As is customary, the year got off to a good start with many birders keen to start their year lists, with the noteworthy birds present at the end of last month all still accounted for. Notable discoveries on the 1st included two Woodcock in Hawkwell, an impressive 12 Yellowhammers in Rayleigh, and a Raven over South Fambridge. Best of all, however, was a fine first-winter Caspian Gull on the River Crouch at Hullbridge which was present the following day, but not subsequently. Last month’s Sandwich Tern was noted between Canvey Point and Two Tree Island on a few occasions between the 1st and 8th, before being seen for the final time passing Thorpe Bay on the 13th. Away from Wallasea, Merlin and Hen Harrier were both recorded from Wakering Stairs on the 1st. Three Guillemot and nine Razorbill flew past Canvey Point on the 3rd with a further 14 Razorbills off the pier on the 14th; in a reversal of fortunes of these two large alcids, the latter is now the more expected species in winter in the Thames. Nine Lesser Redpoll were found at Canvey Wick on the 3rd. A Firecrest was in Hockley Woods between the 4th to 7th with another two at Shoebury all month. Other wintering passerines consisted of eight Blackcaps and five Chiffchaffs, while Water Pipits put in a poor showing with just a single at Bowers Marsh and a duo at Vange Marsh. Wintering waders this month fared only slightly better with three Spotted Redshanks, ten Greenshanks and seven Green Sandpipers. A Jack Snipe was flushed at the Airport Business Park on the 6th, while two were still present at Vange Marsh. A few days of north easterly winds from the 7th pushed birds into the estuary and produced some good records between Shoebury and Canvey. The 7th saw singles of both Black-throated and Great Northern Divers, Shag, two Red-breasted Mergansers, 60 Kittiwake, which was the only double-figure count all winter, and a winter high count of 72 Gannets. A Puffin whirred past Canvey Point on the 9th, while the following day a pair of Scaup put in a brief appearance at Shoebury East Beach. Away from the estuary there was a Merlin along the River Roach on the 7th, single Ravens cronked their way over Wat Tyler on the 7th and Rayleigh on the 8th, 12 White-fronted Geese toured West Canvey and Bowers Marshes, and two Woodcock were at their traditional site of Canvey Wick on the 11th. Also on the 11th the first butterfly of the year, a Red Admiral, was in an Ashingdon garden. Back on the Thames, the 12th saw an excellent showing of at least six Great Northern Divers off of Gunners Park, the highest local count since 2010, a Red-necked Grebe which bobbed past Canvey Point, and an Eider. Also on the 12th a Red-breasted Merganser was found on Wallasea Island and remained all month. A Goldeneye was a good find at Bowers Marsh between the 12th to 31st, while at their only regular site of Paglesham Lagoon numbers peaked at a measly five on the 14th. Two Ravens passed over Hullbridge on the 13th, the same day as the Canvey Wick Lesser Redpoll flock had increased to twelve. The pier was the place to be on the 14th where the Red-necked Grebe reappeared, as well as five Great Northern Divers and three Eiders, and the first local Slavonian Grebe since 2018. Long-eared Owls were conspicuous by their absence in the early part of the year so a single at a site in the south on the 14th was welcomed. The following day a Merlin was hunting rough ground at the Airport Business Park and three Firecrests were found wintering in Tile Wood. A Glossy Ibis flew along the River Roach on the 16th, and a Hawfinch flew over Tile Wood on the 17th; neither were seen again. Wallasea Island produced some good records on the 19th with 18 White-fronted Geese, a Jack Snipe, Great Northern Diver and the elusive Cattle Egret which popped up briefly for the final time this winter. Also on the 19th, a dusk vigil at Bowers Downs in the hope of Long-eared Owl proved unsuccessful but did result in a good count of 4 Woodcock. Two Waxwings in Shoebury on the 21st finally had the decency to stay put and attracted a stream of admirers until their departure on the 24th, the same day a Water Pipit took up residence at West Canvey Marsh. Late on the 24th came news of a Grey Phalarope photographed from the seafront at Thorpe Bay earlier in the day; searching on the 25th drew a blank, but the day was to be even more eventful… A speculative lunchtime visit to the end of Southend Pier on the 25th saw one incredulous observer face to face with a juvenile WHITE-BILLED DIVER! A true rarity in southern England, and the first fully documented record for the county, this imposing Arctic gaviid showed exceptionally well for the rest of the day and will surely be the highlight of the year for the fifteen or so birders who managed to connect that afternoon. Unfortunately for would be admirers gathered over the following days there was no sign of the diver, although other records during this time included four Great Northern Divers and two each of Shag and Eider. Back on dry land two Firecrests were found wintering in West Wood from the 25th to 28th, a Red Kite drifted over Benfleet on the 26th, and a gaggle of eight Egyptian Geese were at Bowers Marsh on the 27th. The 28th saw a Water Pipit at Ropers Farm, two Siskin at Rochford Golf Course, nine Ruff on Wallasea Island, and a good winter record of a Little Stint at Bowers Marsh until the 29th only along with two Great White Egrets. Persistent scanning of the Brent Goose flocks finally turned up trumps on the 30th when one of the Red-breasted Geese which had been wintering on the Dengie made a much anticipated, albeit brief, visit to Wallasea. Also on Wallasea at the month’s end four Short-eared Owls could still be found, with the two Black-throated Divers, three Spoonbills and Goosander all still in situ there. Two other Short-eared Owls remained at Bowers Marsh throughout the month, while Barn Owls were noted at six sites. The White-fronted Goose at Paglesham Lagoon was also still present on the 31st, when the Barnacle Goose flock at Bowers Marsh had increased to 20.





Three Yellowhammers and a Water Pipit were at Bowers Marsh on the 1st with another Water Pipit present at Vange Marsh until the 5th, where with the use of thermal imaging it was possible to locate four Jack Snipe. The 12 White-fronted Geese could still be found at West Canvey Marsh on the 2nd and by the 17th had increased their number to 21. Also on the 2nd the male Hen Harrier was seen on Blue House Farm from South Fambridge, and nine Siskin were at Rochford Golf Course on 4th. Wallasea was still the place to be in the first week of the month with three Spoonbills, three Barnacle Geese, Goosander, three each of Hen Harrier and Short-eared Owl, and Merlin all noted around this time. Best of all, however, was the roaming Red-breasted Goose which dropped in for a quick wash and brush up on the 4th before soon departing once more. The 7th saw a Black Brant join the Dark-bellied Brent Goose flock at Fleet Head, but the highlight of the day was the unexpected return of the White-billed Diver which drifted past the end of the pier late morning. Pleasingly for those who travelled from far and wide the diver hung around until the 10th, but was erratic in its appearances, although could often be seen from the shoreline. With all eyes on the Thames there were several good records between Canvey Point and Gunners Park over the following week. A Long-tailed Duck was seen daily from the pier between the 7th and 11th when three Great Northern Divers and a single Black-throated Diver were joined by the Slavonian Grebe and an impressive 440 Great Crested Grebes. Shags also put on a good showing with at least three present around the pier, but Eider and Common Scoter managed just a single apiece. A Little Gull and nine Kittiwake flew past Canvey on the 8th, with six Red-breasted Mergansers recorded there on the 11th. Razorbills peaked at seven on the 10th and Guillemot likewise with five on the 14th. Away from the estuary two Firecrests were still wintering in Hockley Woods on the 7th with another duo still in Tile Wood on the 11th. Two Waxwings were present in Gunners Park on the 9th and 10th, with a Water Pipit and two Raven at Wat Tyler on the latter date. Yellowhammers put in appearances with 11 in Rayleigh on the 10th and a single at South Fambridge the following day. On the 12th the roving Red-breasted Goose dropped into Wallasea once more, but this time remained for several hours before departing late in the afternoon. Six days later it was back again, this time at Fleet Head where it remained until the 19th. Three Hen Harriers and four Short-eared Owls could still be found terrorising the vole population on Wallasea on the 18th, a Red Kite drifted over Benfleet on the 19th and the regular Red-crested Pochard continued to bounce around the parks in the south east of the area all month. Four Lesser Redpoll were present in Hockley Woods where they were joined by four Siskin on the 23rd and 24th, while the following day 10 Lesser Redpolls could still be found on Canvey Wick. The 23rd also saw unusually large counts of two common species with 120 Linnets at Rochford and a staggering 3,000 Black-tailed Godwits at Bowers Marsh. Also on the 23rd a Raven was mobbed over Fleet Head, while two Long-eared Owls were located at a Thameside location in the evening. The month was seen out with a Merlin along the River Roach and the reappearance of the two Waxwings in Gunners Park on the 28th.


MARCH 2024


A single Yellowhammer was at Lion Creek on the 2nd, with two more at Bowers Marsh the following day which were joined by a drake Scaup and a Great White Egret. The last two Jack Snipe of the winter were seen at Vange Marsh on the 3rd when 12 White-fronted Geese could still be found on West Canvey Marsh where a Water Pipit began a three week residence. The 3rd also saw a female Eider off Shoebury East Beach and nearby the two Waxwings reappeared at Gunners Park where they remained on and off until the 6th. Another Waxwing duo was found at Great Wakering on the 3rd and remained until the 13th. Between the 3rd and 9th there was a modest showing of Siskin, with eight birds at three sites, while the same period also yielded five Firecrests, with two in Tile Wood and three in Hockley Woods. The first Black-necked Grebe of the year was at the traditional site of Bowers Marsh on the early date of the 5th; numbers increased throughout the month peaking at six on the 30th. A month high of six Short-eared Owl was on Wallasea on the 6th, where a single Spoonbill remained the whole month. Also on the 6th White-fronted Goose numbers at West Canvey had increased to 23, the same day an unseasonal Hummingbird Hawkmoth was making the most of some early spring sunshine in Shoebury and the month’s only Ring-necked Parakeet was noted in Gunners Park. A visit to Fleet Head on the 6th revealed the continued presence of not one, but two, Red-breasted Geese which were also joined by a Black Brant. At the end of an eventful day an impressive dusk count was made of eight Woodcock leaving their daytime roost at Canvey Wick, while nearby a pair of Long-eared Owls were seen displaying until the 10th. The two Red-breasted Geese could still be found in the Fleet Head area over the following days, where remarkably they were joined by a third bird on the 10th and 11th; all three had been seen on the Dengie peninsula over the previous few months. A single Red-breasted Goose was seen for the final time on the 12th, and during this time up to three Pale-bellied Brent Geese and two Black Brants could also be found mingling amongst the Dark-bellied Brent Goose flocks in the area. A Black-throated Diver and Little Gull were both noted passing Canvey Point on the 8th, the same day a Pale-bellied Brent Goose was found on Hadleigh Marshes; it remained in the area until 22nd. Three Yellowhammer were present at Wat Tyler on 8th only. The 9th saw both a male and female Hen Harrier on Wallasea island with the male last seen on the 21st and the female remaining all month. On the 10th the month’s only Guillemot flew past Canvey Point, while the following day a Spoonbill was seen at Bowers Marsh where it remained on and off into June. The drake Red-breasted Merganser could still be found on Wallasea on the 13th, as could the 23 White-fronted Geese at West Canvey Marsh, although their number quickly dwindled to a single by the 18th. Some warm air on the 14th saw the emergence of the first Brimstones, Small Tortoiseshell, Commas and Peacock butterflies, the same day 14 Siskin passed over Gunners Park. After a poor winter showing of Water Pipits, the final bird at Vange Marsh was seen on 15th, while at Bowers Marsh the following day there were now three Great White Egrets. Bittern is a very scarce bird locally, so one at Bowers Marsh briefly on the 16th was well received, as was a Swallow which flew north over Rawreth and was the earliest ever local record. Two Red Kites which drifted over Rayleigh on 16th were the vanguard of a relatively heavy passage which included seven further records of nine birds up to the 27th. The 16th also saw the first of a flurry of Siskin records with 30 birds recorded to the month’s end, mostly on garden feeders and including a maximum of seven in Canewdon on the 22nd. The overwintering Water Pipit at Bowers Marsh was seen for the final time on the 17th, while the following day a Shag could be found resting on the Shoebury Boom. The Black Brant at Fleet Head was seen for the final time on the 18th when there was a sharp decline in the Brent Goose numbers, while the same day the first Wheatear of the year was on Wallasea; three further singles were noted over the following week. Five Yellowhammers were at Lower Raypits on the 19th when two Short-eared Owls and a Merlin could still be found on Wallasea. The 21st was a red-letter day for Wallasea where two Common Cranes flew over in the morning and a Red-crested Pochard, another 2024 island first, was present late in the day. Also on the 21st two Shag were present off of Canvey Point and the first Emperor Moth of the year was at Vange Marsh. A Short-eared Owl was at Bowers Marsh from the 22nd to 31st, with the West Canvey Marsh Water Pipit being seen for the final time the following day. A Lesser Redpoll visited garden feeders in Canewdon on the 24th. An impressive three pairs of Nuthatch were in Belfairs Wood on the 25th, when a Raven passed over Bowers Marsh before being seen again over West Canvey Marsh three days later. A report of a Bonaparte’s Gull at Bowers Marsh surfaced after dark on the 26th and would certainly have proven popular had it been confirmed. Four Cattle Egrets were present at their roost at Wat Tyler early on the 27th, while nearby the first Willow Warbler of the year was in song at Bowers Marsh and the first Little Ringed Plovers, with five birds, were at Lower Raypits. Towards the end of the month Small White and Speckled Wood were on the wing, bringing the number of butterfly species up to eight for the year, but the wintry feel couldn’t be shaken with a Merlin on Wallasea on the 29th, and Hen Harrier at Barling and Great Northern Diver off the pier on the 30th. The month was seen out with the first three Sandwich Terns of the year and the month’s only Razorbill all off of Gunners Park on the 31st.



APRIL 2024


The Red Kite passage continued with up to 13 birds in the first 14 days of the month including four drifting over Bowers Marsh / Wat Tyler on the 1st. Siskins were also faring well during this time with a minimum of 64 birds between the 1st and 11th, again mostly at garden feeders. A Short-eared Owl was at West Canvey Marsh on the 1st and a Wheatear was in Gunners Park the same day. The 1st also saw an early Nightingale at Canvey Wick, with an impressive 17 counted there on 27th; twelve more at six sites during the month meant this species had its best ever year locally. Willow Warblers were also having a good year with 23 widely scattered singing birds over the course of the month. Five Black-necked Grebes were still at Bowers Marsh on the 4th, but by the 22nd only a single pair remained and no breeding attempts were made there this year. From the 4th the expected summer visitors began to arrive, with a Lesser Whitethroat at Canvey Wick on the 8th and Cuckoo on Vange Wick on the 11th both being earliest ever records. Diligent scanning of Blue House Farm from South Fambridge on the 8th was eventually rewarded with the two drake Garganey and a Short-eared Owl. The 8th also saw a spring high count of five Wheatear at Bowers Marsh, with just a few further ones and twos through to the 23rd, and also the first in a string of Garden Warbler records from Canvey Wick which persisted into early June. A fine male Ring Ouzel spent the day parading around Oxenham Farm on 10th, where the wandering female Hen Harrier also put in an appearance before being seen again on Wallasea on the 15th. A Hummingbird Hawkmoth was a surprise visitor to a Canewdon garden on the 11th. A Short-eared Owl and a single Great White Egret remained in situ at Bowers Marsh on the 11th, where a Cattle Egret flew over the following day. The 13th saw the first odonata on the wing with a Hairy Dragonfly at Canvey Wick, with the first Green Hairstreaks of the year there the following day. A Whooper Swan keeping company with the Mute Swans at Vange Marsh on the 15th and 16th was most unexpected, but welcome nonetheless. The two semi-resident Spoonbills on Wallasea were joined by a third bird on the 17th only. The 17th also saw the first Wall Brown on the wing, bringing the butterfly count for the year up to 13. The first two Grasshopper Warblers of the year could be heard reeling at Bowers Marsh on the 18th; there were up to four present later in the month. Bowers Marsh also hosted a White Wagtail on the 18th and 19th, with the latter date also seeing the first Hobby of the year, over West Canvey Marsh, and the first of only two Common Sandpipers of the spring, at Battlesbridge. From the 19th a pair of Long-eared Owls could be seen displaying at a location in the south. Short-eared Owls at Canvey Wick and Two Tree Island on the 20th and a White-fronted Goose on Wallasea on the 21st were a reminder that winter wasn’t quite over, even though the first two Swifts of the year were at Bowers Marsh on the latter date. Eight Ring-necked Parakeets flew over Canvey Wick early on the 22nd, the same day that two Ravens passed over Bowers Marsh. A Jack Snipe was unexpectedly flushed on Wallasea on the 25th, where two Short-eared Owls were still present; a further three sites held single birds over the next four days. Some unsettled weather on 27th saw eyes turn to the Thames where a Gannet, Eider and Great Skua, a very good spring record, all flew past Gunners Park. Further upriver a Razorbill, two Arctic Terns and a Black Tern were all recorded from Canvey Point. Also on 27th a Pink-footed Goose arrived at Bowers Marsh and sought out the company of the local Greylag Geese and remained well into May. It was with some relief that the first Turtle Dove returned to Wakering Stairs on the 27th; they had increased to three by the 30th but hold a precarious toehold in the area. Black-winged Stilts are now expected, but their arrival is still cheered each year; the arrival of one at Bowers Marsh on 29th was therefore gratefully received. It remained until 7th May and was the only record this spring. A male Redstart at Canvey Wick on the 29th would have been popular had it lingered for more than a few seconds, while over at the Point two Little Gulls and a Little Tern were noted flying upriver. The month was seen out with a good spring count of 30 Arctic Terns moving upriver past Canvey Point on the 29th.