As expected, with many birders eager to start their yearlists, New Years’ Day produced several interesting records the most unexpected of which was the juvenile Sabine’s Gull which flew past Shoebury East Beach. In addition, the first-winter Iceland Gull present along the Thames since mid-December was also logged off Canvey along with 250 Kittiwakes, 15 Guillemots, an Arctic Skua, and two Great Skuas. The Scaup at West Canvey Marsh present since mid-November was duly ‘ticked off’, although there was no need to rush as it remained through to early April. On dry land, three Firecrests were found wintering in Hockley Woods, a regular feature now of recent winters, and five Marsh Harriers roosted at Wat Tyler C.P. A Snow Bunting at South Fambridge on the 2nd was the only record of the first-winter period. A first-winter White-fronted Goose on Vange Wick, and which was viewable from Wat Tyler C.P. marina, was found among the more usual anser fare on the 2nd; it remained in the general area until the end of March. The long-staying Snow Goose was also resident on Vange Wick from the 2nd through to early March. Last month’s Spoonbill was seen again on the 3rd, this time around Two Tree Island but had gone the following day, possibly across to Cliffe. Also present on Two Tree Island were five Greenshanks. A flock of fifteen Yellowhammers was an unexpected find in Ashingdon on the 3rd and is one of the largest flocks in the last three years. A male Blackcap in a Leigh garden on the 4th was this month’s only record. A Razorbill and the lingering Iceland Gull were both reported from the Pier on the 4th, with the Iceland Gull seen there again the following day. Further ‘white-winger’ excitement came on the 4th and 5th when a second-winter Glaucous Gull was discovered on Vange Wick. Mirroring the Wat Tyler C.P. roost numbers, a matching count of five Marsh Harriers was made on Wallasea on the 5th where last month’s Rough-legged Buzzard continued to show, albeit distantly from the eastern seawall until the 12th. Wintering Hen Harrier peaked at three on Wallasea the same day, all of which were ringtails. The wintering female Merlin also performed regularly through to early February as did up to three Short-eared Owls. Nearby on the 5th, Paglesham hosted up to four Pale-bellied Brent Geese and a Black Brant among the 5,230 Dark-bellied Brent Geese there. Two Long-tailed Ducks were off Canvey on the 5th and were most likely the birds reported from the Thames at Mucking over the winter. Hockley Woods hosted two Woodcock on the 5th with one seen there again on the 8th. All three wintering Stonechats were still present on Wallasea on the 8th whilst there were two on West Canvey Marsh and one at Paglesham. Contender for bird of the month was the Glossy Ibis found in the creek at Wat Tyler C.P. marina from the 8th to the 11th. Also present in the creek were up to seven Ruff, four Spotted Redshanks, and a Greenshank. Two ringtail Hen Harriers reported from Two Tree Island on the 11th followed hot on the heels of a single there in late November/early December. Two adult White-fronted Geese dropped in for one day on the 11th at Wallasea where the Barnacle Goose of dubious origin was also noted. Buzzards continue to increase across the region, as demonstrated by four wintering around Wallasea on the 11th. The only Chiffchaff of the winter was noted at Wat Tyler C.P. on the 12th, the same day that a pair of Bullfinches were seen at Great Wakering. A Merlin took favour to the saltmarsh around Two Tree Island and Canvey Point from the 16th to the 18th. The first Black-throated Diver of the year was feeding off the Pier on the 16th and was then off Canvey the following day where an Arctic Skua, a Great Skua, and two Razorbills were all recorded on the 18th. Wallasea played host to two Barn Owls and two Short-eared Owls on the 18th and 19th. The pair of Coal Tits in Hockley Woods were more active from the 18th through to early March. A Shag arrived at the Pier on the 19th where it remained intermittently for two weeks. A Great White Egret was another good find around the Paglesham area from the 19th to the 28th. The mobile Spoonbill from earlier this month visited Vange Marsh on the 20th before promptly disappearing, only to return again on the 28th and 31st whilst visiting Bowers Marsh in the interim on the 25th. A flock of nine Yellowhammers was a pleasing find near Benfleet on the 21st. A Merlin at Bowers Marsh on the 24th was a good site record as was a Firecrest in Thundersley Glen the same day. Records of Green Sandpipers this month came from four sites numbering ten birds, with a peak count of four at Vange Marsh on the 25th. A Water Pipit at Paglesham on the 25th was the first of the year whilst nearby the Barnacle Goose had relocated to Potton Island on the 26th. Indications of a build-up of seabirds in the Thames commenced on the 29th with forty Red-throated Divers, a Slavonian Grebe, and a Razorbill off the Pier. The following day there was an obvious influx of divers and auks when 72 Red-throated Divers, two Black-throated Divers, two Great Northern Divers, and 175 Guillemots were counted from the Pier. Also present were two Little Gulls and four Porpoise. Most had gone by the next day although the Slavonian Grebe was still lingering off the Pier and a Little Gull and a Great Northern Diver flew by. The month drew to a close with two Woodcock in Tile Wood on the 31st.
Seawatching from the Pier on the 1st proved fruitful again with forty Red-throated Divers, a Great Northern Diver, a Shag, two Little Gulls, 50 Guillemots, and two Razorbills all recorded. Also on the 1st, the first-winter Iceland Gull was seen again, this time heading downriver past Canvey. The Great White Egret was reported again on the 1st flying over Wallasea when three Bullfinches were seen on Benfleet Downs, with a pair noted in Pound Wood a few days later. The first of four Blackcaps this month visited a garden in Leigh; other singles were in gardens in Rayleigh, Benfleet, and in Hockley Woods. Wat Tyler C.P. hosted a local mega on the 1st in the form of a redhead Goosander although it soon departed before the day was out. Also at Wat Tyler C.P. on the following day, the five Spotted Redshanks, and Greenshank remained by the marina. The Pier was unexpectedly quiet on the 2nd with a Porpoise the only record of note. Other mammalian highlights on the 2nd were a Weasel and a Water Vole which were both on Two Tree Island. The 2nd also produced a Great Skua off Wakering Stairs whilst Paglesham hosted the only Purple Sandpiper of the first-winter period. The wide ranging and highly mobile Spoonbill flew over Wat Tyler C.P. towards Vange Marsh on the 8th. Paglesham Lagoon hosted twelve Goldeneye on the 9th which was surprisingly the last sighting of the winter, and down from a peak of 23 last month. The Coal Tit pair in Hockley Woods were again present on the 9th. Wallasea played host to a trio of overwintering trios on the 11th, with three Short-eared Owls, three Barn Owls, and three Stonechats all recorded. The two Stonechats on Two Tree Island remained until mid-month. The wintering Great White Egret flew over Wallasea on the 15th and 17th. A Weasel was noted by Hadleigh Castle on the 15th, a Muntjac was disturbed from Hockley Woods on the 16th, and also on the 16th a Water Vole was espied again on Two Tree Island when the Merlin was seen there for the final time. The following day, on the 17th, the Merlin on Wallasea also put in its last appearance. There was an unconfirmed report of four redpolls in Hadleigh on the 18th; surprisingly there were no other reports of this species at all during the first-winter period. The Spoonbill settled down for a few days on Vange Marsh from the 19th to the 23rd. Chiffchaffs began moving at the end of the month with one visiting a Southchurch garden briefly on the 20th and another in Hockley Woods on the 26th. An immature Glaucous Gull passing over West Canvey Marsh on the 21st was a good find, whilst the first-winter Iceland Gull finally gave itself up by visiting the foreshore at Holehaven daily from the 23rd to the 26th. A Stoat ran across the road at Paglesham on the 23rd whilst on the 24th the first truly sunny and mild day of the year produced a daytime flying Common Pipistrelle and three Small Tortoiseshells at Rayleigh Mount, and a Comma at Pitsea. The following day saw the first Adders of the spring on Hadleigh Downs and a male Bullfinch at Hullbridge. A Woodcock on Hadleigh Downs on the 26th was only the second of the month following one at Vange Marsh on the 16th.
Records of Woodcock increased notably this month starting with two on Canvey Wick on the 1st which were shortly followed by a further seven birds at five additional sites. The diminutive Jack Snipe also put in an appearance on the 1st when a bird was found at South Fambridge where a Water Pipit was also present. A second Water Pipit frequented Bowers Marsh on the 1st and 2nd. Nearby on the adjacent Pitsea Tip, the first-winter Iceland Gull put in appearances on the 1st, 8th and 29th. A Bittern was reported in flight over Wat Tyler C.P. on the 1st but was not seen subsequently. The first female Blackcap of the year visited a Hockley garden also on the 1st, when the wandering Spoonbill was noted in Holehaven Creek. On the 2nd, three Red-throated Divers and a Great Northern Diver off Canvey, and a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers at Paglesham, were all surprisingly the last records of the winter. A Pale-bellied Brent Goose at Lower Raypits on the 3rd and 8th was similarly the last of the winter. A ringtail Hen Harrier was reported again on Two Tree Island on the 5th whilst the following day two ringtail Hen Harriers were reported from near Fleet Head. A Coal Tit was seen for the final time this spring in Hockley Woods on the 7th where all woodland species appeared to be struggling this year. Up to two Siskins were present at Canewdon on the 7th and 10th and were surprisingly the first of the year as there were no wintering flocks in the area. A single Long-eared Owl was seen in the south on the 7th and 13th only. The Spoonbill flitted between the creek at Wat Tyler C.P. and Bowers Marsh from the 7th to the 11th and often visited both sites on the same day. Also at Bowers Marsh on the 8th, a ringtail Hen Harrier was a notable record for the site. The first of four Red Kites seen this month passed over Ashingdon on the 8th with another overhead there on the 15th, the same day that one was at Bowers Marsh. The fourth and final Red Kite of the month was at Rawreth on the 27th. Similarly there was an upsurge in Buzzard records this month with forty birds noted including seven south over Hadleigh Downs on the 9th in twenty minutes. Two Hen Harriers at Wallasea on the 12th was the only multiple sighting there this month but a single continued to show intermittently throughout the month. The first-winter Iceland Gull was still wandering around the Thames, it dropped in to roost on the mudflats at Holehaven Creek on the 12th. A Crossbill flying over Southchurch on the 14th was particularly unexpected. The arrival of two Sand Martins late on the 15th at Vange Marsh heralded the changing of the seasons and the start of the spring migration. The very next day there was a widespread arrival of at least twenty Chiffchaffs across the area. A Whimbrel on Wallasea on the 17th, with three there on the 19th, continued the spring theme. The Iceland Gull took a liking to Bowers Marsh on the 17th where it was seen again on the 26th. After many attempts, Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers were finally proved to still be present in Hockley Woods when a pair was found on the 18th. Quite unbelievably there were no sightings at all of Nuthatch this spring in Hockley Woods. The last few years have seen a rapid decline from four birds in 2011, two in 2012, one in 2013, to no sightings in 2014. There was however a glimmer of hope of recolonisation when one was seen well out of range along the railway line at Pitsea on the 19th. Spring passage continued to gain momentum from the 20th to the 22nd evidenced by three White Wagtails on Wallasea and a small arrival of Wheatears with the first one on Wallasea, followed by a male in Gunners Park, then a female there the next day, and a male at Vange Marsh. The Spoonbill continued its perambulations taking up residence on Vange Marsh from the 20th to the 24th before moving again to Bowers Marsh from the 26th to the 29th. Despite the recent decline of most woodland species in Hockley Woods, Treecreepers still managed to turn in a respectable five on 21st along with the only Siskin record from there this year to date. A Jack Snipe thrilled many at Wat Tyler C.P. from the 23rd to the 27th by performing in the cut reeds in front of the hide. A brief seawatch off Gunners Park on the 25th was slow going but did reveal a respectable spring count of thirty Gannets along with a late Guillemot. A Water Pipit at Vange Marsh on the 25th was the third record of the month. One of the Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers was seen again briefly in Hockley Woods on the 28th. Short-eared Owl was recorded for the last time at Wallasea on the relatively early date of the 28th and the Barnacle Goose was seen again at Lower Raypits on the 28th. The 29th was obviously a day of departures for several of our birds, with the White-fronted Goose, the Spoonbill, and the Iceland Gull all being seen for the final time when all were at Bowers Marsh or the adjacent tip. With departures come arrivals, and so the first Common Terns were noted off Gunners Park the same day and a spring passage adult Little Gull dropped in to Vange Marsh for the evening of the 30th. A Coal Tit calling near Hadleigh Downs on the 30th was a good local record and lends hope to there being a few more undiscovered pairs now in the area.
There was a hint of raptor passage on the 1st when eight Buzzards passed east over Wat Tyler C.P. in the space of just twenty minutes and a Red Kite drifted west over South Fambridge. The wintering Scaup, present on West Canvey Marsh since mid-November was logged for the final time on the 1st whilst an escaped Ringed Teal resided on nearby Canvey Lake from the 2nd to the 9th. A pair of Bullfinches seen in Hockley Woods on the 2nd was surprisingly the first pair seen here for eight years. The Barnacle Goose present on Wallasea since November before moving to Lower Raypits in March did the decent thing and disappeared after being seen for the last time on the 4th. A quartet of Black-necked Grebes at Vange Marsh on the 4th were a lovely find and were swiftly followed by a pair on Bowers Marsh on the 5th and 6th but none lingered. Up to two Water Voles were seen regularly on Two Tree Island from the 6th onwards as were a family party of five on Bowers Marsh. A Common Sandpiper reported on Vange Marsh on the 6th, and a Turtle Dove reported from Wat Tyler C.P. on the 10th were both firsts for the year. There were two more Common Sandpiper records this month but sadly no further Turtle Dove sightings this month. There was a small wave of passage Willow Warblers from the 10th to the 18th with eight singing males noted, two of which were on Two Tree Island on the 10th along with a fine male Redstart. The 11th was an excellent day at Bowers Marsh when a pair each of Black-winged Stilts and Garganey was found. The Black-winged Stilts were found early enough in the day to allow many people to twitch these elegant birds before they departed overnight to Old Hall Marshes via Dorset! The Garganey pair remained typically elusive but could be seen with luck and patience until the 16th. The first Nightingale of the year was reported at Wakering Stairs on the 11th. The following day, the first of this month’s four reeling Grasshopper Warblers was on Canvey Wick. The 12th also saw a pair of Little Ringed Plovers drop in onto Vange Marsh. The sole remaining wintering Hen Harrier on Wallasea was recorded for the final time on the 12th. One of the increasingly elusive Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers in Hockley Woods was also seen for the last time on the 12th with a Muntjac there an added bonus. Green Sandpiper numbers at Vange Marsh spiked at ten on the 16th, the same day that a Grasshopper Warbler returned to Two Tree Island. Wheatear continued to trickle through this month with seven birds at five sites including three at Lower Raypits on the 18th. Two Muntjac, a doe and a buck, were watched in Hockley Woods on the 18th. A calling Quail at Lower Raypits on the 20th was early and intriguing following an unconfirmed rumour of 83 released birds in the area. Canvey produced an Arctic Skua and seven Arctic Terns on the 20th but little else of note. A passage Grasshopper Warbler briefly held territory in Gunners Park on the 20th and 21st. A Little Tern off Canvey on the 21st was the sole record this month. Vange Marsh enjoyed a good spell from the 21st to the 26th starting with a record spring count of 18 Green Sandpipers on the 21st. On the 25th a Wood Sandpiper was found late in the day as was a Little Ringed Plover. The Wood Sandpiper was still present the next day whereas the Little Ringed Plover remained into early May. A fine adult Little Gull dropped in to feed briefly over Vange Marsh on the 26th when a Nightingale was first heard singing from the adjacent ‘old’ tip where it continued to sing though to the 30th. There was a smattering of Hobby records all on the 26th and 27th with five birds at four locations. Another Nightingale was singing on Two Tree Island on the 27th but worryingly was not seen or heard again after 4th May despite this being a favoured, traditional site. An early Wall butterfly was on Benfleet Downs on the 27th. An Osprey was reported over Ashingdon on the 28th when a Little Ringed Plover was seen at Bowers Marsh but not subsequently. On the 29th the Ringed Teal from Canvey Lake relocated to Bowers Marsh. The month closed in style with a cracking male Ring Ouzel in Gunners Park on the 30th through to the 1st May and a singing Garden Warbler also present there.
A count of eighty Corn Buntings on the 1st at Lower Raypits was unusual for the time of year. The fine male Ring Ouzel in Gunners Park was still present on the 1st and the reeling Grasshopper Warbler on Two Tree Island was seen and heard for the last time on the 4th. Whimbrel were still passing through with twelve on Canvey Wick on the 4th and ten on Wallasea on the 5th. Just a solitary Green Hairstreak was present on Canvey Wick this year being seen on the 5th and 6th only, as were five Brown Argus. The wandering Ringed Teal visited Bowers Marsh on the 5th and 6th before departing SOG airspace to visit Blue House Farm for the summer. A Hedgehog visited a Benfleet garden between the 6h and 13th and follows a record of one in Canewdon last month. Worryingly there has been a very steep decline in records of Hedgehog over the last decade. An adult Spoonbill on Bowers Marsh on the 7th was a nice find but was not seen subsequently. What was presumably just the one wide-ranging Red Kite toured the area between the 7th and 11th when it was seen in Rayleigh, Benfleet, Leigh, Eastwood, and then Hullbridge. The Nightingale at Wakering Stairs continued to sing all month and was joined by a second bird from the 8th through to the 17th, with four reported from there on the 9th. A Stonechat at Wakering Stairs on the 8th was the only record all month. Little Terns are scarce in spring these days so it was pleasing to see a pair fishing along the Crouch at Lower Raypits on the 9th and 10th. The last Common Sandpipers of the spring were at Bowers Marsh and West Canvey Marsh on the 13th, and Green Sandpiper put in its final appearance on the 15th at Vange Marsh. Between those two dates there was a small but noticeable pulse of late spring migrants which included Whinchats at Gunners Park and West Canvey Marsh, a Spotted Flycatcher at Wakering Stairs, five Wheatears (across Bowers, Gunners park, and Wallasea), a Garden Warbler in Gunners Park, and four Turtle Doves along with five Cuckoos at Wakering Stairs. Bearded Tits were showing exceptionally well mid-month with seven at Vange Marsh and twelve at Wat Tyler C.P.; Water Voles also put in an appearance mid-month at Bowers Marsh and Two Tree Island. A drake Garganey was a good find on the 17th on the recently recreated wetlands of Lower Raypits, and a probable male Montagu’s Harrier reportedly flew north over Two Tree Island on the same date. Wakering Stairs on the 17th provided the highest spring count of Sandwich Terns and Wall butterflies with ten and four respectively. Smaller numbers of Wall were recorded at five other sites this month. A Privet Hawkmoth was the highlight of a moth trapping session in a Prittlewell garden on the night of the 17th. The highlight of the month was undoubtedly the female Dotterel which spent most of the day on Wallasea on the 19th where a Quail flying across the road was also claimed. An immature Spoonbill was mobile around Bowers Marsh and Vange Marsh from the 21st through to the 26th and was probably one of the two which spent a short while at Bowers Marsh on the 20th. Two Gannets off Wakering Stairs on the 22nd were the first records since March whilst conversely the flock of nine Dark-bellied Brent Geese flying by Gunners Park on the 23rd were the last of the winter. A drake Garganey at Bowers Marsh from the 23rd to the 31st was the forerunner of a series of multiple mid-summer records. Three Grey Partridges on Wallasea from the 23rd to the 25th was an excellent local record; it’s probable that they originated from Foulness as they have been lost as a local resident for some years now. A Painted Lady on Wallasea on the 23rd was the first of the year and was followed soon after by one on Bowers Marsh on the 26th. A Weasel ran across the road at Stambridge on the 24th the same day that its North American cousin, the Mink, was apparently seen to take an adult Moorhen at Wat Tyler C.P. A Turtle Dove at Wat Tyler C.P. the same day was the sole record this month of this struggling species from its former stronghold, although thankfully fifteen individuals were present at nine other sites. The first two Heath Fritillaries of the year were on the wing at Daws Heath on the 25th. The second Red Kite of the month was seen heading north over Hockley towards the Crouch on the 30th. The month closed with a sighting of a Long-eared Owl at a site in the east on the evening of the 31st.
Mirroring events of last June, a female Red-necked Phalarope was again found on the south Essex marshes, this time on Bowers Marsh on the 1st. Quite why a Red-necked Phalarope has turned up in June for the last two years is open to speculation but it could even be the same returning individual? Again, just like last year it only stayed around for a few hours only after receiving a lot of unwelcome attention from the local Avocets. The number of Heath Fritillaries in Belfairs Woods peaked this year at just eight on the 5th. It is sobering to think that 333 were counted here in 2010. It is the same story at nearby Daws Heath where there was a peak of eleven on the 11th compared with 500 in 2009. It seems the transitional habitat they require is no longer being maintained for them. The Long-eared Owl in the east showed well most evenings from the 5th to the 18th. Hadleigh Downs produced some interesting records on the 8th with an Osprey heading south, a very early Marbled White and two Painted Ladies. Another Painted Lady was seen the same day at Landwick. From the 10th onwards reports of Water Voles seemed numerous with 1-2 seen at seven sites. The first White-letter Hairstreaks of the summer were recorded on Benfleet Downs on the 11th as was a Silver-washed Fritillary, the third confirmed local record in the last four years. A Red Kite over Bowers Marsh on the 11th was not unsurprisingly the first of only two records this month. A pair of Garganey was seen on Pitsea Marsh on the 12th before furtively retreating back into the reedbed. After just two spring records of single birds, Little Ringed Plover surprised everyone at Bowers Marsh on the 13th when a pair of adults was proudly showing off their two juveniles. The first White Admiral this year was predictably found in Belfairs Woods on the 13th with the first two Purple Hairstreaks seen the following day on Benfleet Downs. Tawny Owls were more obvious this month with three singles noted from the 15th onwards at Rayleigh Mount, Loftmans Corner, and Canewdon. A pair of Stonechats was showing along Benfleet Creek from the 20th to the 25th. The first returning Common Sandpiper was at Lower Raypits on the 21st. A peak count of twelve White Admirals was made in Belfairs Woods on the 21st but the highlight was seeing the Dormouse which was live-trapped by the licensed field researchers. A pristine Painted Lady was on Wallasea on the 21st when White-letter Hairstreaks peaked at a respectable 27 on Benfleet Downs. Marbled Whites had increased to 40 along Benfleet Creek on the 24th. The 27th produced records of two juvenile Coal Tits in a Benfleet garden and two calling juvenile Long-eared Owls at the site in the east where an adult had been present since 31st May. The following day a family group of Stonechats at Bowers marsh also included two juveniles whilst a Green Sandpiper there the same day was the first returning bird of the autumn. The second Red Kite of the month was reported west over Leigh on the 29th. The pair of Garganey on Pitsea Marsh continued to play hide and seek on the 30th but this time five birds were counted of which 3-4 were considered juveniles.
A Treecreeper present in Belfairs Woods on the 2nd along with two White Admirals was notable. The Long-eared Owls in the east showed again each evening from the 2nd to the 11th where to great delight their number of juveniles had increased to three. Two Purple Hairstreaks and a White Admiral delighted in Hockley Woods on the 4th. A north-west wind coupled with rain saw the ever optimistic seawatchers venture out for the first time this autumn at Canvey. Modest rewards came with an impressive July count of 259 Gannets which were escorted by three Great Skuas and three Little Terns whilst a Siskin over Gunners Park was arguably less expected. A single Dark-bellied Brent Goose was loafing around Two Tree Island on the 11th and 12th. A Spoonbill was seen to fly in to Bowers Marsh from Wat Tyler C.P. on the 11th. Optimum water levels attracted good numbers of waders to Vange Marsh from the 11th to the 16th. Pick of the bunch was a Wood Sandpiper which remained to the 19th but other highlights included twelve Little Ringed Plovers, twelve Spotted Redshanks, 15 Green Sandpipers, and seven Common Sandpipers. A Garganey was also found there hiding among the Teal on the 11th. A Hummingbird Hawkmoth in a Benfleet garden on the 15th was the first of the year and the only sighting this month. A small arrival of Painted Ladies was noticeable from the 15th through to the end of the month when nine singles were seen at eight sites. The Spoonbill on Bowers Marsh reappeared on the 16th before promptly disappearing once more, perhaps across the Thames to Cliffe, and the family party of Garganey still numbered five and were present through to the 21st. It was pleasing to note a family of Turtle Doves at Landwick on the 16th included two adults and 3-4 juveniles. The woodland at Daws Heath provided the last two Purple Hairstreaks of the summer on the 17th as well as a live-trapped Yellow-necked Mouse, the first ever definite SOG record. A flock of six Ruff on the saline lagoon at Bowers Marsh on the 19th were further evidence that return wader passage was gaining momentum. An all too brief Great White Egret spent five minutes on Pitsea marsh on the 20th before relocating to the Wat Tyler C.P. scrape where it spent just thirty minutes before flying off west. The first Arctic Skua of the autumn was harassing terns off Wakering Stairs on the 22nd. Clouded Yellows were noted on Wallasea on the 27th and Bowers Marsh on the 29th where the first Wheatear of the autumn was also logged. The mudflats off Canvey Point attracted a Little Stint on the 29th, the first of the year. A Cuckoo and a Willow Warbler in Gunners Park on the 30th indicated that autumn would soon be upon us.
Following on from last month’s first ever record, another Yellow-necked Mouse was trapped in Daws Heath on the 2nd. A female Red-crested Pochard was a good find at Wat Tyler C.P. on the 2nd. It remained on the scrape through to the 8th and was the first local record since February 2012. A juvenile Garganey on Vange Marsh on the 3rd was surprisingly the last sighting of the year. A Spoonbill was reported flying over Canvey Way towards Bowers Marsh on the 4th and was probably the Cliffe bird on another day trip. A new high count of at least eight Porpoise was made from Canvey Point on the 8th indicating the continuing improvement in the water quality of the lower Thames. A Long-eared Owl at dusk on Bowers Marsh on the 9th was the first site record of this secretive species. A Painted Lady in Eastwood on the 11th was the first of five singles seen over the next two weeks across the area. Following the recent collapse and extinction of Nuthatch in Hockley Woods, it was interesting to receive a report of one in sub-optimal habitat near Rayleigh on the 14th which is apparently the first record here in over forty years. There was a tantalising record of a Glossy Ibis flying over Canvey Way towards Bowers Marsh on the 14th, but despite searching it could not be relocated. Passerine migration picked up momentum from the 15th when the first Redstart of the autumn was found at Barling with another the following day in Gunners Park along with the first Spotted Flycatcher, a fall of fifteen Willow Warblers, and six Clouded Yellows. The first Whinchat was also scored on the 16th with a single at Bowers Marsh. A female Mandarin in Friars Park on the 17th was unexpected for this time of year and was the first record since January 2013. A Spotted Flycatcher was noted at Coombe Wood on the 19th, the same day that a new bird arrived in Gunners Park where it remained until the 21st. Bowers Marsh hosted eight Green Sandpipers, four Whinchats and five Stonechats on the 21st. On the 23rd on the adjacent Pitsea Tip there were 50 Yellow-legged Gulls, four Caspian Gulls, ten Whinchats, and seven Stonechats. Gunners Park hosted a peak count of six Wheatears on the 23rd and a Spotted Flycatcher, with a further two Spotted Flycatchers on Canvey Wick the same day. Vange Marsh was quiet on the 24th with just a smart White Wagtail and the ever present Snow Goose recorded. Fulmar was logged off the Pier and Gunners Park on the 25th, these being the first records this year. In what was a poor autumn for seabird passage the Thames had a good day on the 26th with 15 Common Scoter, 26 Arctic Skuas, 17 Great Skuas, a Little Gull, six Arctic Terns, 17 Black Terns and a Spoonbill which crossed to Cliffe all logged off Canvey, whilst a Sooty Shearwater passed by Gunners Park. A Little Stint dropped in on Vange Marsh late on the 26th with four present there the next day. There was a report of a Sabine’s Gull and a Merlin off Canvey on the 27th. A Redstart was reported on West Canvey on the 27th with two seen there the following day. Numbers of Little Egrets on Two Tree Island broke all records with a staggering 246 counted on the 28th. Another Spotted Flycatcher dropped in at Coombe Wood on the 29th. There was a very impressive count of seventy Yellow Wagtails on Lower Raypits on the 30th when Vange Marsh hosted nine Spotted Redshanks. The following day, Vange Marsh held good numbers of waders with the four Little Stints still present along with nine Little Ringed Plovers, eight Ruff, seven Green Sandpipers, and five Common Sandpipers. Passerines also continued to pass through on the 31st with a Redstart and two Spotted Flycatchers in Gunners Park and another Spotted Flycatcher at Star Lane pits.
A Coal Tit was noted again in Coombe Wood on the 1st but the Wryneck in Gunners Park on the 1st was considerably more appreciated. The Wryneck remained through to the 7th and was typically elusive but eventually allowed everyone to connect. Also present in Gunners Park on the 1st were three Whinchats and the Redstart which had been found the previous day. An adult Little Stint was present on Canvey Point on the 1st but was soon replaced by a juvenile the following day along with the first three Curlew Sandpipers of the year. A Tree Sparrow was a good find in Gunners Park on the 2nd and continues this species’ slow revival with records almost annual now since 2008. An Osprey was fishing in the Roach at Paglesham on the 5th but was surprisingly the only autumn record this year with no lingering bird at Wakering Stairs for the last two years. A Red-backed Shrike on Benfleet Downs on the 5th eluded everyone except the finder. Two Little Stints were on Vange Marsh on the 6th along with another on Canvey Point whilst a Curlew Sandpiper was a surprise find around the lake in Gunners Park. The nearby bushes in Gunners Park hosted a respectable four Spotted Flycatchers and two Pied Flycatchers on the 6th. The Spotted Flycatchers remained until the 9th whereas one Pied Flycatcher lingered until the 11th. Wheatear reached a peak of six again this month in Gunners Park. Curlew Sandpipers began using the Two Tree Island lagoon as a high tide roost with a single on the 7th increasing to five on the 11th and singles infrequently through to the 26th. Both Glossy Ibis and Great White Egret were reported as roosting at Wat Tyler C.P. on the 8th. The Glossy Ibis was subsequently present daily in the roost throughout the month whereas the Great White Egret was not seen again until later in the month. A twitchable Tree Pipit was located in the long grass in Gunners Park on the 8th where it remained through to the 11th. A Weasel relocating its five kits in Gunners Park on the 8th must have been a magical sight. Greenshank numbers climbed to 58 on the lagoon at Two Tree Island on the 8th and two Spotted Flycatchers were seen at Bowers Marsh. Five Black Terns off Canvey Point on the 12th were the last of the year and doubled the number seen this month. A sprinkling of waders were present on the 13th when five Ruff and three Little Ringed Plovers were present on Bowers Marsh with a further five Ruff on Vange Marsh along with six Green Sandpipers and a Spotted Redshank. The first flock of Dark-bellied Brent Geese arrived off Two Tree Island on the 13th, a couple of days earlier than usual. During the 13th and 14th a small movement of Honey Buzzards passed through with birds reported from Leigh, Vange Marsh, Wakering, and South Benfleet. In what continued to be a dreadful autumn for seawatching, the 14th was the only day this month that witnessed any movement of note. Highlights off Canvey were a Fulmar, 11 Arctic Skuas, three Great Skuas, three Guillemots, and two Porpoise. A Little Stint arrived on Bowers Marsh on the 14th and remained until the 18th; it was joined by two others on the 17th. A Muntjac in Daws Heath wood on the 14th was notable. A Garden Warbler was a good find in Gunners Park on the 15th; it remained until the 19th and was the only one of the autumn and just the second one of the year. The Glossy Ibis which was now appearing daily at the Wat Tyler C.P. roost made a rare sojourn to Vange Marsh on the 16th whereas later that day at the roost, the more diligent observers counted an impressive 135 Little Egrets. A Barred Warbler was an excellent find in Gunners Park on the 18th and predictably proved extremely popular given that it was the first in the area for twenty three years. It performed well at times and remained until the 21st. Also present in Gunners Park on the 18th was a Tree Pipit and five Wall butterflies, while a fine adult male Redstart was on Two Tree Island. An acro hopping around in an apple tree in a suburban garden in Eastwood on the 19th proved to be nothing more than a rather late and wayward Reed Warbler. A Water Vole at Fleet Head on the 19th was interesting and the first here for at least fifteen years. The Great White Egret became more reliable at Wat Tyler C.P. from the 20th onwards and was joined by a second bird on the 25th and 26th. After a break of eleven days another Spotted Flycatcher arrived in Gunners Park on the 20th where it remained until the 21st with the final bird of the year reported from Sutton on the 22nd. Gunners Park remained productive on the 21st with the aforementioned Spotted Flycatcher, another Tree Pipit, a Redstart, a Wheatear, and the only two Siskins of the month. Green Sandpipers enjoyed their last hurrah on the 22nd with five at Wat Tyler C.P. and seven at Bowers Marsh where Clouded Yellow, Wall butterfly, and the month’s only Painted Lady were all also noted; three Wheatears still lingered there the following day. There was ‘a bit of a circus’ on Wallasea on the 23rd when two ringtail harriers arrived. Initial observations suggested at least one was a Montagu’s Harrier however arriving birders were greeted by two Hen Harriers. After cross referencing notes and timings it appears that a Montagu’s Harrier arrived with a Hen Harrier but soon moved on after a second Hen Harrier arrived on the scene. Adding to the excitement was the first Short-eared Owl of the autumn which put in a late appearance as the ‘circus goers’ departed. The Short-eared Owl remained until the end of the month and was joined by a Merlin from the 26th onwards. Whinchats still lingered with a bird on Two Tree Island on the 27th and two at Bowers Marsh, and Kingfishers became much more widespread this month with birds at Bowers Marsh, Gunners Park, Hullbridge, Southchurch Park East, Two Tree Island, Wallasea, and Wat Tyler C.P. The 28th saw an explosion in Bearded Tit numbers at Wat Tyler C.P. with 30-40 present in one large noisy flock.
A Water Vole in Barling Magna Wildlife N.R. on the 2nd was a site first and an adult Muntjac accompanying a fawn was seen in Belfairs. Two Willow Emerald Damselflies were still on the wing at Star Lane pits on the 2nd as were an impressive sixteen Clouded Yellows in Gunners Park which included two 'helice' types’. Bird passage was relatively quiet with two Siskins through Gunners Park on the 2nd the highlight along with a pair of Egyptian Geese which dropped in to Wat Tyler C.P. the same day and remained through to the 6th. A late Hobby was still to be found over the grazing marsh behind Wat Tyler C.P. on the 3rd and 4th. Both the Glossy Ibis and the Great White Egret behaved themselves by roosting at Wat Tyler C.P. on the 5th, 9th, and 10th. There was an unconfirmed report of three Little Stints on Bowers Marsh on the 5th where a small immature grey goose was found among the Greylag Geese on the 6th. It was eventually identified as a Pink-footed Goose, a surprisingly scarce species locally, it remained on Bowers Marsh until the 18th. A drake Mandarin on Southchurch Park East on the 6th was unexpected and was gone the next day. A seawatch off Canvey on the 9th was woefully quiet but did produce two Fulmar, a species which has become hard to come by in recent years. A report of four Whinchats lingering at West Canvey Marsh on the 9th was unusual but not implausible given the strong showing the autumn. Seawatching off Canvey on the 12th and particularly the 13th was productive with the only Pomarine Skuas of the autumn passing through over the two days. The 12th produced two Pomarine Skuas, four Great Skuas, and three Arctic Skuas whereas the 13th was the best day by far of a dire seawatching autumn. Totals on the 13th were 17 Gannets, six Scaup, a Grey Phalarope, 15 Pomarine Skuas, 44 Great Skuas, 14 Little Gulls as well as the last Common Tern and two Arctic Terns of the year, and a Spoonbill which flew south over the Thames. Thrushes arrived on the 13th and 14th starting with a handful of Redwings at Rayleigh and Ashingdon followed the next day by the only Fieldfare of the month which was in Gunners Park, and a small fall of Ring Ouzels with two on Two Tree Island, two in Gunners Park, one at West Canvey Marsh, and one on Bowers Marsh. Stonechats typically became more numerous this month as evidenced by an impressive eleven on Bowers Marsh on the 15th. A Short-eared Owl was a good record for West Canvey Marsh on the 16th when the first Brambling of the year flew over Gunners Park where an unseasonal record count of 21 Clouded Yellows was also made. The following day, the 17th, witnessed diurnal finch passage in Gunners Park with a further two Bramblings, 400 Goldfinches, and 120 Linnets identified among the 800 finches which passed through in 100 minutes. The last Whinchat of the year was noted at West Canvey Marsh on the 17th. A report of two Rough-legged Buzzards came from Wallasea on the 18th. Local birders quickly identified, and photographed, a very showy juvenile Rough-legged Buzzard along with a pale Common Buzzard with a white rump and pale tail base. The Rough-legged Buzzard was present until the 20th but not subsequently, despite reports to the contrary - (EBR Editor please note!). Keeping company with the Rough-legged Buzzard on Wallasea was the Merlin which now showed daily, a ringtail Hen Harrier, and the last Wheatear of the year which was present on the 20th. The Great White Egret roosted for the last time this month at Wat Tyler C.P. on the 20th. A presumed pair of Coal Tits were surviving in Coombe Wood on the 20th and 21st. As the last vestiges of summer drew to a close and winter began, the last two House Martins were reported over Ashingdon on the 21st a full three weeks after any other records, the first two Red-throated Divers flew upriver past Canvey on the 23rd, and the last Sand Martins were over Boyce Hill on the 24th. Short-eared Owls arrived from the 24th to the 31st with singles on Bowers Marsh and Two Tree Island and three on Wallasea. The 26th saw four Siskins over Wallasea and two over Wakering Stairs with this species being unusually scarce this autumn. The Hen Harrier on Wallasea was joined by a second ringtail on the 27th with both birds showing daily through into November at least. A report of three Swallows over Two Tree Island on the 28th constituted the final sighting of this species and three Painted Lady butterflies were still enjoying the sunshine at Wallasea on the 30th as were three Red Admirals and two Clouded Yellows. The month drew to a close with a fine male Black Redstart briefly in Gunners Park on the 31st which was remarkably the first of the year.
Two Willow Emerald Damselflies continued to survive at Star Lane pits on the 1st as did the Clouded Yellow at the same site with another at Gunners Park where the only Brambling of the month flew through. A third ringtail Hen Harrier arrived on Wallasea on the 1st with all three ringtails present intermittently through to the end of the year. Another ringtail Hen Harrier at Bowers Marsh on the 4th was a good site record. Nearby, the Great White Egret showed for the last time at Wat Tyler C.P. on the 4th when a Coal Tit put in another appearance at Coombe Wood. Both Blackcap and Chiffchaff were noted on Two Tree Island on the 5th; the Chiffchaff was one of four recorded this month whereas Blackcaps numbered five with an obvious influx of four males in the last week of the month. The Glossy Ibis put in a final salvo of visits when it roosted at Wat Tyler C.P. on the 6th, 11th, and 15th after being absent for four weeks. Seawatching was relatively productive on the 6th with four Eider, four Red-breasted Mergansers, 107 Common Scoter, and a lingering Grey Phalarope all noted off Gunners Park, and the only Little Auk of the year past Canvey. A Purple Sandpiper roosting on the Pier on the 8th was the only record from here this year and only the second record from the entire area. Two Slavonian Grebes were a welcome find off Shoebury East Beach on the 9th whilst a little further up the coast a Snow Bunting was reported from the seawall at Wakering Stairs the same day. A Woodcock was disturbed from the rough ground behind Waitrose on the 9th. In what turned out to be an excellent winter for Short-eared Owls a minimum of five were present on Wallasea from the 9th through to early December with singles also on Two Tree Island on two dates and offshore Gunners Park on the 23rd. A Ring Ouzel and a Merlin were reported from Two Tree Island on the 10th, the same day that a Bittern arrived for the third consecutive year at Wat Tyler C.P. where it remained through to early January at least. Remarkably it was joined briefly by a second bird on the 11th, the first such multiple instance locally. Mild conditions on the 15th saw the last Small Tortoiseshell of the year at Rochford and the last of six Red Admiral butterflies this month in Rayleigh. There was a light passage of Lesser Redpolls mid-month with 1-5 birds at Gunners Park, Leigh, and Great Wakering. A first-winter Black Redstart was found in Gunners Park on the 18th. It was often elusive but remained around the beach and seawall until the 23rd. Siskins remained remarkably scarce with just two birds through Gunners Park on the 19th being the only record this month with none at all in December. The Pier produced a few records of note on the 20th with a group of three Great Northern Divers flying out of the estuary along with 27 Gannets and two Guillemots. Seawatching off Gunners Park on the 21st proved most productive with ten Red-throated Divers, a Black-throated Diver, and a Great Northern Diver along with 23 Eider (the highest count for four years), an Arctic Skua, a Little Gull, and a Kittiwake. A Ruff on Wallasea on the 21st was the first seen since the autumn. A Shag arrived at the Pier on the 22nd and remained in the area for much of the winter. Also present off the Pier on the 22nd was an incredibly late Arctic Tern which was also noted off Canvey the same day and is the latest ever Essex record. A pair of Bullfinches by the visitor centre at Wat Tyler C.P. on the 27th was a good site record and gives hope that a few birds still survive here. Wandering Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers were reported from Pound Wood on the 28th and near Rayleigh on the 29th. The first returning Goldeneye were noted on the 29th when nine birds were counted on Paglesham Lagoon the same day that three Spotted Redshanks were at their favoured wintering site in the creek at Wat Tyler C.P. marina. Two drake Mandarins arrived back in Friars Park on the 30th as they invariably do each winter. Nearby at Shoebury East Beach, three Grey Wagtails completed a strong showing for this species with records from eleven sites this month.
The first of just two Blackcaps this month was a male noted in a Benfleet garden on the 2nd. Seawatching from Canvey on the 3rd was successful with 20 Red-throated Divers, a Great Northern Diver, 15 Gannets, a Pomarine Skua, a Great Skua, a Little Gull, and a Kittiwake all providing interest. The Rough-legged Buzzard on Wallasea, now considered to be a different bird to the one present in October, became very predictable and dependable from the 6th onwards and rarely disappointed; one or two Merlins there also became more reliable. On the 6th the pair of Coal Tits in Hockley Woods were recorded for the first time since March and were seen regularly into 2015. By contrast the Bittern at Wat Tyler C.P. became far less reliable being noted on only the 7th and 10th this month although a report of one at Vange Marsh on the 30th may explain its apparent absence. Mid-month was noticeably quiet, however on the 19th a Tundra Bean Goose was found among the 65 Greylag Geese on Wallasea. Somewhat surprisingly it had gone the following day as had more than half the Greylag flock. A Red Admiral in a Leigh garden on the 19th was most definitely late and was unsurprisingly the last butterfly of the year. A juvenile Iceland Gull was seen well on the private tip at Pitsea on the 20th but did not surrender itself to gull watchers at the more accessible Vange Wick or Bowers Marsh by the year’s end. The three drake Mandarins at Friars Park were recorded daily from the 22nd into 2015 whilst nearby at Shoebury East Beach a Slavonian Grebe was seen offshore again. Seawatching from the Pier on the 23rd was slow going with ten Red-throated Divers, a Shag, and a Great Skua the highlights. Two wintering Green Sandpipers were at Bowers Marsh on the 24th with singles also on Vange Marsh and Wallasea this month. A Muntjac was heard calling from a new site near Rayleigh on the 24th. Hockley Woods was most productive on the 26th and 27th with a Woodcock, a Firecrest, eight Goldcrests, a female Blackcap, five Treecreepers, a Coal Tit, and a mobile flock of 55 Lesser Redpolls which held three Mealy Redpolls. Perseverance with seawatching at Canvey on the 27th was generally not rewarded although did produce a Black-throated Diver, two Kittiwakes, and a single Common Scoter which remarkably was the only record of the entire month. Two Chiffchaffs were seen this month with both found less than a mile apart on the 28th at Wat Tyler C.P. and Benfleet. Short-eared Owl numbers on Wallasea continued to swell, reaching at least nine on the 28th, surely one of the highest concentrations in East Anglia. The following day at the same site Corn Buntings peaked at 320 whilst Linnets numbered 500, and just for the record there were no confirmed sightings of Twite among them! Nearby at Lower Raypits a Common Sandpiper was found on the 29th, the same day that a pair of Nuthatch were discovered in Belfairs Woods. Following their recent extinction in Hockley Woods they proved popular and were still present into 2015 along with two Treecreepers. Arguably the most unexpected record of the winter was the juvenile Night Heron which dropped onto Wallasea late on the 30th after crossing the Crouch from Burnham where it had been found earlier that day. Unfortunately it was not seen again locally and is believed to be the bird that arrived in Hythe, Kent in early January. As dusk fell on Wallasea on the 30th a single adult Bewick’s Swan was picked out among the 47 Mute Swans feeding across the creek at Paglesham Church End. In summary, a mediocre 211 species were reliably recorded in 2014 including Tundra Bean Goose, Glossy Ibis, three Great White Egrets, Night Heron, three Rough-legged Buzzards, two Black-winged Stilts, Dotterel, Red-necked Phalarope, two Grey Phalaropes, Wryneck, and Red-backed Shrike, but the seawatching season was notable for being one of the poorest in recent years. Top billing goes to the twitchable Barred Warbler in Gunners Park in September, the first locally for twenty three years.