As usual, the new year saw many birders out, eager to start their year-lists with a boost, and there were plenty of birds to keep everyone interested.
Two Shags were reported at several sites around Southend seafront throughout the month, where the Purple Sandpiper could also be found all month over every high tide, remaining loyal to the foreshore at the old gasworks pier. Slightly further along, the four Snow Buntings remained at Shoebury Common and showed well most days. In addition, a lone Snow Bunting found on Canvey on 31st December continued its stay until the 3rd. The White-fronted Goose flock at Wat Tyler was reported from the 1st through to the 19th in varying numbers. There may have been up to 26 birds present although no more than 20 were seen at any one time. Accompanying them, 80 Greylag Geese on the 1st was notably high and a Cetti's Warbler was still singing. 14 Pintail flew by the Pier on the 1st were unusual in terms of location. Up to 36 Ruff were around the Fleet Head area from the 1st to the 11th. Bunting numbers were alarmingly low with three Corn Buntings at Paglesham on the 1st the only record of this species all month in the entire area, ten Yellowhammers were also noted there. On the 2nd, two Pale-bellied Brent Geese and a Black Brant were found at Fleet Head. The Pale-bellies continued to be seen around the same area all month with three birds present on the 30th, whereas the Brant wasn't seen again until 11th February at South Fambridge. A Jack Snipe flushed at Vange Marsh on the 2nd was the only record this month and three Stonechats there included the `pale male', which superficially resembles a Siberian Stonechat and has wintered on Two Tree Island since 2001. A Woodcock and four Tawny Owls were at Hadleigh C.P. and two Barn Owls wintered around the Fleet Head area. The lonely drake Mandarin was seen again at Southchurch Hall Park from the 2nd to the 9th. Lesser Spotted Woodpecker normally reveal their presence from February but a pair in Hockley Woods started early this year and were seen well on the 3rd. The Roach held a lowly count of five Red-breasted Mergansers and an unseasonal Whimbrel on the 3rd. Last months Brambling reappeared in the Rayleigh garden on the 4th where it showed intermittently until the 8th. A Little Stint was located at the regular wintering site in Potton Creek on the 6th although was not reported again. A Black-throated Diver was present off the Pier from the 9th to the 15th and the sole local Eider, which has persevered alone for the last few months, was seen again from the Pier on the 9th. One of the three wintering Greenshank in the area was noted on the 9th at Two Tree Island, other birds were at Wat Tyler and Fleet Head later in the month. 65 Stock Doves at Wat Tyler on the 9th was a reasonable count these days. A Waxwing reported in a Westcliff garden on the 9th offered a taste of things to come! The pager reported four Waxwings on the 10th at the favoured location of Pitsea and after much anticipation the invasion had finally reached us. Numbers built up rapidly through the month reaching an impressive 105 on the 27th, the first three-figure count since 1996. On the 11th, the wintering male Marsh Harrier at Wat Tyler was joined by a female; two Chiffchaffs were also seen there, as was the now resident Peregrine. A Spotted Redshank was at Fleet Head. Five Twite were found in a Linnet flock on Two Tree Island on the 12th. The speed of decline in the wintering numbers of this finch throughout Essex continues to give grave concern. Goldeneye numbers on the Roach reached 22 on the 13th. The Pier gave good counts of 23 Mediterranean Gulls, 50 Kittiwakes and 23 Guillemots on the 15th when three Bullfinch were reported from Wat Tyler. This handsome finch seems to be just maintaining its numbers with additional records this month from Hadleigh Downs, Fanes Wood, and Hockley Woods. The now regular haul-out for seals viewable from Westcliff seafront had 13 Common Seals lazing around on the 16th. Seven Red-breasted Mergansers were on the Crouch at Fambridge on the 18th and two Yellow-legged Gulls were reported from Vange Marsh on the 19th. The Fleet Head area provided some interesting records on the 22nd with a Marsh Harrier, a Common Sandpiper, a leucistic Black-headed Gull, and excellent counts of 259 Avocet and four Short-eared Owls. A further four Short-eared Owls were found roosting on Two Tree Island so numbers were quite high this winter but worryingly, there were no Hen Harrier sightings all month from anywhere in the area where two or three birds are normally guaranteed around the Wakering area. Early morning on the 23rd, the Tawny Owl at Rayleigh Mount was heard hooting from nearby gardens and later that day the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker pair at Hockley Woods were drumming and displaying. The third wintering Chiffchaff in the area was seen in Belfairs on the 24th with a further bird visiting a Canewdon garden on the 30th. Cold north-east winds on the 25th held the promise of seabird movement and a visit to the Pier proved worthwhile. Respectable counts of 29 Red-throated Divers and 90 Kittiwakes were made, and the auk numbers had increased from mid-month with an excellent peak of 59 Guillemots now present and five Razorbills provided some with a new Essex tick. A Short-eared Owl past the Pier the same day was certainly unexpected; it was mobbed by everything in the estuary. Back on land, a pair of Blackcaps were found wintering in a Shoebury garden with a female frequenting a Rayleigh garden at the end of the month. A Little Gull on the scrape at Wat Tyler was a nice surprise on the 26th. Welcome news came on the 27th when the female Hawfinch at Hockley Woods was found for another winter in its usual haunt around the playarea. Although more irregular than last winter in its appearances, it was present until early March. A Great Northern Diver took up station in the estuary around the Pier on the 28th and was also seen on the 29th and 30th, as were two Razorbills. Both Red-necked Grebe and Slavonian Grebe were seen offshore from Gunners Park on the 28th. A Merlin was at Fleet Head on the 29th whilst another flew over Hockley Woods on the 30th where the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker pair were displaying again. At Paglesham on the 30th, a good local count of 17 Pintail was made on the lagoon, and in the nearby fields, 2000 Golden Plover could be found. 100+ Common Scoter seen flying out of the estuary from Gunners Park on the 30th were probably displaced by the north-east wind. Another Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was found as the month closed, this time in Belfairs on the 31st. The Ring-billed Gull at Westcliff was seen almost every day during the month and one Long-eared Owl was present throughout at a traditional roost.
The Lesser Spotted Woodpecker at Belfairs N.R. was still present on the 1st, with the pair in Hockley Woods being well watched throughout the month, and a further unpaired female also there occasionally. Incredibly, on the scrape at Wat Tyler on the 1st, a first-winter Iceland Gull, and Glaucous Gull were both present and photographed within an hour of each other. The Glaucous Gull was reported through to the 5th but proved difficult to connect with. A Firecrest seen in Hockley Woods on the 2nd repeated the wintering record here of two years ago but unfortunately was not seen again. The wintering female Blackcap in a Rayleigh garden was seen on the 2nd; with a pair in a Shoebury garden the next day, and an additional female in a Thundersley garden on the 11th. Single Spotted Redshank and Greenshank were claimed in Tewkes Creek on the 3rd with another Spotted Redshank along the Roach on the 17th as was a Whimbrel and 221 Black-tailed Godwit. A Shag was on the Pier from the 6th to the 9th and 20 Mediterranean Gulls were present. Also on the Pier on the 6th, last months Black-throated Diver was seen for the last time, and the Great Northern Diver and up to eight Red-throated Divers lingered. Three Razorbills and six Guillemots were offshore and remained through to the 22nd. A Caspian Gull visited Barling Tip briefly on the 8th, with the leucistic Black-headed Gull also there on the 8th and 10th, along with three wintering Green Sandpipers. It was pleasing to note that Bullfinch numbers were slightly improved, with five on Hadleigh Downs on the 9th and three in Hockley Woods on the 11th. None were specifically noted as being of the northern race, however given the huge numbers in the country there may well have been some in the area. The solitary Snow Bunting on Canvey, last seen on the 3rd January was seen there again on the 10th and 11th, with the flock at Shoebury increasing to ten from the 12th to the 28th. 93 Avocet on the Roach on the 10th was a respectable count as was 86 Great Crested Grebes off Gunners Park the next day. A Black Brant ventured across the Crouch from Blue House Farm to South Fambridge briefly on the 11th when 94 Pintail were present on nearby Bridgemarsh Island. A surprise sighting came in the form of a Long-eared Owl, which flew over the A127 in Eastwood on the night of the 12th in front of a birders car and conveniently landed in a tree by the roadside. The flock of 26 White-fronted Geese at Wat Tyler disappeared after the 12th but were seen again in March. Corn Bunting numbers improved from their paltry showing last month with up to 22 birds regular around Barling mid-month and four were on Canvey. Along the Roach on the 13th, another Black Brant was reported but the following day only a Pale-bellied Brent Goose could be found. The first of four Chiffchaffs this month was also along the Roach at Stambridge Mills on the 13th, with the other birds in Southend, Shoebury, and Hockley Woods. A Buzzard was an exciting sight as it slowly flew over Two Tree Island on the 13th being mobbed by the local corvids, also there on the 15th, a Shag was released after apparently getting its head stuck down a garden drain! A first-winter Glaucous Gull at Barling Tip on the 17th was different to the Wat Tyler bird earlier in the month. The Waxwing flock at Pitsea, which still numbered 84 birds, was seen for the last time on the 17th, possibly moving to Basildon Town Centre and subsequently Chafford Hundred. An unusually high total of seven Nuthatch and a single Treecreeper were counted in Hockley Woods on the 20th. Snowy conditions on the Pier on the 22nd saw three rather unseasonal Fulmars fly upriver along with 114 Kittiwakes. In Thundersley on the 25th, a pair of Tawny Owls with three fledged young were a good find but were only present for three days. All the other Owl species were also represented in the last week of the month with a Barn Owl at Wakering Stairs, a Little Owl on Canvey, a Long-eared Owl at the traditional roost site, and up to three Short-eared Owls on Two Tree Island. Two Lesser Redpoll were in Belfairs on the 25th and the female Hawfinch in Hockley Woods continued to be seen with luck and patience through the month. Another popular local bird was the Purple Sandpiper along Southend seafront; it continued to be seen most days through to the 26th when another was also reported at Wakering Stairs. The estuary continued to hold interest at the end of the month with the wintering Great Northern Diver lingering of Gunners Park on the 26th and 27th, along with 12 Common Scoter, and 23 Eider. Further along the coast, the Crouch hosted nine Red-breasted Mergansers on the 26th, whilst the Roach held eight. Finally, on the 28th, two Woodcock were seen flying around a Thundersley park, and as reliable as ever, Rossi the Ring-billed Gull remained at Westcliff.
A male Blackcap in a Benfleet garden on the 2nd was considered to be a wintering bird as was another male in a Westcliff garden on the 5th. At Shoebury, on the 3rd the well watched flock of ten Snow Buntings were seen for the last time, although a solitary bird, apparently injured was seen again on the 11th. A Pale-bellied Brent Goose was on Potton on the 4th before moving nearby to Fleet Head on the 6th where it was joined by a second bird and an adult Black Brant. Unlike last year, there were no further records of these two species during the spring. The regular Long-eared Owl was joined by a second bird on the 5th. A Spotted Redshank and a Greenshank were at Vange Creek and Fleet Head respectively on the 6th, and the Hawfinch at Hockley Woods was seen for the last time. A Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was seen from the car park at Hadleigh Downs C.P. on the 7th whilst the popular pair in Hockley Woods were seen on just four date's mid-month. The Great Northern Diver was still at the Pier on the 8th, with a different bird off Gunners Park on the 12th along with 12 Eider. A Siskin on a feeder in a Rayleigh garden on the 8th was the first in the area since December. A Buzzard was reported at Paglesham on the 9th close to where an escaped bird was present last November. A singing Blackcap along Prittle Brook, Leigh on the 9th may well have been the first returning migrant bird. The White-fronted Goose flock at Wat Tyler had dwindled to 11 birds and was seen on a handful of dates until the 13th. A Barnacle Goose, presumed feral, was also present from the 6th to the 12th. Short-eared Owl numbers peaked mid-month with four in the Two Tree Island/Benfleet Creek area, two at Haven Point, and singles on Wallasea and Canvey. The wintering Purple Sandpiper was seen along Southend seafront on just two dates this month, on the 11th and 24th. The dearth of Hen Harrier records this winter was finally broken by a passage ringtail around Havengore from the 12th to the 28th. This being the only record since two single day sightings in December, none wintered. Rossi, the Ring-billed Gull at Westcliff seafront continued to be seen through to the 23rd, but amazingly was joined by a second bird on the 13th. Unfortunately Rossi's new companion only stayed for one day, although a third bird was located at Barling Tip on the 18th; meaning three Ring-billed Gulls were in the area during one week. Perhaps gull flocks will be more closely scrutinised around Essex next March as there would appear to be a spring passage through the area at this time. Three Red-throated Divers and the Great Northern Diver at the Pier on the 13th were the last records of each this winter. 21 Goldeneye still remained at Paglesham on the 13th slightly down from the peak count of 28 made on the 10th. Another first-winter Glaucous Gull was at Wat Tyler on the 13th and the first of the months three passage Marsh Harriers in the area was also seen. Seven Lesser Redpolls in Hockley Woods on the 13th was an excellent find and gave good views to one lucky observer, and a male Brambling was at the feeding station at Hadleigh C.P. but did not linger. An evening walk at Eastwood S.F. on the 14th afforded good views of a Tawny Owl sunning itself in the setting sunlight, and a Cetti's Warbler gave a burst of song from a nearby filter bed, whilst two more Cetti's Warblers were heard regularly from mid-month onwards at Wat Tyler. The first migrant Chiffchaff and Wheatear arrived on the 16th, with Hadleigh Downs hosting the former, and Gunners Park predictably hosting the latter. After this date, approximately thirty Chiffchaffs arrived at several locations over the next week, whilst a further twelve Wheatear passed through four sites by the end of the month. Butterflies were also on the wing from the 16th onwards with Comma, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, and Brimstone all recorded between the 16th and 19th. The first Sandwich Terns of the year were two birds reported off the Pier on the 17th. It was pleasing to record 23 Corn Buntings on Two Tree Island on the 19th as they have been unusually scarce here this winter. A Bittern was reported briefly at Wat Tyler on the 19th but once again eluded the majority of birders still trying to add this to their local lists. Time spent in the hope of seeing the Bittern was not wasted, as the following day at Wat Tyler an immature female Goshawk flew past the hide. Woodcock were reported from five sites this month with a Rayleigh garden and central Southend among the more unusual locations. The first of just three spring Black Redstarts was in Shoebury on the 22nd, and the following day, the Avocets were back on the lagoon at Two Tree Island. The second and final Brambling of the month was reported in Hockley Woods on the 23rd. The last confirmed sighting of Rossi the Ring-billed Gull at Westcliff was on the 23rd; however there were two more reports of it on the 24th and the 27th. On the 24th, a Black Redstart was in Gunners Park as was the fore-runner of a trickle of Blackcaps whose numbers rose to a peak of four by months end on Hadleigh Downs. The first Yellow Wagtail flew over Canewdon on the 25th. A Firecrest reported at Pound Wood on the 26th was the first of only two spring records. Swallows started arriving from the 27th when one flew over Benfleet. A Buzzard flew over central Southend on the 27th fitting in with a typical northward passage date. 25 Snipe on Hadleigh Marshes on the 28th was notable as was the rather low peak winter count of Red-breasted Merganser with ten on the Roach. The final Redwing of the winter was a single bird on the relatively early date of the 31st on a Southend school field.
On the 3rd, two Short-eared Owls could still be found at Fleet Head, and the last Fieldfare and Goldeneye of the winter were seen with singles of each at Paglesham. Also on the 3rd, the final Black Redstart of the spring was in Gunners Park. The second and last Firecrest of the spring was reported from Southend Cliffs on the 4th, and a female Merlin was hunting over Two Tree Island. The first of several Whimbrel this month passed over Belton Hills on the 5th, with 1-3 reported from four other sites this month. The first Willow Warbler was in song at Belfairs N.R. on the morning of the 5th. Marsh Harrier were only seen on three dates this month with a male at Hadleigh Downs on the 7th, and a female at Wat Tyler on the 17th and 26th. A pair of Garganey were an excellent find on Wallasea on the 9th, with both still there on the 10th, and the drake remaining through to the 30th April at least although often elusive. The first Hobby passed by Chalkwell station early on the 9th, whilst nearby at Hadleigh Downs the same day, a Buzzard passed overhead. In contrast to the arriving summer migrants, a flock of 15 Waxwings were reported from Benfleet on the 9th. The 10th saw an arrival of Whitethroats with a handful of birds on Two Tree Island, and Hadleigh Downs. A singing Nightingale in Gunners Park, also on the 9th, was a good local record of a passage bird, and the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was seen again in Hockley Woods. What was presumably last years Grasshopper Warbler re-appeared on Two Tree Island again from the 12th and soon after settled down into a regular pattern of reeling and showing from its favoured patch of brambles. By the 23rd it was joined by a second, less showy male, on the other side of the island. Arriving with the Grasshopper Warblers were the first two Sedge Warblers, also on Two Tree Island on the 12th, with three the next day at Wat Tyler. The 16th saw the first Turtle Dove reported with two at Barling whilst Gunners Park held the first Common Tern, first Cuckoo, and a superb male Redstart. A Short-eared Owl was on Canvey on the 16th whilst the Two Tree Island bird persisted until the 21st, as did another at Fleet Head. Sand Martins were exceptionally scarce this spring with the first record being a single at Paglesham Lagoon on the 17th, and the only other birds recorded were three at Vange Marsh on the 24th. Several unconfirmed and interesting records came from the Pier on the 17th, with a Fulmar, a Gannet, an Arctic Skua, 30 Common Scoter, and six Velvet Scoter all reported by a single observer. Four Red-breasted Mergansers still frequented the Roach on the 17th, with a single off Canvey on the 19th. A female Merlin, possibly the Two Tree Island bird, was seen at Wallasea on the 18th where it remained to the 25th. The single Common Tern at Gunners Park for the last two days was joined by 17 others on the 18th. The first confirmed Reed Warblers were two birds at Wat Tyler on the 19th when another Turtle Dove was reported, this time at Wakering. Gunners Park proved productive on the 20th with the first Lesser Whitethroat, another Nightingale, and a male Ring Ouzel. Although a little less exciting, 23 Brent Geese still at Two Tree Island the same afternoon were quite late. Two Little Gulls at Vange Marsh from the 21st to the 24th were almost expected but still greatly appreciated. The first House Martins reported were four at Fleet Head on the 23rd. There was an obvious influx of Swifts on the 24th with birds reported simultaneously from Southend, Two Tree Island, and Vange Marsh. Also on the 24th came an unconfirmed report of a Ring Ouzel at Canewdon. At Vange Marsh on the 24th, five Greenshank and four Cetti's Warblers were notable, whilst at Two Tree Island, four Adders and two Green-veined Whites were seen. A Garden Warbler was heard in Belfairs N.R. on the 25th and again on the 29th, with a migrant at Gunners Park on the 30th. A probable ringtail Montagu's Harrier drifted over Wallasea on the 26th where rather surprisingly the peak local count of Wheatear was also made with seven birds. A mid-week birder claimed a Whinchat and two Tree Pipits in Gunners Park on the 27th. Another Buzzard passing over Hockley on the 29th brings the spring passage to four birds reflecting this species slow but steady revival in fortunes. A Nightingale was singing from suitable habitat on Belton Hills on the 29th where it remained into May, another was heard briefly in Thundersley on the 30th. Ten Yellow Wagtails and 20 Corn Buntings at Wallasea on the 30th were worthy of mention, and another Grasshopper Warbler was reliably reported, this time at Barling. Finally, on the 30th, two adult Little Gulls were at Wat Tyler, and three Arctic Terns were seen from Gunners Park.
There was an obvious passage of Wheatear from the 1st to the 3rd with an arrival of at least thirteen birds including six together at South Fambridge. Systematic counting of warblers on the west side of Canvey revealed a rather low peak count of five Lesser Whitethroats, along with 47 Whitethroats with a Cetti's Warbler there evidencing continued range expansion. Whimbrel numbers reached 40 at Fleet Head on the 1st. A Common Sandpiper and a Little Ringed Plover were both at Vange on the 1st before both moving to Wat Tyler on the 2nd with a Common Sandpiper also at Wallasea on the 2nd. A Green Sandpiper at Vange Marsh on the 2nd proved to be the last of the spring. In Belfairs Woods, the Garden Warbler continued to sing through to the 10th and a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker there on the 1st was a good record. Early morning on the 2nd, a Fulmar and three Gannets were a welcome surprise from the seawall at Gunners Park. Later that day a fine Purple Heron was found just outside of the recording area on Fobbing Marsh and was watched from there flying towards Wat Tyler where it was unfortunately never relocated. Wallasea on the 2nd gave 12 Corn Buntings and 18 Yellow Wagtails. The Little Ringed Plover at Wat Tyler was last seen this month on the 7th and the obliging Grasshopper Warbler on Two Tree Island was last heard reeling on the 8th. The third and final Whinchat of the spring was reported from Fleet Head on the 11th. A Nightingale heard briefly at the end of April in Thundersley was particularly vocal on the 9th. The last Common Sandpiper of the spring was at Wat Tyler from the 13th to the 15th with a female Marsh Harrier also claimed on the 13th being the only record of the month in the recording area. A White Stork flying over Benfleet creek on the 15th was a super find but it rapidly gained height and drifted out of view, also there, a Stonechat was busy with two recently fledged young and 80 Marsh Frogs were estimated in the surrounding network of ditches. A Peregrine on Havengore on the 15th was notable for the time of year, and five Turtle Doves were also in the vicinity. Sad news was received when all the eggs from every Avocet nest on two Tree Island went missing in suspicious circumstances on the night of the 15th. Evidence unfortunately suggests a human perpetrator which highlights the difficulty the local conservation bodies have in balancing awareness and promotion of such beautiful birds with the need for secrecy and protection. Suffice to say, surveillance measures will be put in place for next year. A Common Buzzard was reported over Wat Tyler on the 17th. The following day the regular Spotted Flycatcher pair had returned to their central Southend location where their numbers increased to three on the 22nd, and to four in June. The Nightingale on Belton Hills present since the end of April was heard for the last time on the 21st. A single Brent Goose at Two Tree Island on the 28th was late. A Honey Buzzard flying low over one birder's house in Leigh on the 29th was a superb record although incredibly was not even a garden tick! A White Wagtail at Fleet Head on the 29th was surprisingly the only one of the spring and the Yellow Wagtail flock which gathers there each May reached a desperately low peak of just eight on the 31st.
A Crossbill typically flew over Belfairs N.R. on the 1st. On the 8th it was pleasing to note nine singing Corn Buntings and at least 20 Yellow Wagtails at Fleet Head. The following day the sixth Common Buzzard of the year passed high over Leigh. A full summer plumage Black Tern off Wakering Stairs on the 11th was an unusual mid-summer record. The Spotted Flycatchers in Southend had formed into two pairs by the 11th and had the first juvenile on show from the 23rd. The wandering Black Swan, which has been doing the rounds for the last few years, was found at its preferred location on the 12th at Hullbridge with 40 Mute Swans. Further along the Crouch also on the 12th at Wallasea was a cracking male Blue-headed Wagtail along with 20 Corn Buntings in the vicinity and two Green Sandpipers. As no others have been recorded in the area since 2nd May one could speculate that these were the first returning birds. A Little Ringed Plover at Wat Tyler on 15th may well have been a breeding adult. As many as 300 Heath Fritillaries were on the wing in Hockley Woods on the 22nd with a Treecreeper there also a good mid-summer record. Other butterflies around at this time were 30 Purple Hairstreaks and the first Marbled White in Thundersley on the 27th. A Greenshank in Benfleet Creek on the 27th, followed by three Green Sandpipers and a Spotted Redshank the next day were all early signs of return migration. Finally, a Grey Wagtail at Belfairs N.R. on the 29th was an interesting summer record and a male Marsh Harrier was reported from Wat Tyler on the 30th.
Singleton Crossbills were reported as is usual at this time of year from Belfairs N.R. on the 2nd, 10th, and 12th. The last Heath Fritillaries were also in Belfairs N.R. on the 3rd when 34 White Letter Hairstreaks could be found on Benfleet Downs. Two Tree Island on the 3rd gave a report of a Long-eared Owl and two summering Brent Geese. Another Long-eared Owl was claimed on the 5th, this time from Wat Tyler where two Little Ringed Plover could be found with patience through to the 19th. Last months Black Swan had drifted a little further downstream to South Fambridge on the 8th. Two Spotted Redshank were at Fleet Head from 8th to 10th, with four Ruff also there from 8th to 11th. Two Little Ringed Plover at Vange Marsh on the 8th and 13th may have been the Wat Tyler pair. Common Sandpiper return passage commenced from the 10th with 1-2 birds at several sites through to the months end. Three Spotted Redshank passed through Wat Tyler on the 10th and 11th. The Yellow Wagtail flock at Fleet Head reached 30 on the 10th and Grey Wagtail were reported from three different streamside locations mid-month. By the 11th, two juvenile Spotted Flycatchers could be found in Southend proving successful breeding once again. More good butterflies were found on the 13th with Marbled Whites and Brimstones reported from Wat Tyler. A juvenile Black Tern was noted at Wakering Stairs on the 17th around the time that up to 24 Avocets including three chicks gathered at Wat Tyler. A Ring-necked Parakeet was claimed in a Rayleigh garden on the 18th but like all claims of this species locally it was not reported again. Seawatching at this time of year is typically unproductive but optimism prevailed on the 23rd with six Gannets and the first Arctic Skua's of the autumn with three seen from the Pier. The near resident Peregrine at Wat Tyler was seen on the 24th for the first time since 23rd April and was probably accountable for the record from Hadleigh Downs on the 31st. A local land owner at Canewdon was privileged to have Barn Owls successfully raise three young in a nest box. In keeping with the recent phenomena of surging Mediterranean Gull numbers at this time of year, numbers spiked up dramatically on the 25th to reveal an Essex record of 104 along Southend seafront, the majority of which were adults with large numbers of first-summers also present. Typically Greenshank numbers started to build at Wakering Stairs reaching 53 on the 26th. Little Tern numbers remained at a modest level with 17 off Canvey the best count of the month. Two Tree Island on the 30th provided some interest with a fine adult summer Curlew Sandpiper, 686 Black-tailed Godwits, five Yellow-legged Gulls and two very early juvenile Wheatears. The month ended with a small movement of Marsh Harriers with three females on Havengore on the 30th and a male at Stambridge.
Two Black-eared Waxbills feeding in a Hawkwell garden on the 2nd were certainly unexpected. A Common Buzzard and two Marsh Harriers were at South Fambridge on the 6th. A further 1-3 Marsh Harriers were reported from several coastal locations throughout the month with probably about ten birds present. The 7th saw the months only Gannet with a solitary bird from the Pier. Green Sandpiper reached a monthly peak of just six birds on the 7th at Vange Marsh along with the Black Swan on one of its many excursions. The high numbers of Greenshank remained from late July with the 7th being particularly notable with 53 at Two Tree Island, 47 at Wakering Stairs, and nine at Vange Marsh. Herring Gulls had raised one young on the Southend rooftops by the 8th. Common Sandpiper peaked for the month at 20 with Vange Marsh again being the preferred site. Hummingbird Hawkmoths were seen in three gardens during the month on the 10th, 14th and 31st. The Black-tailed Godwit flock at Two Tree Island reached an impressive 1,234 on the 13th but no more than 1-2 Spotted Redshank and Little Ringed Plover were noted at just two sites, Wat Tyler and Vange Marsh, mid-month onwards. Encouragingly, Wallasea revealed 50 Yellow Wagtails including many juveniles on the evening of the 13th and a good count of 30 Little Terns were feeding nearby in the river. A Peregrine reported at Wat Tyler on the 13th may well have been the same bird that took a Turnstone at Canvey Point the next day. Wheatear trickled through in small numbers throughout the month with eight birds in Gunners Park on the 16th the best count of the month. At Wat Tyler on the 18th two young Hobby in a nest were on view from a RSPB watchpoint and a Bullfinch was also claimed, surprisingly much the rarer of the two species these days. Yet another Common Buzzard was reported, this time from Battlesbridge on the 18th. The first proper seawatch of the season was on the 19th at Canvey and produced no surprises although four Arctic Skua's, 18 Black Tern, and 12 Arctic Tern did their best to please. A small influx of Curlew Sandpipers occurred between the 21st and 27th with three birds at Vange Marsh, two in Benfleet Creek, and a single at Wakering Stairs. Ruff managed to reach a rather unexciting seven on the 21st at Vange Marsh whilst nearby at Wat Tyler, three Cetti's Warblers were singing and reports were received that a staggering 20 different birds had been ringed there this year already. Mediterranean Gull numbers had a second spike in numbers on the 22nd when 93 were again present around Southend seafront along with the return of our most famous visitor, Rossi, the Ring-billed Gull who returned for his seventh winter. Nearby, 200 Common Terns were roosting on the foreshore. Whinchat passage commenced on the 23rd with a dozen birds passing through over the next five days at five locations. Vange Marsh provided some good records on the 25th with a White Wagtail, an early Short-eared Owl, and a notable surge in Common Snipe numbers to 41 as more mud became exposed during the month. Passage Spotted Flycatchers were noted with one in Gunners Park on the 26th and two there on the 28th and a reliable report of two Pied Flycatchers a few days previously. Interestingly, an early Merlin was seen at Paglesham Lagoon on the 27th with presumably the same bird seen shortly afterwards on Hadleigh Marshes. Also at Paglesham Lagoon on the 27th, a juvenile Caspian Gull was photographed whilst 102 Ruddy Ducks there set a new local record and a Bar-headed Goose added further variety. There was a marked increase in Yellow Wagtail numbers between the 27th and 29th with 40 at Paglesham Lagoon, 15 in Gunners Park, and 16 on Hadleigh marshes. In the last few days of the month, 44 Little Egrets were counted at Two Tree Island on the 28th with the roost near Wakering now seemingly abandoned, and a Garden Warbler was a good find in Gunners Park on the 28th.
The month started well with three Little Gulls off the Pier on the 1st, however the biggest news of the month was a Savi's Warbler trapped and ringed near Wakering Stairs on the 3rd. Confusingly, this bird was initially reported as a Radde's Warbler until the correct information was cascaded a few days later. Yellow-legged Gulls rarely occur in any numbers in the area, the count of seven at Paglesham Lagoon on the 3rd being the best of the autumn. Low numbers of Whinchat continued to pass through during the month with three at Gunners Park on the 4th the best count along with 21 Yellow Wagtails and two White Wagtails also there. Two Turtle Doves at Wat Tyler on the 5th were the only ones logged all month and were the last of the year. Spotted Flycatchers appeared from the 5th to the 7th with a pair and two juveniles in Thundersley and a single in Pound Wood. Mediterranean Gull numbers declined rapidly after the 6th when 68 were along Southend seafront. Passage Siskin began passing through from the 7th onwards with a total of 41 flying over by the months end at four locations. A flurry of Owl activity was noted between the 8th and 13th with two Little Owls, a Tawny Owl, and a Barn Owl all logged between these dates at various locations. The first of four Manx Shearwaters logged off Canvey this month was noted on the 9th with two Little Gulls also there from the 9th to the 11th. The weekend of the 10th and 11th was the most productive of the autumn for seabirds off Canvey and waders at Vange Marsh. Seawatching from Canvey on the 10th provided all four Skua's with five Pomarine Skua's, eight Arctic Skua's, a Great Skua, and the years only Long-tailed Skua which was a juvenile, as well as the seasons only Fulmar and 55 Common Scoter. A strong movement of Terns the following day saw 85 Sandwich Tern, 110 Common Tern, 18 Arctic Tern, five Little Tern, 16 Black Tern, and best of all, two adult Roseate Terns which were almost certainly the West Thurrock birds from the previous evening passing out of the estuary. Unsurprisingly the high numbers of Terns present attracted a peak autumn count of 15 Arctic Skua's and another Pomarine Skua in what was a relatively poor year for Skua's. A few miles away, Vange Marsh came up trumps with an excellent Pectoral Sandpiper, a Little Stint, and 13 Curlew Sandpipers. Unconfirmed reports of the Pectoral Sandpiper persisted through to the 12th when a peak count of 16 Curlew Sandpiper was made. Other notable records at this time were a Garden Warbler in Gunners Park, a report of an Osprey at Wakering Stairs, a Honey Buzzard over Belfairs N.R. and organised counts of 94 Little Egrets at Two Tree Island and 61 at Canvey. An adult Hobby with two juveniles frequented Belfairs N.R. from the 13th to the 15th. Strong northerlies on the 16th yielded more good birds off Canvey with a Leach's Petrel the pick of the bunch, and two Manx Shearwaters and a Razorbill adding spice. A dismal peak autumn count of six Gannets passed through as did a Great Skua, the majority of last weeks Common Scoter flock remained. Five Common Sandpipers and four Green Sandpipers at Vange Marsh also on the 16th were the highest counts of each for the month; eight Curlew Sandpipers were still present. The only Redstart of the entire autumn was on Two Tree Island on the 17th along with a good late autumn count of 42 Greenshank. A Great Northern Diver seen in the Thames between the 17th and 20th was quite exceptional. Curlew Sandpiper passage continued in good numbers from the 10th to the 25th with five on Two Tree Island on the 18th the best count outside of Vange Marsh. The second Leach's Petrel of the year was reported flying out of the Thames from Canvey on the 18th when the first Brent Geese of the winter were reported flying over the Roach at Paglesham. Marsh Harriers were unusually scarce this month, with just four birds recorded all month including one on Canvey on the 19th. Vange Marsh on the 20th held a most impressive 70 Common Snipe, six Spotted Redshank, five Ruff, and the second Little Stint of the autumn. The Ring-billed Gull at Westcliff was only logged twice this month, on the 6th and the 20th. A Common Buzzard and a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker were both seen from the car park at Hadleigh Downs on the 21st. Patient counting of the Black-tailed Godwit flock on Two Tree Island resulted in 1325 being duly logged there on the 21st. The last Little Ringed Plovers of the autumn were two juveniles at Vange Marsh on the 23rd, and an early Guillemot was reported off Canvey. A Hummingbird Hawkmoth in Rayleigh on the 24th was the only one of the month. Brent Geese returned to Two Tree Island on the 24th, fourteen days later than last year. The last Hobby of the summer was seen at Wat Tyler on the 25th, and a Great Skua, only the fourth of the autumn passed the Pier. A Little Stint at Vange Marsh on the 28th was probably the same one that was seen there on the 20th. A Purple Sandpiper at Southend seafront from the 30th to the 5th October was a good local record although unfortunately chose not to winter this year. Finally, on the 30th, another Manx Shearwater was claimed off Canvey.
Two juvenile Scaup at Paglesham Lagoon on the 1st were a good find. A late Sedge Warbler and a Common Tern were at Vange Marsh on the 2nd. Grey Wagtails enjoyed a protracted and obvious passage throughout the month with approximately twenty birds recorded at a dozen sites including many suburban ones. Equally prominent was Stonechat passage this month with forty birds at ten coastal locations. Two Wheatear inland near Tesco's, Southend on the 3rd were late and unusual in terms of location. The last Whinchat, a Whimbrel, and a Curlew Sandpiper were all in Benfleet Creek on the 3rd. A further two Curlew Sandpipers were reported from Southend seafront on the 5th, as was the Purple Sandpiper for the last time. A Tawny Owl visited a Benfleet garden on the 4th. A flock of five Great Skua's off the Pier on the 5th doubled the numbers recorded all autumn in a very poor passage, and a Little Gull was also noted. Unfortunately, this prime site for seawatching was lost on the night of the 9th, when Southend Pier sadly caught fire for the fourth time in fifty years and is expected to remain closed now for a couple of years. The first Redwing was typically heard at night, on the 5th flying over Eastwood. Siskin continued to pass through with a total of ten birds this month from four sites. Lesser Redpoll also usually move through this month, and one was duly recorded on Hadleigh Downs on the 8th with another three reported on Two Tree Island on the 29th. Remaining with passage finches, six Brambling were noted in the last half of the month and an unconfirmed report was received of four Twite on Two Tree Island on the 29th. An Adder at Hadleigh Downs on the 8th was notable as was a Black Redstart at Wakering Stairs the same day, constituting the sole autumn record. Gunners Park on the 9th hosted the last House Martins of the year with a Lesser Whitethroat also there. Two Marsh Harriers took up temporary residence at Fleet Head from the 9th to the months end with others seen at Wat Tyler on the 18th and Two Tree Island on the 29th. Two Wheatear were on Two Tree Island on the 14th with the final confirmed record being a single at South Fambridge on the 16th. The last Sandwich Tern was lingering off Two Tree Island on the 15th whilst a Clouded Yellow at Wakering the same day was the sole autumn record. The night of the 15th saw a broad arrival of Redwing flying over and calling at several locations. A ringtail Hen Harrier claimed at Wat Tyler on the 16th would almost certainly have been a passage bird, whereas the Short-eared Owl on Two Tree Island on the 19th and 20th will hopefully remain for the winter. Fleet Head provided two Little Owls and a Merlin on the 19th. The vanguard of a small movement of Ring Ouzels was seen in a garden in Hadleigh on the 19th, and was quickly followed by another on Two Tree Island on the 20th and 21st. The last Swallow of the year was reported from Hullbridge on the 21st. A walk to Paglesham Lagoon on the 22nd was rewarded with a fine Slavonian Grebe, and a different Scaup to those present at the start of the month. A Red Admiral in an Eastwood garden on the 22nd was the final butterfly record of the year. The Ring-billed Gull at Westcliff was particularly reliable from the 23rd to the month's end. Fieldfare have been few and far between with just two birds seen, which flew over Rochford golf course on the 23rd. They may have been associated with a thrush influx as the next day four Redwings arrived on Hadleigh Downs, and two new Ring Ouzels appeared on Two Tree Island, remaining until the 29th. A dead but still warm Firecrest found on the pavement in central Southend on the 23rd was an interesting if not an unfortunate record. A Common Swift over Hadleigh Downs on the 25th was a full eight weeks later than any other Swift records and warranted very close scrutiny. Nearby, the Short-eared Owl on Two Tree Island had been joined by a second bird. A count of twelve Bearded Tits at Wat Tyler on the 30th was the highest for some time and hopefully included some recently fledged juveniles, and 13 Greenshank still lingered on Two Tree Island.
A leucistic Lapwing that has wintered around Wallasea since November 2002 returned again on the 5th. Three Merlin present on Wallasea the same day was the best local count for several winters and a Marsh Harrier and 100 Meadow Pipits were also recorded. There was a small movement of Siskin on the 5th with flocks of two and five flying south over Westcliff seafront, and three feeding at Barling. Little Egret peaked for the month at 42 on Two Tree Island on the 6th. Hadleigh C.P. came up trumps on the 7th with a Ring Ouzel and a Brambling both in the car park, whilst on the 9th Wat Tyler scored with an Essex mega in the form of a Hooded Crow along with the semi-resident Marsh Harrier. On the 12th, two Greenshank in Benfleet Creek represented the only record this month and nearby a single Twite was claimed at the former stronghold on Two Tree Island. A ringtail Hen Harrier was present intermittently on Potton from the 13th to the end of the year. Nearby at Fleet Head 14 Ruff were counted. After going missing since January, three drake Mandarin were back at Friar's Park from the 13th to the 27th. A Short-eared Owl near Wat Tyler on the 13th was unusual in terms of location whilst there were now three on Two Tree Island. Paglesham Lagoon on the 14th hosted two Green Sandpipers, a confiding Barn Owl, and the first six Goldeneye of the winter. The Wat Tyler Peregrine was present throughout and was joined by a second bird from the 16th onwards. A small movement of Woodcock between the 17th and 24th was noted as the temperature dropped, with 1-2 birds in Thundersley, Benfleet and Hadleigh. The falling temperatures similarly displaced two adult Whooper Swans flying in off the sea at Chalkwell on the 17th. A full day at Paglesham Lagoon on the 19th was rewarded with a juvenile White-fronted Goose, which remained here into December, and a Pale-bellied Brent Goose, both consorting with the Dark-bellied Brent flock. The lagoon itself held a modest 14 Pintail and 229 Shoveler whilst a fly-over Lesser Redpoll added passerine interest. The ringtail Hen Harrier had been joined by a male on the 20th with both viewable from Haven Point where they competed for airspace with two Marsh Harriers, a Merlin, two Barn Owls and two Short-eared Owls. A Bullfinch nearby at Wakering Stairs showed that this handsome finch can still be found at some of its former haunts. Several hours of birding the flat, open landscape of Wallasea on the 20th was highly rewarding with 50 Corn Buntings and 50 Skylarks, three Green Sandpipers in the borrowdykes, a Merlin, and best of all, a flock of 30 Twite. On the adjacent Roach was a Red-throated Diver, surprisingly the areas only diver of the month. A dedicated Larus lover found the first of a remarkable run of Caspian Gulls this winter when two first-winters were identified at Paglesham Lagoon on the 26th, three Yellow-legged Gulls were also present as was a wintering Chiffchaff. A reasonable count of 15 Corn Buntings was made at Fleet Head on the 26th and up to three Cetti's Warblers continued to be heard at Wat Tyler. The Ring-billed Gull at Westcliff was as reliable as ever and finally, there was a nice little find in the shape of three Snow Buntings along the seawall at South Fambridge on the 27th.
The months only Lesser Redpoll was a singleton at Hadleigh Downs on the 3rd, with two Bullfinch also here. Additional records of Bullfinch this month were received from Hockley Woods and Thundersley with three at each site and a single near Rayleigh Mount. Two White-fronted Geese were found grazing at Wat Tyler on the 3rd increasing to five on the 13th. Fine weather on the 4th saw many birders out and about resulting in several interesting records. The Crouch hosted a juvenile Black-throated Diver and a Common Scoter, with two Merlin also still present and a third bird in the Wakering area. Passerine numbers peaked with 55 Skylark, 13 Rock Pipit, six Yellowhammer, 23 Reed Buntings and 35 Corn Buntings all along the Crouch, whilst on Two Tree Island there were 20 Reed Buntings and 32 Corn Buntings. Last months Hooded Crow was reported again on the 4th from near Pitsea station and at least seven Water Rails and 700 Fieldfare were at adjacent Wat Tyler. The most obliging birds of the winter were the flock of ten Snow Buntings that remained loyal to the beach along Southend seafront from the 5th onwards, with a further single at Wakering Stairs on the 10th. Unconfirmed reports of Waxwing consisted of three in Benfleet on the 6th and a single at Thorpe Hall on the 10th. Blackcap were recorded from the 10th onwards with 1-2 birds in Rayleigh, Leigh, Benfleet and Shoebury and all typically in back gardens. At Paglesham Lagoon the Pintail flock had reached 21 on the 9th but more surprising was the occurrence of Caspian Gulls here with up to five birds daily, with nine different birds passing through this month. A Black Brant claimed on the 10th at Fleet Head was unfortunately not seen subsequently. At least three Marsh Harriers were in the Wakering area on the 10th when one was seen to fly out across the estuary to Kent providing evidence of some interchange with the north Kent population. The ringtail Hen Harrier remained in the area throughout with an immature male also claimed on one date. A Common Sandpiper was found in Potton Creek on the 11th and the Pale-bellied Brent was located near Paglesham Lagoon the next day. A Common Buzzard was reported over Battlesbridge on the 13th and a Hawfinch was in Thundersley on the 14th and 21st. A brief seawatch at Wakering Stairs on the 17th yielded the months only Great Northern Diver and now almost equally as scarce, two Eider. The only auk of the month was a Guillemot off Southend the same day. With the shorter daylight hours owl sightings became more numerous with a Tawny Owl reported over Vange Marsh on the 21st, three Short-eared Owls on Two Tree Island, with another two at Wakering and five Barn Owls with birds at Wakering, Paglesham, Wallasea and Southend. Last weeks Pale-bellied Brent was recorded once more on the 22nd, this time at Fleet Head. A skein of 55 White-fronted Geese were reported flying over Vange Marsh on the 26th along with a Jack Snipe and a Green Sandpiper taking advantage of the reduced water levels. Six Siskin were feeding right in the heart of Southend town centre late on the 27th with possibly the same flock near Leigh station the next day. A single Snow Bunting and Kittiwake could be found on Canvey Island on the 27th. Next day some impressive passage was noted here when 28 Red-throated Divers and a Black-throated Diver were seen moving up the river and 140 Skylarks, 64 Meadow Pipits and a Hen Harrier were all watched moving across the river from Kent to Essex. A Spotted Redshank, a Greenshank and two Bearded Tits were in Benfleet Creek on the 28th with the Bearded Tits still present on the 29th. The single Snow Bunting on Canvey Island was still present on the 29th when five Whooper Swans were reported flying in off the sea. A drake Mandarin returned to Southchurch Hall Park on the 29th and the year closed with another small movement of Woodcock with singles reported at Benfleet, Thundersley and Wakering Stairs.