at Shoebury East Beach on the 18th when 16 were present with numbers increasing to an impressive 38 on the 21st; nearby an equally impressive count by today’s standards of ten Eider was made from Wakering Stairs on the 18th where an Osprey remained from the 19th to the 20th. Diligent searching of the ponds on Hadleigh Marshes on the 20th resulted in the year’s best count of 14 Willow Emerald Damselflies. The 22nd saw the beginning of a remarkable build-up of Cattle Egrets at Wat Tyler CP with one initially, then four the next day, and an impressive eight on the 26th through into September. The first of five Spotted Flycatchers this month was at Bowers Marsh on the 22nd with the other four records all falling between the 27th and 29th, including two at Butts Hill NR on the 27th with a Pied Flycatcher. A total of eight Pied Flycatchers arrived between the 24th and the 29th which included two at Gunners Park and two at Shoebury East Beach as well as the first site record for Wallasea. The second and last Red Kite this month was seen over Hadleigh on the 24th. The 25th saw the first Redstart arrive with a female at Wakering Stairs followed by a further three singles before the month’s end with birds in Gunners Park, Benfleet, and West Canvey Marsh. Two Nightingales were seen and heard at Canvey Wick on the 26th and were unsurprisingly the last of the year, and two Ospreys were reported south over Wakering Stairs the same day. A total of 15 Wheatears continued to trickle through this month with four in Gunners Park on the 27th the best count of the autumn. Whinchats fared better after the first bird in Gunners Park mid-month with a further 17 passing through this month including seven at Bowers Marsh on the 30th. A juvenile Harvest Mouse was caught by hand at West Canvey Marsh on the 30th before being photographed and released and was incredibly the first sighting in the area of this delightful but elusive rodent. A Curlew Sandpiper, the first of the autumn, was found in Potton Creek, a traditional site for this species, on the 31st whilst nearby at Wakering Stairs it transpires that a White-tailed Eagle from the Isle of Wight reintroduction scheme spent several hours near the foreshore before roosting overnight in a nearby tree and yet managed to avoid being seen by anyone!
The 1st produced some interesting sightings with seven Eider and an early Dark-bellied Brent Goose at Wakering Stairs, an Osprey over Coombe Wood along with a Hummingbird Hawkmoth in an adjacent garden, two Pied Flycatchers and a Garden Warbler in Gunners Park, and another Garden Warbler along with a Spotted Flycatcher inland at Hawkwell. The first of two Red Kites this month was over Lower Raypits on the 3rd where two juvenile Turtle Doves were also seen on the 6th. Seawatching from Canvey Point on the 7th produced a Manx Shearwater, 15 Arctic Skuas, a Long-tailed Skua, two Great Skuas, 33 Arctic Terns, 11 Black Terns, and a Porpoise. Meanwhile the Cattle Egret flock at Wat Tyler CP returned on the 7th after a one week absence with seven birds all of which remained through to the 25th. Whinchat passage remained strong with another good peak count of eight at Bowers Marsh on the 8th. A Willow Emerald Damselfly at Rayleigh Mount on the 13th was a new site record, with additional sightings this month coming from Benfleet Downs, Bowers Marsh, Canvey Wick, Gunners Park, and Wat Tyler CP. A Spoonbill was reported briefly at Bowers Marsh on the 14th but did not linger. The following day at Bowers Marsh a Spotted Crake was an excellent find at dusk on the 15th. It was far from confiding and often elusive, but proved very popular and was present until the 22nd. Two Ravens flew north over Bowers Marsh on the 16th but were only seen by the one fortunate observer; there is yet to be a widely available local bird and so it remains missing from almost everyone’s local list, although it is surely only a matter of time. A walk across some inland fields at South Fambridge on the 16th revealed an unexpected post-breeding flock of 16 Yellowhammers which increased to 18 the following day. Wallasea played host to a Curlew Sandpiper and a Great White Egret on the 17th and 18th whilst at Canvey Point a group of 13 Arctic Skuas were loitering offshore ready to beat up anything that came upriver on the 18th, fortunately the Sabine’s Gull there managed to avoid their unwanted attention. The following day a Black-necked Grebe was seen off Canvey Point where it remained through to the 22nd and the first double figure flock of Dark-bellied Brent Geese arrived with 25 off the Point on the 19th with numbers swelling dramatically to 343 at Two Tree Island just one day later. Singles of Guillemot, Puffin, and Eider were all recorded past Canvey on the 20th and a Water Shrew was seen at Bowers Marsh. The fencelines at Bowers Marsh were busy on the 21st with seven each of Whinchat and Stonechat present. A Fulmar was reported past Canvey and then Wakering Stairs on the 21st. Canvey was again reasonably productive on the 22nd with a Long-tailed Skua, three Arctic Skuas, two Great Skuas, and three Porpoise all noted. A Great White Egret frequented the Wat Tyler CP environs on the 24th and 25th, and the last two Little Terns of the year flew past Canvey on the relatively late date of the 26th when the last of the month’s ten Spotted Flycatchers visited a Benfleet garden. The third Curlew Sandpiper of the autumn was found on Two Tree Island on the 29th and a surprise passage Purple Sandpiper frequented the seawall at Gunners Park the next day when a Red Kite was mobbed over Battlesbridge.
Four of the Cattle Egret flock were reported again at Wat Tyler CP on the 1st but were not seen again subsequently. Two Hobby over Gunners Park on the 1st were the last of the year where by contrast Merlin were just arriving with one at Bowers Marsh on the 3rd where the last Whinchat of a good autumn passage was also present. Seawatching at Canvey on the 5th produced the first Red-throated Diver of the autumn which was soon eclipsed by a summer plumaged Black-throated Diver; a Manx Shearwater there was the last of a poor autumn and a Little Gull added variety. A Shag appeared off Gunners Park on the 8th where ten Ring Ouzels were part of a nationwide influx with smaller numbers remaining through to the 15th; additionally a group of four were at Bowers Marsh on the 9th. Six Bramblings flew over Gunners Park on the 10th and were unfazed by the Merlin which flew hurriedly past and south out to sea. A handful of Siskins moved through from the 12th to the 14th with up to three birds at Canewdon and Gunners Park. A Merlin at Wallasea on the 15th was the first non-transient bird of the autumn; it stayed into November at least. Wallasea also hosted a ringtail Hen Harrier on the 17th and 18th, and rather unexpectedly, seven Curlew Sandpipers and a Little Stint on the 19th when the first returning Short-eared Owl was photographed there that evening. Nearby at Butts Hill NR the first Firecrest of the autumn was a pleasant surprise on the 18th. Another Ring Ouzel, the last of the autumn was skulking in Gunners Park on the 20th along with a Brambling whilst another two Brambling were just up the coast at Shoebury East Beach. A flock of 25 Lesser Redpoll were present around Rochford Golf Course on the 20th and were the only ones of the autumn. The last ten days of the month produced three very productive seawatches the first of which was on the 21st when a mightily impressive 628 Gannets passed Canvey along with a Red-throated Diver, a Merlin, 12 Great Skua, a Little Gull and 11 Guillemots. A Yellow-browed Warbler and a Firecrest were both trapped and ringed in Gunners Park on the 22nd with neither seen subsequently although the two Black Redstarts there offered a pleasant diversion, one of which remained until the 24th. After a handful of sporadic appearances on Wallasea, Great White Egret looked set to become a permanent feature with three present on the 25th remaining through to mid-November at least. A small fall of Firecrests was noted from the 26th to the 28th with one or two birds at Shoebury, Bowers Marsh, and Gunners Park. Four Whooper Swans were a great find on the 27th when two were present on Paglesham Lagoon and another two on Barling Marsh which remained into November whilst nearby on the seawall at Barling up to three Water Pipits were also present. Woodcock were disturbed from atypical habitat between the 28th and 30th as they arrived from the near continent with singles flushed at Gunners Park, Wallasea, and Belton Hills. Seawatching from Canvey on the 29th and 30th resulted in some excellent birds being seen. The highlights on the 29th were two Great Northern Divers, a Great White Egret, a pair of Long-tailed Ducks, 220 Common Scoter, 16 Red-breasted Mergansers, a Little Stint, a Purple Sandpiper, a Pomarine Skua, a Little Gull, two Short-eared Owls, and two Guillemots. By contrast, on the 30th there was less variety although a remarkable count of six Leach’s Petrels more than compensated. Other highlights included all three diver species, four Red-breasted Mergansers, two female Long-tailed Ducks, a Pomarine Skua, two Little Gulls and a Razorbill whilst a ringtail Hen Harrier was reportedly hunting the nearby saltmarsh there and a Shag was at Gunners Park again. The month closed with a report of three Short-eared Owls on Wallasea, a Brambling and two Coal Tits in a Hockley garden and the two Long-tailed Ducks which were now lingering off the Pier.