SOG Summary 2008

by Paul Baker, Southend Ornithological Group


The New Year kicked off with four calling Tawny Owls prior to dawn on Hadleigh Downs. Four Black Swans were an unusual find at Paglesham Lagoon on the 1st where they remained until the 2nd before disappearing. The Scaup present since late October remained all month, twelve Corn Buntings were on the adjacent farmland. At Wat Tyler on the 1st, two Spotted Redshanks and two Greenshanks were found wintering in the creek along with a Green Sandpiper on the scrape and three elusive White-fronted Geese on the grazing marsh. Two of the over-wintering Arctic Skuas in the Thames were seen from the Pier on the 3rd and along with two Gannets made for a rather unseasonal session. The three Red-breasted Mergansers in the Crouch at South Fambridge were seen again on the 4th, the same day a calling and active Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was found in Belfairs N.R. The large Fieldfare flock that arrived at Wat Tyler at the end of December was still present on the 4th when 200 were counted. A pair of Blackcaps frequented a garden in Leigh on the 4th. The leucistic Lapwing present on Wallasea since late 2004 was sighted again on the 6th and 13th. An excellent count of eight Caspian Gulls was made in Holehaven creek on the 5th. Also on the 5th, a flock of 17 Corn Buntings were at Fleet Head. Two male Hen Harriers were hunting over Wallasea Island on the 5th, as was a marauding Merlin the next day. The drake Goosander and the Little Stint both remained on the Wallasea wetlands all month with the Goosander firmly attached to the Shelduck flock! Another large flock of 260 Fieldfares were feeding on Hadleigh Marsh the next day. Single Brambling were in gardens in Hadleigh and Canewdon on the 5th and 6th respectively. The flock of Siskins in Leigh began to disperse after the 6th when fourteen were counted with the final sighting being two males on the 13th. After going missing since the 1st December the female Long-tailed Duck was found again on Paglesham Lagoon on the 6th where it remained for the rest of the month, three Red-breasted Mergansers were on the adjacent Roach. The sole Chiffchaff record of the month came from Eastwood S.F. on the 6th. The apparently now resident Harris Hawk made a minor excursion from Hadleigh Downs to nearby Coombe Wood in Benfleet on the 7th but still could not escape the attention of the local corvids. The three White-fronted Geese, wintering Green Sandpiper and ever-present Cetti’s Warbler were all recorded again at Wat Tyler on the 8th. A Green Sandpiper was found at last year’s construction site in Southend on the 9th but soon moved on due to disturbance. A small flock of four Siskins in a garden in Leigh on the 11th may have been the remnants of the larger flock that was present a mile down the road to the south. A male Blackcap was feeding on ivy berries in a Benfleet garden on the 12th, and a Peacock butterfly on the wing at Hadleigh Downs had certainly got its timing wrong! Some good records came from the Pier on the 13th with a most impressive flock of 630 Turnstone which still held an equally impressive four Purple Sandpipers with all four still present through to the 20th at least. Forty Mediterranean Gulls at the end of the Pier was a high count for mid-winter on the 13th whilst a flock of twenty five Common Scoter there was the only sighting this month of this much reduced visitor and three Guillemots could be found floating around mid-channel. Rossi the Ring-billed Gull at Westcliff finally put in its first appearance of the year belatedly on the 13th and a Greenshank was on Two Tree Island. Seven Lesser Redpolls were reported from Hockley Woods on the 13th,as was a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. The three White-fronted Geese at Wat Tyler were singled out again on the 14th. A Merlin was reported on Two Tree Island on the 15th. Three Woodcock on Hadleigh Downs on the 19th was a good count and two Bullfinches were also present. All twenty one Pintail on Paglesham Lagoon since mid-December were still present on the 20th with a Merlin there adding a dash of excitement. The Green Sandpiper at Wat Tyler was joined by a second bird on the 20th. Kittiwake were present in low numbers with a count of five from the Pier on the 20th and 21st the best effort. A Great Northern Diver took up residence in the Thames from the 21st with regular sightings from the Pier and Canvey through into March. Also at the Pier on the 21st were three Guillemots, the only Razorbill of the winter and eleven unidentified auks. Rather surprisingly, skuas were much in evidence in the last week of the month with up to two Arctic Skuas and two Pomarine Skuas reported on various dates between the Pier and Canvey. The Wat Tyler Marsh Harrier put in an appearance on the 24th and 25th whilst a male Hen Harrier was seen from Wakering tip on the latter date. The Hockley Woods Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was claimed again on the 25th and 28th. Goldeneye peaked at Paglesham Lagoon on the 26th with twenty two, and Guillemots increased their numbers slightly with six off Canvey the same day. Finches were well represented at the month’s end with four Bullfinches in Rayleigh, two Siskins on Two Tree Island on the 27th, and a Brambling in a Thundersley garden on the 27th and 28th where it was accompanied by up to four Siskins. Three obliging Water Rails on Two Tree Island on the 27th was a good count and an over-wintering Firecrest was found in Hockley Woods on the 27th where it stayed for several weeks. A Red Admiral was at Rochford golf course on the 27th. A male Hen Harrier and a Marsh Harrier were both at Wallasea wetlands on the 28th as was a Stoat.


Vange Marsh held a Barn Owl on the 1st as well as a Merlin and a reasonable count these days of fifteen Reed Buntings. A Chiffchaff in a Leigh garden on the 2nd was one of only two records all month. Two Treecreeper reported from Hadleigh Downs on the 2nd were unusual as few are reported away from Hockley Woods, also present were two Tawny Owls and a Little Owl. A Black Redstart around Canvey Point on the 2nd and 4th was a good record. One of the wintering male Hen Harriers was feeding on a Golden Plover at Wallasea on the 2nd, interestingly no ringtails were reported in January or February with just a single on one day only in March. A juvenile Glaucous Gull was an excellent find at Paglesham Lagoon on the 2nd, it was seen subsequently commuting between here and Barling tip on the 4th, 20th, and 23rd before finding its way to Holehaven creek on the 28th. A brief seawatch off Canvey Point on the 3rd did provide fifty Kittiwake and the two wintering Arctic Skuas. A Water Pipit was a terrific local find at Vange Marsh on the 3rd as these are now less than annual in the area. Hockley Woods gave up its specialities on the 5th with Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, two Nuthatches, two Treecreepers, three Siskins and the wintering Firecrest which remained until the 28th but unfortunately there were no records of Hawfinch this winter or spring. A Water Vole at Paglesham Lagoon on the 5th was the first record from here in recent years. A Red Kite was reported from Hadleigh Marsh on the 6th whilst nearby on Two Tree Island, Greenshanks now numbered three. A count of 25 Common Seals made off Westcliff on the 7th was the highest count yet at this haul-out. Records of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker in Hockley Woods were few and far between this spring however there were additional sightings this month of up to two on the 7th, 9th and 10th. Numbers of Goldeneye at Paglesham Lagoon were down on last month with seventeen on the 8th the best count of the month. Three Treecreepers and two Bullfinches at Pound Wood on the 8th were good records from this underwatched woodland. Careful study of a juvenile Glaucous Gull at Holehaven creek on the 8th showed it to be a different individual to the one in the Paglesham area. It remained all month and was eventually joined by the Paglesham bird on the 28th. A Green Sandpiper was at South Fambridge on the 8th and 23rd whilst another bird frequented a small stream in the heart of Eastwood from the 9th through into March. The wintering Goosander and Little Stint at Wallasea wetlands were both recorded again on the 9th. Pound Wood now also hosted a Firecrest on the 9th only. Marsh Harrier and Cetti’s Warbler were both recorded typically from Wat Tyler on the 9th with the Marsh Harrier seen again on the 16th. Blackcaps were seen in gardens in Benfleet and Leigh on the 9th. Both Merlin and Barn Owl were patrolling at Paglesham Lagoon on the 9th. The first Adder of the year was on Hadleigh Downs on the 9th with it or another venturing out again on the 19th. The elusive Ring-necked Parakeet in Priory Park was found coming into roost late on the 9th. Ten Corn Buntings were on Wallasea on the 10th, a Woodcock at Hawkwell on the 10th was surprisingly the only record all month. Two Tree Island played host to the only Jack Snipe in the area on the 10th where it stayed to the 11th and last month’s three Water Rails all remained. Hockley Woods held a Brambling on the 12th and three Siskins from the 13th to the 17th. A Green Sandpiper was found in Benfleet on the 16th with another two at Barling, whilst the South Fambridge and Eastwood birds remained. Gull watching at Holehaven creek gave a peak day count on the 16th of six Caspian Gulls, up to five Yellow-legged Gulls, and a juvenile Iceland Gull that was seen again briefly on the 21st. Rossi the Ring-billed Gull patrolled Westcliff seafront all month. Also at Holehaven creek on the 16th a Common Buzzard was espied high over the nearby tip. The Scaup wintering on Paglesham Lagoon was last seen on the 17th where there were also twenty Pintail, the long staying Long-tailed Duck and five Red-breasted Mergansers on the adjacent Roach. An evening watch at Wakering on the 17th was rewarded with three Marsh Harriers, a Merlin, and a Barn Owl. Rather surprisingly the records of a single Red-throated Diver off Westcliff on the 17th and a Short-eared Owl on Two Tree Island that same day were both firsts for the year. By the 20th there were now two Short-eared Owls on Two Tree Island and a Red-throated Diver off the Pier where three Purple Sandpipers still remained through into March. The much reduced Corn Bunting flock on Two Tree Island numbered ten on the 22nd with further flocks of ten at Barling and twelve at Fleet Head over the next few days. The Merlin at Wallasea put in another appearance on the 23rd, as did a Brambling in a Canewdon garden that had been an intermittent visitor since the start of the year. Continuing with finches, three Siskins and four Bullfinches were on Hadleigh Downs on the 23rd. At Barling, a respectable count of 1500 Golden Plover was made, as was a less respectable count of nine Reed Buntings. A female Blackcap was a welcome visitor to a Rayleigh garden on the 23rd. A male Hen Harrier flew around the Wakering area on the 24th, as did the first Common Pipistrelle of the year, three Hare were also present. At the Pier on the 24th there was a flurry of activity coupled with a few comedy moments as a Grey Seal pup in poor health was successfully taken into care, and a Black-throated Diver was also reported offshore during the commotion. Continuing efforts with gull watching at Holehaven were rewarded on the 27th with a fine adult Iceland Gull. The Priory Park Ring-necked Parakeet teased everyone by coming in to roost again on the 28th, which it had not done since the 9th. The Two Tree Island Short-eared Owl was logged again on the 28th by which time a Chiffchaff was in a Canewdon garden. February closed with Cetti’s Warblers becoming more vocal with singing birds at Benfleet Creek and Holehaven on the 29th and yet more Siskins with a flock now numbering ten on Hadleigh Downs.

MARCH 2008

Two Woodcock were on Hadleigh Downs on the 1st with others in Hockley Woods on the 5th and Belfairs on the 14th. The Long-tailed Duck was seen again at Paglesham Lagoon on the 1st where it remained all month whereas the six Goldeneye there the same day were surprisingly the last of the winter. On the 2nd, two Bullfinches were again seen in Rayleigh, a Blackcap made its third visit of the winter to a Benfleet garden, and a Nuthatch and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker were in West Wood, Hadleigh. The 3rd saw many over-wintering birds still in situ with a Chiffchaff at Wat Tyler, the Green Sandpiper at South Fambridge, and three each still of Water Rail and Greenshank on Two Tree Island. The 4th was a good gull day at Holehaven with three Caspian Gulls, three Yellow-legged Gulls and the regular immature Glaucous Gull which was seen again for the last time on the 6th. The female Marsh Harrier at Wat Tyler was much more active from the 5th onwards through to the month’s end. A Water Vole also there on the 5th was a welcome sight, whilst a Muntjac in Hockley Woods was less expected. The Ring-necked Parakeet in Priory Park adopted a routine from the 5th onwards when it spent most evenings roosting with up to 406 Collared Doves. It was successfully twitched by many locals and was present all month. There was a glut of Siskin and Brambling records all month with one of the heaviest spring passages for both species in a very long time. Siskin records came from eight sites this month, mostly gardens, with six being the largest flock. Bramblings however were a surprise find in Priory Park on the 5th when one was seen, with numbers here rapidly increasing to twenty one on the 15th, most of which remained to the end of the month. Further Brambling records came from seven gardens this month although only in small flocks of up to three. A Black-throated Diver at the Pier first reported on the 6th stayed all month although sometimes loitered off Gunners Park. A second bird on the 9th joined it for one day only. A Shag was an unusual record at the Pier also on the 6th but was not seen again until April. The Little Stint was found busying itself on the mud at Wallasea wetlands again on the 6th where it remained until the 24th at least. Three Nuthatches could still be found in Hockley Woods on the 6th where incredibly there were no reports at all of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker all month. A Spotted Redshank in Tewke’s Creek on the 6th was the only record away from Wat Tyler where up to two could still be found in the creek all month along with two Greenshanks. The Two Tree Island Corn Bunting flock peaked at twenty three on the 7th with other notable counts of twenty on Wallasea and twenty six at South Fambridge during the month. One thousand Turnstones now huddled together on the Pier on the 8th and among them three Purple Sandpipers could still be found right through the month. A pair of Mandarin in Friars Park on the 8th were the first in the area for over two years and therefore most welcome. Searching in vain for the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker in West Wood, Hadleigh revealed two Treecreepers on the 8th and a meagre peak winter count of fifty four Redwings. Wakering played host to two Marsh Harriers, a ringtail Hen Harrier, a Barn Owl, and a Green Sandpiper on the 9th. The drake Goosander at Wallasea revealed itself again on the 9th and extended its stay through into April. Nearby, two Little Owls were on show at Canewdon. Two Short-eared Owls were on Two Tree Island all month and were much more dependable this month and were more indicative of passage as opposed to over-wintering birds. In a poor year, Red-throated Divers struggled to reach five from the Pier and four from Wakering Stairs on the 9th suggesting that for this winter at least, only passage birds were around. Indeed after the 24th March there were no more Red-throated Diver records. Careful analysis of records show that there were no Red-throated Divers at all from mid-November until mid-February, in fact the only diver seen during these dates was the solitary Great Northern Diver in the Thames. A lone Guillemot off the Pier on the 9th constituted the last record of the winter. Two Water Voles found in Priory Park on the 9th were a good find and could be seen most days with luck and patience during the month. Up to two Bullfinches were recorded again from Rayleigh on the 11th and 15th. A Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was reported from another site on the 11th,this time at Daws Heath, Hadleigh. Dark-bellied Brent Geese peaked at 3500 on the 11th at Wallasea and among them a solitary Pale-bellied Brent Goose constituted the only record this winter. Merlin records became more regular mid-month with birds at Wakering, South Fambridge, Potton, Paglesham, and a regular female on Wallasea. Between the 11th and 23rd, five single Blackcaps were recorded in local gardens and were more likely over-wintering birds moving through as opposed to true migrants. The pair of Peregrines in Southend were back on territory from the 13th and appeared to be bonding raising very real hopes of future colonisation. A fine male Hen Harrier was a handsome find on Wallasea on the 14th where it was seen again on the 16th. Also present there on a recently ploughed field was a flock of fifty Linnets. Belfairs turned up a couple of trump birds on the 14th with a report of Firecrest and Lesser Redpoll. There was also a wholly unconfirmed report of a Spoonbill flying around Two Tree Island on the 14th. Another Green Sandpiper was found, this time at Battlesbridge on the 14th whereas the next day the Eastwood individual present since 9th February was seen for the last time. Signs of spring were evident on the 15th with Wheatear in Gunners Park and on Canvey coupled with a noticeable broad arrival of Chiffchaffs, all of which were now singing. Three Ruff were in Barling creek on the 15th with four Red-breasted Mergansers still on the adjacent Roach the same day. Unexpectedly a new Rookery was found near Paglesham on the 15th with an estimated forty five nests. The wood was certainly not occupied until this year and may be displaced birds from another favoured wood less than a mile away. Nine Reed Buntings at Vange Marsh on the 15th was a worryingly low peak count from across the area this month. A Wheatear was on Wallasea on the 18th, and the first Sand Martin was feeding over Cherry Orchard C.P. on the 21st. A small passage of Great Northern Divers occurred in the estuary between the 21st and 24th with daily sightings of up to two between Canvey and Gunners Park. Adder and Weasel were both logged on Wallasea on the 21st. Promising weather conditions on the 22nd failed to provide the expected seabirds with six Gannets in the estuary the only record of note. The 22nd was also the last sighting of Rossi, the Ring-billed Gull at Westcliff who departed on the exact same date as last year and has now completed nine consecutive winters with us. The three elusive White-fronted Geese lurking on the grazing marsh at Wat Tyler were singled out again on the 22nd and 24th. A Common Buzzard flew in off the sea at Wakering Stairs on the 23rd. Another Wheatear struggled through on the 24th when one was seen at Hadleigh Downs. The Harris Hawk on Hadleigh Downs put on a daily show from the 24th to the 30th. Ninety Avocets were back on Two Tree Island lagoon by the 25th, with forty two at Vange Marsh, and sixteen at Wat Tyler around the same time. Spring migration was apparent in Gunners Park on the 27th when a Marsh Harrier flew west along the Thames, the first Swallow dashed through, and another Wheatear was looking at home in the reserve. Wheatears were now arriving daily with a peak of three in Gunners Park on the 31st and a total of approximately thirteen birds in the latter half of the month across the recording area. Fauna were again well represented with a Porpoise off Canvey Point on the 30th, a Stoat the same day at South Fambridge, and a Weasel on the 30th and 31st on Two Tree Island. A Firecrest in Priory Park on the 30th was an excellent find and most probably a passage bird. Chiffchaff now numbered fourteen on Hadleigh Downs on the 30th, with approximately forty at various sites by month end, which compares with just eleven by the end of March last year and no Wheatears! Contrasting with the recent arrivals, the last Redwings were a group of eight in Pound Wood on the 30th, and the last Fieldfare was a single in Gunners Park on the 31st. Two Nuthatch were at Belfairs G.C. on the 31st.

APRIL 2008

Brambling passage continued with four birds feeding near Rayleigh Mount on the 1st and two Short-eared Owls were still on Two Tree Island, this being the last date that two were present although a single persisted through to the 10th. Gunners Park played host to some excellent birds on the 4th with a Ring-necked Parakeet, a pair of Mandarin, and best of all, and quite possibly the bird of the year, a Tree Sparrow! Although not a national rarity this is the first confirmed record in the recording area for fourteen years! Along with a single Short-eared Owl on Two Tree Island on the 4th, two pairs of Stonechat were also noted along with another two pairs along Benfleet Creek, later in the month. The first of four records this month of Marsh Harrier was a female at Wakering Stairs on the 4th. Two Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers reported at Hockley Woods on the 4th were the last record from here this spring. They were more elusive here this year than any other previous year. Thankfully, records from other sites increased slightly with a wandering female in Gunners Park and males in Belfairs N.R. and Belfairs G.C. over the next few days. Ruff seem harder to find these days too and so a single at Fleet Head on the 5th was one of only two records all month, as was a Green Sandpiper at Barling pits the same day. Wheatear peaked this month at just four birds, predictably in Gunners Park on the 4th; approximately fifteen individuals passed through this month at six sites although only Gunners Park held more than one. The Harris Hawk was seen again on the 5th when it flew across to Canvey Point from Two Tree Island. A single Lesser Redpoll reportedly flew over a Rayleigh garden on the 5th whilst Siskins continued to be seen at many sites including a peak count this month of sixteen together by Coombe Wood on the 8th. The second and last Green Sandpiper of the month was at South Fambridge on the 8th. Hadleigh Downs attracted a Common Buzzard and a Little Owl on the 9th. The Two Tree Island Short-eared Owl was seen for the final time on the 10th. A further Harris Hawk sighting on Hadleigh Downs on the 10th gave rise to speculation that there may be two birds at large in the area. Further records continued throughout the month. A single Common Scoter was off Wakering Stairs on the 11th. The next day a fine summer plumage Slavonian Grebe was found at Paglesham Lagoon where it remained through to the 16th, and the seemingly ever-present Long-tailed Duck was present all month. Two Spotted Redshanks at Wat Tyler on the 12th were probably the over-wintering duo lingering. A single Spotted Redshank was at Barling Pits the next day, where a Black Redstart was also seen. Again on the 13th, a very elusive male Redstart was discovered in Gunners Park where it stayed through to the 15th although eluded most. The long staying drake Goosander at Wallasea wetlands was duly logged this month on the 13th as were at least twenty Corn Buntings on the adjacent arable fields. Three Little Ringed Plovers at Vange Marsh on the 13th were the first of the year and were more than a month later than last year. A Firecrest at Canvey West on the 14th was a good find and only the second spring passage bird. Red-breasted Merganser numbers actually increased this month with seven together on the Roach on the 15th the best gathering of the winter. A Common Sandpiper in Gunners Park on the 15th was the first of five passage birds this month, whilst a Woodcock was still at Hadleigh Downs the same day. The Ring-necked Parakeet continued its wanderings when it was noted over Southend on the 15th, and Belfairs Woods on the 16th. Also around Belfairs on the 16th, nine Great Spotted Woodpeckers were notable, and a male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was near the golf course. The pair of Mandarin made a surprise return visit to Gunners Park on the 16th, where they disappear to is a true mystery. The last two Bramblings of a bumper winter for scarce finches were seen in a Daws Heath garden on the 19th. Similarly, the last diver of the winter was a Black-throated Diver reported off the Pier on the 19th with a Shag and a Purple Sandpiper also claimed. Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers were seen in Belfairs Wood, West Wood, and Daws Heath on the 19th. A small arrival of migrants occurred on the 20th with the pick of the bunch being a reeling Grasshopper Warbler at Wakering Stairs, a singing Nightingale on Benfleet Downs, and a showy and popular Black Redstart in Gunners Park. Also at Gunners Park the first two Sandwich Terns were fishing offshore and in excess of 800 Sanderlings were huddled together on the jetty. The Grasshopper Warbler and Nightingale both performed into early May whereas the Black Redstart was last seen on the 22nd. A strong passage of Little Gulls across the county resulted in just one bird seen locally when an adult dropped in to Vange Marsh on the 21st, also present were three Common Sandpipers and eleven Greenshanks which stayed until the next day when they were joined by a Spotted Redshank. The last Red-breasted Merganser of the winter was unusually on the sea off Gunners Park on the 21st which coincidentally is where the first bird of the winter was seen on the 29th September, yet there was only one other record from here all winter. A female Marsh Harrier at Wakering Stairs on the 21st was likely the same bird that was here earlier in the month and which may also be responsible for sightings at Paglesham Lagoon on the 23rd and 25th. Another Common Buzzard was reported on the 22nd with Hadleigh Downs again the preferred site. A Grasshopper Warbler was reeling from the old Pitsea tip near Vange Marsh between the 22nd and 25th. A Lesser Spotted Woodpecker reported at Cherry Orchard C.P. on the 23rd was the first record from here. The final spring bird record of this species was again at Belfairs N.R. on the 25th. There was a noticeable peak of Yellow Wagtails on the 23rd when flocks of fifteen and sixteen were at Fleet Head and Paglesham Lagoon respectively. Siskins continued to be reported with eight at Hullbridge on the 24th the last of the month. An obvious arrival of Hobbies occurred between the 24th and 28th with singles at Rayleigh, Hadleigh Downs, Gusted Hall, and Belfairs N.R. The Shag remained on the Pier on the 25th, as did two of the wintering Purple Sandpipers. A pronounced increase in passage waders was noted on the 25th with peaks of twenty one Greenshanks and thirteen Whimbrel, both on Two Tree Island. An Osprey over Wat Tyler on the 26th was typically a brief fly-over and a Nightingale took up territory here and remained faithful into May. Cetti’s Warblers were particularly vocal at the end of the month and more widespread than ever with four birds singing at Wat Tyler, three at Vange Marsh, and a further six at three other sites all in the final days of the month. A Common Sandpiper along the Roach on the 26th was only the fifth bird of the spring. The second and last Ruff of the month was at Vange Marsh on the 26th where a Little Ringed Plover put in its last appearance of the spring after not finding the transient habitat to its liking. A Fulmar and a Bullfinch both at Gunners Park on the 27th were unusual with the Bullfinch in particular being notable as the first record from here in recent years. Other Bullfinch records at this time came from gardens in Rayleigh and Ashingdon, as well as Wat Tyler. Garden Warblers arrived back on territory as the month drew to a close with singing males in Belfairs N.R. and on Two Tree Island on the 28th and 29th with Two Tree Island also hosting a singing Nightingale on the 30th.

MAY 2008

A Bullfinch was at Wat Tyler on the 1st. Wheatear continued to push through with three in Gunners Park on the 2nd the best count of the month where they remained through to the 4th. Another Wheatear was at South Fambridge on the 2nd. The Grasshopper Warbler continued to reel fervently at Wakering Stairs on the 2nd and 3rd. The Long-tailed Duck present at Paglesham Lagoon since November put in its last appearance on the 3rd. The only Ruff of the spring was a single at Fleet Head on the 3rd where 25 Yellow Wagtails and eight Brown Hare were also noted. A Nightingale was in full song on the 3rd along Benfleet Downs at the same place as last year. A late Merlin was on Wallasea on the 3rd and a Common Buzzard headed south over Rayleigh where a Garden Warbler and two Bullfinch were also seen. A Common Buzzard was seen in both the morning and afternoon on the 4th over Benfleet Downs and may have been the same bird as the one over Rayleigh the previous day. More singing Nightingales were found on territory on the 4th with a second bird on Benfleet Downs and another at Wat Tyler. Two Garden Warblers on Hadleigh Downs on the 4th were quite probably migrants whereas the singing Willow Warbler there the same day was alarmingly the only record of the month from the entire recording area. 140 Dark-bellied Brent Geese lingered on Two Tree Island on the 5th where Avocets peaked at 82 on the lagoon and proudly boasted twenty chicks the following week. A Woodcock on Hadleigh Downs on the 5th was notable given the date and may point to breeding birds going undiscovered in the woodland. The Harris Hawk there also put in an appearance and was recorded almost daily throughout the month. Following on from an excellent winter and spring passage, Siskin continued to be recorded into May with a single on Rayleigh on the 5th and other singles over Belfairs on the 9th and 18th, and Gunners Park on the 9th. One of the best records of the month was a report of three Common Cranes soaring over Hadleigh on the 7th that were unfortunately only seen by the one observer. A Garden Warbler was singing strongly in Belfairs on the 8th. A Wheatear was on Two Tree Island on the 9th. A Grey Wagtail took to singing from a supermarket car park in Leigh from the 10th to the 14th at least. Another cracking record came on the 10th when four Red Kites were seen together over Rayleigh before passing over Canewdon thirty minutes later. The regular boat trip to the Crouch estuary found 21 Common Seals and eight Grey Seals loafing around on the 11th. Attention turned to nearby Wallasea on the 13th when a Quail was heard calling intermittently through the day and a first-summer male Montagu’s Harrier lingered. The Quail was not heard again after the 13th but the Montagu’s Harrier put on a daily spectacle through to at least the 22nd and proved most popular with many adding it to their Essex list. Also present on Wallasea was a female Marsh Harrier from the 14th to the 24th and good counts of 25 Yellow Wagtails and 30 Corn Buntings. One observer suffering from insomnia in the small hours of the 14th took a drive around the local roads and found four Little Owls between Hockley, Canewdon and Paglesham, a Barn Owl at Wallasea, and a Tawny Owl at Paglesham. In addition some excellent mammals were recorded with the most notable being a Muntjac at Hockley Woods and a Weasel near Battlesbridge. Two typically elusive drake Garganey were at Vange Marsh on the 16th where they remained into early June. Also present at Vange Marsh on the 16th were the only Green Sandpipers of the month with two birds present for just the one day. In contrast, there was a light scattering of Common Sandpiper records particularly in the early part of the month with singles at four sites followed by two at South Fambridge on the 24th. The last Wheatear of the spring was at Wallasea on the 17th, the same day that an Osprey was seen there on the ground eating a fish and bathing by the seawall. The Nightingale on Benfleet Downs was heard for the last time on the 23rd. Scrubland at Rayleigh held a Garden Warbler and a Turtle Dove on the 24th. Also on the 24th a family party of six Stonechats including four juveniles were on Hadleigh Marshes. Three Common Scoter flew past Gunners Park on the 25th with two off Canvey on the 26th. The 26th will be remembered as ‘Fulmar’ day with birds streaming past Canvey and an incredible 100-150 passing by during the day. Also caught up in the rather unseasonal seawatch were approximately 100 Gannets, five Guillemots, a Pomarine Skua, an Arctic Skua and a Bottlenose Dolphin. The only Black Terns of the spring were at Vange Marsh with one on the 26th and two that dropped in briefly on the 27th. A total surprise came on the 30th when a pair of Long-eared Owls were found at a coastal site in the east that has never previously been known to hold them either in summer or winter. The Grasshopper Warbler at Wakering Stairs could still be heard reeling on the 30th although had become more elusive.

JUNE 2008

The pair of Long-eared Owls that were ‘discovered’ last week at a coastal site in the east were seen on and off throughout the month, in addition, a single Long-eared Owl was seen around Pitsea on the 4th and again on the 7th. A Barn Owl was hunting over at Wakering most evenings all month. The two drake Garganey at Vange Marsh were seen for the final time on the 4th. The now long-staying Ring-necked Parakeet was present again this month on the 6th in Leigh and over Benfleet on the 18th. A pair of Marsh Harriers were seen over Wallasea on the 8th and again on the 14th. Staying with raptors, the Southend Peregrines continued to thrill all month and records of Hobby were widespread this month with eighteen sightings from twelve locations mainly of singles. The Harris Hawk was on Hadleigh Downs all month. An unseasonal Siskin flew over a Rochford garden on the 9th constituting the first local mid-summer record since 2002. Stonechat and Cetti’s Warbler were both found summering at Canvey West on the 10th. A Common Buzzard was thermalling high over Westcliff on the 10th with another, or conceivably the same bird seen again on the 11th when five adult Mediterranean Gulls could be found on the scrape at Wat Tyler. Two Turtle Doves represented the peak monthly count in the area in a very poor year for this species with singles at just three other sites this month. A sole Fulmar was seen from a boat in the Crouch estuary on the 14th and four Adders were basking along Hadleigh Downs. Bullfinch were rather surprisingly more widespread this month with one on Hadleigh Downs on the 14th, a pair in Rayleigh on the 23rd and 28th followed by three in Blounts Wood and a single in Belfairs also on the 28th. The Crossbill invasion reached here on the 15th with two over Belfairs followed by a single over Coombe Wood on the 17th, four over Rayleigh on the 24th and a respectable 14 over Rayleigh on the 28th. One lucky observer was able to photograph a White Stork that dropped in at Wat Tyler on the 15th but it stayed only briefly. Single Porpoise were seen at two different locations in the Crouch estuary on the 23rd. Incidences of this enigmatic cetacean have increased considerably over recent years with regular reports now from the Crouch estuary as well as the Thames. A family party of Grey Wagtails in suburban Southend on the 28th included three juveniles. One or two Yellowhammers were singing during the last week of the month at Canewdon and Sutton. The biggest twitch of the month was for White Admiral butterflies when three were found in Belfairs Woods on the 28th and were a first for many locals. They proved popular and could be found right through to the end of July. Also present here were fifty Heath Fritillaries and another good record in the shape of a Purple Hairstreak. Meanwhile on Hadleigh Downs on the 28th there were thirty Small Skipper, ten Essex Skipper, five Large Skipper, five White-letter Hairstreak, two Brown Argus, a Holly Blue, five Comma, fifteen Marbled Whites and ten Ringlets. Moth trapping on the 29th in Rayleigh yielded a Poplar Hawkmoth, Elephant Hawkmoth and two Privet Hawkmoths. As the month drew to a close, the pair of Long-eared Owls in the east were joined by a third bird on the 29th, probably a juvenile, and two Dark-bellied Brent Geese were on Two Tree Island.

JULY 2008

A Common Buzzard passed over Wat Tyler on the 1st where a pair of Barn Owls were also seen on and off during the month. Butterflies were well represented on the 1st with 150 Marbled Whites and twelve White-letter Hairstreaks on Belton Hills, and the three White Admirals all still present in Belfairs. The 2nd was a good day for moths with a Privet Hawkmoth, four Elephant Hawkmoths and a Scarce Silver-lines all trapped at Rayleigh whilst two Poplar Hawkmoths were found in the grass at Hullbridge. The Long-eared Owls in the east were seen for the last time on the 3rd, the same day that a single Crossbill flew over Belfairs Woods. Repeating events of a few days ago, another Common Buzzard again passed high over Wat Tyler on the 4th. As expected the sea was quiet this month although four Gannets flew by Wakering Stairs on the 5th and three Common Scoter drakes went by Gunners Park on the 6th. Following up on a series of persistent rumours a pair of Long-eared Owls with three fledged young were seen on the 7th at a site in the south meaning there were now two successful pairs of Long-eared Owls in the recording area. The two Dark-bellied Brent Geese were seen again off Canvey on the 7th. Despite eradication attempts within the county, a pair of Ruddy Ducks had six endearing stripey-headed ducklings in tow at one site on the 10th. As expected, numbers of Mediterranean Gulls increased significantly this month reaching a peak of 167 along the Southend to Shoebury seafront on the 12th with the first juveniles of the year appearing from the 18th. Turtle Doves struggled up to a maximum of three this month at Wat Tyler on the 12th with one or two also noted this month at South Fambridge, Stambridge, Paglesham and Wakering. The two Grasshopper Warblers at Wakering Stairs reeled and showed again on the 12th this being the only date they were recorded this month. Also at Wakering Stairs on the 12th, two Barn Owls put on a crepuscular display. Other Barn Owls were recorded mid-month at Fleet Head and South Fambridge, whilst Tawny Owls were also much more evident this month with three birds in Belfairs, two near Paglesham, and one in Rayleigh all noted in the latter half of the month. A Red Kite flew north over Ashingdon on the 13th, and Wallasea held 22 Yellow Wagtails and ten Corn Buntings. The star bird of the summer was a female Woodchat Shrike that spent just the one day, the 13th, on Two Tree Island. Being only the second ever local record and the first in Essex for ten years it attracted birders from across the county and proved most popular and performed well. The 14th was somewhat of an anti-climax with 34 Common Seals around the Crouch and Roach complex the only record of note but did however include several suckling pups. Yet another Common Buzzard was recorded with a hunting bird at South Fambridge on the 15th. A single pair of Common Terns successfully hatched two young on Two Tree Island lagoon around the 15th. Another notable breeding record was the pair of Grey Wagtails with two young around Southend Hospital on the 16th, this being the second successful pair in the Southend area this year. Return wader passage was more apparent from the 18th onwards with a Wood Sandpiper and four Little Ringed Plovers at Vange Marsh with the Wood Sandpiper staying through to the 27th. The only Crossbills that were anything other than fly-overs were a flock of nine feeding briefly in conifers at Hockley Woods on the 18th. A single observer reported a Black Stork circling over Shoebury on the 23rd which if accepted would actually be the second record in four years for the area, although both have unfortunately been birds seen in flight by the original observer only. A count in excess of twenty Brown Hare on Wallasea on the 19th was less exciting but still notable. Wader numbers continued to swell with 1200 Black-tailed Godwits, 105 Avocets, and 22 Greenshank jostling for position on Two Tree Island lagoon on the 20th. A further 52 Greenshank were at Wakering Stairs the same day where five Gannets also flew by. A handful of Ruff passed through Fleet Head commencing with two on the 20th. A single White Admiral remained at Belfairs from the 21st to the 23rd and a Red Kite was reported over Leigh on the 21st. Several more Crossbills passed through with seven over Belfairs on the 22nd and a single over Rochford on the 24th. Purple Hairstreaks were on the wing on the 22nd and 23rd with twelve near Stambridge, ten at Rayleigh, and six at Belfairs. The two summering Dark-bellied Brent Geese were off Canvey Point on the 23rd and an adult Black Tern off Gunners Park on the 24th was the first of the return passage. A Ruddy Shelduck at Vange Marsh on the 25th and 27th subsequently moved across the Thames to Cliffe Pools. Marsh Harrier passage was more pronounced on the 26th and 28th with records on those two days consisting of three at Wakering Stairs, two at Wat Tyler, and singles at South Fambridge, Gunners Park, and Wallasea. A Common Buzzard at South Fambridge on the 26th was the second record from here in two weeks. The roving Ring-necked Parakeet was seen on the 26th and this time was at Belfairs after having visited almost everywhere else in the entire area over the last two years. The first autumn passerines were logged at South Fambridge on the early date of the 27th with a juvenile Wheatear and a Whinchat, both of which stayed to the 31st. Waders were also on the move in the last few days with four Spotted Redshanks, 26 Green Sandpipers, 26 Common Sandpipers, five Little Ringed Plovers, two Little Stints, two ‘new’ Wood Sandpipers, and a Curlew Sandpiper all at Vange Marsh between the 27th and 31st. A further two Little Ringed Plovers were at Wallasea briefly on the 27th and two male Ruff were at Fleet Head on the 31st. A Black-necked Grebe was a very good find at Paglesham Lagoon on the 30th but only stayed for the day, and a Painted Lady at Shoebury East Beach on the 31st was the first of very few records this autumn.


The first Arctic Skua of a mediocre skua autumn passed by Wakering Stairs on the 2nd with 154 Little Terns also there of which just 24 were juveniles. Vange Marsh held good numbers of waders on the 2nd with 21 Common Sandpipers, three Spotted Redshanks, a Curlew Sandpiper and a Little Stint still. Another Little Stint was on Wallasea the next day and two Curlew Sandpipers were roosting on Canvey Point. The aptly named Wasp Spider was twitched by several people after being found on Belton Hills at the start of the month. On the 3rd, a short walk revealed at least 35 individuals in a small area and another eight were found two weeks later at Barling. One of the summering Dark-bellied Brent Geese also showed on the 3rd off Two Tree Island where it was seen again on the 24th. Two passage Willow Warblers were in Gunners Park on the 6th. Another single Crossbill passed over Belfairs on the 6th with a further four there on the 11th and singles on the 25th and 31st. Three Ruff at Fleet Head on the 6th was the highest count of the year to date and another single Wood Sandpiper arrived at Vange Marsh on the 7th where it was joined by a second bird from the 9th to the 20th. Wheatear passage was slow in the first three weeks of the month although one or two were reported from Hadleigh, South Fambridge and Canvey. Two Porpoise off Canvey on the 8th were the highlight of a slow seawatch and a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker reported from Rayleigh was unusual in terms of both location and date. A Merlin reported at Wallasea on the 12th was notably early although this island does seem to attract and hold this small falcon. Another Porpoise was seen briefly on the 15th this time from the Crouch estuary, and only the second Painted Lady of the year favoured a garden in Leigh. Tern passage was apparent off Canvey on the 16th with 300 Common Terns, 125 Sandwich Terns, 25 Little Terns and five Arctic Terns. Possibly attracted by the high numbers of terns, ten Arctic Skuas also moved upriver after arriving together in one flock. This was the peak count of Arctic Skuas during the month in which approximately 25 individuals passed through. An Osprey flew strongly south over Canvey on the 16th and was the forerunner of a good series of records this autumn of this magnificent raptor. Green Sandpipers peaked this month on the 17th with 17 predictably at Vange Marsh. Eight Black Terns were lingering off Canvey on the 17th with fewer than twenty individuals passing through this month. A Brown Argus was at Barling on the 17th. Mediterranean Gulls along Southend seafront reached a high this month of 116 on the 19th. A Black Swan was a surprise find near Battlesbridge on the 21st. At Wakering Stairs on the 21st 100 Little Terns could still be found as could 57 Greenshank and the third and last (!) Painted Lady of the year for the area. Common Seals numbered 32 around the Roach complex on the 22nd. There was a noticeable arrival of Wheatear from the 22nd with twenty different birds between the 22nd and month end including one bird on the roof of a central Southend office block on the 22nd, and a maximum of four in Gunners Park on the 25th. No doubt arriving with the Wheatears a small fall of Whinchat occurred from the 23rd onwards with ten birds arriving in the last week of the month peaking at four in Gunners Park on the 30th. Also arriving on the 23rd was the first Spotted Flycatcher of the year which was in Hawkwell, sadly it looks like 2008 marks their demise as a local breeding bird in the area. A migrant Garden Warbler was in Gunners Park on the 23rd. Marsh Harriers were visibly on the move this month and interestingly included females seen crossing the Thames at Wakering to north Kent on the 23rd and 31st, one of which was timed at making the 15km crossing in 21 minutes. An Osprey at Potton Creek on the 23rd may have been the juvenile that went on to stay around Wakering and Paglesham through September and may have been the same bird as one seen over Wakering on the 28th. A Curlew Sandpiper was at Wallasea from the 23rd to the 26th and two Ruff were also a good record for the site on the 23rd. The second Black-necked Grebe of the autumn was unusually on tidal waters loitering off Canvey Point for an hour on the 24th. Vange Marsh held four Spotted Redshanks and yet another Wood Sandpiper, this time a single from the 24th until the 8th September, 26 Greenshank were on Two Tree Island, and a Crossbill made it onto another garden list this time in Eastwood. Fifteen Arctic Terns off Wakering Stairs on the 25th was a rather low peak count for the month, a single Fulmar passed Canvey on the 25th as did another on the 30th. The second Spotted Flycatcher of the year was again an inland bird and was at Belfairs on the 25th. Depressingly, the only record of Turtle Dove this month was of two near Stambridge on the 25th, no birds at all were recorded at any locations in the area after this date. After prolonged easterly winds, the area finally benefited from the influx of Redstarts down the east coast starting with one in Gunners Park on the 29th with another two there the next day, and one at Wakering Stairs on the 31st. Two Mandarins were in Friars Park on the 30th, and two Spotted Flycatchers dropped in to Gunners Park on the 30th with one there the next day. Rossi the now famous Ring-billed Gull returned to his favourite haunt along Westcliff seafront on the 30th for his tenth winter. Canvey was productive on the 30th with four Sooty Shearwaters, two Manx Shearwaters, the first Pomarine Skua of the autumn, and the first two Great Skuas of the autumn. The last day of the month saw three Great Skuas, a Pomarine Skua, and a spanking juvenile Sabine’s Gull that spent most of the afternoon lingering just offshore. Barling held a passage Garden Warbler on the 31st, the first Siskin of the autumn passed over Eastwood, a ringtail Hen Harrier was claimed at Wakering Stairs, and the Harris Hawk was again seen on Hadleigh Downs.


Last weeks Redstart in Gunners Park stayed until the 1st only. Another inland Spotted Flycatcher was near Thundersley on the 1st, and an adult Little Stint was found at Wallasea. The Pier was quiet on the 2nd but did give up a Shag and two Porpoise. At South Fambridge on the 3rd came an unusual record of three Short-eared Owls hunting the saltmarsh with two of them still there on the 7th and which perhaps had bred not too far away. Seawatching at Canvey on the 5th was fairly productive with a Fulmar, two Manx Shearwaters, 18 Arctic Skuas, a Great Skua, ten Black Terns, and three Porpoise the highlights. Last months Wood Sandpiper at Vange Marsh was still present from the 5th to the 8th. A cracking adult Long-tailed Skua passed Canvey on the 6th and was the highlight of an otherwise quiet seawatch. Fifty Yellow Wagtails feeding in a field near Paglesham Lagoon on the 6th was a good count these days. Numbers of chats reached a high on the 7th with four Whinchats on Canvey West and another four on Hadleigh Marshes where there was also eleven Stonechats. In all, an estimated 18 Whinchats passed through this month with records from eight sites. 24 Arctic Terns and a Curlew Sandpiper were recorded off Canvey Point on the 7th, and a Water Vole was reported from South Fambridge doing its best no doubt to elude the two Short-eared Owls still present. The first returning Dark-bellied Brent Geese were five at Wakering Stairs on the 9th with 58 there just four days later. Two Pomarine Skuas enlivened a dull seawatch at Canvey on the 9th and a Spotted Flycatcher was found in Gunners Park. A Common Buzzard over Hawkwell on the 9th may have been the same as the one seen over Hadleigh Downs that afternoon where it was jostling for airspace with three Hobby. Another Common Buzzard passed over central Southend on the 10th. Siskins started arriving in numbers, commencing with four over Rayleigh on the 10th where approximately thirty passed through this one site alone this month. A juvenile Osprey made a protracted stay around Canvey Point from the 11th through into early October and was joined by a second bird on the 14th whilst a third juvenile was present around the Shoebury, Paglesham, Wakering area from the 13th to the 19th. Sixteen Black Terns off Canvey on the 11th was a rather poor peak autumn count. The first Guillemot of the autumn was a long way upriver on the Crouch at South Fambridge on the 12th. In keeping with the entire east coast there was a pronounced movement of raptors between the 13th and 15th with smaller numbers for a further week. In total 25 Common Buzzards and twelve Honey Buzzards passed through this month including six Common Buzzards over Two Tree Island on the 13th and three Honey Buzzards there the same day, with four Honey Buzzards over Belfairs on the 15th. Also caught up with the movement on the 13th were a further two migrating Ospreys, four Peregrines and six Marsh Harriers, all counted at Wakering Stairs and all seen to be actively migrating south or west. In total, 19 Marsh Harriers moved through this month with the vast majority from the 13th onwards. Higher numbers of Sparrowhawk, Hobby and Kestrel were also noted during this time. The Grey Parrot over Two Tree Island at the same time as the raptor passage no doubt had slightly different origins. Notable numbers of Siskin were also recorded from the 13th onwards when twelve passed over Gunners Park followed by 19 the next day, a further 21 over Leigh also on the 14th and 19 over Rayleigh on the 24th. Among the more interesting wader records on the 14th were three Little Stints and a peak count of eleven Spotted Redshanks at Vange Marsh. Of interest on the coast on the 14th was the second juvenile Sabine’s Gull of the autumn predictably off Canvey and a Guillemot which was seen daily until to the 27th and was joined by a second bird on the 15th and 23rd. Little Gulls became a daily feature too at Canvey from the 14th to the 24th with between four and seven seen most days. On the passerine front two Spotted Flycatchers were in Gunners Park on the 14th with perhaps up to seven individuals moving through Gunners Park this month and 17 across the area this autumn. Redstarts were daily in Gunners Park from the 15th to the month’s end peaking at three on the 17th with probably seven different birds in Gunners Park this month. The only Pied Flycatcher of the year was also in Gunners Park from the 16th to the 20th and one observer also saw a very elusive Wryneck there on the 16th. Tree Pipits were recorded passing through with 1-4 birds daily from the 16th to the 21st. Wheatear reached a high of eight in Gunners Park on the 17th with an estimated 52 birds across the area this month. A total of 13 Willow Warblers were logged this month with three in Gunners Park on the 17th the best count in a very poor year for this species. The Little Egret high tide roost held a maximum of 81 birds on the 18th. The third and final Sabine’s Gull of the autumn was a juvenile yet again off Canvey on the 18th and three Eider were lingering off Canvey Point the next day and were remarkably the first of the year. On the 19th, an early Merlin flew through Gunners Park, a Redstart was at Wakering Stairs and a Hummingbird Hawkmoth was at Westcliff and was the only record of the year. A Lesser Spotted Woodpecker on the 19th at Pound Wood was followed by another two days later on Hadleigh Downs. The Little Stints at Vange Marsh had now reduced to a single and two Curlew Sandpipers were also present, as was a Ruff. An excellent find was made on the 20th in the shape of a juvenile Dotterel in Gunners Park which was only the second ever record for the area and was typically confiding and stayed conveniently close to the reserve fence all afternoon and all of the next day too. The last Little Ringed Plover of the year was a single at Vange Marsh on the 20th. Two Spotted Flycatchers on Two Tree Island on the 20th were a good find with one also at Wakering Stairs and three the next day on Hadleigh Downs. Swifts put in their last appearance of the year on the 20th with five through Gunners Park and a single at Barling where four Bearded Reedlings also on the 20th were interesting, as there are very few records away from Wat Tyler and Vange Marsh. There was an influx of Common Scoter into the estuary off Canvey between the 21st and 26th with a cumulative total of 150 birds over the six days including sixty on the 22nd. Two Red-breasted Mergansers off Canvey on the 22nd were the first of the winter and were unusually early whilst a Manx Shearwater there was the fifth of the year. The 24th was the best skua day of the year with this being the only date this year when all four species were recorded on the same day. Arctic Skuas numbered 25, the highest day count of the year, with approximately seventy different birds in total passing through this month. One Pomarine Skua was among them in what was a dire autumn for this species with just three birds all month. Great Skua fared a little better with 23 birds counted on the 24th and this was one of only two dates this month when more than one passed through. The two juvenile Long-tailed Skuas on the 24th were hoped for but still very much appreciated. Other birds on the move at Canvey on the 24th included 198 Gannets, a Merlin south across the river, and a Short-eared Owl that did the same. Two Black Redstarts in Gunners Park on the 25th and 26th were the first since April. On the river off Canvey, twenty Common Scoter and ten Eider remained on the 26th and a single observer reported a Great White Egret flying east. There have been a handful of reports of this species over the last few years but as yet there has not been an accepted record of this much overdue species in the area. Coincidentally, hot on the heels of the Great White Egret, a Spoonbill flew low over Canvey Point the next day but again was only seen by the finder. A Coal Tit was reported at Rayleigh on the 27th and is probably a scarcer bird locally than the previous day’s Spoonbill. A Bar-headed Goose was masquerading with thirty Canada Geese at Paglesham Lagoon on the 28th. A Curlew Sandpiper remained at Vange Marsh on the 28th. A Spotted Flycatcher at Little Wakering on the 28th was the last of the autumn. Following on from a respectable passage, two Redstarts could still be found in Gunners Park on the 28th with another Redstart at Wakering Stairs the following day.


Several Wheatear were still around at the start of the month with singles on Two Tree Island on the 1st, in Gunners Park on the 2nd, and on Wallasea from the 2nd to the 4th before the last of the year on Hadleigh Marsh on the 9th. A Black Redstart was a brief visitor to Two Tree Island on the 2nd where the Dark-bellied Brent Goose flock numbered 840 on the 3rd and among them from the 21st onwards was a single Pale-bellied Brent Goose. Little Egrets reached their highest number here for the year on the 3rd with 91 on the high tide roost and a Water Vole was espied in the borrowdyke. The last Hobby of the year flew over Rayleigh on the 3rd. There was some limited skua passage off Canvey from the 3rd to the 5th with two Arctic Skuas, three Great Skuas and a juvenile Pomarine Skua passing through over the three days. The biggest news of the year came on the 4th when a superb Broad-billed Sandpiper was positively identified at Wallasea. Being only the fifth record for Essex and the first since 1989, it sparked quite a twitch. Due to a freakishly high tide and atrocious unseasonal weather it was extremely hard to connect with but did stay until dusk on the 6th and had probably been present since around the 2nd. Two Whooper Swans flying down the Crouch at Wallasea on the 5th were a bonus and a Curlew Sandpiper there from the 4th to the 14th was late whilst the Little Tern there on the 5th was even later. In addition to a Pomarine Skua off Canvey on the 5th, the first Red-throated Diver was resplendent still in summer attire and a Porpoise was recorded yet again. Three Adders on Hadleigh Downs on the 6th were clearly not perturbed by the increasingly cold conditions that were responsible for bringing in the first Redwings of the winter with two on Canvey on the 7th. The near resident Merlin on Wallasea showed again on the 7th and 14th. A Willow Warbler at Shoebury East Beach on the 10th was exceptionally late and particularly unusual given the paucity of records this year. A Jack Snipe was reported at Vange Marsh on the 10th and a Red Kite was reported the same day over Rawreth whilst a Common Buzzard flew over South Benfleet the following day. Passage waders were still around mid-month with four Spotted Redshanks and five Green Sandpipers at Vange Marsh on the 11th. A further two Green Sandpipers were at Wat Tyler the same day and a Little Stint was at Wallasea from the 12th to the 14th with another on Canvey Point on the 11th. The second and last Common Buzzard of the month was logged on the 16th when one flew high north-east over Hadleigh Downs where the Harris Hawk remained all month. Also on the 16th, one lucky observer had a Yellow-browed Warbler along the railway in central Southend. There is still yet to be a widely twitchable one in the area. The 17th and 18th saw small arrivals of the scarcer finches and winter thrushes. Single Lesser Redpoll passed over Rochford and Wakering Stairs on each day and Siskins were seen at several sites including 25 in off the sea at Gunners Park on the 18th. The first Fieldfares of the winter were a flock of 18 at Rochford on the 17th with single Redwings also recorded there and at Gunners Park. A Grey Phalarope close inshore off Gunners Park on the 17th unfortunately only stayed for four minutes and a Pale-bellied Brent Goose at Wakering Stairs the next day was most likely the Two Tree Island individual on a sojourn. Several Marsh Harriers continued to be reported this month including two at Wakering Stairs on the 19th and two at Wallasea and Wat Tyler earlier in the month. Two Swallows passed over Coombe Wood on the 22nd, which was when the last House Martin was seen with one hawking over Priory Park lake. Small numbers of Siskin continued arriving and included seven over Canvey West on the 23rd. Three Mandarins dropped in at Friars Park again on the 24th before promptly disappearing once more. A Caspian Gull was a good find at Paglesham Lagoon on the 25th. The two Southend town centre Peregrines were present on the 26th and had been seen on and off all year. A male Black Redstart was favouring farm buildings at Wakering on the 26th and 27th. A late Red Admiral was still around in an Eastwood garden on the 28th. A Shag was a slightly unusual record sitting on the concrete outfall at Shoebury Coastguards on the 29th and a Short-eared Owl was over at Fleet Head the same day and hopefully a precursor to a good winter influx. Rossi the Ring-billed Gull at Westcliff was present on the 30th for only the third time this month and a Firecrest was a gem of a find in Gunners Park the same day where it was seen again on the 1st and 2nd November.


The 1st produced an excellent Yellow-browed Warbler in Gunners Park that had the decency to hang around for two hours enabling many people to finally add this eastern beauty to their local lists. Less exciting was a noticeable arrival of Fieldfare with 125 passing through Gunners Park and twenty at Hole Haven. The estuary held some good birds too on the 1st with 25 Eider and eleven Common Scoter off the Pier being most welcome as numbers of both of these formally common seaduck have plummeted in recent years. The Eider flock and the Scoter flock stayed in the estuary all month before dispersing at the end of November. Meanwhile, a seawatch off Canvey on the 1st yielded good results with 12 Great Skua, four Pomarine Skua, an Arctic Skua, eight Little Gulls, thirty Kittiwake, a late Arctic Tern, and two Purple Sandpipers. Hole Haven creek held a Ring-billed Gull on the 1st that was not `Rossi', and arguably makes the Southend area the premier site for this species away from the west coast. At the opposite end of Canvey two migrant Black Redstarts were near the Point on the 1st with probably a different two Black Redstarts in Gunners Park the next day where there were small numbers of Siskins and two Lesser Redpoll, with two Brambling in nearby Shoebury. A further two Lesser Redpoll flew over Barling the same day and an Adder was still to be found on Hadleigh Downs. The last true seabird passage of the autumn was on the 3rd when 12 Gannets, an impressive 52 Common Scoter, a Red-throated Diver, two Little Gulls, two Great Skua and a Pomarine Skua were all logged off Canvey during the morning. A Short-eared Owl at South Fambridge on the 4th was a welcome record as was a nearby Merlin. Last month's Shag at Shoebury Coastguards was joined by a second bird on the 6th with both still present on the 29th. Interestingly, one of the immature Shags was colour-ringed and also visited the Pier during the month. The first Goldeneye of the winter were two redheads on the Roach on the 8th. Two Brambling were reported with a finch flock on Two Tree Island on the 8th. The last Swallow of the year was at Paglesham Lagoon on the relatively late date of the 9th. A Firecrest was reported at Wat Tyler the same day. A Pale-bellied Brent Goose was at Leigh-on-Sea on the 11th and may have been the bird from early October. It or another was at Shoebury on the 14th along with a Black Brant there the same day that stayed to the 15th. A Purple Sandpiper returned to the Pier on the 14th where it remained for the winter whilst a Sandwich Tern there also on the 14th was notably late. Corn Buntings formed into flocks from the 14th with twenty on Wallasea, 40 at Canewdon, 22 along the Roach and nine at South Fambridge. Four Mandarins were seen again in Friars Park on the 15th and the last butterflies of the year were a Red Admiral and a Comma both on Hadleigh Downs on the 15th. Single Woodcock were recorded between the 15th and 21st at Westcliff, Hadleigh Downs, and Southend. A small arrival of Short-eared Owls occurred mid-month with singles at South Fambridge on the 15th and Two Tree Island on the 16th followed by two birds on Two Tree Island on the 19th. A different Black Brant to the one at Shoebury on the 14th and 15th was at Wakering Stairs on the 15th whilst nearby a flock of 17 White-fronted Geese were grazing on Havengore Island before moving onto Wallasea the next day where a Marsh Harrier could also be found. The leucistic Lapwing present on Wallasea since late 2004 returned for the winter on the 21st. The Green Sandpiper from the first winter period returned to its favoured small stream in Eastwood on the 22nd where it remained into 2009. Grey Wagtails were widespread in the last half of the month with 1-2 birds at eight sites, mostly in residential areas. Siskins were also widespread during the same period albeit in single figure flocks only, other than twenty at Rochford golf course on the 22nd. A Black-throated Diver reported off Canvey on the 24th was the only record for the first half of the year, a Purple Sandpiper was also present. A Little Stint and an exceptionally late Curlew Sandpiper were on the new Wallasea wetlands on the 24th. The Little Stint stayed on to overwinter and was seen regularly whilst remarkably the Curlew Sandpiper did so too after being seen again in January, this being only the seventh instance of overwintering in the county although interestingly another 2-3 birds also over-wintered in mid-Essex this month. A ringtail Hen Harrier was mobbed as it flew through Wat Tyler on the 25th. A second Ring-necked Parakeet on the 26th joined the one that has roosted sporadically in Priory Park for the last twelve months and a fine male Brambling dropped in to a Canewdon garden. Wallasea continued to host a wintering Merlin, Marsh Harrier, and Little Stint on the 27th but the best bird on Wallasea was a female Snow Bunting, a first for the island. A female Snow Bunting was found along Southchurch seafront the very next day where it stayed through to 2009. It is tempting to speculate that it may even have been the Wallasea bird as that was not seen again after the initial sighting. As the temperature dropped, Goldeneye numbers quickly increased around Paglesham Lagoon with 19 now present by the 28th. A Great Skua lingered around the estuary being seen on the 29th at Shoebury, where it was feeding on a dead gull, the 30th off Canvey Point and the 13th December off Canvey seafront. The Pier proved attractive to divers on the 30th with three Great Northern Divers and four Red-throated Divers, whilst the ever present Purple Sandpiper was amongst the Turnstone flock which reached 600 this month. Three Greenshank were at their favoured wintering location, Two Tree Island on the 30th.


A pair of Stonechats at South Fambridge on the 1st were two of at least 27 individuals found wintering in the recording area this month. Nearby at Canewdon the same day a flock of 50 Corn Buntings and 35 Skylarks were busy feeding in the stubble fields. Other notable Corn Bunting flocks this month included 23 at Stambridge, 22 near Barling, 20 at Fleet Head, 12 on Benfleet Downs and nine on Two Tree Island whilst the Skylark flock increased to 100 on the 21st. No doubt attracted by the high numbers of passerines, a Peregrine was seen at Canewdon on the 1st and was one of at least five different settled birds found wintering this month. Several Blackcap typically visited gardens early in the month with males in two Leigh gardens on the 2nd and 7th, Thundersley on the 3rd, Canewdon on the 7th and a female in Ashingdon on the 22nd. Interestingly several Firecrests were also noted this month with the dates and numbers of sightings almost mirroring that of the Blackcaps. Singles were in Thundersley on the 3rd, Hockley Woods on the 7th, Hadleigh Downs on the 10th, and Belfairs on the 28th. Thirty Common Snipe on Pitsea tip on the 2nd was a good count by recent standards whilst a Short-eared Owl there the same day was better still. Further reports of Short-eared Owl this month came from Two Tree Island with a single on the 6th, two birds on the 14th, a single at South Fambridge on the 15th and up to three around the Fleet Head and Potton Island area from mid-month onwards. Marsh Harrier records came from South Fambridge on the 6th and 27th, Wat Tyler on the 21st and 29th, and Havengore on the 28th. A drake Goosander flew down the Crouch at South Fambridge on the 6th and may have been the near resident Wallasea bird although it has not been seen since mid April. Goldeneye numbers had increased to 28 on the Roach on the 7th along with five Red-breasted Mergansers. Rather disappointingly, a single Brambling at Stambridge on the 7th was the only record all month although 25 Reed Buntings there on set-aside were more heartening. The Harris Hawk on Hadleigh Downs was seen again on the 7th and 20th whilst a Barn Owl and Woodcock were seen there on the 10th. Additional Woodcock sightings this month came from Hawkwell, Benfleet, and Eastwood, and the remains of one was found in central Southend beneath a favoured Peregrine ledge! The Ring-necked Parakeet remained faithful to Priory Park on the 11th. The Southchurch seafront Snow Bunting that arrived in November was seen almost daily from the 13th onwards. There was a smattering of Chiffchaff records mid-month with a single on Two Tree Island on the 14th and two at Paglesham Lagoon on the 16th with one remaining to the 30th at least. Last month's wintering Little Stint on Wallasea showed well again from the 14th to the 23rd. A Jack Snipe at Fleet Head on the 14th was only the third of its kind in the entire area this year. A Great Northern Diver close inshore off Gunners Park on the 14th was no doubt one of the three or four resident off the Pier since the end of November. Goldeneye numbers in the Paglesham Lagoon area peaked for December on the 16th with a respectable 34 but the highlight was the arrival of a single, much anticipated Waxwing found late in the day in Sutton Road cemetery. Hot on its heels a flock of five dropped in briefly to bushes along Benfleet Creek on the 19th but it was not until late on the 23rd before any were twitchable when 12 appeared at their favoured site in Pitsea, and two spent one day in Southchurch. Other excitement came on the 20th when an adult Whooper Swan joined the 42 strong Mute Swan herd near South Fambridge. Wild swans are extremely scarce locally so this long-staying individual proved popular despite the long walk and remained into 2009. Two Caspian Gulls at Hole Haven on the 20th added to the comparatively low total this year and there was one further bird on the 30th. Red-breasted Mergansers peaked at six on the Roach on the 20th. Moderately good numbers of Pintail were present at the end of the month with 75 around Raypits on the Crouch on the 21st, and 24 around Paglesham Lagoon on the 30th. From the 21st to the end of the month three Spotted Redshank and three Greenshank could be found in the creek at Wat Tyler with additional single Greenshank on Wallasea and in Benfleet Creek. A Green Sandpiper was also present at Wat Tyler and was one of eleven birds this month which included four by Benfleet station on the 30th and the regular Eastwood bird. The only Hen Harrier of the month was a fine male that resided on Wallasea from the 23rd into 2009. Merlin were more noticeable in the closing week of the year with five different birds recorded with singles at Fleet Head, Eastwood, Wakering Stairs and two from Wallasea. Avocet numbers reached 103 on the new wetlands at Wallasea on the 23rd and a further 67 were on Two Tree Island. The only bird of note over Christmas was a Common Buzzard reported over Rawreth on the 25th. After a festive lull, birders were attracted to the coastline with its bracing air on the 28th. Highlights were four Great Northern Divers and the Purple Sandpiper on the Pier, a rather unseasonal Fulmar off Canvey Point, a showy Slavonian Grebe at Shoebury Coastguards which stayed for a week, and of course `Rossi' the Ring-billed Gull at Westcliff. Eleven of the Pitsea Waxwings were still present on the 29th. They proved difficult to connect with since arriving here on the 23rd and would often go missing for long periods. Unfortunately they only stayed until the 2nd January probably due to there being very few berries in the area. A Shag could be found once more at Shoebury East beach on the 30th and 31st. The final highlight of the year was the three Mandarins that dropped in once more to Friars Park before promptly disappearing yet again on the 1st January!