SOG Summary 2009

by Paul Baker, Southend Ornithological Group


Typically, many birders braved the New Year hangover on the 1st to find many of last month's birds still on station. Among the more unusual long stayers were the Slavonian Grebe off Shoebury until the 16th, the Shag at Shoebury which moved to the Pier on the 21st, the solitary Snow Bunting along Southchurch seafront all month, and the adult Whooper Swan among the 41 Mute Swans at South Fambridge. A Bewick's Swan, which flew over the Crouch there on the 1st, completed the trio of swans. The Pitsea Waxwing flock only stayed until the 2nd before moving on possibly to Chafford Hundred although six were reported in Thundersley on the 1st and a party of five paused briefly near Eastwood on the 3rd. An immature drake Eider was at Shoebury East beach on the 1st whilst nearby at Friars Park a Barnacle Goose the same day did not have the best of credentials. A Chiffchaff also at Friars Park from the 1st to the 11th was one of three seen this month in the area with others at Paglesham Lagoon remaining from December, and one in a Southchurch garden at the end of the month. Two Spotted Redshank and three Greenshank remained in the creek at Wat Tyler C.P. all month and there were five Green Sandpipers at three locations this month. A Jack Snipe on Canvey Island on the 1st was a good find. Rossi the Ring-billed Gull at Westcliff seafront performed well all month, although remarkably a different adult Ring-billed Gull was found at Shoebury East beach on the 1st and may have been the Hole Haven creek bird from November. On the sandbanks off Westcliff seafront, the Common Seal haul out reached a record 52. A Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was a good find at Hockley Woods on the 1st whilst a Firecrest reported there the next day was even better. Twenty Goldcrests on Hadleigh Downs on the 1st was a good winter count. The Purple Sandpiper on the Pier continued to be reported from the 2nd throughout the month and two Ruff were an unusual find at Hole Haven creek on the 2nd. Pintail maintained their relatively high numbers from last month with 32 at South Fambridge on the 2nd and 29 around Paglesham Lagoon on the 4th. Curiously, several flocks of Corn Buntings were reported on the 4th with the highest numbers being 60 along Benfleet Creek, 21 at Stambridge and 12 on Two Tree Island where four Bramblings were also reported. Several Blackcaps were noted this month with singles at Leigh, Benfleet, Hullbridge, and Hadleigh. Two Ring-necked Parakeets were now being seen occasionally at Priory Park during the month with both birds visiting a nearby bird table in Prittlewell on the 5th. During the particularly harsh weather from the 5th to the 10th, Vange Marsh turned up six Water Rails, a very commendable three Jack Snipe, 12 Common Snipe, and a Marsh Harrier which was one of the three males that were ranging between Bowers Marsh and Wat Tyler C.P. this month. A first-winter Iceland Gull paused for just ten minutes along Southend seafront on the 9th. Remarkably, last month's Little Stint and Curlew Sandpiper both persevered at Wallasea on the 9th despite the bitterly cold temperature and a male Hen Harrier there on the 9th and 16th was the only record this month. Eight Red-breasted Mergansers on the Crouch at South Fambridge on the 10th was the best count this month. A single Great Northern Diver remained off the Pier all month and was joined by a second bird for one day only, on the 11th. A report of a Spoonbill heading south over Wat Tyler C.P. on the 11th was given more credibility when one was seen a short time later flying over Cliffe Pools, Kent. Three Mandarins settled at Friars Park from the 11th to the 20th. Nearby, a female Eider sat out the high tide at Shoebury from the 13th to the 29th and a Purple Sandpiper on the jetty at Gunners Park on the 13th was quite likely to be a different bird to the one on the Pier all month. Survey work at Wallasea on the 15th and 16th produced 106 Avocets, 1,000 Golden Plover, the wintering Little Stint and Curlew Sandpiper, along with a Greenshank and best of all, a flock of 11 Barnacle Geese that flew over late on the 15th. The 16th was the only date this month that both Peregrines were present in Southend town centre with the male missing on all other dates although was probably accountable for many of the widespread sightings around the coast during the month. A Black Redstart was a great find at Shoebury Coastguards on the 19th but had moved on by the next day. A Red-throated Diver on the sea also at the Coastguards on the 20th was the only record this month. A much sought after local bird was seen from a train on the 21st when a Bittern was claimed at Benfleet. Remarkably what was surely the same bird was relocated predictably at Wat Tyler C.P. on the 27th where it proved extremely elusive but did show occasionally through to mid February. An escaped Saker headed over Hawkwell on the 24th and a second-year Glaucous Gull was photographed on a private tip at Pitsea. A count of 500 Sanderling along Southchurch seafront on the 25th was noteworthy. A claim of a Spoonbill heading north over Westcliff seafront on the 26th raised a few eyebrows. Given that one subsequently settled on Old Hall Marshes on the 29th raises the probability that it was the same bird, and most likely the same one that flew over Wat Tyler C.P. to north Kent two weeks previously. A female Lesser Spotted Woodpecker put in an appearance at Hockley Woods on the 27th with a male present on the 31st. A count of 12 Great Spotted Woodpeckers there on the 27th was notable. A juvenile Bewick's Swan appearing to be in distress spent the 27th to the 29th in a field on Wallasea. Other sightings of note at this time on Wallasea were a healthy count, by modern standards, of 40 Reed Buntings on the 28th and a Black Brant and a Pale-bellied Brent found in the Dark-bellied Brent flock on the 30th with both being seen again in February. The wintering Little Stint and the Curlew Sandpiper still survived with both seen on Wallasea on the 30th. Fewer Caspian Gulls have been found this winter although three were singled out on Pitsea tip on the 31st.


A male Blackcap was in a Leigh garden on the 2nd with further males in gardens in Canewdon on the 3rd and 13th, Great Wakering on the 8th, and Benfleet on the 12th. Vange Marsh still held a single Jack Snipe on the 3rd along with 20 Reed Buntings and a Marsh Harrier whilst ten Lesser Redpolls were a good find in Hockley Woods the same day. A Fulmar flying over Westcliff seafront at dusk on the 4th was certainly unusual. The only wintering Hen Harrier was the male on Wallasea which was seen again on the 11th, 17th and 24th after wandering to Canewdon on the 4th. Remarkably, a brief sighting was had of a Hawfinch in Hockley Woods on the 5th but despite searching was not seen again. On the 7th six Caspian Gulls and two Glaucous Gulls (a juvenile, and a second-winter) were identified on the private tip at Pitsea and Rossi the Ring-billed Gull was predictably at Westcliff seafront. Wallasea produced some good records on the 8th with both the Pale-belied Brent Goose and Black Brant still present, five Red-breasted Mergansers, a Marsh Harrier and four Stonechats. Nearby on the Roach over 120 Avocets and eight Goldeneye were counted the same day and a Short-eared Owl along the Roach was a good record. A drake Mandarin in Friars Park on the 8th was the sole record this month. Last month's Bittern was seen again at Wat Tyler C.P. on the 10th and a Chiffchaff at Canewdon was the first of four birds this month with others at Wat Tyler C.P. on the 14th, a Southend garden on the 15th, and a Westcliff garden on the 17th. The two Ring-necked Parakeets were seen again in Priory Park on the 17th and 23rd. A flock of 45 Linnets on Wallasea on the 12th was a good local count these days. The private tip at Pitsea came up trumps on the 14th with three Caspian Gulls, two Iceland Gulls and the two Glaucous Gulls from last week. A Short-eared Owl was on Two Tree Island on the 14th. The Pale-bellied Brent was seen for the last time on Wallasea on the 15th but the Black Brant was not seen again following the sighting on the 8th. Wallasea still held the wintering Little Stint and Curlew Sandpiper on the 15th, whilst the leucistic Lapwing present since late 2004, and three Ruff there on the 17th were equally notable. A pair of Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers showed well in Hockley Woods on the 16th and the Bittern at Wat Tyler put in its last appearance also on the 16th. There was a small arrival of Siskins in the last half of the month with two in Rayleigh on the 18th followed by four there on the 21st and another four were in Belfairs on the 27th. A local mega, the Coal Tit was found in a private area in Hockley on the 20th where it was heard singing. A pair of Marsh Harriers were quartering the reedbed at Wat Tyler C.P. on the 20th. Overwintering waders showed well in the creek at Wat Tyler C.P. from the 20th to the 22nd with a Spotted Redshank, three Greenshanks and five Green Sandpipers all present. Additional Green Sandpipers this month were three at Vange Marsh, two in Eastwood and one at Wakering Stairs. The very low temperatures did not deter the first two Adders and a Peacock butterfly from venturing out on Hadleigh Downs on the 21st and a Red Admiral braved the cold in a Leigh garden the same day. Four Greenshanks were counted on Two Tree Island on the 22nd when the Short-eared Owl put in further appearances on the 22nd and again on the 28th. A Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and a Treecreeper were reported from a wood in Hadleigh on the 22nd with the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker pair in Hockley Woods also reported again, this time on the 25th. Six Fulmar and a Gannet were seen from a boat in the Crouch estuary on the 23rd and a Porpoise was also seen in the same area on the 25th. Four adult Whooper Swans were found grazing on Bowers Marsh on the 27th and stayed through to the end of March. A Common Buzzard headed west over Thundersley on the 27th. Another session on the tip at Pitsea on the 28th found reduced numbers of Caspian Gulls with just two now present but there was a different Iceland Gull to the two from earlier in the month.

MARCH 2009

The male Hen Harrier on Wallasea was seen for the last time on the 1st and the overwintering Little Stint was still present and remained through to the 18th. A Grey Partridge was reportedly seen at Vange Marsh on the 1st as was a first-winter Glaucous Gull. 200 Fieldfares feeding in Bowers cemetery on the 1st were further confirmation that winter was still with us. The regular overwintering Green Sandpiper in Eastwood was seen for the final time on the 6th when a Muntjac was a pleasant surprise in woods at Daws Heath. A ringtail Hen Harrier had replaced the male on Wallasea on the 7th and was seen intermittently throughout the month. Two Twite were claimed on Two Tree Island on the 7th with a single there on the 11th and 13th. Other scarce finches were also more evident at this time with 35 Siskins at seven sites this month, seven Lesser Redpoll at three sites, three Bullfinch at two sites and a solitary Brambling in a Prittlewell garden on the 13th. Seven Goldeneye on the Roach on the 8th were the last reported birds of the winter. Ruff remain scarce locally so two at Fleet Head on the 10th were welcome with one still present on the 18th. There was a minor influx of Woodcock mid-month with four birds found in town gardens between the 12th and 21st. Two Short-eared Owls became very showy and reliable on Two Tree Island from the 13th through to the 28th with additional Short-eared Owls being seen on Wallasea on the 7th and two around Fleet Head on the 10th. Also on Two Tree Island at this time Corn Bunting numbers peaked at 28. Other flocks of Corn Buntings numbered 21 at Fleet Head, ten on Wallasea and eight at Paglesham during mid-month. First-winter Iceland Gull and Glaucous Gull were still on the tip at Pitsea on the 14th with both birds still present the following week although the Glaucous Gull did also visit Hole Haven creek on the 21st. Chiffchaffs arrived from the 14th with 43 different birds singing on territory by the month's end. Blackcaps by contrast were typically fewer in number with just three singing males this month, all between the 18th and 22nd. Wheatear arrived mid-month with singles in Gunners Park and at Hole Haven on the 15th and just a further two singles at Wakering Stairs and Wallasea before the end of the month. A Red-throated Diver off Two Tree Island on the 15th was only the second report of the year from the whole area. A male Hen Harrier at Wakering Stairs on the 15th may have been the Wallasea bird reorienting itself before heading back to its breeding grounds. Meanwhile a Common Buzzard headed north over Wakering Stairs the same day and was one of only two birds seen this month, with the other heading west over Bowers Marsh on the 21st. The four Whooper Swans on Bowers Marsh were joined by a Black Swan from the 19th where they all stayed until the 29th. Five Waxwings feeding on apples in Benfleet were a surprise find on the 21st, they remained until the 22nd. A Purple Sandpiper at Gunners Park on the 22nd was most likely a northbound passage bird, perhaps from Kent. Hirundines returned in the final week commencing with two Sand Martins at Wat Tyler C.P. on the 23rd, a Swallow there on the 25th and four House Martins on Two Tree Island on the 29th plus a single at Fleet Head. A Red Kite was reported gliding over Pitsea on the 25th and a Glaucous Gull was reported at Wat Tyler C.P. on the 26th. Rossi the Ring-billed Gull at Westcliff seafront put in his last appearance on the 28th having completed his tenth winter here. Ten Common Scoter were noted off Wakering Stairs on the 29th, the only sighting since November 2008. There was a noticeable increase in Marsh Harrier records this month with Wat Tyler C.P. being particularly favoured peaking at three birds here on the 29th and a further three singles elsewhere in the area all in the latter half of the month. One of the Ring-necked Parakeets took advantage of a bird table again in Prittlewell on the 31st.

APRIL 2009

The first of only two spring Black Redstarts spent the afternoon of the 2nd at Vange Marsh. A Brambling in Belfairs on the 2nd was one of very few records during this period although Lesser Redpoll faired a little better with six in Belfairs the next day. Mandarins were unusually more prominent this month after a mobile group of four were initially seen in Friars Park on the 3rd. The same group were subsequently seen at three sites in the Shoebury and Wakering area and were around all month. Another passage Purple Sandpiper was again at Gunners Park on the 3rd and proved to be the last of the spring. The first of two Common Buzzards this month drifted south-west over Thundersley Common on the 4th. The last Fieldfare of the winter was a single over Rochford golf course on the 4th; no Redwings remained into April. Last month's ringtail Hen Harrier on Wallasea was lingering around the Fleet Head area where it was seen on the 5th and 26th. Also at Fleet Head on the 5th were the first three Yellow Wagtails of the spring. The Two Tree Island Short-eared Owl was seen for the last time on the 5th although a different bird was seen daily at Wakering Stairs from the 4th through to the 25th at least. The first of just seven Willow Warblers this month was singing in Gunners Park on the 5th and a Ring Ouzel was reported on Hadleigh Downs the same day. Two Little Ringed Plovers arrived back at Vange Marsh on the 7th and had increased to four by the end of the month. Also present there on the 7th was a single Spotted Redshank increasing to four on the 11th. The first Sedge Warbler was singing at Vange Marsh on the 8th. On the coast five Red-breasted Mergansers still lingered on the Roach on the 8th with the last bird being a single drake there on the 16th. A Little Egret colony first established last year held an estimated 15 pairs on the 8th continuing the remarkable colonisation of this formally scarce visitor. Whitethroats were back on the 9th with three on Two Tree Island, and a Reed Warbler was singing at Wat Tyler C.P. on the 12th. A Grasshopper Warbler was claimed on Two Tree Island on the 9th, Cuckoo returned on the 10th with a single at Wakering Stairs and two Hobby were reported over Rawreth on the 10th. The first Common Tern was unusually quite far upriver with a single at South Fambridge on the 11th, Sandwich Terns were reported back the following day with five off Shoebury coastguards where a Great Northern Diver was also claimed. A reeling Grasshopper Warbler was proving typically elusive at Wakering Stairs on the 12th where it continued to sing all month and was joined by a second male the following week. On Two Tree Island a more confiding bird reeled from the 14th for a week and the area's fourth reeling male took up territory along Benfleet Creek from the 17th onwards. Lesser Whitethroats returned on the 13th with birds initially at Gunners Park and Wakering Stairs followed by good numbers over the next week including eight on Canvey West. Siskin passage increased this month with 28 birds at seven sites including 13 on the 13th over Gunners Park. By contrast there were much fewer Brambling records with just a single in Belfairs on the 2nd and four together in a Daws Heath garden on the 13th. Pleasingly, Water Voles were much more apparent this month and included seven at Vange Marsh on the 13th, three at Hadleigh Marshes on the 18th and one by Two Tree Island on the 19th. A Little Stint on Two Tree Island on the 14th and 15th was an excellent spring record. The second and last spring Black Redstart was reportedly in a back garden in Hullbridge on the 14th. Two Fulmar, seven Common Scoter and a Common Sandpiper were all logged from Gunners Park on the 18th. Wheatear numbers reached a high of eight on Hadleigh Downs on the 18th with an estimated 32 birds passing through six sites this month. Whimbrel passage increased noticeably from the 18th and continued through to the end of the month with a peak of ten on Wallasea. Nightingale are continuing to increase and following the arrival of a popular bird on Two Tree Island on the 18th, others were found on Benfleet Downs, Canvey West, Daws Heath, Belton Hills, Gunners Park and Wat Tyler C.P. over the next week. With up to ten males involved this looks to be a very good year locally. Another bird continuing to proliferate is the Cetti's Warbler. Just this month alone, 16 males were recorded from ten sites, their numbers clearly not adversely affected by the snows of February. A super find was made on the 18th when a territorial pair of Long-eared Owls were stumbled upon at a new site in the south. They showed well each evening this month and even put on a regular display of wing clapping. Two Marsh Harriers were seen daily around the Wallasea and Wakering complex from the 22nd to the 30th. The best find of the spring was a trip of eight Dotterel on Wallasea on the 25th, which were all predictably favouring a pea field. They only stayed the one day but then incredibly the same birder found another trip of five in the same field on the 29th that remained to the 30th. Also on Wallasea at this time, a Painted Lady was an unusually early spring claim on the 25th and 15 Reed Buntings and 20 singing Corn Buntings showed what an important stronghold this island is for these species locally. The first Swifts arrived simultaneously at two sites in Leigh and at Vange Marsh on the 25th. The second and last Common Buzzard of the month was over woods near Hockley on the 25th. Common Sandpiper struggled up to a peak of three at Vange Marsh on the 26th with singles this month also at Gunners Park and Paglesham Lagoon. A single Spotted Redshank remained at Vange Marsh. Two Turtle Doves at Gunners Park and a single at Wakering Stairs all on the 26th heralded the welcome return of this much reduced visitor. Finally, after returning home after finding the second trip of Dotterel on the 29th one lucky birder then enjoyed the sight of a Red Kite passing over his Canewdon garden.

MAY 2009

A Muntjac in Belfairs on the 1st was a good local record. A Common Buzzard heading south over Rawreth on the 2nd was the first of four records this month. Also at Rawreth on the 2nd were two Bullfinch with a single the same day on Benfleet Downs and a pair on Hadleigh Downs on the 10th. A Wood Sandpiper at Vange Marsh on the 3rd was the first local spring record since the turn of the century! The 5th brought a report of a Red Kite over Vange Marsh and an Osprey along Southend seafront. Yet another Nightingale was found on the 6th with a bird singing in Hockley Woods. Although Turtle Doves seemed to be in short supply this year, a respectable count of five was made at Wat Tyler on the 7th along with a further five at Wakering Stairs towards month's end. An additional six other Turtle Doves were at four other sites this month. The second Common Buzzard of the month was over Wallasea on the 10th. Star bird of the spring would have been the Marsh Sandpiper on Vange Marsh on the 11th had it have stayed longer than 25 minutes and allowed anymore than just the two lucky observers to see it. The last Dark-bellied Brent Geese were seen off Canvey Point on the 12th when four birds were there. None remained to summer this year. Unusually for spring, seawatching from Canvey Point and Gunners Park produced a few interesting records mid month thanks to a brisk east wind. Up to four Razorbills were on the Thames from the 11th to the 17th, a Kittiwake on the 12th was followed by five Gannets, four Little Gulls, 18 Arctic Terns, 13 Black Terns and two Guillemots all on the 13th. A Wheatear in Gunners Park on the 13th was the last of four birds this month whilst a Sanderling on Vange Marsh the same day was an unusual find. Spring wader passage came to an end over the next two days but not before a Temminck's Stint was found on Vange Marsh on the 14th which was the last day that the solitary Spotted Redshank present since late April was seen. Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper and Greenshank all headed north the following day with no further records of all three after the 15th. The second and last Red Kite of the month was reported over South Fambridge on the 17th. Painted Lady butterflies at Leigh on the 18th and Rayleigh on the 20th were the vanguard of literally thousands which arrived from the 24th onwards. The pair of Long-eared Owls in the south were seen for the last time on the 18th and a Redstart was reportedly on Two Tree Island on the 19th. A new high count of 96 seals was made around the Crouch and Thames estuaries on the 21st comprising a mix of both Common Seals and Grey Seals, two Fulmar were also seen. A Roe Deer in Belfairs Woods on the 21st was a truly excellent find and the first in the area in recent history. Three Spotted Flycatchers together at Fleet Head on the 22nd were unexpected and represented the only spring record of this declining visitor. Sadly none were found during the summer months and it is feared that Spotted Flycatchers have now been lost as local breeders. On a happier note, Stonechat juveniles with proud parents in tow were found on the 22nd at Hadleigh Downs and Two Tree Island. Two Hobby over Bowers Marsh on the 23rd was the only multiple sighting of the month although at least six others were seen in a wide range of other locations this month. Four Cuckoos at Wakering Stairs on the 24th was the peak spring count however approximately 25 others were noted this month from numerous sites across the area. A Common Buzzard flew west over Benfleet Creek on the 24th. Two female Marsh Harriers continued to hunt around the Paglesham and Wakering area all month with a male on Wallasea on the 24th. Wallasea also hosted an Eider, a Little Ringed Plover, and seven Knot on the 25th. A Black Swan was lurking over on Paglesham Lagoon on the 30th when ten Yellow Wagtails could still be found at Fleet Head. The final Common Buzzard of the month drifted north-east over Leigh on the 31st.

JUNE 2009

Typically the first half of June was very quiet with Heath Fritillaries stealing the headlines in the first week. A staggering 500 were in Starvelarks Wood, a further 500 were in nearby Pound Wood, 150 were in Hockley Woods, and 60 were in Belfairs N.R. A Roe Deer was seen again in Belfairs Woods on the 3rd and most interestingly a deer fawn was reported from here on the 11th by a dog walker. The only Common Buzzard of the month was mobbed as it headed west over Benfleet Downs on the 7th. A pair of Bullfinch in Pound Wood on the 8th were the first recorded here for several years. Offshore in the outer Crouch estuary eleven Gannets, two Fulmars and two Porpoise were reported on the 11th. A night time wildlife hunt on the night of the 12th/13th found a Muntjac in Hockley Woods along with a single Tawny Owl there whilst Hadleigh Downs held three very vocal Tawny Owls and Paglesham hosted a Barn Owl. The first of only two recorded Hummingbird Hawkmoths of the year was seen at Canewdon on the 16th. A Fulmar heading south over Southend town centre on the 17th was a great office tick for one birder. The first of very few White-letter Hairstreaks was on Benfleet Downs on the 17th with just three there by the end of the month. Return wader passage was signalled by three Green Sandpipers and a Common Sandpiper at Vange Marsh on the 19th. The two Ring-necked Parakeets present together around Prittlewell since the end of last November frequented their favourite garden again on the 21st, and a Bullfinch at Wakering Stairs the same day was a welcome record from this former stronghold. A Spoonbill at Vange Marsh on the 24th was part of an influx into East Anglia and was the highlight of an otherwise quiet month; unfortunately it only stayed the one day. After a short absence of seven weeks, the Peregrine pair returned to their favoured office block in central Southend on the 24th. In the outer Crouch estuary a boat reported two Dolphins and a Porpoise on the 24th. Five White Admirals in Belfairs N.R. on the 25th created much excitement with their numbers increasing to ten by the 30th. A superb summer plumage Ruff on Vange Marsh on the 25th was an excellent mid-summer record. The 26th was a day of noticeable return wader passage with six Spotted Redshank, a Greenshank and two Green Sandpipers at Fleet Head, and a single Spotted Redshank, Little Ringed Plover and seven Green Sandpipers at Vange Marsh. A Black Swan, one of probably two wandering individuals in the area, was hiding away at Battlesbridge on the 27th where a reeling Grasshopper Warbler was a surprise find, bringing the number of singing males to a respectable five across the area this summer. Last month's two Bullfinch at Rawreth were seen again on the 27th. Following the emergence of the first Marbled White on the 13th numbers built rapidly to an impressive peak of 136 along Hadleigh Downs on the 28th. The first Purple Hairstreaks of the summer were two in Belfairs N.R. on the 30th.

JULY 2009

Two Bearded Reedlings at Canvey Wick on the 1st were notable, as was a count of 100 Marbled Whites there. The Grasshopper Warbler at Battlesbridge was still reeling on the 2nd; all the others had presumably either paired up or moved on. A Bullfinch and a Garden Warbler were both surprise finds during a Timed Tetrad Atlas visit near Canewdon on the 5th. A Dormouse on the 9th feeding on honeysuckle nectar in Belfairs Woods was a wonderfully fortunate find. Although present in a number of local woods they are almost impossible to see. On the 10th the White Admirals in Belfairs Woods peaked at 12 after proving most popular for the last fortnight. Surprisingly none were recorded subsequently. Purple Hairstreaks also peaked on the 10th with a more modest four, with Belfairs Woods again being the preferred site. Remaining with butterflies, six White-letter Hairstreaks were counted along Benfleet Downs the next day. The 12th brought a report of a Red Kite over Hockley and four Turtle Doves were at Wakering Stairs. Other records of Turtle Dove this month consisted of a single at Fleet Head and groups of three and two at two sites near Canewdon. The first of only two Crossbills this autumn was predictably recorded flying south over Belfairs Woods on the 16th where early autumn flyovers are annual. A Treecreeper seen in Belfairs Woods on the 18th was a good mid-summer record. Confirmation came later in the summer that two pairs had bred successfully in the wood. Vange Marsh held a few waders on the 18th with five Little Ringed Plovers and nine Spotted Redshank being the highlights. A Woodcock reported on Hadleigh Downs on the 24th was an interesting mid-summer record. A Dark-bellied Brent Goose on Wallasea on the 24th was the sole summer record this year. The closing week provided some interesting raptor records. An exceptionally early Merlin on Wallasea on the 24th was closely followed by an Osprey over Wakering Common on the 25th, single Marsh Harriers at Fleet Head, Canewdon and Wallasea all on the 25th and a different Marsh Harrier along the Crouch at Canewdon on the 26th. Peregrine and Hobby records increased considerably with at least 14 records of Hobby and daily records of Peregrine from across the area with perhaps 4-5 birds present. The Garden Warbler at Canewdon was still present on the 25th whilst nearby Wallasea hosted 18 Little Terns, 40 Yellow Wagtails, 20 Corn Buntings, 20 Skylarks and 20 Linnets on the 25th. Single Clouded Yellows were at Canewdon on the 25th and Southend on the 26th. A new county record count of 186 Mediterranean Gulls was made along the Southend seafront on the 26th. Given that 200 pairs of Mediterranean Gulls bred this year in north Kent directly opposite Southend this may explain the origin of our now annual early summer influx. The regular Ring-necked Parakeet again frequented its favoured Prittlewell garden on the 27th. Waders were on the move on the 28th when nine Spotted Redshanks, 12 Greenshanks, 13 Green Sandpipers and ten Common Sandpipers were all duly logged on Vange Marsh. A further 12 Greenshank and six Green Sandpipers were at Fleet Head. Little Egret numbers began to build on Two Tree Island with 67 counted at roost on the 28th. A Badger was also on the island that same evening. Finally, a group of 13 juvenile Bearded Reedlings at Wat Tyler on the 29th were welcome proof of successful breeding in the reedbed.


A pair of Ring-necked Parakeets were to be found around Southend cemetery on the 1st and were presumably the Prittlewell birds. The only Caspian Gull of the month was singled out on Pitsea Tip also on the 1st. One of the two long staying and wide ranging Black Swans was found lurking on Paglesham Lagoon on the 2nd where it remained through to the 15th. Eleven Common Sandpipers at Vange Marsh on the 5th was a rather low peak count of the autumn for the area. A rather obliging Barn Owl was an unusual find on Two Tree Island for this time of year on the 5th. It continued to show well daily through to the 20th. A Great Skua off Canvey Point on the 6th was the first of just two singles seen this month, the other being off Wakering Stairs on the 16th. Close scrutiny of the roosting wader flock on Canvey Point on the 7th was rewarded with an excellent juvenile Kentish Plover. Only the second ever local record, it was unfortunately found mid-week and remained just for the afternoon. Also at Canvey Point on the 7th was the first of just two Arctic Skuas this month, a Little Gull, a rather disappointing peak count of 35 Little Terns and a much more impressive 130 Black Terns. Vange Marsh held five Little Ringed Plovers, ten Green Sandpipers and five Common Sandpipers on the 7th. The first of two Curlew Sandpipers this month was an adult on Wallasea on the 7th where Marsh Harriers reached a monthly peak of three. An estimated total of seven Marsh Harriers were seen across the area during August including one seen migrating low across the Thames to Kent. A very popular Osprey at Wakering Stairs was first found on the 8th. It could be seen through all states of the tide sitting on posts off the slipway and was seen every day thereafter through the month. The only Clouded Yellow of the month was reported on Two Tree Island on the 9th when 162 Mediterranean Gulls were still to be found along Southend seafront. The last Little Ringed Plover of the autumn was on Canvey Point on the 9th. Three Turtle Doves at Wakering Stairs on the 12th was the best count this month and apart from a single at Paglesham Lagoon on the 16th represented the only records. Rossi, the Ring-billed Gull returned to Westcliff seafront on the 13th for his eleventh winter. The Little Egret roost on Two Tree Island reached a new high of 126 on the 14th with birds seemingly dripping off the trees like over laden fruit trees. A Fulmar heading inland over Southchurch seafront on the 16th was unusual and the first of three Spotted Flycatchers this month was at Stambridge. Fleet Head hosted two Ruff on the 19th along with 30 Yellow Wagtails. The Yellow Wagtails remained through to the end of the month whereas at least one of the Ruff moved to nearby Barling on the 22nd. A Common Buzzard at South Fambridge on the 19th was the only record this month. Corn Bunting had started to flock with 35 at Fleet Head on the 21st and 20 at Paglesham Lagoon. The Osprey at Wakering Stairs was briefly joined by a second individual on the 22nd. An Egyptian Goose was claimed at Southchurch Park East on the 22nd but could not be confirmed. The only Crossbill of the month flew over a Leigh garden on the 25th. Two more Ruff were found on the 27th, this time at Vange Marsh with Wat Tyler holding one the following day along with ten Spotted Redshank. The second Spotted Flycatcher of the month was at Coombe Wood on the 28th. Visible migration was apparent off Canvey Point on the 28th when a Merlin headed south across the river followed soon after by two Hobby also crossing the river. The Thames itself had high numbers of terns including 200 Common Terns and 21 Arctic Terns. The second and last Curlew Sandpiper of the month was on the mud off Canvey Point. Finally on the 28th, a juvenile Montagu's Harrier was reported over Lion Creek near Wallasea. Yellow-legged Gull numbers had reached a respectable 13 on Pitsea Tip on the 29th. Wallasea was productive on the 30th providing the highest count of the month for Green Sandpipers with eleven, Whinchat with five, and Wheatear with nine. The third Spotted Flycatcher of the month was at Wakering Stairs on the 30th. The first two returning Wigeon of the autumn flew by Wakering Stairs before resting on the sea off Gunners Park on the 31st and the creamy coloured leucistic Lapwing returned to Wallasea for its sixth winter.


The 3rd saw two Curlew Sandpipers at Canvey Point, only two others were recorded all month those being on Two Tree Island on the 20th. Interestingly no Little Stints were noted all autumn perhaps due to the dry conditions at most the favoured sites. An adult Roseate Tern was an exceptionally good record on the 3rd as it flew slowly past Canvey Point. Slightly more predictable was a Manx Shearwater there the same day. The Manx Shearwater was followed by an exceptional series of sightings with at least one bird seen every day through to the 15th with multiple sightings of two birds on the 9th and three individuals on the 15th. It was concluded that one resident individual was responsible for many of the records although a long staying Manx Shearwater in the Thames is unprecedented. Two Spotted Flycatchers in Gunners Park on the 4th heralded a good run of records of this species. An impressive seven individuals were in Gunners Park the following day along with further singles during the month at Barling, Canvey, Coombe Wood, Wat Tyler and two additional birds in Gunners Park through to the 11th. Other normally scarce autumn passerines fared well with nine different Redstarts this month which included perhaps six birds passing through Gunners Park, two through Wakering Stairs and one at Canewdon. Whinchat reached a stratospheric 20 at Barling on the 6th with a further 26 passing through various sites this month including six on Hadleigh Marshes on the 6th. Wheatear numbers were more conservative with no more than nine together at any one site with Wallasea Island the site of choice on the 5th. By far the most incredible sighting of the year must have been the flock of seven Glossy Ibis flying over Bowers Marsh on the 7th. Frantic searching of all nearby sites failed to relocate them although a Garganey, Common Buzzard and Spotted Redshank were all found at Wat Tyler. The seven Glossy Ibis were seen a few days later on the Ouse Washes. Marsh Harriers moved through in small numbers this month mostly as singles although three were together at Wakering Stairs on the 5th of which two headed out across the Thames. Four Turtle Doves also at Wakering Stairs on the 5th was the last multiple count of the year and rounded off a very poor year for this species. A summer plumaged Red-throated Diver off Canvey Point on the 5th was unusually early, it continued to be seen through to the 12th. In contrast the last Swift of the year was over Leigh on the 6th. Two Tree Sparrows in Gunners Park on the 6th began a remarkable series of records with three birds present on the 9th remaining through to the 12th before they flew off strongly west and were lost to view. To put this into perspective there has only been one confirmed record of a single bird in the last fifteen years locally. Clouded Yellows were more evident this month after two in Gunners Park on the 6th. Highest numbers were reached later in the month with four on Wallasea, which included one of the Helice form, five on Canvey, and six in Gunners Park all between the 20th and 26th. The second and last Hummingbird Hawkmoth of the year was in a Leigh garden on the 8th. A Purple Sandpiper stayed just for the day on the Pier on the 8th. This traditional winter visitor has an increasing incidence of passage in September with autumn records in five of the last seven years. Seawatching off Canvey stepped up a gear on the 9th following strong easterlies with two Manx Shearwaters, 49 Arctic Skuas, 82 Mediterranean Gulls, an adult Sabine's Gull, 30 Black Terns and a Porpoise. Considering the high number of Arctic Skuas seen on the 9th it is interesting to note that no other skua species were caught up in the movement at all. Equally interesting is the series of Sabine's Gull records that followed when up to three birds were recorded daily through to the 18th. An absolute minimum of four birds, (an adult and three juveniles), were involved but it may have been as many as nine. A report of a `ringtail' Harrier at Fleet Head on the 11th raised some eyebrows with Montagu's being the most likely candidate given the date. Seawatching at Canvey continued to delight mid-month. Arctic Skua were plentiful and included 39 on the 11th, Pomarine Skuas were unusually scarce and were all concentrated between the 12th and 16th but did reach a respectable high of 17 on the 15th, the same day that Great Skua numbers hit 53. The only Long-tailed Skua of the autumn was a juvenile on the 16th completing a four skua species day. Other highlights included 35 Arctic Terns on the 11th, 43 Common Scoter on the 12th, the first Guillemot of the autumn on the 12th with four present on the 16th along with a Razorbill. The Essex record day count for Gannets was broken on the 15th when 465 passed Canvey and the first Dark-bellied Brent Geese returned. Considering the relatively good passage of seabirds there was only one unconfirmed report of a Sooty Shearwater through the Thames. It was apparently seen on the 18th on an otherwise quiet day although a Red-necked Phalarope at Canvey Point was belatedly identified five weeks later from photographs. A report of a large cetacean in the Outer Crouch on the 13th is particularly noteworthy given that a Humpback Whale washed up dead at Deptford the following day. Two Merlin, a Hobby and a Kestrel all crossed the Thames on the 16th from Kent to Shoebury. Away from the sea there was a small fall of Pied Flycatchers between the 15th and 21st with three birds through Gunners Park and singles in Shoebury and Stambridge. The only passage Garden Warbler of the autumn was in Gunners Park on the 17th. Two days later in Gunners Park there was a big movement of hirundines with 500 House Martins and 250 Swallows crowding the trees and airspace whilst an incredible 1,000 House Martins were hawking over Canewdon church shortly after first light on the 22nd before quickly departing. A mini influx of Common Buzzards occurred between the 24th and 26th with three different birds at three locations; Southend Airport, Wat Tyler, and Wakering Stairs. A group of five Spotted Redshank at Wat Tyler on the 25th was the only record all month from across the area except for a single there on the 5th. Equally, three Eider off Gunners Park on the 25th were the first since a single at Wallasea in May which in turn was the first since a single off Shoebury in January. A pair of Ruddy Duck furtively revealed a brood of four at one site on the 26th. Wader passage struggled on towards the end of the month with ten Green Sandpipers on Wallasea on the 27th. Two Tawny Owls were vocal in Rawreth on the 28th. Yet another all too brief, single observer record of Great White Egret was made on the 29th as one flew over Wat Tyler. The first Siskin of the autumn was in a Leigh garden on the 30th.


A Muntjac trotting down the central reservation in suburban Leigh on the 3rd was a surprise and had probably wandered from nearby Belfairs. Two Pink-footed Geese flying west past Southend seafront on the 3rd was a good record of this less than annual visitor. Continuing the run of Tree Sparrow records from last month, two more were discovered at Fleet Head on the 4th where they remained through to the 18th but not before being joined by an additional two birds from the 15th onwards. Last month's new county record count of Gannets was shattered on the 5th when an estimated 1,000 streamed past Canvey. Typically, in attendance were high numbers of Great Skuas with the total of 70 representing the best count since 2004. The last three Arctic Skuas of the autumn also passed by. Good numbers of Corn Buntings were found this month with 70 at Fleet Head on the 6th the highest count and a further 46 were on Canvey. A Turtle Dove at Fleet Head on the 7th was very late and constituted only the fourth ever October record locally. An outrageous piece of good fortune befell one birder at Rochford who took a tea break from work on the 8th just in time to see a Glossy Ibis fly low over his head from the nearby creek. A Common Buzzard also passed over Rochford on the 8th. There was a small influx of Clouded Yellows with seven seen between the 8th and the 12th and three more on the 18th. A Lesser Redpoll over Leigh on the 9th was the first of a handful of records this month. Continuing the theme of single observer records of Great White Egret, another sighting was had of a bird low in flight over Two Tree Island but yet again it was not relocated subsequently. At Two Tree Island the following day the 3000 strong Dark-bellied Brent Goose flock hosted the hoped for Black Brant and a transient Pale-bellied Brent Goose. The Black Brant was seen throughout the month whereas the Pale-bellied Brent Goose was last recorded on the 12th. Gunners Park on the 10th hosted a Wheatear along with the first Redwings of the winter. The first Fieldfares arrived two days later with three at Canewdon and the first Goldeneye of the winter flew past Canvey on the 16th. A Whooper Swan on Paglesham Lagoon on the 17th was an unexpected but most welcome find. Three Lesser Redpolls were found on the 18th in a Benfleet garden, with a further two in a Leigh garden on the 28th and a single in a Thundersley garden on the 29th. Staying with finches, a female Brambling frequented a garden in Hullbridge on the 19th and 25th. A Yellow Wagtail at Fleet Head on the 19th was very late. The second and last Common Buzzard of the month flew low over Canewdon on the 20th. The last autumn seawatch of note was on the 21st when three Red-throated Divers, a Black-throated Diver, four Great Skuas, six Little Gulls, four Common Terns and an Arctic Tern were all logged off Canvey. A late Wheatear was in Gunners Park on the 22nd. Yellowhammers have been very scarce all year with 12 at South Fambridge on the 25th the best count of the entire year so far. Two Swallows passed through Southchurch on the 25th whilst the last House Martin was over Coombe Wood the next day. A Black Swan was at Hullbridge on the 29th. Despite good numbers of Black Redstarts in the country this autumn, only a solitary bird was found locally and that was on Two Tree Island on the 30th. A Ring-necked Parakeet over Rochford on the 30th was likely to be a different bird to the Priory Park duo.


A Merlin headed west through Southend town on the 1st and a late Arctic Tern was off Canvey seafront also on the 1st. Equally tardy was a Wheatear on Wallasea on the 2nd. A Great White Egret was reported again on Two Tree Island on the 6th, it was also seen on the 13th when it flew past Chalkwell. Four Siskins were in Coombe Wood on the 7th. A Firecrest was found in Belfairs on the 7th with another two in Hockley Woods on the 10th. Canewdon hosted a respectable 100 Skylarks, 20 Corn Buntings and six Siskins on the 8th, the same day that three Goldeneye returned for the winter on the Roach. A Pale-bellied Brent Goose was found among its more usual brethren at Wakering Stairs on the 14th. A Peacock butterfly braved the weak sunshine on Wallasea on the 15th whilst two Blackcaps and a Chiffchaff were preparing to hunker down for the winter in Rawreth the same day. One of the Hockley Woods Firecrests revealed itself again on the 15th. A male Hen Harrier along the Roach on the 17th was the first of the winter. Green Sandpipers were on the move over the next few days with four at Canvey West on the 19th and one at Eastwood on the 20th. A Woodcock on Two Tree Island on the 20th was a good site record. A Purple Sandpiper spent just the one day on the Pier on the 21st, three Lesser Redpoll were typically favouring silver birch trees in Rawreth on the 22nd, and a relatively good count of 19 Yellowhammers was made at South Fambridge on the 25th. A Leach's Petrel close in at Westcliff seafront on the 28th was superbly photographed but sadly taken into care shortly afterwards where it died the following day. Two Tree Island held a Spotted Redshank on the 29th. Seawatching at Canvey on the 29th turned up a staggering record in the shape of a second-winter Franklin's Gull, which was present for just two minutes in the morning. Arriving birders were disappointed but did add the first Great Northern Diver of the winter, along with a Little Gull and three Pink-footed Geese which flew high across the Thames to Kent. A concerted seawatch off Canvey the following day yielded spectacular results with the Franklin's Gull being the obvious highlight as it was watched following a ship upriver. Other highlights of a remarkable day were 19 Red-throated Divers, a Gannet, four Scaup, five Eider, a female Long-tailed Duck, 38 Common Scoter, a Velvet Scoter, a Pomarine Skua, an Arctic Skua, seven Great Skuas, 62 Kittiwake and two Guillemot. Meanwhile, an Egyptian Goose at Vange Marsh briefly on the 30th would have got more attention had it not been totally overshadowed by events at Canvey.


The only Brambling of the winter was a male on Canvey West on the 3rd. Nearby, three Spotted Redshanks were in the creek at Wat Tyler the same day with a single on Two Tree Island later in the month. The now regular Ring-necked Parakeet again frequented its favoured garden in Prittlewell on the 3rd although the second bird that occasionally accompanied it has not been seen since early September. An adult Whooper Swan visited Paglesham Lagoon again on the 5th where it remained until the following day. The Purple Sandpiper on the Pier was proving unreliable again this month being seen on the 5th only. Four Eider which resided on the Crouch off Wallasea from the 7th for a week were most welcome as there are so few records of this seaduck these days, although a further two were off Gunners Park on the 20th, and four were off Canvey on the 29th. A flock of 44 Corn Buntings were at Fleet Head on the 12th, four Siskins were found in Shipwrights Wood and a single Lesser Redpoll was at Rawreth. Rossi the Ring-billed Gull took a brief sojourn to Canvey on the 12th but was generally much more reliable at Westcliff seafront this month being seen most days. A Curlew Sandpiper found overwintering at Wallasea wetlands on the 12th repeated events of last winter here although it was only seen again on the 13th before reappearing in February. Two Hen Harriers settled into their wintering quarters from the 12th with a ringtail favouring the creeks around Potton, and a male preferring the Crouch with occasional sorties to the Roach. A handful of Marsh Harriers also wintered with a pair around the Paglesham area, and another two around the Canvey West and Wat Tyler area. Merlin also became more regular since the 12th when a female took up residence on Wallasea where she could be found most days. Wallasea revealed another of its wintering specialities on the 13th, this time in the diminutive shape of a Little Stint. It remained through the winter but proved very difficult to locate being seen on only one or two occasions each month. An adult Whooper Swan at South Fambridge on the 13th may well have been the Paglesham bird from earlier in the month. It remained at South Fambridge until the 25th January. A Black-necked Grebe was a surprise find on Paglesham Lagoon on the 13th; it stayed until the 19th. Nearby on the Roach, a Great Northern Diver was seen on the 13th with a further two birds taking up station off Gunners Park where they remained eating crabs into mid-January. Six different Blackcaps were found this month and all between the 19th and 26th with gardens in Leigh and Rayleigh the locations of choice. A couple of Woodcock turned up in back gardens on the 19th and 20th in Westcliff and Leigh, and Jack Snipe were also seen on the 19th and 20th in Eastwood Brook and at Vange Marsh. Goldeneye reached a winter peak of 32 on Paglesham Lagoon on the 19th. A Black Redstart was an excellent find in Gunners Park on the 19th but could not be refound shortly afterwards. A family party of four Bewick's Swans was watched flying in off the sea over Canvey Point heading north on the 20th and the first Black-throated Diver of the winter was found off Shoebury East Beach on the 20th. No sizeable Siskin flocks were found this month although 16 did fly over Wakering Stairs on the 20th, this being the highest count of the winter. The 23rd saw the month's only Common Buzzard, which was on roadkill at Canewdon and a very healthy 180 Linnets were on nearby Wallasea Island. Two days later an equally impressive count of 250 Skylark was also made on Wallasea Island. Wintering Greenshank numbered three at Two Tree Island on the 27th with a further two in Holehaven creek and a single on Wallasea wetlands. More unusually, a Budgerigar was found at Hockley Woods on the 27th feeling the ill effects of the intense cold and was taken into care. Three Lesser Redpoll paused to feed briefly at Stambridge on the 28th whilst a Porpoise off Gunners Park the same day was noteworthy. Canvey seafront was the place to be on the 29th when four Eider, two Slavonian Grebes, two Velvet Scoter, and eight Little Gulls were all reported past in the morning. A second-winter Iceland Gull was reported from Pitsea tip on the 30th, the same day that a Black-throated Diver found Westcliff seafront to its liking. It stayed through to February and at times showed ridiculously well and was twitched along with Rossi the Ring-billed Gull by many birders from outside the region. The year closed on the 31st with another excellent seawatching session off Canvey seafront. The highlights of which were 15 Red-throated Divers, a different Black-throated Diver to the Westcliff bird, 32 Common Scoter, two Little Gulls, 24 Kittiwake, and five Great Skuas which equals the Essex mid-winter count for this species.