January 2003

On the 1st, a brisk northeast wind and a sprat shoal in the estuary were a good combination for seabird movement and the Thames provided some New Year gifts. Canvey gave 56 Gannets, 13 Little Gulls, and 200 Kittiwake whilst the Pier produced 33 Red-throated Divers, 2 Great Northern Divers, a Slavonian Grebe, 14 Mediterranean Gulls, a Great Skua, a superb count of 84 Little Gulls, 14 Guillemots, a Razorbill, and a staggering 1,100 Kittiwake. Also associated with the movement on the 1st was an adult Glaucous Gull flying upriver past Westcliff. Woodcock could be located throughout the month on Hadleigh Downs with a peak of 3 there on the 4th when 2 Greenshank were on Two Tree Island. A drake Mandarin was reported from their former favoured site of Friars Park on the 5th. Tawny Owl were heard calling from Rayleigh Mount on the 4th, Ashingdon on 6th, and Belfairs on the 22nd. A Blackcap visited a Rayleigh garden on the 8th with a further 5 reported from three other sites during the month. A male Merlin reported at Southend Airport on the 8th was a good inland record. The 11th gave 2 Black-throated Diver at the Pier and a redhead Smew flew upriver which was presumably the same bird that took up residence at Vange Marsh from the afternoon of the 11th until the 16th. Also at Vange Marsh on the 11th was a Common Sandpiper, a Green Sandpiper, and an excellent count of 74 Snipe. A Spotted Redshank and 628 Black-tailed Godwits were at Hole Haven Creek also on the 11th. The first Waxwings of the invasion arrived on the 11th with 2 at Pitsea later increasing to 28 by the months end. By the 12th, a second bird had joined the wintering Jack Snipe at Eastwood Sewage Works and 4 Chiffchaffs were found wintering there with another in Shoebury on the 18th, 19th and again on 4th February. At Wallasea Island an unseasonal Sandwich Tern was found patrolling the surrounding rivers on the 12th, this being the first ever January record for Essex. Last months Pale-bellied Brent Geese could still be found around the Roach with 2 on the 12th. Mandarin arrived at Southchurch Hall Park on the 13th when 5 arrived overnight and remained until the middle of February. A Woodcock was flushed at Belfairs on the 17th whilst the next day Vange Marsh hosted 2 Cetti’s Warblers and 3 Bearded Tits. A Purple Sandpiper was reported at Westcliff seafront on the 22nd, representing the only record of the first winter period and a Tawny Owl was at Belfairs. Up to 4 Bullfinch were regularly reported throughout the month from Belfairs, Eastwood Sewage Works, and Hadleigh Downs where 2 Long-eared Owls were also present. Peregrine reports became more widespread this month as were Short-eared Owl with perhaps 4 Peregrines and 9 Short-eared Owls present around the various tidal inlets and saltings. Another Jack Snipe was found, this time at Vange Marsh on the morning of the 25th, when a Green Sandpiper and a Yellow-legged Gull were at Barling and a male Merlin was seen on Two Tree Island. In the last few days of the month there was a small passage of scarcer finches with up to 4 Siskin at Chalkwell and up to 3 Lesser Redpoll at Belfairs. The last day of the month saw 5 Waxwings briefly on Belton Hills.


February 2003

On the 1st, a Glaucous Gull was reported along the Roach near Paglesham Lagoon and the wintering Common Sandpiper was seen again at Vange Marsh along with another good count of Snipe with 54 there. A Tawny Owl was seen flying around Great Wakering churchyard on the 2nd when the Ring-billed Gull at Westcliff was seen again. A count of 3 Water Rail at Wat Tyler on the 3rd was notable. The two wintering Firecrests in Hockley Woods were seen again on the 5th. The male Merlin on Two Tree Island was also seen again on the 5th along Benfleet Creek. More Blackcaps were found wintering this month with 1 at Rayleigh and 1 at Benfleet. The small passage of Siskin and Redpoll at the end of January continued through February with a peak of 12 Siskin at Thundersley on the 28th and just a single Lesser Redpoll at Belfairs on the 10th. The Marsh Harrier at Wat Tyler continued to be reported on several dates. 5000 Knot were estimated roosting near Leigh on the 14th, and 2 Slavonian Grebes were close inshore off Gunners Park on the 15th. On the 16th the Pale-bellied Brent Goose was located again, this time at Fleet Head where 2 Spotted Redshank were also present. 25 Guillemots were positively identified flying amongst the many auks moving out of the estuary past Shoebury Coastguards on the 16th. 5 Waxwings briefly in Leigh on the 17th could conceivably have been the same flock as that on nearby Belton Hills at the end of January. On the 19th an impressive 100+ Red-throated Divers flew east past the Pier yet on the next day only 2 were seen although a Razorbill, a Great Northern Diver, and a good winter count of 20 Mediterranean Gulls were also present. A leucistic Oystercatcher was an interesting find at Shoebury East Beach on the 19th. The only record from Hockley Woods of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker this spring was of 1 on the 23rd, also seen were 4 Nuthatch, 3 Treecreepers and 1 of the Firecrests. The Pale-bellied Brent Goose was found yet again at Fleet Head on the 23rd where 25 Ruff were also counted. On the 27th a Coal Tit was heard calling at Eastwood, although not a scarce bird in Essex, it is now an extreme rarity in the Southend area. On the last day of the month 2 Woodlark flying low over Belfairs N.R. were an excellent record and Waxwing numbers peaked at Pitsea with 44.


March 2003

An influx of auks was noted at the start of the month when 19 Guillemots and an impressive 12 Razorbills were seen from the Pier on the 1st, with 18 Guillemots and 10 Razorbills still there on the 2nd. The Waxwings at Pitsea departed rapidly in the first week, with 41 on the 1st, reducing to only 5 on the 5th and then no more records. On Wallasea Island on the 1st the leucistic Lapwing present since November was seen again, also there, were 2500 Golden Plover, and a male Hen Harrier. 6 Nuthatch in Hockley Woods on the 1st was notable. Finally on the 1st, a Porpoise was reported in the Crouch off Fambridge. Good numbers of wintering Short-eared Owl still remained with 4 counted around the Wakering seawalls on the 2nd and 3 still present there on the 31st. The last Goldeneye of the winter were 7 on the Roach on the relatively early date of the 3rd with a Whimbrel also noted there. 178 Pied Wagtails were counted at a pre-roost by Tesco’s, Southend on the 3rd. One of the best local birds of the winter was a Bittern at Wat Tyler on the 3rd and possibly seen again on the 4th. With a fair sized reedbed there, it is surprising that there has only been one record ever from here which was in January 1993 and indeed there has only been a total of 4 records in the Southend recording area since the 1970’s. Wat Tyler continued to host 1-2 Marsh Harriers throughout the month and the Cetti’s Warbler and 2 White-fronted Geese were also there on the 6th, surprisingly the only record this winter from the entire recording area. On the 8th a Red-necked Grebe took up temporary residence off the Pier remaining to the 17th. The first summer migrant reported was a Wheatear at Fleet Head on the early date of the 9th. A Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was calling at Belfairs Golf Course on the 10th and last months calling Coal Tit was seen visiting a birdtable in Eastwood. The next migrant reported was a Sand Martin at Wat Tyler on the 12th followed by another at Wakering Tip on the 15th. 3 Common Cranes were tracked following the Essex coast on the 14th before passing north over Gunners Park. News came out on the 18th that the Cranes were roosting in a field at Little Wakering where they had been since the 14th. Disappointingly the farmer apparently scared them off that morning just before local birders arrived. A pair of Mandarin were present at Southchurch Hall Park on the 15th. 2 Great Northern Divers flew east past the Pier on the 16th when a White Wagtail arrived at Gunners Park and remained until the 17th. Also on the 17th , Mediterranean Gulls peaked for the month at 16 on the Pier. Chiffchaffs started arriving from the 16th with numbers rapidly increasing by month end from many widespread locations. A pair of Little Owls were seen at their favoured site in Paglesham on the 20th. A count of 39 Eider offshore from Gunners Park on the 22nd was notable, the same day that a Black-throated Diver and a Porpoise were reported from the Pier. A Greenshank and 2 Spotted Redshank were at Fleet Head on the 23rd. The next day the Ring-billed Gull at Westcliff was seen for the last time, departing 10 days later than in 2002 and on exactly the same date as in 2001. The Tawny Owl at Great Wakering churchyard was seen again on the 26th with another calling at Ashingdon on the same day. A delightful Little Gull arrived at Vange Marsh on the 29th where it performed well until the 31st. The first Willow Warbler was singing at Rochford Golf Course on the 29th and Blackcaps also arrived back on territory from the 29th with 4 at Hadleigh Downs. In Belfairs N.R. a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was located by its distinctive call on the 29th and again on the 30th. Last months leucistic Oystercatcher was seen again on the 30th at Wakering Stairs and 42 Avocet were back in residence on the lagoon at Two Tree Island. The last day of the month produced the first Yellow Wagtail with one at Fleet Head, and the day ended with 32 Little Egrets counted from Wakering Tip on the Foulness roost.


April 2003

On the 1st, 5 Lesser Redpoll and the only Crossbill of the winter were at Belfairs N.R. A small party of 3-4 Waxwings visited a Rayleigh garden on 2nd and 3rd, these being the last of the winter. A male Hen Harrier was still present around the Fleet Head area on the 5th. The first Swallows arrived on the 8th at Wat Tyler, with a passage Buzzard reported over Shoebury the same day. Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers could be found with patience with one on Belfairs Golf Course on the 8th, one at Hadleigh Downs on 10th and another at Belfairs N.R. on the 27th and 28th. Sandwich Terns arrived back on the 9th with 3 at Westcliff. A pair of Egyptian Geese graced Vange Marsh on the 11th. A male Ring Ouzel in Gunners Park on the 11th was a very good spring record. The only Little Ringed Plover of the month was photographed at Barling on the 12th. There was more evidence of migration on the 13th with a ringtail Hen Harrier and the months only record of Marsh Harrier in the area, both at Vange Marsh, whilst nearby a 3rd summer Glaucous Gull spent thirty minutes on the scrape at Wat Tyler. Also on the 13th, the first Common Tern was back off Canvey Point, House Martin had arrived at Wat Tyler, and Sedge Warbler had returned to Two Tree Island where the ‘pale male’ Stonechat was also seen again. The 15th saw some more good records with another Buzzard, this time at Belton Hills, the only Black Redstart of the spring at Gunners Park, the first Cuckoo and Whitethroat were at Hadleigh Downs and Avocet numbers had now built to 46 on Two Tree Island lagoon. Passage continued apace on the 16th with the last Red-breasted Merganser record being 6 on the Roach, a singing Nightingale in Benfleet, a Firecrest in Gunners Park and 14 Spotted Redshanks at Fleet Head. A gathering of 32 Yellow Wagtails at Fleet Head on the 17th was a good spring count and a Garden Warbler was at Wat Tyler. On the 18th, a Grasshopper Warbler was reeling at Wakering Stairs in the same area as in the last two years, it continued reeling until the 22nd, and Reed Warbler had returned to Hadleigh Marshes on the 18th. A leucistic Water Rail reported at Wat Tyler on the 19th and again on the 27th must have been an unusual sight. A Long-eared Owl remained at Hadleigh until the late date of the 20th when another Nightingale was heard at Butts Hill, Canewdon along with 20 Corn Buntings. Finally on the 20th yet another Cetti’s Warbler was found singing, this time in Gunners Park where it stayed into May. At Wat Tyler on the 21st there was a brief visit from a female Red-crested Pochard, a lovely adult summer Little Gull, and a leucistic Herring Gull. The 21st also saw the first Swift at Two Tree Island and the last sighting of the islands’ wintering Short-eared Owl. Another flock of Corn Bunting was found, this time numbering at least 40 on Wallasea Island and at Fleet Head a fine male Whinchat was a good spring record and 26 Ruff were also present. The first Lesser Whitethroat was found at Gunners Park on the 22nd where it remained singing until the 26th. One of the birds of the period was a Black Kite which was seen well by one lucky observer as it flew north-east over Gunners Park on the 24th and typically for this species was not seen subsequently. Remaining with raptors, the first Hobby was scant reward for another observer on Wakering Tip hoping for a sighting of the Black Kite on the 24th. Greenshank numbers reached a modest spring peak of 8 on the 24th at Two Tree Island. 2 Fieldfare and 3 Redwing were reported from Southend Airport on the very late date of the 25th and another Garden Warbler was at Gunners Park. A Peregrine looked perfectly at home atop the pylon at Wat Tyler on the 26th and the first Turtle Dove was logged at Hadleigh Downs. A Short-eared Owl continued to be reported around the Wakering area throughout the month. On the 28th came a report of a Curlew Sandpiper at Two Tree Island and a count of 18 Whimbrel at Fleet Head. Finally, on the 30th the second Firecrest of the spring was found, this time a singing male on Two Tree Island.


May 2003

A singing Garden Warbler was at Wat Tyler on the 1st as were 2 Bearded Tits. A Short-eared Owl lingered around the Fleet Head area being seen on the 2nd and for the last time on the 4th. There was a small movement of Marsh Harrier on the 3rd and 4th with 1-2 birds recorded from Wat Tyler, Fleet Head, Two Tree Island, and Wakering Stairs. An unconfirmed report of an Alpine Swift flying over Wat Tyler towards Vange Marsh on the 3rd was intriguing, however at Vange Marsh only a Common Sandpiper could be found, with another at Barling. 7 Wheatear on the 3rd at Hadleigh Downs was a further reminder of on-going migration. The 4th gave a peak spring count of 100 Common Terns off Wakering Stairs, 6 summer plumaged Spotted Redshank in Potton Creek, and a small passage of Whimbrel with 18 at Wakering Stairs, 15 at Two Tree Island, and 5 at Fleet Head, and the months only record of Bullfinch which was typically on Hadleigh Downs. Another Garden Warbler was found, this time at Belfairs N.R. where it was heard singing on the 6th and again on 21st and 24th. Cetti’s Warblers were reported throughout the month from Gunners Park, Two Tree Island, Vange Marsh and Wat Tyler. Marsh Frogs were particularly vocal on Hadleigh Downs on the morning of the 6th. An unusually showy Grasshopper Warbler on Two Tree Island was found reeling on the 7th and was appreciated by many local birders eager to get a sighting of this normally elusive warbler, it remained on show until early June and was joined by a second reeling male from the 24th onwards. The wintering Barn Owl on Two Tree Island was last reported on the 14th when 2 Hobby were at Wat Tyler remaining until the 26th at least. Following a pager report a few days earlier, a 2nd summer Glaucous Gull was seen at Wat Tyler on 17th and 19th but was particularly mobile as it commuted between the landfill and the scrape. A Black Swan on the scrape at Wat Tyler on the 21st was certainly unusual and a 2nd summer Yellow-legged Gull there on the 23rd was notable. The Avocets at Two Tree Island had 8 chicks hatched and on show on the 24th. Bearded Tits at Wat Tyler were more plentiful this month with 5 on the 25th being the best count. The only record of Spotted Flycatcher during the spring were 2 at Priory Park on the 25th, hopefully returning to breed again here at their traditional site. 2 Little Ringed Plovers were at Wat Tyler on 26th. A Red Kite being mobbed by crows over Belfairs N.R. on the 27th was an exciting find and the month ended with the Little Owl at Paglesham in its favoured tree on the 30th.

June 2003

The month started with a most unseasonal Brent Goose at Two Tree Island on the 1st and 2nd. Also on the 1st, 3 Bearded Tits and the months only Marsh Harrier were at Wat Tyler. A Peregrine flew over Southchurch on the 10th whilst 1-2 Hobby were reported from five locations throughout the month. Small numbers of Spotted Redshank started moving through from the 13th with 2 at Fleet Head increasing to 7 there by the 24th. Greenshank also started returning mid month starting with 3 on Two Tree Island on 15th, building to 11 there by month end. On the 15th, a Common Buzzard was logged passing over Fleet Head and was later seen over Leigh. A Little Ringed Plover and Yellow-legged Gull were noted at Wat Tyler on the 15th with Little Ringed Plover also there on 22nd and 29th. Last months Grasshopper Warblers on Two Tree Island were seen for the last time on the 15th. Two pairs of Oystercatcher nested successfully on Two Tree Island this month. By the 18th, the pair of Spotted Flycatchers in Priory Park were feeding their young. Returning Green Sandpipers were logged from the 21st with one at Wat Tyler increasing to 4 there by month end and 3 at Fleet Head on 29th along with 5 Ruff. 5 Common Scoter were off Shoebury Coastguards on 28th. Following an influx of Mediterranean Gulls in Kent, a systematic count along the Southend shoreline on the 28th revealed an incredible 51 birds, most of which were adults. Two pairs of Little Owl were present this month with one pair at Paglesham, and the other pair in Southend, and a Barn Owl was hunting at Fleet Head on 29th. Marsh Frogs and Marbled Whites were in evidence at Benfleet Creek on the 29th and the month ended with a Peach-faced Lovebird in Leigh on 30th.


July 2003

By the 1st, the Mediterranean Gull numbers had reached a staggering 61, easily smashing the county record, 41 still remained on the 19th. To put this into context, it should be remembered that in October 2000 the SOG record count was set with 13 birds on the Pier! On the 5th whilst counting Mediterranean Gulls, two lucky observers were treated to views of a Gull-billed Tern resting on the mud off Shoebury East Beach. All too typically the bird flew off after three minutes and despite searching was not relocated again. Another excellent find on the 5th were a pair of Long-eared Owls with 3 juveniles which were showing well in the Leigh area through to the 21st. A male Bullfinch was seen in Ashingdon also on 5th. Marsh Harriers were recorded from the 5th through to the month end with 4 different birds lingering around the Fleet Head area and possibly another 3 different birds on Wallasea Island on the 13th. An Osprey was reported flying high over Southend on the 6th. Little Ringed Plovers were scarce this year with one at Fleet Head from 6th to 8th, and one at Wat Tyler on the 8th the only records this month. Spotted Redshank numbers reached just 4 this month at Fleet Head on 7th with 10 Ruff there next day when 78 Little Egret were counted flying to roost from Wakering Tip. 6 juvenile Cetti’s Warblers were apparently ringed at Wat Tyler mid-month. A Quail called briefly on the 11th at Canewdon, which is easily the most reliable site in the area to hear this scarce summer visitor. A Grasshopper Warbler was reeling at Wakering Stairs on the 13th and 30 Corn Buntings were on Wallasea Island. A Tawny Owl was hooting in Ashingdon on the 13th and 14th and continuing the owl theme, 4 Barn Owls were counted in the Fleet Head area on 16th and the Paglesham pair of Little Owls were observed feeding a juvenile mid-month. Little Tern numbers were low this year with the first birds of the autumn being 11 at Shoebury East Beach on 16th. Small numbers of Yellow-legged Gulls were regular around Two Tree Island throughout the month with a peak of 4 there on the 18th along with 88 Black-tailed Godwits. At Fleet Head on the 20th, 50 Whimbrel were counted and Turtle Doves reached 7 with here being one of the last remaining regular sites now for this rapidly declining visitor. A walk around Vange Marsh on the 26th gave 13 Common Sandpipers and 8 Green Sandpipers whilst next day Little Tern passage peaked at a dismal 22 past Wakering Stairs. Crossbills, if recorded, tend to fly over in the last week of July onwards and true to form, one passed over Belfairs N.R. on 28th. A maximum of 5 Bearded Tits were seen at Wat Tyler this month on the 30th with a respectable count of 70 Greenshank at Two Tree Island also on the 30th, followed by 37 Little Egrets there on 31st.


August 2003

A Peregrine was at Wat Tyler on 1st and the first returning Wheatear was at Fleet Head on 2nd. Light wader passage on the 2nd was evidenced by 15 Ruff, 78 Whimbrel, and a Wood Sandpiper reported at Fleet Head, followed by 5 Spotted Redshank along the River Roach on the 3rd. Yellow-legged Gulls continued to be recorded throughout the month peaking for the year at 6 at Barton Hall Creek on the 3rd. Herring Gulls were confirmed to breed successfully in Southend town centre with at least 2 pairs raising 4 young between them. The rather meagre Little Tern passage continued with a peak monthly count of just 17 at Wakering Stairs on the 5th when the Grasshopper Warbler was heard reeling here again. A Pied Flycatcher was reported from a back garden in Thundersley on the 7th when the only Little Stint of the autumn was at Vange Marsh along with 2 Little Ringed Plovers. Curlew Sandpipers were also exceptionally scarce this autumn with 2 at Two Tree Island on the 7th and one there on the 24th the only records this month. The high numbers of Mediterranean Gulls present since the end of June were maintained with 58 still present on the 9th along the Southend shoreline. Hobby peaked at 3 together over Thundersley on the 10th and the next day a female Marsh Harrier put in an appearance at Wat Tyler whilst 1-2 continued to be reported from the Fleet Head area. A Treecreeper was seen at Hadleigh C.P. on the 11th. On the 14th, a Short-eared Owl was reported at Fleet Head raising the question as to whether it summered on Foulness or was it an early returning migrant. Seawatching was not helped by the generally calm and settled weather but the season finally got under way somewhat belatedly on the 17th when the first 3 Arctic Skuas of the autumn passed Canvey, along with 7 Kittiwake and an Arctic Tern. The rather light passage of Wheatear throughout the month culminated in a peak of 6 birds counted at Fleet Head on the 17th. Black Tern passage commenced on the 22nd with 4 past Canvey, peaking at 12 here on 25th. Our old favourite ‘Rossi’ the Ring-billed Gull returned to his favourite haunt at Westcliff seafront on the 23rd. This bird has been returning here each winter since early 2000. A female Marsh Harrier passed over South Fambridge on the 23rd with a juvenile bird quartering Two Tree Island on the 25th. Whinchat were noted from the 15th through to the end of the month with a maximum of 3 at Wakering Stairs on the 24th and 3 on Two Tree Island on the 31st. 2 Pied Flycatchers were found in Gunners Park on the 24th with 2 Spotted Flycatchers there on the 25th followed by one of each there on the 26th. Vange Marsh held 15 Green Sandpipers and 22 Common Sandpipers on the 25th whilst nearby, 2 Crossbills flew over Hadleigh C.P. Seawatching from Canvey on 25th was rewarding with 7 Common Scoter, 5 Pomarine Skuas, an autumn peak count of 25 Arctic Skuas, one Great Skua, a very impressive 350 Sandwich Terns, 150 Common Terns and a Honey Buzzard all passing through. Pomarine Skuas continued to be seen daily from Canvey through to the 30th when 8 were counted along with 10 Great Skuas and a Peregrine. One of the best local birds of the year was a confiding juvenile Red-necked Phalarope found at Paglesham Lagoon on the 31st. It remained until 5th Sept and was well twitched during its stay being the first twitchable individual locally since the mid 1980’s. 51 of the ubiquitous Ruddy Duck were counted a Paglesham Lagoon on the 31st; it is worth reflecting that the SOG record was set with a count here of 12 as recently as October 2000! Gunners Park on the 31st gave an interesting record of a juvenile Purple Sandpiper, which showed well and was photographed, and 2 Tree Pipits flew over. The month finished with 75 Little Egrets roosting at Two Tree Island.

September 2003

The first of the month gave a Tree Pipit over Belton Hills, and a Common Scoter off Gunners Park. An obliging Redstart was found in Gunners Park on the 3rd and remained to the 7th with this being the only one seen in the area all autumn. Little Egret numbers broke through the one hundred barrier for the first time ever with 104 on the roost viewable from Wakering Tip on 3rd, and three Marsh Harriers were here same day equalling their highest count of the year in what has been a fairly poor passage. Paglesham Lagoon continued to be well watched as it continued to host the Red-necked Phalarope till the 5th. A Garganey was found here on 6th remaining to 14th, a Little Gull was present 6th to 7th, and 43 Little Grebes along with 450 Canada Geese were counted on 6th. The only Garden Warbler of the entire autumn was a bird in Gunners Park on 6th. Only two Curlew Sandpipers were logged this month with singles at Two Tree Island on 6th and Vange Marsh on 7th. The last Little Terns of the autumn were three off Canvey Point on 7th. The semi-resident Peregrine at Wat Tyler was seen four times this month from 7th to 21st. Peak monthly count of Greenshank was achieved on 7th with 59 at Wakering Stairs, the same day that hirundine passage peaked with 400 House Martins and 300 Swallows moving through Gunners Park, and 900 Swallows passing south off Wakering Stairs. Wheatear passage reached 5 at Wakering Stairs on 7th with Whinchat fairing even worse with no more than two reported from anywhere this month. Return passage of Yellow Wagtail was noted with a flock of 24 at Fleet Head on the 8th. Low numbers of Spotted Flycatchers started moving through mid-month with 1-2 birds in Gunners Park from 7th to 19th, an inland bird at Edwards Hall Park on 14th and the last record being one at Vange Marsh on 21st. Seabird passage was slow at the best of times with the only Pomarine Skuas of the month being four from Canvey Point on 12th along with seven Arctic Skuas. The Black-tailed Godwit flock at Benfleet Creek reached 600 on the 13th. The 14th brought a fly-over Wood Sandpiper and three Black Terns to Paglesham Lagoon where the Ruddy Duck numbers continued to build on last months record high with 62 now present. A Grey Partridge reported from Hadleigh Downs on the 14th was likely to be one of the 55 that were released for shooting, most of which were never seen again by hunter or birdwatcher! A Common Buzzard flew over Vange Marsh on 14th where Green Sandpiper numbers reached a month high of only six on the 15th and two Cetti’s Warblers were heard. Hobby were widespread this month although never more than two were recorded together anywhere. The last Swift passed over Shoebury on the 15th. Kingfishers were seen almost daily throughout the month in Gunners Park with up to three there on 17th. The first of three Honey Buzzards this month was flushed from Belfairs Golf Course on the 18th with another over Havengore Creek on the 20th. The meagre wader passage gave a low peak monthly count of nine Ruff at Vange Marsh on 21st where the only Spotted Redshanks of the month were also seen with two birds there. The third and final Honey Buzzard of the month flew low over Wakering Stairs on the 27th before heading out towards Kent, and the first returning Brent Geese arrived here with a flock of 85. Canvey seafront gave a single Common Scoter and Arctic Tern on the 27th and a peak monthly count of just 13 Arctic Skuas. Also on the 27th a flock of 82 Corn Buntings were reported from Paglesham Lagoon with six Pintail also present. A Harris Hawk was a surprise find at Hadleigh C.P. next day. Site records were broken on 28th with the highest Two Tree Island count of Little Egrets with 77, and Southend Pier boasted 31 Mediterranean Gulls. Vange Marsh on the 29th gave 26 Snipe, two rather late Sedge Warblers, and an equally late Reed Warbler. Four Arctic Terns passed Canvey Point on the 30th and the Ring-billed Gull at Westcliff was recorded throughout the month.


October 2003

The month started with an outrageous record of 14 Common Cranes flying and calling high over Leigh on the 2nd. Not reported anywhere else, we can only speculate that they may have been the Norfolk birds on a day excursion, perhaps finally succumbing to their migratory instinct. Far less exciting, but almost as scarce in the area was a Coal Tit in Belfairs N.R. also on the 2nd. A returning Short-eared owl was logged off Canvey seafront on 2nd with subsequent birds at Haven Point on 11th and Wakering Tip on 18th. The last Wheatear of the year was an obliging bird in Gunners Park from the 2nd to the 4th. Typically, Siskin and Lesser Redpoll were logged passing through early in the month with up to 12 Siskin in Belfairs together with occasional records of single Lesser Redpoll. The last Hobby was a bird over Leigh on the 4th and next day there was a widespread arrival of Redwing with good numbers noted from across the region. A Firecrest was a good find at Coombe Wood on the 7th. Hot on the heels of last months Red-necked Phalarope, a Grey Phalarope took up temporary residence on the lagoon and in the surrounding creek at Two Tree Island from the 9th to the 21st and was greatly appreciated by many birders keen to add it to their S.O.G. list. Little Egret numbers remained high with 76 on Two Tree Island on the 10th and a record 132 from Wakering Tip on the 18th. The 11th saw evidence of raptor passage at Haven Point with two Marsh Harriers, four Hen Harriers of which three flew across the estuary to Kent, and a Common Buzzard, another of which was seen next day in Coombe Wood. Also at Haven Point on the 11th was the last Sandwich Tern and Whinchat of the summer and 15 Eider offshore. Two Bullfinch were sighted on Hadleigh Downs also on the 11th. Just as the seawatching season was going down on record as the worst ever, a protracted spell of strong easterly winds mid month saved the day, producing some interesting records from the 12th onwards. Canvey gave a Leach’s Petrel on the 12th, remarkably being chased around by a Peregrine, an adult Long-tailed Skua, the only one of the year, and five late Arctic Terns. Not to be outdone, Wakering Stairs on the same day provided another Leach’s Petrel, a good count of 45 Gannets, the first ones this year since early January, an Arctic Skua, the first Fieldfare of the winter, the months only Green Sandpiper, and 11 Stonechats. Canvey remained the place to be for the next week with a minimum of six Leach’s Petrels there on the 13th with another on the 14th, the first Red-breasted Merganser on 13th, a Merlin flying south and 11 juvenile Little Gulls. Next day, the 14th, ten Fulmar were off Canvey as was a juvenile Pomarine Skua, the last Common Tern and a very late Black Tern. Vange Marsh on the 15th hosted the first returning Goldeneye with three there, eight Ruff, a juvenile Little Gull which remained until the 24th and the two Cetti’s Warblers from last month. Another Cetti’s Warbler was heard on Two Tree Island mid month. In Gunners Park three Firecrests arrived on the 15th and remained through to the 19th,with five present on the 17th. Following large numbers of Yellow-browed Warblers down the east coast a frustratingly brief glimpse was had of a likely candidate by a sole observer in Gunners Park on the 16th. Despite searching it was not seen again although a Treecreeper was a surprise find there and was well scrutinised to ensure it wasn’t a Short-toed which sadly it wasn’t, it remained to the 17th and is the first record for Gunners Park. One hour of seawatching on the Pier on the 16th saw four Manx Shearwaters pass by plus a Fulmar and Arctic Skua with a Porpoise reported there next day. A Woodcock flew from a Thundersley garden on 16th and a Barn Owl ghosted across Two Tree Island at dusk on the 18th. The 19th saw the first Red-throated Diver of the winter off Canvey, a Merlin over Gunners Park and a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker in Belfairs Woods. Another strong easterly blow on the 20th resulted in another good day off Canvey. This time a Sooty Shearwater stole the headlines but the years only Sabine’s Gull came a close second. Other birds seen that day included two Red-throated Divers, 15 Gannets, a Grey Phalarope, two adult Pomarine Skuas complete with spoons, five Great Skuas, two Little Gulls, and 48 Kittiwake. Keeping interest going back on land on the 21st was a long overdue Dartford Warbler, the first definite sighting ever in the area. Rumoured to have been present for a week or two prior to this on Two Tree Island, it took your county recorder to find it and promptly put the news out. Although sometimes elusive, it eventually allowed most people to see it with patience often favouring the scrub around the lagoon and even the saltmarsh vegetation out on the lagoon itself. It was seen daily through to the 29th at least. Also on Two Tree Island on the 21st were two Twite and 11 Stonechat. The last notable day of the autumn off Canvey was the 23rd when yet another Leach’s Petrel streaked past and a Pomarine Skua and 40 Little Gulls were recorded. Not content with having hosted a Grey Phalarope and a Dartford Warbler, Two Tree Island turned up a Ring Ouzel on the 23rd, which remained until the 26th when another was found in Gunners Park. On the 24th Vange Marsh was home to 192 Shoveler, 82 Pochard, 23 Snipe and two Common Sandpipers. Four Twite were claimed on Two Tree Island on the 25th, its sad to reflect that treble figure flocks were regular here just ten years ago and now it’s a job to find any at all. Two Tree Island continued to impress on the 26th with the last records in the area of Swallow and House Martin, plus four Bearded Tits, a Peregrine, Water Rail, and three Bramblings. The final bird of the autumn was a Wryneck reported in Gunners Park on the 27th.


November 2003

A Pale-bellied Brent was at Wakering Stairs on the 1st as was the leucistic Oystercatcher again, and a Woodcock flew over Leigh. The 4th saw four Ruff at Vange Marsh along with 43 Snipe, two Cetti’s Warblers, two Water Rail, two Common Sandpiper and a Yellow-legged Gull. Strong winds on the 8th saw a good turnout at the coastal watchpoints. Great Northern, Black-throated, and Red-throated Divers were all recorded between the Pier and Canvey. Also logged from the Pier was the last Leach’s Petrel of the year, a Peregrine and an Arctic Skua, whilst Canvey added another Arctic Skua and two Eider. Shoebury East Beach was even more productive with a Red-necked Grebe, Peregrine, five Common Scoter, eight Little Gull, another Arctic Skua, and three Pomarine Skua’s. Meanwhile, back on land the months only Hen Harrier and Marsh Harrier were logged at Haven Point and a Lesser Redpoll and Siskin were at Rochford Golf Course. On the 9th, Corn Bunting reached a lowly peak of 15 on Two Tree Island. Next day the Great Northern Diver was seen again from the Pier along with 21 Common Scoter. The 12th saw three Mandarin return to Southchurch Hall Park and the return of the wintering Barn Owl to Two Tree Island. An obliging immature drake Long-tailed Duck was found frequenting the River Roach near Paglesham on the 15th. This was a good record of this much-reduced visitor to the area. It remained to the 16th allowing several people to add it to their local lists. The Roach also hosted 11 Red-breasted Mergansers and a Green Sandpiper on the 15th whilst on the 16th, 23 Goldeneye, three Pintail, 170 Shoveler, a Common Sandpiper, a leucistic Black-headed Gull and a Kingfisher were all found in the vicinity. A Long-eared Owl was discovered roosting at Wat Tyler on the 15th with two Short-eared Owls and a Little Stint at Potton. A Blackcap visited a garden in Thundersley on 21st. The last big seawatch of the season was on the 23rd with Canvey providing a late Manx Shearwater, 12 Gannets, a Velvet Scoter, a Pomarine Skua, two Great Skua's, a Little Gull, 75 Kittiwake, three Guillemot and two Razorbill. That morning, the vanguard of the Waxwing invasion was found typically in a supermarket car park, this time in Eastwood with a Blackcap sitting in the same tree, surely a unique sight. The Ring-billed Gull at Westcliff was only recorded once this month, this being on the 25th. A trip to the end of the Pier on 27th was worthwhile with a Black-throated Diver, 12 Mediterranean Gulls, and a Guillemot there. Little Egret numbers remained high with 48 at Two Tree Island on 28th the best count of the month. On the 30th, a Greenshank and Spotted Redshank were reported in the Fleet Head area.


December 2003

The Pier on the 7th still had 20+ Mediterranean Gulls in residence with two Little Gulls and two Gannets offshore. Next day the Great Northern Diver was also seen again from here. On the 9th, the second Waxwing of the winter was a fly over bird at Belfairs N.R. Around this time, up to three Hen Harriers, two Short-eared Owls and a Barn Owl could be found in the Fleet Head area, and up to three Mandarin were wintering at Southchurch Hall Park. Wat Tyler revealed all its scarce but resident birds on the 13th with Peregrine, Kingfisher, Water Rail, Bearded Tit, and Cetti’s Warbler all logged whilst back at Belfairs, a Treecreeper was seen. 14 Red-breasted Mergansers were on the Roach on the 14th. Kingfishers are more widespread following the run of mild winters with 1-2 birds regularly recorded this month from the River Crouch and Roach. Leucistic Black-headed Gulls were seen again with two different birds in the area, with one at Southchurch on the 21st present for the last three years, and last months bird from the Roach area seen again on the 27th. The Ring-billed Gull at Westcliff was logged on four dates all in the latter half of the month. Two Black Swans joined the Mute Swan herd at Hullbridge on 23rd and remained until the 28th at least. The 24th saw the only record from Two Tree Island this winter of Short-eared Owl. Two birds can usually be seen here daily most winters, however they seem to be in short supply this winter. Also here on the 30th, the Barn Owl was seen again. A Peregrine was hunting over Rushley Island on 24th. Bunting numbers seem to be gradually falling away each year but 21 Yellowhammers could still be found at Hampton Barns at the end of the month as could 15 Corn Buntings and five Reed Buntings at Brandy Hole. Two Woodcock were flushed from Hadleigh Downs on the 28th with two Lesser Redpoll also there. Elsewhere, a Siskin was at Rochford Golf Course and two Little Stints were seen again in Potton Creek. A Long-eared Owl was at a traditional roost site from the 28th. The birdwatching year came to a close on the 30th with a report of another Waxwing, this time at Friars park, a Black Swan on Paglesham Lagoon, a reasonable count of 25 Goldeneye in the Paglesham area and unusually, a Shag offshore from Westcliff Seafront.