The Waxwing invasion slowed as soon as the new year started with five birds on Two Tree Island on the 1st and a flock of 60 on Canvey from the 1st to the 6th being the only sightings in the first half of January. A flock of 18 Barnacle Geese flying past Wakering Stairs on the 1st with Brent Geese have better credentials than most for being wild birds. A group of eight Whooper Swans spent the evening in fields around Paglesham Lagoon on the 2nd, but were gone the next morning although two wintering Chiffchaffs, 28 Goldeneye and the wintering drake Scaup which remained through to late April were all present. In total there were five Chiffchaffs seen this month compared to just a single in December 2012, whereas Blackcap numbers remained steady with nine birds this month compared to eight previously. A Spoonbill flying south over Paglesham in the near dark on the 5th was most unexpected. A group of three Eiders were off Shoebury East Beach on the 5th with the two females in the group remaining surprisingly loyal to the area around the boom all month. A Red Admiral in a Leigh garden on the 8th was remarkable given the weather. Short-eared Owls reached a month high of three on Wallasea on the 9th where up to three Hen Harriers also performed daily, and a female Merlin was seen intermittently as was a Buzzard which ranged widely. A flock of 17 Siskins were at their favoured suburban location in Leigh from the 9th to the 25th. A Daubenton’s Bat was feeding over Paglesham Lagoon late on the 9th. Three drake Mandarins arrived back at Friar’s Park on the 10th where they remained until the 28th. The only Pale-bellied Brent Goose of the winter was at Fleet Head on the 11th, the same day that four Woodcock were at Canvey Wick. A further nine Woodcock were seen over the next two weeks and included three on Hadleigh Downs and three at Garon’s Golf Course. The two wintering Water Pipits were both still present on the 12th with the one at Vange Marsh staying for five further days and the one at South Fambridge remaining through to mid-February. Vange Marsh also continued to host a small flock of up to seven Lesser Redpolls through to the 14th. A Great White Egret was an excellent find at Paglesham Lagoon on the evening of the 12th when it came in to roost. It roosted every evening subsequently through to 3rd February and was always the very last bird to arrive which was often well after sunset. The Pier was quiet on the 12th but did produce the only Great Skua and Little Gull of the month. The following day the Pier was much more productive with 31 Red-throated Divers, a Great Northern Diver, a Velvet Scoter, and a Porpoise all noted whilst nearby a Slavonian Grebe was reported off Leigh-on-Sea and what was probably the same bird was seen again distantly on the 19th off Canvey Point. An immature Shag put in a protracted stay around the Shoebury area from the 13th onwards where it remained until mid-April. A Black-throated Diver off Canvey Point on the 14th completed the trio of diver species over the last two days, while scarcer still was a Black-necked Grebe on the sea off Shoebury East Beach on the 14th. A wintering Common Sandpiper was an unexpected find at South Fambridge also on the 14th where it was reported through to early February. Typically, wintering Green Sandpipers were more numerous with five singles present this month. Auk numbers increased slightly mid-month with 15 Guillemots and two Razorbills off the Pier on the 15th. The escaped white phase Snow Goose which has been ranging along the north Thames since last May was back on Vange Wick again from the 15th through to the end of the month. Meanwhile a White-fronted Goose which was wintering on Blue House Farm was seen from ‘our’ side of the Crouch at South Fambridge on the 17th. A drake Mandarin was coming to bread on Canvey Lake from the 19th through to the 26th. After no records for thirteen days a second arrival of Waxwings started on the 19th commencing with a flock of twenty in Rayleigh which increased to 82 by the 24th. Another four flocks totalling a minimum of ninety birds arrived in the area over the next few days with all the flocks remaining for several days at least. Most unexpected, but greatly appreciated, was a lingering second-winter Caspian Gull on the scrape at Wat Tyler C.P. from the 19th to the 26th. Being quite reliable it allowed many local birders to catch up with this intriguing species and to fully appreciate and note the diagnostic features of this bird in the field. Seven adult Bewick’s Swans joined up with the thirty Mute Swans at Lower Raypits on the 19th where they remained for the next two weeks. Remarkably, a different group of seven Bewick’s Swans were on the sea off Shoebury East Beach late on the 20th. A Long-eared Owl roosting in Wat Tyler C.P. on the 22nd was a pleasant find. An incredible count of 500 Corn Buntings was made on Wallasea on the 23rd with Yellowhammers also reaching a local high there the following day, albeit with a far more modest count of thirteen. An immature Pomarine Skua flew out the Thames estuary past Shoebury on the 24th. A count of nine Red-breasted Mergansers on the Roach at Paglesham on the 25th was notable particularly as this species seems to have been in decline locally in recent winters. Nearby, a Jack Snipe was unwittingly flushed from a small stream the same day and was still present the following morning. A Chiloe Wigeon on Paglesham Lagoon on the 26th gave the day an exotic flavour. A Muntjac on Hadleigh Downs on the 26th was fairly unusual in terms of location whereas one in Hockley Woods two days later was more expected. The Great Northern Diver was off the Pier again on the 27th as was a Porpoise. Hockley Woods yielded treasure on the 28th with the first Coal Tit sighting here since May 2011, a female Lesser Spotted Woodpecker which was conveniently in a tree in the car park, five Treecreepers and a Nuthatch. The last few years have seen a rapid and significant decline in Nuthatch records locally with probably just a solitary bird now present across the entire recording area. A peak of five Spotted Redshanks was in the creek at Wat Tyler C.P. on the 29th and four Greenshanks were on Two Tree Island throughout the month. As the month drew to close a Firecrest was found in Hockley Woods on the 31st, a pair of Bullfinch was seen in Great Wakering, and an early Adder was on Hadleigh Downs. The female Long-tailed Duck resided on the lake in Gunners Park all month.
After going unreported since 3rd January, the Bittern at Wat Tyler C.P. reappeared on the 1st and continued to delight all month long with occasional flight views from the hide. A Water Vole there from the 1st to the 4th provided an interesting distraction whilst waiting for the Bittern. A small flock of up to eight Lesser Redpolls was frequenting the pits at Great Wakering from the 2nd to the 17th where the Bullfinch pair was also seen again on the 2nd and a Firecrest was discovered on the 3rd. Pleasingly, the Coal Tit in Hockley Woods was joined by a second bird on the 3rd with both remaining throughout the month. Two Lesser Redpoll flying over the car park at Hockley Woods on the 5th was disappointingly the only record from the woods all winter. Two Bullfinches flying over Wat Tyler C.P. on the 7th were unexpected. Bowers Marsh hosted a Water Pipit, a Kingfisher and three Bearded Tits on the 8th along with a flock of 17 Siskins. There were a further 21 Siskins at several other sites this month consisting mostly of 1-3 birds but included ten in Hockley Woods. Two Blackcaps in Leigh on the 9th was the only multiple sighting this month; there was a total of eight over-wintering birds seen this month but interestingly no Chiffchaffs were reported. Four Marsh Harriers, three Short-eared Owls, and a pair of Stonechats were reported from Wallasea on the 9th where up to two Hen Harriers and two showy Barn Owls could also be seen most days. The solitary Nuthatch was recorded again in Hockley Woods on the 10th when three Treecreepers were also noted. A Porpoise was the only record of interest following a seawatch off the Pier on the 12th. A flock of 24 Waxwings in Ashingdon on the on the 14th must have regretted its decision to emerge so early. The White-fronted Goose on Blue House Farm was seen again from South Fambridge on the 14th and 15th. A good count of four Woodcock was made in Hockley Woods on the 15th where a Weasel also showed well. The Firecrest at Great Wakering was seen again on the 17th only. Despite searching, the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker in Hockley Woods was seen on only one occasion this month, the 18th, with the Nuthatch also seen there the following day for only the second and last time this month. The drake Scaup on Paglesham Lagoon was joined by a second drake from the 21st. The Merlin on Wallasea was sporadic in its appearances with the only confirmed sightings this month being from the 23rd onwards. Two Coal Tits were reported from a garden near Benfleet on the 23rd. A flock of 65 Waxwings reportedly dropped in briefly at Pitsea on the 24th and the following day an adult Black-throated Diver showed at close range off the Pier. The female Long-tailed Duck remained on the lake in Gunners Park throughout.
An interesting interaction was observed on the 1st on Wallasea when a Kestrel apparently tried unsuccessfully to take a Stoat, but soon dropped it after a quick fight. A Merlin took up station at Canvey Point from the 2nd to the 15th and at least one Merlin continued to put in typically sporadic appearances on Wallasea all month. A Grey Partridge was apparently seen on Wallasea on the 3rd making it only the second island record in recent history. Hockley Woods hit a purple patch on the 5th and 6th with the highlight by far being the discovery of four Hawfinches. With no regular sightings since spring 2007 they were most welcome and proved very popular although were typically elusive as they remained high in the tree canopy. The Hawfinches were present until the 17th during which time other sightings included a pair of Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers, eight Great Spotted Woodpeckers, three Green Woodpeckers, four Treecreepers, a Coal Tit, a Comma butterfly and 28 Siskins. The number of Siskins clearly increased this month with seventy birds at widely scattered sites, including many gardens. Strong easterly winds on the 10th provided the opportunity for an optimistic seawatch from Canvey. Interestingly 42 Gannets, 10 Little Gulls and an incredibly early Sandwich Tern were deserved reward. A flock of 19 Ruff on the scrape at Wat Tyler C.P. on the 10th was the largest gathering in the recording area since 2006. The Water Vole on Two Tree Island was joined by another on the 10th. A Razorbill off Canvey Point on the 11th was the last of the winter while a Jack Snipe was reported from Two Tree Island on the following day. A first-winter Glaucous Gull was an excellent find on Vange Wick on the 13th. Spending long periods of time on view, albeit distantly, from the marina at Wat Tyler C.P. it proved popular and was seen daily through to the 18th. On the 14th the Nuthatch in Hockley Woods was seen for the only time this month. A total of three Long-eared Owls were present at two sites on the 14th and 15th. Short-eared Owls also became more numerous with duos on Wallasea, West Canvey, and Two Tree Island, and a single at Brandy Hole. A Bullfinch was seen again at Wat Tyler C.P. on the 15th and a Black Redstart reported from Gunners Park the same day may well have been a migrant. The 15th also saw the third wave of Waxwings through the area starting with a flock of 43 in Prittlewell which remained until the 30th. Other flocks included 20 in Rayleigh, 16 in Eastwood, 15 near Rochford, and five on Two Tree Island. Four Green Sandpipers and a Common Sandpiper on West Canvey on the 16th were an indication of spring migration. The Bittern at Wat Tyler C.P. was seen for the final time on the 17th and the Coal Tit in Hockley Woods was seen again on the 18th, but not subsequently this month. A remarkable count of 111 Snipe on Bowers Marsh on the 18th was the largest local count since the turn of the century. An Eider off Canvey Point on the 23rd was the only record all month whereas an adult Glaucous Gull on West Canvey was the second record of this fine arctic larid in less than a week. Although tricky to connect with as it frequently disappeared, presumably to forage on the nearby Pitsea Tip, it remained in the area until the 26th. In a delayed start to spring the first and only Wheatear this month was a male on Bowers Marsh on the 24th. An influx of Little Gulls into the Thames saw 25 lingering off Canvey Point on the 26th. Two Hen Harriers, a male and a female, were still frequenting Wallasea on a daily basis through to the 29th. Vange Marsh got in on the postponed spring migration by hosting four Green Sandpipers and a Common Sandpiper on the 29th. An obvious arrival of seven Chiffchaffs at Vange Marsh on the 31st included one bird that showed all the characteristics of a Siberian Chiffchaff and which was eventually proved to be one several days later. A Jack Snipe was also reported from Vange Marsh on the 31st and two Porpoise were lingering off Canvey. The two drake Scaup at Paglesham Lagoon and the female Long-tailed Duck in Gunners Park continued their extended stays at their respective locations.
A Water Shrew on the 1st was an unexpected sight in the abstraction ditch at Vange Marsh where the Siberian Chiffchaff continued its stay. The Merlin on Wallasea was reported for the final time on the 1st. An early Small Tortoiseshell and two Adders on Benfleet Downs on the 2nd did their best to suggest that spring was coming. A Jack Snipe was reportedly on West Canvey the same day. Hockley Woods revealed the female Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, a Coal Tit, and the Nuthatch again on the 3rd. Gunners Park surpassed all expectations as a seawatching hotspot between the 2nd and the 10th with an obvious passage of divers, grebes, and sea duck, no doubt having been displaced by the persistent easterly winds. Highlights during this period were five Red-throated Divers, a Black-throated Diver, three Great Northern Divers, three Slavonian Grebes, a Red-necked Grebe (4th), a Gannet, two Shags (the long staying immature now joined by a colour-ringed adult), at least four Velvet Scoters, 160 Common Scoters, a Red-breasted Merganser, eight Sandwich Terns, a Great Skua (3rd), twelve Little Gulls and a Porpoise! A pair of Garganey put in a brief visit to Vange Marsh on the 4th during a snowstorm when one lucky birder had 21 Siskins and 15 Lesser Redpolls in his garden in Daws Heath. A total of 27 Lesser Redpolls and sixty Siskins passed through the area during the early part of the month with no records of either species after the 11th. In Gunners Park a female Black Redstart was seen on the 6th and 13th where it consorted with two Lesser Redpolls on the former date and three Stonechats which were present throughout. Another Black Redstart was at Barling on the 7th whilst a third bird was photographed in a Southend garden. The first Hobby of the year was claimed over a Leigh garden on the early date of the 6th, the same day the female Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was recorded for the last time in Hockley Woods, where the Nuthatch was similarly recorded there two days later for the final time. A Black-necked Grebe was belatedly identified on the sea off Two Tree Island on the 7th; the same day a Hen Harrier paid a last visit to Wallasea. Also on the 7th three Whooper Swans were seen flying east along the Crouch at South Fambridge before heading north and then lost to view. They subsequently reappeared on Blue House Farm where they spent a protracted stay. Hints of the changing seasons were apparent on the 10th with the first Sand Martin over Vange Marsh, the first Yellow Wagtail at Paglesham along with five lingering Red-breasted Mergansers, and four Goldeneyes which were still languishing on the nearby lagoon. Two Egyptian Geese at Fleet Head on the 11th were an unusual find. The following week saw many summer migrants trickle through with Common Tern, Swallow, and House Martin arriving on the 11th. A final pulse of Waxwings pushed through from the 11th to the 18th with lingering flocks of 18 near Eastwood and 34 in Benfleet the largest counts. Two female Bramblings in a Little Wakering garden on the 12th followed by another in a Benfleet garden on the 21st were the only records since a single fly-over in December 2012. The last Fieldfares departed on the 13th with Redwings just one day later. The Siberian Chiffchaff at Vange Marsh confirmed its identification by calling and singing from the 13th to the 15th. Nightingales arrived back on territory on the 14th with nine singing males by month end. There were several records of Red Kite in the latter half of the month starting with one near Rawreth on the 14th followed by an intriguing series of reports of two together over Canewdon on the 19th, Hadleigh on the 20th, Paglesham on the 23rd and a single over Hadleigh again on the 26th. A pair of summer plumaged Black-necked Grebes dropped in at Wat Tyler C.P. on the 15th where they delighted all through to the 18th with their courtship display. A cracking male Redstart at Vange Marsh on the 15th was a superb spring record and following a complete absence of records last year two lucky birders were also treated to a Ring-necked Parakeet flying over. Cuckoo returned on the 15th with at least fifteen calling birds noted by the end of the month. Whimbrel passed through in low numbers from the 15th onwards and two Swifts were claimed over Prittlewell on the rather early date of the 16th. Seawatching at Canvey on the 18th produced an Arctic Skua and six Arctic Terns, the only spring records of either species this year. A small fall of Wheatears was apparent on Canvey on the 18th where an impressive 18 birds were counted. A total of 38 Wheatears were seen across the region this month at ten sites. A Grasshopper Warbler was heard on Two Tree Island on the 19th where it was joined by a second reeling male on the 24th. Additional birds were reeling at Wat Tyler C.P. and Canvey Wick over the next few days. Two Short-eared Owls could still be found on Wallasea on the 20th with one remaining all month on West Canvey. Last month’s three Long-eared Owls remained at their respective sites throughout the month. Both Weasel and Water Vole were present on Two Tree Island on the 21st. The two drake Scaup were still present on Paglesham Lagoon on the 23rd. Two Grey Partridges at Fleet Head on the 23rd was an excellent record and the first here for nearly three years. A male Pied Flycatcher was a superb find in Friars Park on the 23rd. The finder then excelled himself by finding a Tree Pipit there two days later and a Spotted Flycatcher in nearby Great Wakering on the 27th. Garden Warblers always seem to be unusually scarce in the area but three singles were reported between the 24th and 28th however all eluded everyone but the original finders. A female Redstart was reported from Gunners Park on the 24th. Four Adders were seen on West Canvey on the 25th with three at Vange Marsh and two still on Benfleet Downs. A Wood Sandpiper was a good spring record at Vange Marsh on the 26th, but its stay was all too brief after being flushed by a Sparrowhawk. The much declined Turtle Dove returned to Rochford on the 27th and was worryingly the only sighting this month. A Firecrest was reliably reported from Two Tree Island on the 28th by which time Brimstone, Large White, Small White, Green-veined White, Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, and Comma were all on the wing and all the expected warbler species were either back on territory or had passed through as in the case of Willow Warbler. Last year’s Palmate Newt colony in Belfairs was revisited on the 29th when at least one newt was still present. Porpoises were noted in the Crouch and Roach at the end of the month and incredibly the Long-tailed Duck in Gunners Park remained throughout!
There were two sightings of Weasel this month, both on the 1st with animals noted at Wat Tyler C.P. and Two Tree Island, the same day that the long staying Long-tailed Duck present in Gunners Park since December 2012 was seen for the final time. Interestingly a female Long-tailed Duck arrived in south London at the beginning of June where it remained all summer, could it have been the same bird? A Wheatear in Gunners Park on the 1st was one of only three seen in the area this month, the other records coming from Wallasea also on the 1st, and Wakering Stairs on the 5th. A pair of Garganey was a notable find at Bowers Marsh on the 2nd where they remained all month. A Muntjac in Hadleigh Great Wood on the 3rd further evidenced the gradual colonisation of our local woodlands by this unobtrusive species. Turtle Doves returned to Stambridge on the 3rd with additional sightings mid-month at several other locations providing a total of fifteen birds at six sites this month. The 5th produced a few interesting single observer records with a Honey Buzzard reported over Gunners Park, a Red Kite over Leigh-on-Sea, and a male Ring Ouzel on Two Tree Island. On Wallasea on the 7th, Yellow Wagtails and Corn Buntings peaked at a modest month high of ten and twenty respectively. A Shag at Gunners Park on the 8th was probably one of last month’s birds still lingering. A female Garganey was on Vange Marsh on the 12th and was seen on several dates subsequently. Bowers Marsh hosted the first and only Little Stint of the spring on the 12th while at nearby West Canvey Marsh a rather late Short-eared Owl was reported on the 17th. Back on Bowers Marsh an immature Little Gull obliged from the 18th through into July and was joined briefly by a second bird on the 27th. The 20th produced some good records with a Black Redstart at South Fambridge, a ‘new’ Grasshopper Warbler reeling at Paglesham East End, and the first Fulmar of the year which was seen off Canvey along with 16 Gannets and 74 Dark-bellied Brent Geese. A Black Tern off Canvey Point on the 23rd was the sole record of the spring whilst a Guillemot there two days later was unseasonal. A light passage of Buzzards was noted from the 23rd to the 27th with a total of eleven birds seen at six sites. A Red Kite was also recorded on the 27th at Bowers Marsh where a pair of Stonechats were proudly showing off their recently fledged juvenile. On the 30th, news filtered through of a Bluethroat which had apparently flown into a building along Southend seafront the day before when it was duly photographed and released none the worse for its ordeal. One mile to the east, a fine drake Garganey was a most unexpected find in suburban Southchurch Park East on the 29th. A pair of Black-necked Grebes was reported from Wat Tyler C.P. towards the end of the month and two Eider were loafing off Wakering Stairs on the 31st.
Four Nightingales were reported from Wakering Stairs on the 1st when the two on Two Tree Island were also still present. Wall butterflies were noted at four sites with all records falling between the 1st and 6th. Water Voles showed themselves at Vange Marsh on the 1st and Two Tree Island on the 2nd. Singles of Green Hairstreak were recorded on Canvey Wick on the 4th and Benfleet Downs on the 8th. A male Blue-headed Wagtail was a good find on Bowers Marsh on the 5th when four Little Ringed Plovers were also present. Two Grasshopper Warblers reported from Wat Tyler C.P. on the 6th were the last of the summer. The last stragglers of the wader spring passage ambled through with a Spotted Redshank at Vange Marsh on the 7th and a Common Sandpiper the same day on West Canvey Marsh where two Green Sandpipers were seen on the 9th. A Garden Warbler was claimed near Rayleigh on the 8th but was not seen subsequently. A flock of eight Dark-bellied Brent Geese were procrastinating off Canvey Point on the 9th with four of their number still loitering at the end of the month. A Spoonbill was a welcome surprise on Bowers Marsh on the 13th; it wandered off on the 14th only to return the following day. A Spotted Redshank on Vange Marsh on the 14th presumably didn’t know if it should be coming or going. A Painted Lady along Benfleet Creek on the 14th was the first of six records this month. On the 15th a Red Kite over Rayleigh was particularly notable given the time of year as was a cracking female Red-necked Phalarope which visited Vange Marsh the following day. A Green Sandpiper on Vange Marsh on the 17th signalled the start of the return wader passage. On the 19th thirty Heath Fritillaries were counted at Daws Heath following a report of 119 there a few days earlier. Quite remarkably a male White-spotted Bluethroat was photographed from the hide at Wat Tyler C.P. on the 20th giving rise to much speculation as to why it was there in mid-June. There was no further sight or sound of the Bluethroat over the next few days although last month’s pair of Black-necked Grebes was present again for several days. A Spotted Flycatcher was a most welcome visitor to a Canewdon garden on the 24th and was unfortunately the only mid-summer record of this former local breeder. Wakering Stairs produced some unusual sightings on the 29th with a Gannet, an Arctic Skua, and two Eider being more reminiscent of an autumn seawatch, but the best record from a local perspective was the three Grey Partridges flushed from the seawall there. The first Clouded Yellow of the year was at West Canvey Marsh on the 29th where two Water Voles also showed well. Return wader passage was evident on the 30th with three Little Ringed Plovers, ten Spotted Redshanks, and five Green Sandpipers all present on Vange Marsh along with the over-summering local Little Gull. A different Little Gull was also seen the same day on Bowers Marsh.
Four Marbled Whites on Hadleigh Marshes on the 2nd were the first of the year whilst a Red Kite at Rayleigh the following day was the first of a series of records this month. The second Clouded Yellow of the year was on Canvey Wick on the 4th while three White-letter Hairstreaks were on Benfleet Downs and a White Admiral was in Belfairs N.R. on the 6th. A Little Gull reported off Canvey Point on the 6th was unseasonal when the Red Kite was seen again, this time over Ballards Gore. Garden Warblers were claimed by single observers at Barling on the 7th and Canewdon on the 8th. A single Crossbill was reported flying over near Rayleigh on the 12th with a flock of six there the following day. A Short-eared Owl reported on Wallasea on the 13th was the only mid-summer record. Four Dark-bellied Brent Geese persisted off Two Tree Island on the 13th when the last Heath Fritillaries of the year were noted in Belfairs Woods along with six White Admirals. A Painted Lady on Belton Hills on the 14th was the only record of the month when three more White Admirals were reported from a garden near Thundersley Glen. A report of a female Siskin in a garden in Ashingdon also on the 14th was intriguing. Following the discovery of an adult Pectoral Sandpiper there on the 14th, Vange Marsh came into form through to the 18th with fourteen Little Ringed Plovers (including an almost white one!) also present as were twenty Green Sandpipers, eight Common Sandpipers, 24 Greenshank, nine Spotted Redshank, an adult Yellow-legged Gull and 35 Marbled Whites. On Benfleet Downs White-letter Hairstreaks reached a modest high of twelve on the 21st. At Vange Marsh on the 26th 15 Bearded Tits was a notable count. The first Curlew Sandpiper of the year was a nice adult at Tewke’s Creek on the 28th. The annual early summer build-up of Mediterranean Gulls reached a very impressive 186 along Southend seafront on the 28th equalling the Essex record count. Three White Admirals were in Hockley Woods on the 28th and brought to three the number of sites where this impressive butterfly was recorded from this year. A Water Vole was seen on Wallasea on the 28th with another on West Canvey Marsh earlier in the month. Counts of eight Common Sandpipers were made on Two Tree Island on the 28th and Tewke’s Creek on the 30th. What could well have been the same wandering Red Kite was seen over Stambridge on the 30th and Great Wakering the following day.
The month started slowly with little to report in the way of bird news so Southern Migrant Hawkers attracted most of the attention early on with two males at Wat Tyler C.P. from the 2nd until the 6th. Another two males were on Canvey Wick on the 8th, and a single male was on West Canvey Marsh on the 19th. A quiet seawatch on the 7th at Canvey produced the month’s second highest count of Arctic Skuas with a disappointing total of just five birds. Painted Lady butterflies were reported in small numbers from many sites during the first three weeks of the month with ten at Star Lane pits on the 8th the only count of note. Willow Emerald Damselflies were noted at two sites from the 11th to the 24th beginning with a single at a garden pond in Leigh followed by up to four along Hadleigh Marshes. On the 14th Wakering Stairs produced the first Pomarine Skua of the autumn and the two over summering Eider were still present. On the 16th a Wood Sandpiper found the conditions at Vange Marsh favourable where it stayed through to the 19th. A Fulmar past Gunners Park on the 17th was only the second record of the year. The Little Egret roost on Two Tree Island had reportedly reached 167 the following day which comfortably exceeded all previous counts here. A Nightingale in Gunners Park on the 19th was an interesting record. Two Water Voles were watched on West Canvey Marsh on the 19th alongside a Southern Migrant Hawker and the last Wall butterfly of the year. Good numbers of Clouded Yellows passed through during the month culminating in a notable peak on the 20th when there were twelve on Wallasea and nineteen in Gunners Park which included two ‘helice’ types. Passerine migration finally got underway on the 20th when the first Whinchats were recorded with four on Wallasea. Two Purple Hairstreaks on Benfleet Downs on the 21st brought to thirty the number of butterfly species recorded locally this year. Gunners Park produced some early signs of migration on the 22nd with a Garden Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, and Pied Flycatcher all recorded whilst at sea a Porpoise was off Canvey. Seawatching off Canvey on the 24th just prior to the deluge of rain produced thirteen Arctic Skuas, nineteen Arctic Terns, and a staggering 219 Black Terns. Those able to make it through the floods to Canvey the following morning were rewarded with a Sooty Shearwater, a Manx Shearwater, two Balearic Shearwaters, 33 Gannets, 16 Common Scoters, three Pomarine Skuas, eleven Great Skuas, three Little Gulls, and 94 Black Terns whilst Wakering Stairs contributed a Fulmar and a Curlew Sandpiper. Attention switched back to Gunners Park on the 26th with three Tree Pipits, four Whinchats, a Spotted Flycatcher and a Pied Flycatcher all present whilst just along the coast at Wakering Stairs counts of seven Whinchats and five Wheatears were the highest of the autumn. Canvey Point was quiet on the 29th although 35 Yellow Wagtails all flying south west pointed to continued diurnal migration. A Wryneck found late in the day on Two Tree Island on the 29th was not unexpected given the high numbers along the east coast. Two juvenile Curlew Sandpipers were on the mud in Potton Creek from the 30th to the 1st September and an early Merlin was also noted over the island. Two Pied Flycatchers in a garden by Coombe Wood on the 30th were an exceptional find whilst the Spotted Flycatcher present in Gunners Park since the 22nd was joined by a second bird on the 30th with another inland at Daws Heath the next day. Two Little Stints arrived on Bowers Marsh on the 30th with three there the following day; they remained well into September but were often mobile and elusive. A confiding juvenile Red-backed Shrike took up temporary residence on Bowers Marsh from the 31st through to the 9th September.
In what was a rather poor summer for Turtle Doves the last sighting for this struggling migrant was of a single at Lion Creek on the 1st. The soon to be opened Bowers Marsh RSPB reserve hosted two Wood Sandpipers and a Clouded Yellow on the 1st alongside last month’s Red-backed Shrike, whilst the following day an immature Spoonbill arrived and remained there through to the 11th after making a brief visit to West Canvey Marsh on the 10th. A seawatch off Canvey on the 6th yielded a significant passage of terns with 187 Black Terns, 100 Common Terns, and six Little Terns all noted. The month’s highest count of Arctic Skuas was also made at this time with a paltry twelve birds which were no doubt attracted by the terns. A Sooty Shearwater however was by far and away the headline bird of the day and was the second and last bird of the year. Two Tree Island attracted a Little Stint on the 6th and 7th and Little Ringed Plovers numbered five on Bowers Marsh on the 9th and were the last of the autumn. Also departing on the 9th from Bowers Marsh was the well watched Red-backed Shrike which was remarkably replaced within hours by another bird at nearby West Canvey Marsh which proved extremely popular and confiding and remained through to the 16th. Visiting birders to the Red-backed Shrike were rewarded on the 9th with a surprise Wryneck along the same fence line. As expected numbers of Curlew Sandpipers increased during the month albeit with only rather modest numbers involved; five on Canvey Point on the 10th and five on Wallasea on the 22nd represented the peak counts. Smaller numbers were noted at five other sites this month with four on Two Tree Island on the 8th the ‘best of the rest’. In what was a poor year for skuas, two Great Skuas off Gunners Park on the 11th proved to be the highest count of the month. A Pied Flycatcher arrived at Gunners Park on the 12th with it or another seen there again on the 18th. Small numbers of Whinchats passed through the region this month with four on West Canvey Marsh from the 12th to the 14th the best count. A juvenile Little Stint and two Curlew Sandpipers were some reward for trawling through the high tide wader roost on Canvey Point on the 14th. A Pomarine Skua off Canvey on the 15th was surprisingly the only record all month whereas a Honey Buzzard over Two Tree Island the same day was the only record of the autumn. A Crossbill and three Tree Pipits were recorded over Gunners Park on the 15th when Willow Emerald Damselflies were seen for the last time on Benfleet Downs with four present. On West Canvey Marsh on the 17th a visiting birder was disappointed to find the Red-backed Shrike had departed overnight but went one better by finding a Lesser Yellowlegs and a Wood Sandpiper. Unfortunately the former only stayed until mid-afternoon before departing for Cliffe Pools in Kent whereas the latter remained until the 22nd. Another Tree Pipit was found on the 18th, this time at Fleet Head whilst Spotted Flycatchers reached the heady heights of three birds in Gunners Park where they stayed until the 22nd. Additional singles were seen this month in Gunners Park on the 7th as well as Coombe Wood, Prittlewell, and West Canvey Marsh. The first Siskins of the autumn were a flock of six over Gunners Park on the 20th where only the second Clouded Yellow of the month was also logged. The last Tree Pipit of the year passed over Gunners Park on the 21st bringing the number of autumn birds to a respectable eight this year. Two Little Terns off Wakering Stairs on the 21st were the last of the year. A Little Stint on Bowers Marsh present since August was seen for the last time on the 21st although three were at Vange Marsh the following day when there was also a single on Wallasea. One lucky observer witnessed the passage of 5,816 Swallows passing Wakering Stairs in three hours on the 22nd which included among them a fine Red-rumped Swallow. The first Red-throated Diver of the winter was logged off Canvey on the 22nd where it was seen again on the 28th. Two Coal Tits were reported from a Benfleet garden again on the 25th, these being the only records this year other than the pair that have recently recolonised Hockley Woods. The first Ring Ouzel of the autumn was predictably in Gunners Park on the 26th, the same day that the last Pied Flycatcher was seen, this time, unusually, in Friars Park. A drake Scaup on the sea off Wakering Stairs on the 27th was a good record and the first of the autumn as was a Red-breasted Merganser off Gunners Park on the 28th and 29th. Up to three Pale-bellied Brent Geese and a Black Brant were among the 3,470 Dark-bellied Brent Geese now amassed off Two Tree Island on the 28th and 29th and a Guillemot was noted off three sites in the estuary on four occasions from the 28th to the 30th. Seawatching was still struggling to get going so two Long-tailed Skuas off Canvey on the 29th were certainly a surprise; two Fulmar were also noted in the estuary the same day. The month faded away with four Little Gulls off the Pier on the 30th and the only Porpoise sighting this month with two close in to the pierhead.
Seawatching off Canvey on the 1st produced a Pomarine Skua, the lingering Red-throated Diver, and a Fulmar which was also seen from the Pier where the two Porpoises were still showing well. The three Little Stints present on Vange Marsh on the 22nd September were all still present and correct on the 1st and were the last of the autumn. By contrast, two Redwings over Rayleigh on the 2nd were the first of the autumn. Diligent searching through the 5,000 Dark-bellied Brent Geese amassed off of Leigh on the 2nd revealed the continuing presence of three Black Brants, a Pale-bellied Brent Goose, and two newly arrived first-winter White-fronted Geese. All four species of geese continued to be reported through to the 6th after which the White-fronted Geese relocated to north Kent and the Black Brants and Pale-bellied Brent Goose also dispersed. The last two Sand Martins of the year were at Gunners Park on the 4th when Hobby could still be found lingering at Wallasea and Wat Tyler C.P. with the latter bird still present the next day. On the 5th, a typically elusive Spotted Crake was an excellent find at Bowers Marsh and was the first local record since 1990! Scarce winter finches were on the move over Gunners Park on the 5th and 6th when two Bramblings flew through on the former date and nine Siskins on the latter. A Snow Bunting was reported briefly from Shoebury East Beach on the 10th when a small arrival of Ring Ouzels began with one in Gunners Park from the 10th to the 15th, increasing to two there on the 12th when there were a further three on Canvey Wick and one at Star Lane Pits. The predicted strong north-easterly winds and heavy rain on the 11th returned a plethora of seabird sightings off Canvey proving what an excellent site it can be given favourable conditions. Highlights from eleven hours of staring down a ‘scope included: Fulmar, Manx Shearwater, five Leach’s Petrels, 111 Gannets, Scaup, Eider, 38 Common Scoter, Velvet Scoter, three Red-breasted Mergansers, adult Pomarine Skua, ten Arctic Skuas, twenty Great Skuas, 39 Little Gulls, four Kittiwakes, eight Sandwich Terns, six Common Terns, six Arctic Terns, Guillemot, two Razorbills, two Little Auks, and two Puffins! Those birders unable to find reward in seawatching managed to turn up Jack Snipe in Gunners Park on the 11th and Star Lane Pits on the 12th. Finding this species on passage through the region is virtually unheard of although no doubt they must occur every year. Close scrutiny of the various Brent flocks resulted in the finding of a female Black Brant at Leigh on the 11th which was seen the next day at Wakering Stairs where a male Pale-bellied Brent Goose was also present. At nearby Gunners Park on the morning of the 12th four crossbills were found feeding in two small conifers. By lunchtime questions were being asked regarding their true identity given the enormous size of their bills coupled with their bull-necked appearance. The realisation quickly dawned that these were in fact four Parrot Crossbills, the first confirmed sighting in Essex since 1862 and the precursor of a modest nationwide arrival. To the frustration of several local birders experiencing a quiet week on the Scillies the pager continued to confirm that the birds showed well to all and sundry through to midday on the 14th when they departed to the north-west. As expected, birders came from across the county and beyond which also resulted in a late Redstart being found on the 12th, single Bramblings on the 13th and 14th, and a Yellow-browed Warbler on the 14th when a Scaup was offshore. Seawatching at Canvey on the 12th in the aftermath of the previous day’s movement failed to produce much of note other than another Leach’s Petrel, the only (!) Sabine’s Gull of the year, 16 Little Gulls, and eight Arctic Terns. The first Fieldfares of the autumn were a flock of 13 on West Canvey on the 13th with a single in Gunners Park the following day being surprisingly the only other record all month. A number of Glossy Ibis were moving around the county during the month and so it was not entirely unexpected when one was seen coming to roost at Wat Tyler C.P. irregularly from the 15th through to the end of the month. It would often drop in to Vange Marsh just prior to roosting and remained in the general area well into mid-November. The last House Martins of the year were noted over Gunners Park on the 16th when four passed through, and a drake Mandarin there the same day was a little unusual with no records from here since spring 2008. A Purple Sandpiper dropped in briefly to the foreshore at Gunners Park on the 17th and was surprisingly the only record of the year following a total lack of records during the first winter period. Unusually, Clouded Yellows were more evident this month than last month with nine seen, including three on Wallasea on the 17th. Gunners Park continued its good form with the only Black Redstart of the autumn on the 19th and the second Red-necked Grebe of the year on the 20th when a Black Brant was present nearby at Shoebury. Of the four Wheatears seen this month, the last bird was recorded on the 24th in Gunners Park which also hosted another earlier in the month, whilst the other two records came from Wallasea and Benfleet Creek. There was an obvious pulse of Siskins from the 24th to the 30th when several single figure flocks passed through four sites with Gunners Park proving the most popular. A party of four immature Spoonbills resided at Bowers Marsh from the 25th to the 3rd November after being photographed the previous afternoon heading east over Tilbury. Of the six Bramblings recorded this month, the only one which was not in Gunners Park was a female at West Canvey on the 26th. An adult Cattle Egret was an excellent find on Wallasea on the 26th where it remained, albeit sporadically, through to the 3rd November making it three years out of the last four that this recent colonist has visited the local area. Also present on Wallasea on the 26th was the last Clouded Yellow of the year, with the last Swallow also noted there the following day. A first-winter Caspian Gull was singled out and photographed at Vange Marsh on the 27th. The 30th produced an ‘out of range’ Bearded Tit in Gunners Park which was probably a site first along with the sixth Brambling of the month, and a Crossbill was found in Hockley Woods.
Four Bramblings were reported from a garden in Hockley on the 1st and the 8th and were the only records all month. The Cattle Egret on Wallasea was seen for the last time on the 3rd as was the party of four Spoonbills on Bowers Marsh. The wandering Glossy Ibis settled down on Bowers Marsh from the 2nd to the 13th. The last Swallow of the year was noted past Gunners Park on the 2nd when the first Hen Harrier of the winter arrived on Wallasea where it was joined by a second bird from the 9th onwards. A Red Kite was reported over Southend on the 3rd and the last reptile of the year was an Adder seen on Benfleet Downs on the 4th. A late Curlew Sandpiper frequented the mudflats off Wallasea from the 5th to the 7th where the only Short-eared Owl of the month flew high over the saltmarsh on the 5th. Seawatching off Canvey on the 6th produced little of note but did provide the only Goosander record of the year when a drake flew west. A Barnacle Goose was on Wallasea from the 7th through to the 9th but did its credentials no favours by mingling with the Greylag and Canada Geese; it was the only one seen in the recording area since 1st January. A flock of eight Snow Buntings on Wallasea Ness on the 8th were on a day trip from Foulness with a single bird being seen on the 10th. The number of Caspian Gulls on the private Pitsea Tip peaked at five on the 9th outnumbering Yellow-legged Gulls which could only muster four. The only Chiffchaff of the month was on the 10th in Friars Park which has a good record of attracting this over-wintering warbler. Bowers Marsh turned up a Jack Snipe and a Caspian Gull on the 13th. Mild conditions and sunshine saw both Small Tortoiseshell and Comma on the wing at Paglesham Lagoon on the 16th. A pulse of passage was noted on the 17th on land and at sea. Off Canvey, an eye-watering 3,172 Gannets flew west smashing the previous Essex record. Surprisingly, not much else was caught up with the seabird passage with just a Black-throated Diver, two Guillemots, and two Great Skuas the only other birds of note. Nearby on West Canvey Marsh, an immature Scaup arrived where it remained into 2014; also present was a reasonable count of three over-wintering Green Sandpipers. To round off the day, two Crossbills flew north over Friars Park. A Muntjac ran across Ashingdon Road on the 20th, it seems they have reached all parts of the region now albeit in very low numbers. Seawatching off Canvey was productive on the 21st with seven Eider, 74 Common Scoter, nine Red-breasted Merganser, a Pomarine Skua, five Great Skuas, four Little Gulls, and 26 Kittiwakes all recorded. Almost as notable on the 21st was the complete lack of auk sightings in what is traditionally a good month for them. A Bewick’s Swan alighted briefly on the Crouch at Wallasea on the 23rd before continuing west but more unexpected was the covey of nine Grey Partridges among the new diggings there which were twitched by several locals and constituted the highest local count for at least fifteen years. In addition to the three Green Sandpipers still present on West Canvey Marsh, a further three were counted on Bowers Marsh on the 24th where a family party of four Stonechats were equally noteworthy. A Hen Harrier on Two Tree Island on the 26th was an excellent site record. An immature Scaup paid a brief visit to the Wat Tyler C.P. scrape on the 28th and may have been the over-wintering bird from West Canvey Marsh. As darkness fell on the 30th and the month edged to a close, 95 Little Egrets and a probable Great White Egret roosted at Paglesham Lagoon.
Hockley Woods was worryingly quiet this month although one of the Coal Tits put in a brief appearance on the 1st. The highlight of the month however was the Rough-legged Buzzard seen from the east end of Wallasea also on the 1st. The bird had first been reported from Foulness in mid-November and for those willing to make the long walk, the bird could be seen on the Foulness side of the Roach from Wallasea through into 2014. Also present on Wallasea at this time was last month’s Barnacle Goose on the 1st, a Pale-bellied Brent Goose from the 1st to the 6th, three Stonechats from the 2nd which over-wintered and a flock of eighteen Snow Buntings on the Foulness side of the Roach on the 2nd. Of even more dubious origins than the Barnacle Goose was the long staying Snow Goose on Vange Wick which showed from the Wat Tyler C.P. marina between the 2nd and the 19th. Last month’s Hen Harrier on Two Tree Island was reported again on the 4th but not subsequently. Woodcock were in short supply this month with the first of just two birds seen on Benfleet Downs on the 6th. The last butterfly of the year was a Small Tortoiseshell reported from a Southend garden on the 7th. The number of Hen Harriers on Wallasea nudged up to three ringtails from the 8th onwards with a male seen infrequently from the 10th. Two Stonechats were noted on Two Tree Island on the 8th, these being the first records from their former stronghold since a one-day male in March. An Iceland Gull flying upriver past Canvey on the 13th was a good record and what was probably the same first-winter bird was reported again off Canvey several times at month’s end. The over-wintering Scaup on West Canvey Marsh was reported daily from the 14th through into 2014. Also on Canvey, a female Black Brant was noted on the flooded fields on the 14th, 18th, and 24th. Only two Blackcaps were seen this month, both on the 14th with males at Wat Tyler C.P. and Benfleet. A Pale-bellied Brent Goose was singled out at Wakering Stairs on the 15th. A juvenile Spoonbill on Vange Marsh from the 16th to the 19th was an unusual mid-winter record. Short-eared Owls continued to remain scarce with singles on Wallasea on the 17th and South Fambridge on the 20th the only records. A Red-necked Grebe on the sea off Gunners Park on the 19th and 20th was a good record although interestingly all three birds this year have been seen from here. A Snow Bunting and a Water Pipit were both found at South Fambridge on the 20th where the Snow Bunting remained into early 2014. The only Chiffchaff this month was discovered at Gunners Park on the 20th. A count of three Black Brants at Paglesham East End on the 22nd was quite exceptional. On the 22nd a Woodcock on Hadleigh Downs was only the second and last record of the month and a Red Kite was reported over Ashingdon. Marsh Harriers roosting at Wat Tyler C.P. peaked at seven on the 24th whilst there was a further six around the Wallasea area. Remaining with raptors and Wallasea, ideal conditions there on the 29th revealed good views of the Rough-legged Buzzard along with five Hen Harriers, three Marsh Harriers, five Common Buzzards, a Merlin, a Peregrine, and eight Kestrels. An immature Spoonbill on Two Tree Island from the 29th into early January was presumably the Vange Marsh bird relocating. A Lesser Redpoll reported at Wat Tyler C.P. on the 29th was notable for being the only record of this species from the entire area this month. The year was seen out with a reasonable seawatch off Canvey on the 31st when the Iceland Gull was recorded again, along with 14 Red-throated Divers, a Great Skua, and 100 Kittiwakes. In summary, a respectable 219 species were reliably recorded in 2013 including six Leach’s Petrels, Glossy Ibis, Cattle Egret, Great White Egret, Rough-legged Buzzard, Spotted Crake, Pectoral Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, Red-necked Phalarope, Red-rumped Swallow, two Wrynecks, two Red-backed Shrikes, two Bluethroats, Siberian Chiffchaff, and Yellow-browed Warbler. Top billing goes to the four Parrot Crossbills in Gunners Park in October, the vanguards of a nationwide influx and a new bird for the SOG recording area.