MAY 2023


The month started well with a female Ring Ouzel in Gunners Park on the 1st and a fine male Grey-headed Wagtail at West Canvey Marsh from the 3rd to the 5th, the first time this taxon has been recorded in the area. A Spotted Redshank at Vange Marsh on the 6th and 7th was the only record this month and followed the single in April. The first Wall Brown butterflies were noted on the 7th at Wakering, further records came from ten sites by the end of the month. Two Painted Lady butterflies were seen this month, on the 8th on Bowers Downs, and 11th at Doggetts Pit. A drake Garganey was a good find on Wallasea on the 10th and the month’s only Wood Sandpiper was at Bowers Marsh on the 11th. By local standards the seawatch on the 12th at Canvey was unusually productive for springtime, with the highlight being two Fulmars which were, remarkably, the second and last record all year of this increasingly scarce visitor. Other highlights included 58 Gannets, two Little Gulls, 10 Kittiwakes, three Arctic Terns, and impressive counts of 10 Guillemots and eight Razorbills. Another two Little Gulls were off Canvey on the 15th as were an Arctic Tern and three Razorbills. Maintaining their presence, five Spoonbills were still on Wallasea on the 15th when another individual was on the Crouch at South Fambridge which was the scene of the non-avian highlight of the year, when four Common Dolphins were filmed playing around the boats and jumping out of the water on the 16th. A ringtail Hen Harrier at Bowers Marsh on the 16th raised a few eyebrows given the late date whilst a Redstart at West Canvey Marsh on the 17th was an excellent spring record. With almost an air of predictability nowadays, a pair of Black-winged Stilts arrived on Vange Marsh on the 19th with another pair on Bowers Marsh on the 20th. The Vange Marsh pair remained until mid-June whereas the Bowers Marsh pair relocated north of the Crouch to Blue House Farm at the end of the month. Another species which is more or less expected now is Cattle Egret, and sure enough, the first sightings of the year were of three near Wat Tyler CP on the 24th and a single on West Canvey Marsh on the 27th. Excellent fieldcraft resulted in the finding of a female Long-eared Owl on a nest in the south on the 28th. The Thames continued to hold some interesting seabirds towards the end of the month with the pick of the best days being the 29th when seven Black Terns, 12 Razorbills, and 18 Kittiwakes were all seen from Canvey. Another Little Gull was off Canvey on the 30th when the month’s second Garganey, a drake, appeared on Vange Marsh.



JUNE 2023


Unusually, the month started with a Razorbill and a Guillemot off Canvey on the 1st followed by three Guillemots there the next day. The first Heath Fritillaries of the summer were at Pound Wood on the 4th with sightings a few days later from Belfairs and Hockley Woods where 194 were counted mid-month. A female Eider on a small freshwater pool on Wallasea was an exceptional record. Even more exceptional was the pair of Long-tailed Ducks that joined it on the 6th. Also present on Wallasea on the 5th and 6th was a ‘Channel’ Wagtail, three Spoonbills, and a Painted Lady. Seawatching from Canvey on the 6th produced the first Great Skua of the year and the second Shag of the year. Following several records of Scarce Chaser last year at Doggetts Pits, two males were found there again on the 7th with two females joining them one week later. A lone male Black-winged Stilt visited Bowers Marsh from the 9th to the 16th whilst the Vange Marsh pair continued their stay through to the 17th. Concerted efforts with a bat detector from the 10th through to the 20th produced records of Daubenton’s, Nathusius Pipistrelle, Serotine, Barbastelle, & Long-eared from a number of sites. The nationally famous ditch at Canvey Way held three Southern Emerald Damselflies, 70 Scarce Emerald Damselflies, and eight Southern Migrant Hawkers on the 11th. A Norfolk Hawker was photographed on Hadleigh Downs on the 13th but could not be found subsequently. Despite significant range expansion across the south of the country, Norfolk Hawker is still yet to establish a foothold in the area. Willow Emerald Damselflies were noted on Hadleigh Downs from the 15th, smashing the earliest ever record for them nationally. A mid-summer sighting of a Long-eared Owl in the east on the 17th was suggestive of breeding at this traditional location. Searching for Heath Fritillaries at the various woodland sites this month resulted in several Nuthatch reports with birds reported from Belfairs NR, West Wood, and Hockley Woods between the 23rd and 25th with another two at Pound Wood earlier in the month. Cattle Egrets appeared again towards the end of the month, starting with two on Vange Marsh on the 24th, increasing to six on Vange Wick on the 26th. The first Clouded Yellow of the year was seen at Bowers Marsh on the 27th, and the long staying Glossy Ibis, across the Crouch on Blue House Farm, was finally seen in flight from South Fambridge on the 29th and again on 4th July.



JULY 2023


Returning wader passage was evident with a Wood Sandpiper and seven Spotted Redshanks on Vange Marsh from the 1st to the 3rd; the Spotted Redshanks remained all month. A White-legged Damselfly was photographed at Edwards Hall Park on the 1st. This species has never been recorded locally although its arrival has been anticipated. Cattle Egret numbers increased further this month with eight on Vange Marsh on the 3rd; an additional group of three were around the Wallasea area towards the end of the month. Last month’s female Eider put in a surprise visit to Wallasea again on the 9th, more than a month since it was last seen. The long awaited flight period of the Purple Emperor commenced on the 7th at Belfairs NR where one pair was present, but with the poor weather it was all over by the 13th. Other notable sightings in Belfairs NR at this time included seven White Admirals, three Purple Hairstreaks, a Silver-washed Fritillary, and a Treecreeper. A squabble of seven Ring-necked Parakeets visited feeders in Great Wakering on the 10th and 11th. Two juvenile Long-eared Owls were present at a site in the south where a female was seen on a nest in May, an adult was also found roosting at a different site mid-month. A Quail was heard on Wallasea on the 14th but not subsequently, and a pair of Black-necked Grebes had a chick in tow in the south from the 16th. The White-legged Damselflies at Edwards Hall Park were finally ‘pinned down’ when 17 were found there on the 21st increasing to 27 one week later; curiously nearly all were males. The month’s only Clouded Yellow was on Canvey Wick on the 21st, whilst seawatching from the nearby Point on the 24th produced a very unseasonal adult Sabine’s Gull, nine Gannets, and two Porpoise. Continuing the unseasonal theme, a flock of 18 Common Scoter were at Wakering Stairs on the 25th and three Turtle Doves were still present. What followed over the next week was a bit of a ‘circus’… A ringtail harrier, probably a Hen Harrier was seen around Wallasea on the 25th and 28th, a female Montagu’s Harrier was reported from Wallasea on the 26th, and a ringtail Hen Harrier was seen from Paglesham on the 29th. Eventually, sightings through August proved that there were in fact two Montagu’s Harriers and a ringtail Hen Harrier in the area! On the 26th, 16 Southern Emerald Damselflies were an unexpected find on Wallasea and a first for the island. By the 29th, 43 Southern Emerald Damselflies were present as was a Lesser Emperor briefly. The month closed with a juvenile Nuthatch attending feeders in a garden near Coombe Wood.





The month opened with a bang when not one but two Montagu’s Harriers were found commuting between Blue House Farm and South Fambridge from the 1st to the 10th. Aged as an adult female and a first-summer female, the adult bird was traced to a Dutch/Belgian colour ringing scheme. The first returning Wheatear was at South Fambridge on the 3rd, the same day that 30 Arctic Terns headed up the Thames past Canvey. Cattle Egrets continued their wave of gradual colonisation with eleven now present around Wat Tyler CP on the 4th. Heavy rain on the 5th resulted in an ephemeral pool at the bottom of a South Fambridge garden which in turn attracted two Wood Sandpipers on the 5th and 6th. The only Pomarine Skua of the month moved past Canvey on the 5th and the first returning Whinchat was at West Canvey Marsh on the 7th. On the 10th, an Osprey flew out to sea over Wakering Stairs, and the month’s only Silver-washed Fritillary visited a garden by Coombe Wood and a Hummingbird Hawkmoth did likewise in Westcliff. The first two Curlew Sandpipers of the autumn were on Wallasea on the 12th where up to three were present throughout the latter half of the month. Little Stints followed a few days later with one on Wallasea on the 15th and up to seven present through to the 20th. An Osprey at Wallasea on the 15th began a series of sightings from there with at least two birds frequenting the Roach through to late September. Numbers of the irrepressible Cattle Egret reached a new high of 18 on Vange Wick from the 16th to the 19th. A Black-winged Stilt was reported on Bowers Marsh on the 16th and 17th. The first returning Red-throated Diver was off Gunners Park on the 17th, there were no other records until mid-October. Tern passage was prevalent along the Thames on 17th and 18th with five Little Terns, 195 Common Terns, 12 Arctic Terns, 13 Sandwich Terns, 14 Black Terns, and best of all, three Roseate Terns and an adult Sabine’s Gull. Trying to keep up with the burgeoning number of Cattle Egrets, Spoonbills reached a peak of 17 at Wallasea on the 19th, singles were also seen at Bowers Marsh on the 1st and 25th. The first Redstart of the autumn dropped in briefly to Gunners Park early on the 19th and the first Pied Flycatcher was equally as brief on West Canvey Marshes the same day. The only Clouded Yellow of the month was seen on Wallasea on the 20th. The first of two Short-eared Owls this month was on Wallasea on the 21st, the other was at Wakering Stairs on the 27th. Spotted Flycatchers were recorded at Coombe Wood on the 23rd and 30th, and also at Shoebury East Beach on the 26th along with a Redstart there also. One or two Wood Sandpipers were at Bowers Marsh from the 23rd through to the 9th September, with three on Vange Marsh on the 25th and two at Fleet Head on the 27th. An immature Red-backed Shrike on West Canvey Marsh on the 25th and 26th proved popular and was occasionally in the company of a Redstart which lingered until the 27th, the same day that a Crossbill passed low over Shoebury East Beach. A returning Merlin on Wallasea on the early date of the 28th went on to spend the autumn there. The local ringing team had a productive day in Gunners Park on the 28th with a Grasshopper Warbler, two Garden Warblers, and a Nightingale all finding the nets. Arctic Skuas numbered nine off Canvey Point on the 29th, the highest count of the month, and 20 Black Terns followed a ship upriver there on the 31st.





Wallasea was productive on the 1st with impressive counts of seven Whinchats and 14 Spoonbills, along with a mating pair of Southern Emerald Damselflies, 14 Ruff, two Curlew Sandpipers and two Little Stints. Bowers Marsh hosted a Curlew Sandpiper on the 2nd and 3rd, and last month’s Wood Sandpiper remained through to the 9th. Another Wood Sandpiper was at Vange Marsh the following day as was a record-breaking flock of 32 Ruff. Two Crossbills alighted briefly at Paglesham on the 2nd and two Grasshopper Warblers were ringed in Gunners Park in the morning. Calm sea conditions off Canvey resulted in sightings of a Bottle-nosed Dolphin and ten Porpoise. The Bottle-nosed Dolphin was just the fourth local record since the turn of the century. The month’s only Hummingbird Hawkmoth was in a Leigh garden on the 4th. The high number of Cattle Egrets continued, with 16 touring the south-west from the 4th to the 9th. The 5th produced some excitement, starting with a Spotted Flycatcher at Bowers Marsh, followed by a Pectoral Sandpiper at Lower Raypits, and finishing with a Hoopoe at sunset on Wallasea. The first of six Tree Pipits this autumn flew over Canvey Point on the 7th; the other five records all fell in a narrow window of the 14th-16th. A Pied Flycatcher in Gunners Park on the 7th was remarkably, and worryingly, only the second record all year from the entire area. Five Tree Sparrows in Gunners Park the same day were a great find. Skuas were on the move at Canvey on the 8th, with the month’s only Pomarine Skua, 42 Arctic Skuas, and several Long-tailed Skuas recorded, with at least one lingering until the 15th. A Wood Sandpiper was on West Canvey Marsh on the 10th, and the only Painted Lady of the month visited a Leigh garden the same day. Tern passage past Canvey was very evident on the 11th with an unprecedented 160 Arctic Terns moving upriver along with another Roseate Tern, 750 Common Terns, 10 Black Terns, and curiously, just 12 Sandwich Terns. Canvey continued to produce on the 13th, with a staggering, and unprecedented, 134 Arctic Skuas, a single Great Skua, a Leach’s Petrel, and a Sabine’s Gull. A Spotted Flycatcher and 25 Siskins were notable in Gunners Park on the 14th. Remarkably, the Wallasea Hoopoe put in another brief appearance on the 15th, but again, as on the 5th, it eluded all but the initial observer. A Long-tailed Blue was reported from a garden by Shoebury East Beach on the 15th although no further details were forthcoming; a Clouded Yellow on Wallasea the same day proved to be the only record all month. A female Red-veined Darter in Gunners Park on the 16th was an excellent record, and follows one in Southchurch in 2021 and three on Canvey in 2017. All eyes were on the Thames again on the 17th where the highlights included 24 Common Scoter, the year’s only Manx Shearwater, 62 Gannets, 43 Arctic Skuas, two Great Skuas, a Guillemot, and another Sabine’s Gull. Just as the day was drawing to a close, news came, swiftly followed by a photo, of a juvenile Pallid Harrier on Wallasea. There was no further sign in the failing light, but after several nervous hours the following day, the Pallid Harrier reappeared and put on a great show daily through to the 7th October. It could often go missing for several hours as it also hunted the lower Dengie and Foulness, but always visited Wallasea every day throughout its stay. To add to the excitement, and occasional confusion, an adult female Hen Harrier was also seen there intermittently from the 19th to the 27th. A Redstart was an unusual visitor to a Rayleigh garden on the 21st, and was surprisingly the only record all month. On the 22nd a female Eider was photographed off the Pier and two Razorbills were on the water off Canvey. A county record count of 21 Spoonbills was made on Wallasea on the 22nd where a colour-ringed Great White Egret originating from a Hungarian scheme was also present. Five Little Stints on Bowers Marsh on the 22nd was notable as was a Gannet over Wallasea the following day. Cattle Egret numbers inched higher to reach 17 at Wat Tyler CP on the 24th setting yet another record count for the area. A Puffin lingered off Canvey from the 26th to the 28th and was surprisingly the only auk present during those dates; six Little Terns there on the latter date was the highest count this month. Great White Egret numbers increased slightly towards the end of the month with five now present on Bowers Marsh on the 29th in addition to the one on Wallasea, where Short-eared Owl numbers reached an impressive eight on the 29th.





Three Yellow-necked Mice were live trapped on the 2nd at Starvelarks Wood, the only known site for them locally. The last Wheatears of the year were on Canvey Point on the 2nd and Wallasea on the 4th and the last Hummingbird Hawkmoths were on Canvey Point on the 4th and in Rayleigh on the 10th. Two Eiders were present off Gunners Park on the 8th, a late Spotted Flycatcher was also found there the same day as were two Lesser Redpolls. It was a poor autumn for the scarcer migrants with area totals of just six Spotted Flycatchers, two Pied Flycatchers, and four Redstarts. Spoonbills were reported from Wallasea only once all month, which was the 9th when two were present. Two late Black Terns, 75 Gannets, and a Great Skua were off Canvey on the 9th. The last Little Stint of the autumn was on Bowers Marsh on the 10th, the same day that five Cattle Egrets dropped in on Wallasea for a day. The first wintering Red-throated Divers appeared from the 12th with up to three birds on the Thames throughout the month along with a Black-throated Diver. The 14th saw the first pulse of autumn finches through Gunners Park with 25 Siskins, 10 redpolls, and a Brambling all noted. The last Curlew Sandpiper of the autumn spent six days around Two Tree Island from the 14th. A Cattle Egret, the last of the year, was reported from Wallasea on the 15th where four Bearded Tits were a site first, and three Clouded Yellows there were the last of the year. Mid-month produced some good seawatching records; six Red-breasted Mergansers, nine Arctic Skuas, 29 Kittiwakes, and three Razorbills were off Canvey on the 16th; the only Sooty Shearwater of the year passed Canvey on the 17th as did 30 Kittiwakes, and the following day, a Leach’s Petrel, three Little Gulls, and a reported Purple Sandpiper joined in the action, whilst on the 20th, two Great Skuas, two Guillemots, and three Razorbills were off Gunners Park. Also at Gunners Park on the 20th the only Black Redstart of the autumn was on Gog’s Berth and a Yellow-browed Warbler was reported which unfortunately was not seen by anyone other than the finder. In what looks to be a promising winter for Hen Harriers, a fine adult male and a ringtail were hunting east of South Fambridge on the 20th, whilst two ringtails were wintering on Wallasea from the 27th onwards. Vis-migging early on the 22nd at Gunners Park was highly productive with four Tree Sparrows, seven Bramblings, an impressive 800 Goldfinches, 50 Siskins, and 80 redpolls all heading south-west. Two Ring-necked Parakeets over Hullbridge the same day were well away from their usual haunts. A Spoonbill and a Short-eared Owl were both present east of South Fambridge on the 24th. On the 26th, at Canewdon, a flock of 25 Lesser Redpolls were feeding in a front garden Silver Birch and a Brambling was also visiting feeders there on the 27th and 28th. A very late Osprey was still enjoying life around Wallasea on the 27th and 28th where numbers of Short-eared Owls reached a minimum of 13 and the immature female Merlin was joined by a second bird on the 30th. The 30th produced several other good records with 23 Siskins in Ashingdon, a male Hen Harrier at Bowers Marsh, a Short-eared Owl and two Bramblings at Canvey Heights, two Great White Egrets on Wallasea, and Shags at Canvey and South Fambridge, with the South Fambridge bird still present the following day.