SOG Summary 2010

by Paul Baker, Southend Ornithological Group


All the Red-throated Diver records for the beginning of the year fell between the 1st and 3rd when singles were recorded in the Thames between Wakering Stairs and Westcliff seafront where the obliging Black-throated Diver continued to show well all month. A second Black-throated Diver also toured the estuary and was seen intermittently. Great Northern Divers completed the trio peaking at seven off the Pier on the 3rd. Last month's Whooper Swan was again at Paglesham on the 1st before settling down for the winter later that day at South Fambridge where it remained all month. An immature drake Eider was a bonus off Westcliff seafront on the 1st and was seen subsequently off Canvey Point on the 9th. The Purple Sandpiper on the Pier proved popular with yearlisters and was seen most days throughout the month from the 2nd onwards although frustratingly would occasionally go missing. Equally popular with yearlisters was the Ring-necked Parakeet which roosted most evenings in Priory Park between the 2nd and the 16th. Four Mandarins were found in Friars Park on the 3rd where they remained through to the 18th when they were joined by a fifth bird. One of last month's Eider lingered off Wallasea from the 3rd to the 19th where the over-wintering Little Stint put in its only appearance of the month on the 3rd. A Slavonian Grebe was a good find off Wakering Stairs on the 3rd and a Water Vole was recorded on Two Tree Island the same day. There were still at least two Marsh Harriers wintering around the Roach complex whilst by the 3rd there were now three in the Wat Tyler area. The near adult male Hen Harrier and the ringtail continued to be reported with regularity around the creeks all month with the male preferring the Crouch and the ringtail the Roach. A Black Swan was at Hullbridge on the 3rd. A Red-necked Grebe was an excellent find at South Fambridge on the 4th when nearby two Jack Snipe were flushed from a borrowdyke at Raypits. A further three were frozen out at Vange Marsh a few days later. A flock of 12 adult Bewick's Swans arrived overnight at South Fambridge and had joined up with the Whooper Swan and 44 Mute Swans on the 5th providing good opportunities for size comparisons. Subsequently, the Bewick's Swans reached 13 with considerable interchange between South Fambridge, Wallasea, and Paglesham although the Whooper Swan remained loyal to South Fambridge. The freezing conditions forced dabbling ducks onto the tidal Crouch resulting in an excellent count of 240 Pintail at Raypits on the 5th with a very brief redhead Smew there being the surprise of the day. Two Chiffchaffs soldiered on at Hadleigh Downs on the 6th with further singles at Vange Marsh, Friars Park and Pitsea station, and all between the 4th and the 8th. Blackcap fared considerably better with 11 birds, all males bar one, at various garden localities throughout the month. Last month's second-winter Iceland Gull was seen again on the 7th for the final time from Wat Tyler on Vange Wick. On the 8th, six Red-crested Pochards, three pairs, were found on the Crouch at South Fambridge and were presumably frozen out from the Midlands or conceivably the near continent. This constitutes only the second multiple record of this species on tidal waters in Essex. Another bird frozen out from its usual haunts was a Water Pipit along the tideline at Shoebury East Beach on the 8th. A mobile Spoonbill was seen flying around Wat Tyler and Pitsea Hall Creek on the 9th, it was seen the following day flying east past Leigh seafront. Remarkably it was subsequently relocated on Foulness on the 14th and even appeared in the local newspaper. A juvenile Glaucous Gull was seen for the first time on Vange Wick from Wat Tyler on the 9th, it remained all month being seen again from the 23rd to the 27th before moving to Mucking. After five Great Skuas were counted off Canvey on the 31st December, only a single was seen in January, and that was on the 9th. Winter thrushes reached their maximums on the 9th and 10th with the highest counts being 450 Fieldfare in Eastwood, 400 Redwings on Canvey and 300 Redwings in Pitsea with several other three-figure counts across the region. The cold conditions were also responsible for a staggering 1,000 Skylarks and 150 Linnets on Wallasea on the 10th where the first sighting of a Black Brant was also made. The Black Brant remained on Wallasea until the 6th February. Two Ruff on Vange Marsh on the 10th was the start of a build up in numbers in the creek at Wat Tyler that saw seven there by month's end. The only Lesser Redpoll of the month was a single near Rawreth on the 10th. A much sought after local bird, a Bittern was seen for just five minutes on the scrape at Wat Tyler on the 10th. With high numbers in the country due to the freezing conditions it was disappointing that this was the only record of the winter and frustratingly it was not seen again. Two drake Eiders flew east past Gunners Park on the 11th bringing the number of Eider in the area this month to four. Poor by historical standards but good compared to the most recent years. A fly-over Waxwing at Hockley on the 12th was not the precursor to the anticipated influx. There were no more sightings of this symbolic winter species during January. Green Sandpipers were scarcer than usual as a result of the harsh conditions although four were on Canvey West on the 14th with just three other singles seen across the region, each on one occasion only. Corn Bunting flocks were widespread this month with 52 on Wallasea on the 16th the largest. Further notable flocks were 45 at Fleet Head, 43 along the Crouch at Raypits, 27 on Canvey West, 13 on Two Tree Island, 12 on Hadleigh Marshes and ten at Paglesham Lagoon. A female Merlin also took up a permanent position on Wallasea on the 16th and was seen daily all month, a male was also seen there on four dates. The first Pale-bellied Brent Geese of the year were found on Wallasea on the 17th with an adult and a first-winter there. Numbers increased to three adults on the 24th. A pair of Scaup were a good find on Paglesham Lagoon on the 17th, they remained through into February. A Peacock butterfly also at Paglesham Lagoon on the 17th was notable and not unsurprisingly was the only butterfly seen in the first two months. The clear skies and sunshine on the 17th encouraged Common Buzzards to wander with singles over Bowers Marsh, Paglesham, and Stambridge. On the 18th, a juvenile Iceland Gull put in its first appearance of the winter on Vange Wick, viewed from Wat Tyler. It was seen subsequently in February and March. In the creek at Wat Tyler on the 19th, three Spotted Redshanks and two Greenshank were found wintering. Additional Spotted Redshanks were at Fleet Head and Two Tree Island this month whereas Greenshank were a little more numerous with three on Two Tree Island and singles at Westcliff and Wallasea. Also on Wallasea, 150 Avocet were counted on the 19th with another 79 on the Roach at Paglesham. In keeping with the rest of the country, Woodcock were widespread this month and included six in Belfairs Woods on the 19th. A further 15 birds were recorded from 11 sites this month. A Red Kite was a surprise find on the 21st when it was seen on two occasions over Rayleigh before being sighted over Priory Park on the 24th and Ashingdon on the 26th. Mirroring events at Rainham and East Tilbury, a Slavonian Grebe took a liking to a rather inconsequential farm reservoir on Vange Wick on the 23rd where it could be `scoped from the high ground at Wat Tyler. It remained through into March and at times could even be found on the floods on the fields. An early contender for bird of the year was a Red-breasted Goose found among the 1500 Dark-bellied Brent Geese on Wallasea on the 23rd. It had excellent credentials for being a genuine vagrant and sparked the first local `twitch' of the year. It was remarkably inconspicuous in the brent flock which also held a Black Brant and three Pale-bellied Brent Geese, completing an excellent quartet of branta. The Red-breasted Goose remained loyal to Wallasea the next day but could not be found subsequently although it did turn up with the brent flock at Wakering Stairs on the 7th February. Two Black Swans at Stambridge on the 23rd were far less exciting. The good run of Common Buzzards continued with birds over Leigh and Potton on the 24th and South Fambridge on the 30th. A second similar aged bird on the 27th joined the first-winter Glaucous Gull on Vange Wick viewed from Wat Tyler. Vange Wick continued to turn up the white-wingers, this time with an adult Iceland Gull on the 30th which was seen again on the 1st and 2nd February. In January alone, Vange Wick attracted three Iceland Gulls and two Glaucous Gulls. A Cetti's Warbler was heard on Canvey West on the 30th, the only site away from its strongholds of Wat Tyler and Vange Marsh that it was recorded from this month. Early indications are that numbers are much reduced following the harsh winter but that at least two males survived at Wat Tyler and another two at Vange Marsh. The mobile Spoonbill reappeared briefly on the 31st at Wat Tyler and Vange Marsh before disappearing again after ten minutes. Thirty Common Snipe on Vange Wick on the 31st was surprisingly the only `wisp' of note given the harsh conditions. `Rossi' the Ring-billed Gull was predictably at Westcliff seafront on the 31st and proved most reliable for yearlisters being present each day throughout the month.


A Red-necked Grebe was found off Canvey Point on the 1st. It remained in the Thames through to the 13th being also seen from the Pier during this time. A more obliging Red-necked Grebe was at South Fambridge on the 9th where it showed well to all comers through to the 15th, often down to twenty metres. The highly mobile and surprisingly elusive Spoonbill at Wat Tyler was seen briefly again on the 2nd. By mid February it was reportedly back on Foulness again. Paglesham Lagoon still held 22 Goldeneye and the pair of Scaup on the 3rd. Last month's juvenile Iceland Gull at Vange Wick was seen again on the 4th and 15th. Common Buzzards were on the move on the 6th when four birds were seen across the area and a further two birds were seen later in the month. At least two Hen Harriers and three Marsh Harriers continued to favour their haunts from last month. Wallasea again held a Black Brant and a Pale-bellied Brent Goose on the 6th along with a fly-over skein of 37 White-fronted Geese. These proved to be the prelude to a much larger movement the following day when 180 passed northeast just offshore from Wakering Stairs and 28 passed over Canvey. Also at Wakering Stairs the same day was last month's Red-breasted Goose which was predictably with 300 Dark-bellied Brent Geese. Two Curlew Sandpipers were found on Wallasea on the 7th. Although one had been seen in December 2009 none had been seen in January despite searching. They remained until at least the 21st. One of only two Siskins this month was in a Hockley garden on the 7th, the other was at Wat Tyler briefly on the 26th. A walk around the underwatched southern perimeter of Hockley Woods on the 9th yielded four Goldcrests and a Firecrest. Further visits revealed Firecrests on a daily basis in almost every suitable stand of Holly trees. There may have been anywhere between three and six Firecrests found there this month. By contrast, Goldcrests proved to be much scarcer with no further sightings in Hockley Woods this month and just a further two in Priory Park. The overwintering Little Stint on Wallasea put in its only appearance of the month on the 12th. Lesser Spotted Woodpecker finally got pinned down in Hockley Woods on the 12th with three birds, including an obvious pair, showing daily with patience through to the end of March. Also present in Hockley Woods at this time were three Nuthatch, six Treecreepers, two Woodcock, as well as the Firecrests from last week. Two Slavonian Grebes were sat on the sea off Shoebury Coastguards on the 12th, whilst another showed incredibly well on the old sewage lagoons on Two Tree Island on the 14th. The Slavonian Grebe on Vange Wick remained throughout. On the Thames, the only record of Black-throated Diver came from Canvey Point on the 13th. Two Red-throated Divers and two Great Northern Divers were also reported from various points along the Thames during the month. Mandarins at Friars Park had reduced to just one drake on the 13th. Surprisingly, five Chiffchaffs were reported from the ringing area at Wat Tyler on the 13th, all the more notable given that there were no other records from anywhere else this month. Typically, Blackcaps continued to be reported from gardens with five single males this month in Leigh, Benfleet, Rochford, Rayleigh, and Ashingdon. A confiding Snow Bunting was an excellent find on the seawall at South Fambridge on the 14th. Being the only local bird this winter it proved popular and remained to the 20th. Two brief Crossbills were a surprise find in Hockley Woods on the 20th although remarkably were seen again on 2nd March. The pair of Scaup on Paglesham Lagoon were seen for the final time on the 15th when 16 Goldeneye were still present. The flock of Ruff on Vange Wick had increased further to 16 on the 15th. A wintering Spotted Redshank and Greenshank remained in the creek. Three Black Swans were an unusual sight in Benfleet Creek on the 15th whilst a Stoat showed well at Stambridge. Two Waxwings paused for just ten minutes in a Leigh garden on the 16th. A Guillemot off Canvey Point on the 20th was worryingly the only auk sighting of the entire first winter period. A Caspian Gull was trapped and ringed near Wat Tyler on the 20th and provided a lucky few with the rare chance to study this species in the hand. The roving Pale-bellied Brent Goose resurfaced again on Wallasea on the 20th whereas the equally mobile Black Brant was refound the next day at Fleet Head. Exceptional numbers of Corn Buntings were also at Fleet Head on the 21st with 102 there and a further 33 at Wat Tyler. The Purple Sandpiper on the Pier was reported for the only time this month on the 21st although it was likely present throughout. A Lesser Redpoll on a garden feeder in Thundersley on the 22nd was the only record all month. The high number of Woodcock continued with three at Stambridge on the 24th, one at Hawkwell, and one on Hadleigh Downs as well as the two earlier in the month in Hockley Woods. A Tundra Bean Goose on Potton was `scoped from Barling on the 25th where one or two Merlin were also showing well at times. South Fambridge on the 27th brought the last record of the Whooper Swan and Bewick's Swan herd. A Water Vole was on Two Tree Island on the 27th where there was a total absence of Short-eared Owls this winter. A predicted `storm of the decade' failed to materialise on the 28th but expectant seawatchers at Canvey were rewarded with 49 Gannets but little else of note.

MARCH 2010

The first of seven Common Buzzards this month flew from woods at Daws Heath on the 1st. The wintering immature Iceland Gull on Vange Wick was seen again on the 1st before putting in its final appearance on the 13th. Two early Adders were on Hadleigh Downs on the 1st. The Crossbill pair seen briefly at Hockley Woods last month flew over the car park on the 2nd but were not seen subsequently. A Water Pipit was an excellent find at Vange Marsh on the 3rd where it remained through to the 15th; also there on the 3rd was a respectable total of 38 Common Snipe. A Waxwing was reported from a Hockley garden on the 3rd where it apparently fed on windfall apples for ten minutes. A Red-breasted Goose initially got the pulses racing on the 4th when it was first found on Bowers Marsh. Unfortunately it proved to be an escape and was seen subsequently at Wat Tyler, Vange Marsh, Langdon Hills, Dunton and Billericay. Common Scoter have been scarce during the first half of the year but a flock of 25 were seen distantly from Canvey Point in the Outer Thames on the 4th. The wintering Firecrests in Hockley Woods continued to be reported this month with one or two birds on several dates between the 5th and 22nd including a singing male on two dates. Also present in Hockley Woods this month were ten Great Spotted Woodpeckers, five Green Woodpeckers, four Treecreepers, three Nuthatch, and three Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers which continued to be seen daily with patience through to the end of the month. The Purple Sandpiper on the Pier was seen again from the 6th until the last sighting on the 19th. Also on the 6th, the Ring-necked Parakeet roosted at Priory Park, however after roosting again on the 7th it was not seen anywhere again all month. An elusive and mobile flock of up to five Lesser Redpolls was located in Belfairs Woods on the 9th as was a single Siskin. Both species have been incredibly scarce this winter and so they drew quite a crowd, with both species seen daily through to the 13th. Additional records of Siskin were five over Belton Hills on the 11th and a single at Hole Haven on the 13th, whereas the only other report of Lesser Redpoll was of two fly-overs claimed near Rawreth on the 21st. A single Great Northern Diver remained off the Pier on the 12th and it was seen on a further three dates this month in the estuary. The wintering flock of Ruff at Wat Tyler continued to build on last month's total with a peak of 18 birds reached on the 13th. Nearby at Benfleet a ringtail Hen Harrier was reported the same day. A Muntjac gave a fleeting view in Belfairs Woods on the 13th. A first-winter Caspian Gull was a good find at Westcliff seafront on the 14th where it showed well for a short while. It was reported again briefly on the 15th and 16th but proved difficult to connect with. The only record of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker away from Hockley Woods this month was of a female at West Wood, Hadleigh on the 14th. Repeating events from last year, a pair of Long-eared Owls was found in the south on the 14th where they remained through to the end of May at least. The only sighting of Merlin this month was an inland bird in fields between Southend and Rochford on the 15th. There were still a handful of Woodcock lingering following the cold weather influx earlier in the year, with a single in Belfairs on the 13th, two at Two Tree Island on the 15th, and four reports of a single on Hadleigh Downs. The first singing Chiffchaff was at Priory Park on the 17th with the first singing Blackcap a week later on the 22nd at South Benfleet. A solitary Wheatear struggled through on the 18th with a bird on Hadleigh Downs swiftly followed by a more widespread arrival on the 21st when a further nine were seen with sightings at Paglesham, Wakering, Shoebury, and Canvey. Unusually, for the first time in many years there were no wintering Short-eared Owls in the area, so a passage bird at Wakering Stairs on the 21st and 22nd proved popular and was the only confirmed sighting in the first winter period. Both Grass Snake and Adder were found basking on Benfleet Downs on the 22nd, the same day that an estimated fifteen pairs of Little Egrets were found breeding at a site first colonised in 2008. Swallows were tardy in returning this year with the first birds at Barling and at Vange Marsh on the 23rd. A further eight passed through by month's end. Solitary Sand Martins were reported on the 22nd and the 30th. Rossi the Ring-billed Gull put in his last appearance along Westcliff seafront on the 23rd. An early Sandwich Tern was off Shoebury Coastguards on the 24th and a Water Pipit the same day at Wat Tyler might have been the bird from Vange Marsh. The 27th saw the last Redwings with five at Rochford, mirrored by the first Willow Warbler singing in Hockley Woods and two Whimbrel on Two Tree Island. The most unexpected find of the month was a pair of Grey Partridges at Fleet Head on the evening of the 27th. These are the first confirmed local Grey Partridges since 2001 and caused a minor twitch. A stunning male Hen Harrier was hunting the seawall at Wallasea on the 28th and an impressive count of 16 Hares was made at Wakering the same day. By the end of the month, eight Peacock butterflies, two Brimstones, two Red Admirals and a single Small Tortoiseshell had all been logged.

APRIL 2010

The month opened well with a Black Redstart in Gunners Park on the 1st that was joined by a second bird on the 3rd with a further spring bird at Wakering Stairs on the 4th. Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers were reported from Hockley Woods on the 1st for the final time this spring. A Grasshopper Warbler was found reeling at Wakering Stairs on the very early date of the 4th. It turned out to be a bumper spring for this declining visitor with 12 males holding territory this month which included an impressive five on Two Tree Island. The Short-eared Owl that was seen at Wakering Stairs on the 4th might have been last month's passage bird putting in a final appearance. Firecrests were still favouring holly trees just south of Hockley Woods on the 4th raising the prospect of potential breeding. The last Woodcock of the winter flew through Wakering Stairs at dusk on the 5th and a Weasel was a nice find on Hadleigh Downs the same day. The first of eight Common Buzzards this month was over Hadleigh Downs on the 6th when Little Ringed Plovers returned to Vange Marsh where a pair remained all month. The first House Martins were reported over Wakering Tip on the 8th while a Black Redstart in Gunners Park on the 8th may have been a new arrival. Also on the 8th Nightingale returned with an individual on Two Tree Island and mirroring the high numbers of Grasshopper Warbler this month, numbers quickly increased across the area. By the end of the month there were seven Nightingales on territory making this one of the best springs ever for both species. Another species doing remarkably well this month despite earlier concerns is the Cetti's Warbler. An impressive six singing Cetti's Warblers were at Wat Tyler on the 9th, which brought the total of singing birds to 25 at eight sites this month alone. Winter birds still lingering on the 10th included two Red-breasted Mergansers and a Goldeneye on the Roach at Paglesham, a late Fieldfare in Gunners Park and a surprise Jack Snipe flushed at Fleet Head. Summer arrivals on the 10th were represented by two White Wagtails at Vange Marsh, one of which stayed through to the 14th. A pod of eight Harbour Porpoise seen from a boat in the Outer Crouch on the 10th was an excellent record. At Vange Marsh on the 14th a drake Garganey was a good find, it was still present the following day. The local Ring-necked Parakeet was seen just once this month, on the 15th at Belfairs Golf Course. A drake Eider was offshore from Gunners Park on the 16th. Seven Green Sandpipers at Vange Marsh on the 16th was a notable spring count, and a Water Vole was also present. Hot on the heels of the drake Garganey at Vange Marsh, a pair were located at Fleet Head on the 17th where they remained until the 20th but were often flighty and elusive whilst a Merlin there the same day was noteworthy. Three Water Voles were observed on Two Tree Island on the 18th when yet another Black Redstart turned up in Gunners Park on the 18th,whilst next day there were now three Eider offshore. The last Red-breasted Merganser of the winter was off Wakering Stairs on the 20th whereas the first Hobby was over Coombe Wood and the first Swift was over Wat Tyler. Meanwhile, Wheatear reached their spring peak count of six in Gunners Park on the 20th. The following day in Gunners Park there was another Black Redstart sighting which may have been the same bird from the 18th although equally it may have been either the fifth or sixth bird of the spring. There was an unconfirmed report of a Common Crane north over Canvey seafront on the 21st the same day that the first Garden Warbler of the year was on territory near Rawreth, where a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was also seen three days later. A Great Northern Diver off Gunners Park on the 24th was particularly late whilst a Fulmar flew by with a further two Fulmar off Canvey Point and a Red Kite over Leigh on the 24th was an excellent garden tick. Surprisingly, a female Brambling in a Canewdon garden on the 24th was the sole record from anywhere in the region in the first half of the year. Passage Common Sandpipers were at Vange Marsh from the 24th to the 29th with one or two birds seen daily and a Weasel at Wakering Stairs on the 24th was the second local record this month. The newly opened RSPB reserve at West Canvey Marsh hosted a handsome male Whinchat on the 25th where it stayed until dusk. A Merlin on Wallasea the same day apparently reduced the number of Wheatears there from four to three by the end of the day! Two Little Terns buzzed past Canvey Point on the 25th by which date a handful of Arctic Terns had passed through, and Common Terns were up to three figures. The last two Goldeneye were noted on Paglesham Lagoon on the rather late date of the 26th when the trickle of Yellow Wagtails had built to a spring peak of twenty on Wallasea. On the 27th, six Wheatear were still to be found in Gunners Park, whilst West Canvey Marsh came up with a cracking pair of Black-necked Grebes which stayed through to the end of May but were often elusive. Finally, on the 30th, Turtle Doves returned with singles at Great Stambridge and Wat Tyler. In addition to the four species of butterfly seen last month, good numbers of Small White, Green-veined White, Orange-tip, Holly Blue, Comma, and Speckled Wood were all seen.

MAY 2010

Wheatear climbed to a spring high of seven in Gunners Park on the 1st with five also present the same day on Hadleigh Marshes. Thereafter just six singles trickled through with one at Wakering Stairs on the 16th the last of the month. Fourteen Greenshanks at West Canvey on the 1st was confirmation that wader passage was still continuing. This was further evidenced by a Common Sandpiper in Gunners Park on the 3rd and 4th and three other singles at Vange Marsh on the 5th, 17th, and 25th. A single Spotted Redshank was at Wat Tyler on the 7th and Green Sandpipers were at Vange Marsh on the 9th and Wat Tyler on the 27th. Seawatching in the spring is usually an exercise in misplaced optimism however strong winds on the 2nd did see a modest movement off Canvey resulting in nine Gannets, a Great Skua, five Kittiwakes, and seven Arctic Terns as well as a Porpoise. A Spoonbill was an all too brief visitor to Wallasea Island on the 3rd. Following a national influx of Red-rumped Swallows, a quick look in Gunners Park late on the 3rd specifically to look for this species miraculously proved prophetic with a cracking bird feeding over the lake for three hours continuously and showing down to just two metres at times. On the other side of the seawall a Porpoise was noted offshore and may have been the previous day's animal that was off Canvey. A White Wagtail was at Vange Marsh on the 4th, the same day that another Black Redstart was reported from Gunners Park. Spotted Flycatchers have been lost as a breeding species for a few years now and spring passage birds are less than annual so a single at West Canvey on the 10th with another near Rawreth on the 18th were most welcome. Between the 11th and 23rd Weasel and Water Vole were both recorded on Two Tree Island and at West Canvey. One lucky observer was treated to the sight of an Osprey fishing close inshore off Gunners Park on the 12th. The drake Garganey present on Vange Marsh since the 14th April showed daily until the 13th but was often mobile and elusive. A drake Garganey on Vange Wick on the 15th was almost certainly the same bird. An unusually showy Garden Warbler proved popular near Rawreth from the 15th to the 22nd where it held territory, and two Bullfinch were also present. Nearby, gulls reportedly mobbed two Red Kites as they passed overhead. On the 16th another spring seawatch off Canvey yielded a Fulmar, 18 Common Scoter, and only the second(!) Guillemot of the year. A further two White Wagtails were at Vange Marsh on the 17th and proved to be the last of the spring. A superb adult Woodchat Shrike was found on West Canvey on the 18th making it two of these fine birds in the last three years locally. It showed typically well and remained till dark but departed overnight. Following on from the recent Grey Partridge records earlier this year, the first locally since 2001, four birds, two pairs, were present on Fleet Head from the 19th to the 22nd with a further male on Wallasea Island on the 20th. Fifty-five Dark-bellied Brent Geese were still to be found on Two Tree Island on the 21st when the first Wall butterflies of the year were on the wing at West Canvey. The hot weather and light easterly winds on the 23rd heralded a day of large raptor passage when at least one Honey Buzzard and three Common Buzzards were claimed over Canvey Island. Red Kites were definitely on the move with singles over Canvey Island and Thundersley, and a group of three together was claimed over Ashingdon. Over the following week, two more Red Kites and Common Buzzards were seen making this the best week ever for Red Kites locally. A Firecrest in Hockley Woods on the 24th was not that unexpected given the good number that overwintered there, however a Golden Oriole heard singing briefly at Canewdon was much less expected. The third Guillemot of the year flew east close in at Canvey Point on the 25th. The pair of Long-eared Owls in the south had an accompaniment of two young on the 30th. The pair of Black-necked Grebes present on West Canvey since the end of April were still present on the 31st but despite displaying did not appear to breed.

JUNE 2010

The pair of Grey Partridges were seen again at Fleet Head on the 2nd. The following day a Red Kite over Stow Maries was watched distantly from South Fambridge. Calm weather and intensive raptor watching from South Fambridge over the next week revealed quite a raptor fest present on the north side of the Crouch. Up to six Common Buzzards, four Kestrels, two Sparrowhawks, two Hobby and a Marsh Harrier could be seen daily although only the Marsh Harrier had the decency to venture south over the Crouch. A Snipe in the tidal creek at Vange Marsh on the 3rd was a notable mid-summer record. Nearby at Wat Tyler an immature Spoonbill took up residence on the scrape from the 4th to the 8th after initially being found via the webcam. The Black-necked Grebe pair on West Canvey were seen for the final time on the 4th and were still displaying and even copulating. A Muntjac in Hockley Woods on the evening of the 4th was a good record. Two unringed Barnacle Geese on West Canvey on the 5th were furtively ticked by a few of the local year listers and subsequently dipped by the even more desperate year listers the following day. The 5th also saw the start of a minor Painted Lady movement which continued through to the 16th and involved 21 individuals including twelve on Wallasea over the 5th and 6th. After an absence of three weeks, the drake Garganey returned to Vange Marsh on the 7th where it remained all month. It was joined by a second drake from the 11th to the 20th which was latterly accompanied by a female between the 14th and 16th. Another Red Kite was reported, this time at Paglesham on the 7th. This has been the best year yet locally for this increasing raptor. A procrastinating Wheatear loitering on Two Tree Island on the 8th must have been contemplating if it was really worth continuing any further north. Return wader passage commenced mid month heralded by two Spotted Redshanks on Vange Marsh on the 14th, increasing to seven on the 22nd. Likewise, Green Sandpipers started returning on the 17th when two arrived at Vange Marsh with four the next day on Wallasea. Greenshank also joined in with singles at Vange Marsh daily from the 19th, increasing to three on the 27th. News to anger all came on the 18th when it was discovered that two of the three juvenile Long-eared Owls in the south had apparently been taken the previous night. It was obvious that someone had trampled a path through a private area right up to where the adults and young roosted and incredulously had removed part of a tree that they favoured. A mournful juvenile was seen for a few days afterwards although the adults were never seen again. One can only speculate as to the fate of the birds. The only Common Sandpiper of the month was a single at Vange Marsh from the 23rd to the 30th. Further evidence of return passage came on the 26th with five Little Ringed Plovers and twelve Green Sandpipers now on Vange Marsh followed by a handsome Ruff the next day. Also at Vange Marsh from the 26th to the 30th, two Grasshopper Warblers were reeling and showing well with three other singles still reeling on Benfleet Downs, Canvey Wick, and Two Tree Island. Attention turned to butterflies in the closing days of the month with White-letter Hairstreaks on the wing from the 26th on Benfleet Downs reaching seven on the 30th. Marbled Whites were evident from the 26th onwards with around thirty seen in the last few days across Benfleet Downs and Belton Hills. A White Admiral in Belfairs from the 27th was the forerunner of a good run of records in July. Heath Fritillaries had been on the wing for almost a month but their numbers peaked as June came to an end with around 600 at five sites including 333 in Belfairs.

JULY 2010

Marbled White numbers increased rapidly to 108 on Canvey by the 1st with the same amount still present on the 10th. White-letter Hairstreaks had also increased to a high of 21 on the 2nd on Benfleet Downs before rapidly dwindling over the next two weeks to just the occasional single. Also on Benfleet Downs on the 2nd were the first Purple Hairstreaks although no more than three were counted here all month. There was an additional colony of five in Belfairs mid month. A White Admiral seen in Pound Wood on the 4th was a first for the site and the first record away from the Belfairs area where up to 14 could be found mid month. The single male Ruff at Vange Marsh present since late June was joined by a second bird briefly on the 6th which soon departed leaving one remaining until the 8th when Little Ringed Plovers peaked at eight. The nine Spotted Redshanks at Fleet Head on the 8th were the only flock away from Vange Marsh this month. Two Hummingbird Hawkmoths were coincidentally both found on the 9th with singles at Great Stambridge and Benfleet whilst a further individual was at Wakering Stairs on the 17th. Green Sandpiper now numbered 13 on Vange Marsh on the 11th, an increase of one since late July. There was just one mid-summer record of Dark-bellied Brent Goose this year, that being a single off Canvey Point from the 13th to the 15th. A flyover Crossbill typically at Belfairs on the 14th was unfortunately the only record of the autumn. The annual late summer build up of Mediterranean Gulls along Southend seafront had reached 104 on the 17th when an impressive 410 Sand Martins were noted heading south in just one hour at Wakering Stairs. Two Sanderlings at Wakering Stairs the next day were unusually early. Two of the Fleet Head Grey Partridges put in another welcomed appearance on the 20th with a single recorded again on the 24th. Spotted Redshanks at Vange Marsh numbered ten on the 20th and they remained right through into September, and a further six were seen at Wat Tyler. There was another small influx of Painted Lady butterflies between the 22nd and 25th with singles at four well scattered localities. A Southern Emerald Damselfly reported at Wat Tyler on the 22nd was apparently a first for Essex, whereas the Southern Migrant Hawkers found on Benfleet Downs on the 20th, were only around the sixth record in the UK. They generated a great deal of national interest with perhaps ten present until one was ignominiously `collected' on the 3rd August. They continued to be reported through till the 18th August and were responsible for many people undertaking their first ever odonata twitch. On the bird front Fleet Head hosted a good count of 15 Green Sandpipers on the 24th and a popular Wood Sandpiper which stayed until the 28th by which time there was very little water left to attract anymore waders. Common Sandpipers reached eight at Vange Marsh on the 25th whereas five on Two Tree Island a few days later were apparently a record island count! A long overdue first for the area came in the shape of a Cattle Egret found at dawn on Vange Marsh on the 25th, it promptly departed but was seen coming to roost that evening at Wat Tyler. It was present again early next morning at Vange Marsh on the 26th before flying off, probably to Cambridgeshire for three weeks via the Ingrebourne Valley. Greenshank reached 41 at Haven Point on the 26th. The first returning passerines put in an early appearance with a Spotted Flycatcher at South Fambridge on the 28th and a Whinchat on Wallasea on the 30th.


What was presumably the same Garganey as earlier in the year was back on Vange Marsh on the 1st where it remained all month. It was joined by a second bird from the 4th to the 6th. Yellow Wagtail numbers reached some impressive highs with the best count being 70 on Wallasea on the 2nd, with a further 30 at Paglesham Lagoon and 20 on Canvey Point a few days later. A Wood Warbler was an excellent find in Gunners Park early on the 3rd. These are far from annual with the last one being as long ago as 2002 but unfortunately it only stayed for a few minutes. A single immature Spoonbill dropped in briefly to Vange Marsh on the 3rd. A Wood Sandpiper made a protracted stay at Vange Marsh from the 5th to the 16th. An early Spotted Flycatcher was found in Gunners Park on the 5th, exactly three weeks ahead of the main passage of this species. Whimbrel reached a notable 64 on the fields at Fleet Head on the 5th, the same day that a Hummingbird Hawkmoth and an Eyed Hawkmoth got accidentally trapped in a bathroom in Eastwood, and a Poplar Hawkmoth was trapped by more conventional methods at Rochford. Once again, `Rossi' the Ring-billed Gull returned to Westcliff seafront for yet another winter, this time arriving on the 7th. A Stoat was seen crossing Shopland Road on the 7th. Also on the 7th, a Silver-washed Fritillary on Benfleet Downs was an excellent record and represented only the third record for the area in the last fifty years and the first ever away from Belfairs. Next day, three Wall butterflies were also recorded on Benfleet Downs. Four Painted Lady butterflies were seen this month, and all between the 8th and 16th. Equally, the first of four migrant Garden Warblers this month was at Haven Point on the 8th. Other records came from Coombe Wood, Vange Marsh, and Gunners Park. Willow Warblers had an excellent autumn with notable counts of 36 at Paglesham Lagoon on the 8th and ten in Gunners Park on the 10th. One of the Grey Partridges put in an appearance at Fleet Head on the 8th and a Black Swan was with 79 Mute Swans at Hullbridge the same day. Late on the 8th, Common Sandpipers numbered 26 on Vange Marsh, with the next highest count from anywhere this autumn being nine along the Roach, also coincidentally late on the 8th. Accompanying the 26 Common Sandpipers at Vange Marsh on the 8th were two adult Spoonbills. They were subsequently joined by a third bird, an immature on the 14th and then remarkably a fourth bird, another immature from the 23rd to the 26th. Just one bird, an immature, remained after then through into October. Further highlights at Vange Marsh included peak counts of eight Little Ringed Plover and 27 Green Sandpipers on the 12th. An Osprey took up residence again this year off Wakering Stairs from the 13th where it remained until the 29th. A second bird on the 19th joined it just for the day. Little Egret numbers increased significantly mid month with roost counts on the 13th totalling 92 on Two Tree Island, 61 at Paglesham, and 55 at Wat Tyler. Seawatching off Canvey on the 13th and 14th revealed the first few returning Arctic Skuas and Great Skuas as well as a Fulmar and unusually, a Slavonian Grebe on the latter date. On the 15th a Weasel was seen to take a Greenfinch on Two Tree Island and three Porpoise were sighted off Canvey Point. Last month's Cattle Egret returned on the 17th from its sojourn to Cambridgeshire and the Ingrebourne Valley when it was atypically located on the saltmarsh at Holehaven. It remained there intermittently through to the 29th and once again occasionally roosted at Wat Tyler. Two Wood Sandpipers frequented a flooded field on West Canvey on the 18th where they showed really well until the 23rd. Also on West Canvey at this time, Whinchat numbered five with a further four the next day on Wallasea. The first Pied Flycatcher of the year was predictably in Gunners Park on the 18th but was only seen briefly. A somewhat elusive juvenile Red-backed Shrike was an excellent find at Vange Marsh on the 22nd, with patience it eventually showed to everyone and was reported briefly for two minutes the following day also. The 26th to the 28th saw arguably the best few days birding locally this year. Initially, on the 26th some scarcer passerines were on the move. Gunners Park hosted three rather obliging Tree Pipits, which had the decency to remain until the 30th. Also there on the 26th was the first Redstart of the year which stayed until the 31st with two birds present on the 28th. As expected, Spotted Flycatchers arrived overnight with three in Gunners Park on the 26th followed by daily records of multiple birds through to the end of the month including six on the 29th. A single Spotted Flycatcher was also reported on West Canvey on the 27th. In addition to the long staying Osprey at Wakering Stairs, another bird was seen atop a telegraph pole by a fishing pond at Barling on the 26th and may have been the same bird as the one reported south over Vange Marsh later that day. Passerine passage continued the following day with, a peak monthly count of five Wheatears and another Pied Flycatcher in Gunners Park plus a sprinkling of Whinchats which included five on Wallasea, three at Holehaven and a further six at four other sites. An early Merlin was photographed in Gunners Park on the 27th with another Merlin seen at the top site locally for this species, Wallasea, on the 29th. The heavy rain and brisk northeast wind on the 27th promised a productive seawatch off Canvey and birders were not disappointed with Skuas particularly well represented. Totals for the day were 103 Arctic Skuas, 59 Great Skuas, four Long-tailed Skuas, three Pomarine Skuas, 41 Gannets, three Sabine's Gulls, 37 Black Terns, and a Porpoise. Surprisingly, it was a very poor autumn seawatch season overall with just about every decent sighting packed into the 27th and not a lot else subsequently. By the end of October only one other Pomarine Skua had been seen, and no other Long-tailed Skuas or Sabine's Gulls were logged. If you were not present on the 27th, then you missed the seawatching season! Not unsurprisingly, both Little Stint and Curlew Sandpiper had a noticeable arrival from the 27th onwards commencing with Little Stints on Canvey Point and Vange Marsh, and 15 Curlew Sandpipers at four sites including five on Vange Marsh. The following day on the 28th, Vange Marsh also played host to a superb juvenile Red-necked Phalarope that entertained through to the 29th. There was a minor pulse of raptor movement on the 28th with five Marsh Harriers seen from Haven Point, and three Marsh Harriers over Wallasea. Wing-tagged juveniles were also noted at both sites during the latter half of the month. Three Ospreys at Wakering Stairs on the 28th included the regular bird as well as two others actively migrating west along the Crouch. The month ended with a modest count of 47 Greenshank on Two Tree Island on the 29th.


Two Tree Pipits on Two Tree Island on the 1st were the last of the autumn and a good island record. Repeating events from last year, three Tree Sparrows arrived early morning along the seawall at Gunners Park on the 1st. They only stayed for ninety minutes before continuing their migration. The following day at nearby Shoebury East Beach, a Pied Flycatcher represented the only record away from Gunners Park this year. A showy juvenile Red-necked Grebe was a great find on Paglesham Lagoon on the 3rd, it proved popular and photogenic and remained until the 12th before possibly relocating to Bawdsey, Suffolk. A much hoped for Temminck's Stint on West Canvey from the 3rd to the 7th was also very popular particularly as none were seen in the spring. Staying with waders, Curlew Sandpipers peaked this month at a rather disappointing seven on Wallasea on the 3rd. There was however a combined total of 17 Curlew Sandpipers recorded this month across five sites. Seawatching was unusually slow early in the month with a Fulmar off Canvey on the 5th and 6th the only bird of note. Two juvenile Black Terns took a liking to Paglesham Lagoon on the 5th and unusually for this corner of Essex they stayed through to the 12th affording good views. Also at Paglesham Lagoon on the 5th, Yellow Wagtail numbers had reached a respectable 65. A Ring-necked Parakeet passed over Leigh on the 5th. A Garden Warbler was on Two Tree Island on the 5th with another at Paglesham Lagoon on the 9th being the last of the year. An Osprey flew over South Fambridge on the 7th whilst another was photographed at Wallasea three days later. Given the significant number of Wrynecks along the east coast it was not unsurprising to find one in Gunners Park on the 7th. It was typically elusive but was seen again on the 12th when it was more co-operative. Another Wryneck was reported on Two Tree Island on the 16th. Redstarts were seen daily in Gunners Park until the 15th with three present on the 9th plus one at Wakering Stairs on the 7th. Also in Gunners Park from the 7th to the 12th was a Pied Flycatcher; there were no further records of this species after the latter date. Records of Buzzard increased this month with a total of 23 birds seen including five over Fleet Head on the 9th. A Little Stint was at Vange Marsh on the 10th. The first of only two Firecrests this month was in Coombe Wood on the 11th, the other was reported in Gunners Park two days later. At Pitsea, four Caspian Gulls was a good count on the 11th. Gunners Park was the place to be on the 12th with peak counts of six Wheatear, ten Spotted Flycatchers and two Pied Flycatchers, whereas West Canvey was the site of choice for Whinchats which numbered six there the same day. The first Sooty Shearwater of the year surprisingly breezed by Canvey Point on the 15th on a westerly wind. The wandering Ring-necked Parakeet was back at its favoured Prittlewell garden on the 16th, the same day that a Garganey was reported from Vange Marsh. Continuing the species revival in fortune, a duo of Tree Sparrows stopped off in Gunners Park on the 18th with one staying through to the 22nd. Tree Sparrow was not recorded locally between April 1994 and April 2008 but has now been seen in each of the last three years. At Vange Marsh on the 20th, Spotted Redshanks reached a high of 19 and the immature Spoonbill remained all month. The second Garganey of the month was at Paglesham Lagoon on the 22nd. A Red Kite passed over Wallasea on the 25th where it was photographed well. A very early Black-throated Diver in cracking summer plumage was off the Pier on the 25th and 26th during which time there was a significant movement of Gannets with 180 on the 25th and 100 on the 26th. Single Bramblings reported from Hockley and West Canvey on the 26th and 28th respectively were surprisingly only the second and third Bramblings of the year. Equally surprising, the two Short-eared Owls present around the creeks at Wakering from the 27th onwards also constituted only the second and third records of the year. The two Short-eared Owls were reported infrequently through into November at least and look set to overwinter. Another sign of the changing seasons was the arrival of the first Redwings over Rochford on the 27th. A ringtail Hen Harrier was noted on Wallasea on the 28th where it continued to hunt through into November at least but was typically mobile. The Grey Partridge pair residing at Fleet Head since April were again present on the 28th. Three Little Stints dropped in at Vange Marsh on the 28th. All three were still on view on the 29th with two staying on until the 2nd October. Ring Ouzels were noted at two sites on the 29th with Barling and Benfleet both playing host, the Barling bird was still present the following day. Dark-bellied Brent Geese numbers leapt suddenly from 500 on the 29th to 5,000 the next day off Wakering Stairs. The 30th was a day of Siskin passage with 87 of these little lovelies passing over Gunners Park and three over West Canvey. A Ring-necked Parakeet at Vange Marsh late on the 30th was most likely a new individual; it was seen again on at least three occasions in October. Finally, with the unprecedented number of Lapland Buntings all across the country this month it was disappointing that there were just three claims locally, all by single observers, and all present only briefly. With luck some may hopefully settle and overwinter later in the year.


The last Redstart of a good autumn passage was at Barling on the 1st. The third and last Ring Ouzel of the autumn was claimed on Canvey Wick on the 2nd. Last weeks two Little Stints remained on Vange Marsh where they were joined by twelve Spotted Redshanks on the 2nd. On the 3rd, another Little Stint was located, this time on Wallasea where it remained all month. It was extremely difficult to pick out among the myriad of other waders present which included four Curlew Sandpipers on the 3rd, one of which stayed all month. Right on cue, an adult Black Brant was accompanying the 4,500 Dark-bellied Brent Geese off Leigh seafront on the 4th and 8th. We seem to get one here every October although only rarely will they remain for the winter around Two Tree Island. A late Whinchat was with four Wheatears from the 4th to the 6th at South Fambridge. The 6th saw the only Painted Lady of the month which was on Hadleigh Downs whereas the following day the only Clouded Yellow of the year was reported from Vange Marsh. A Weasel entertained at West Canvey on the 7th. In Gunners Park on the 8th an approachable Shag in a ditch was taken into care, it was the first of the year. Also there, a very late Swift was reported the same day. Last month's Black-throated Diver was still present off Canvey Point on the 9th and 10th. On the former date, the second Sooty Shearwater of the year passed by Canvey Point, and the last of three Hobby this month headed south across the Thames. There was a noticeable and widespread arrival of Bramblings between the 9th and 16th with new birds arriving daily. The favoured site was West Canvey where up to 14 were favouring the hedgerows but there were also several reports from Gunners Park during this time as well as smaller numbers from five other sites. A Pale-bellied Brent Goose was picked out at Wakering Stairs on the 10th, where it was singled out again in November. All the tern species departed over the coming week with Common Tern last recorded on the 9th, Black Tern on the 10th, Little Tern on the very late date of the 15th, and Arctic Tern on the 16th. Unusually, no Sandwich Terns were reported in October. A juvenile Pomarine Skua off Canvey Point on the 12th was the only one all autumn apart from the three adults on the 27th August. Almost equally as scarce this year were the two Guillemots also offshore which were seen again on the 16th. The wandering Ring-necked Parakeet visited a Hadleigh garden on the 13th before being seen again over Leigh on the 24th. It would seem that there are two birds roaming the area, one around Vange and Pitsea, the other being much more mobile and favouring anywhere between Hadleigh and Prittlewell. Gunners Park came up trumps on the 15th with a much sought after Yellow-browed Warbler. It was particularly elusive but thankfully did call occasionally and remained faithful to one small area of bushes until the 18th. A Firecrest was also present in Gunners Park at the same time before relocating to Shoebury East Beach on the 19th. Offshore at Gunners Park, two Red-throated Divers were the first of the winter, one continued to be seen intermittently in the estuary during the latter half of the month. Gunners Park scored again on the 16th with the third Sooty Shearwater of the year `towering' east out of the estuary in the afternoon; five Fieldfares also there were much less exciting but represented the first of the autumn. The first Velvet Scoters of the year were four fine drakes off Canvey Point on the 16th where a female was also noted the following day. A juvenile Shag was roosting on the Pier on the 17th; it was still present on the 21st when it was fishing off the east point. An immature Spoonbill remained at Vange Marsh from the 18th to the 22nd only when it was joined by a second bird which then wandered to Haven Point on the 23rd and 24th. A Stoat dodged the traffic when it crossed Sutton Road on the 20th. Corn Buntings had formed several flocks by mid month with the best by far being 70 on Wallasea on the 22nd. The first returning Goldeneye flew past Wakering Stairs on the 23rd. A Little Stint on West Canvey on the 24th had reportedly been present for three days. There was a report of a Water Pipit on Two Tree Island on the 24th when Wallasea did well by hosting a male Snow Bunting until the 25th as well as the last Wheatear of the year on the former date. It was later discovered that the Snow Bunting on Wallasea had apparently been present since the 18th. A single Lesser Redpoll and a pair of Treecreepers were claimed from Belfairs on the 24th. An adult Caspian Gull showed well on Barling Tip on the 25th whilst in the adjacent borrowdyke seven Bearded Reedlings were newly arrived. As expected, reports of Bearded Reedlings were more numerous and widespread this month with records also coming from Bowers Marshes, Vange Marsh, Wat Tyler, and West Canvey. A Slavonian Grebe off the Pier on the 26th was a good record, with it or another seen there again on the 9th and 10th of November. A local mega was claimed on the 26th when a Coal Tit apparently visited a birders garden in Leigh, it was not seen subsequently despite searching. The boundaries of the recording area were stretched to the limit by the avid yearlisters on the 27th and 28th when it became known that several feral Barnacle Geese and a Pink-footed Goose with an injured foot were present on the north side of the Crouch at Blue House Farm. Viewing from high ground on `our' side of the Crouch at Ashingdon and Canewdon proved successful even though the distances involved were several kilometres! A male Snow Bunting along Canvey seafront on the 30th was a good find and could just conceivably have been the Wallasea bird relocating.


The only Chiffchaffs seen during the month were singles in Gunners Park on the 1st and near Prittle Brook on the 6th whereas the sole Blackcap record was of a female near Coombe Wood on the 5th. Four Jack Snipe together on Bowers Marsh on the 2nd was the highest local count in over ten years and were most probably passage birds taking advantage of this rapidly developing wetland as were 30 Common Snipe the same day. A Snow Bunting was an equally impressive record from this site the following day. A day on Wallasea on the 5th yielded impressive counts of 2,000 Golden Plover and 2,500 Lapwings including the returning leucistic bird for its seventh winter, if it is in fact the same bird, which is by no means certain! Also present on Wallasea was a Curlew Sandpiper and an immature male Merlin which delighted in taunting the wader flocks daily through to the 17th at least. A Mandarin in Friars Park on the 5th was the first local record since February although three were rumoured to have been present a week earlier. Two Ring-necked Parakeets were seen over Rayleigh on the 5th with one coming in to roost at Priory Park that evening. A good candidate for the UK's first Thayer's Gull was photographed on Pitsea tip on the 6th but due to the hazardous nature of the site, was out of bounds to the masses. The Wakering Stairs area hosted a Spoonbill briefly on the 6th and the only Pale-bellied Brent Goose of the month, whilst offshore two Porpoises were seen in the Outer Crouch. On the 7th, counts of 150 Avocet along the Roach and five Spotted Redshanks at Wat Tyler were notable. In what is traditionally a strong month for Velvet Scoter it was disappointing that there was just a solitary record of a single female off Canvey Point, particularly as there were 150 Common Scoter frequenting the Thames between the 7th and 9th. Seawatching off Canvey on the 8th yielded at least one Sooty Shearwater and the year's only Leach's Petrel but surprisingly little else of note. By contrast, the following day witnessed an impressive movement of seabirds from the Pier and Canvey. Highlights were a Slavonian Grebe, at least one additional Sooty Shearwater, a Scaup, eleven Eider, 150 Common Scoter, 12 Red-breasted Merganser, an Arctic Skua, a Great Skua, 16 Little Gulls, a Sabine's Gull, a Guillemot, two Razorbills, and an exhausted Woodcock which tried landing on someone's head at the end of the Pier before being taken into care and released the following day! Short-eared Owls were logged on Wallasea on the 11th and 16th, and Hadleigh Marshes on the 19th. Two Bewick's Swans headed south-west over Gunners Park on the 15th. There was a notable arrival of finches mid-month with 30 Lesser Redpoll and 30 Siskins on Canvey Wick, and three Bramblings at Hole Haven. Further along the coast, a Purple Sandpiper was found roosting near Canvey Point on the 15th where it remained until the end of the year; it was originally reported on the 10th. Three ringtail Hen Harriers gathered on Wallasea on the 16th where they appeared to roost and were all seen again the following day. The last butterflies of the year were predictably Red Admirals, and were in Eastwood and on West Canvey on the 16th with West Canvey also hosting a pair of Bearded Reedlings and a Water Vole. Passerine numbers increased, with an impressive 250 Skylarks on Wallasea on the 17th, and the 70 Corn Buntings from last month all still present. Forty-three probable Pink-footed Geese seen flying along the north bank of the Crouch from Wallasea on the 17th may well have been the same group seen heading south-west over Southend Airport on the 28th. Arguably one of the rarest birds of the year from an Essex perspective was the totally unexpected Cory's Shearwater seen flying upriver past Canvey at 10:20 on the 18th before flying back out again at 14:08. Remarkably, after recording a Cory's Shearwater and 5-7 Sooty Shearwaters in 2010, not a single Manx Shearwater was seen locally all year despite Rainham Marshes boasting two individuals! An Adder continued to seek the warmth of the waning sun on Benfleet Downs on the 19th. Vange Marsh provided the only Green Sandpipers of the month with three birds there on the 19th as well as three Bearded Reedlings and a Kingfisher. The two Ring-necked Parakeets were seen again on the 20th when they were noted leaving Priory Park early that morning. The Thames still held a few surprises on the 20th with six Red-throated Divers, two Black-throated Divers, two Arctic Skuas and ten Little Gulls all recorded from Canvey Point where the Purple Sandpiper was also still present. Another Purple Sandpiper was found roosting at the same time on the Pier on the 20th proving the existence of two birds locally for one day at least this winter. Two Tree Island played host to five Greenshanks and a Weasel on the 21st whilst Canvey Point produced two Great Skuas and a Razorbill. Given the rapidly plummeting temperatures, a lingering Swallow at Holehaven creek on the exceptionally late date of the 22nd must have been on nothing short of a suicide mission. The cold weather saw a Tundra Bean Goose join up with the 118 Greylag Geese on Vange Wick on the 23rd where it was viewable from Wat Tyler marina through to the 26th before relocating to West Canvey on the 27th. Pintail numbers were beginning to build, with 87 around the south shore of Bridgemarsh Island on the 24th. A Scaup was a good find at Paglesham Lagoon where it remained until Christmas Eve. The two regular Ring-necked Parakeets again frequented their favoured Prittlewell garden on the 27th, although they were both specifically reported as females, so further colonisation and consolidation is not looking imminent. After it seemed like we were the only corner of the country not to be enjoying the Waxwing invasion, these endearing beauties finally arrived on the 27th, with 22 at Sutton Road cemetery, swiftly followed the next day by 32 in Southchurch and 14 in Thorpe Bay. With the same degree of timing, Lesser Redpoll numbers increased considerably following their initial arrival mid-month and they also became more widespread. On the 27th, 25 were found in Hockley Woods where they rapidly increased to 120 the following day, and 21 were on Canvey Wick, and a further 24 were in Cherry Orchard C.P. Careful scrutiny of the flocks revealed a number of Mealy Redpolls with five in Hockley Woods and one on Canvey Wick. The sub-zero conditions forced one or two Jack Snipe out at Vange Marsh on the 28th and 29th, where four Bearded Reedlings were also present on the latter date. As heavy snowfall brought the month to a close, a Coal Tit, which may have been the same as the one seen at the end of October, made a brief visit to another garden in Leigh on the 30th.


Arctic conditions, coupled with frequent heavy snow showers and a brisk north-east wind found three birders seawatching from Canvey. The undoubted highlight of the day was a fine Storm Petrel at close range. Other notable sightings were three Black-throated Divers, 84 Pintail, 25 Eider, 100 Common Scoter, a drake Velvet Scoter, two Woodcock, and six juvenile Pomarine Skuas. The freezing conditions forced the Jack Snipe at Vange Marsh to show itself again on the 1st where it continued to be seen all month. Another Jack Snipe seen flying along the seafront at Canvey with Dunlin on the 2nd was clearly displaced by the cold. Also seen off Canvey on the 2nd were six Scaup, and 21 Little Gulls. A Bittern that flew low over a suburban garden in the heart of Leigh on the 2nd lay claim to the most outrageous garden bird of the year. Almost as scarce, until the last few months, a Coal Tit was reported from a garden in Ashingdon on the 2nd. A Purple Sandpiper at Two Tree Island on the 3rd was most likely the Canvey Point bird which was recorded on and off throughout the month. The other individual was present again on the Pier on the 8th. The prolonged cold spell forced Common Snipe out into the most unlikely places with dozens of sightings from across the region including gardens, seafronts, and woodland and any number of insignificant unfrozen streams. The highest gathering was 20-30 in Gunners Park on the 3rd; another 70 birds were seen across the area at 22 sites. On a much smaller scale, the handful of wintering Green Sandpipers were forced to seek out running water with five birds finding an assortment of streams and ditches to their liking. Four Mandarins had returned again to Friars Park on the 3rd, and `Rossi', the Ring-billed Gull showed well at Westcliff seafront where he typically resided all month. A flock of seven Snow Buntings including four males was a good find on Shoebury East Beach on the 3rd. A striking Common Buzzard with contrasting plumage was first noted at Great Stambridge on the 4th where it remained all month doing its best to masquerade as a Rough-legged Buzzard. A Jack Snipe was reportedly in Gunners Park on the 4th, the same day that the first of three sightings this month was made of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker in Hockley Woods, on this occasion the female. 22 Siskins at Rawreth on the 4th was the largest count this month although other double figure flocks were noted in Daws Heath woods and Hockley Woods. Three Bearded Reedlings at Vange Marsh on the 4th were not seen subsequently during the month. The two Ring-necked Parakeets continued to roam, with a sighting near Rochford on the 4th. Short-eared Owls were present at Wakering Stairs on the 5th, with two on Wallasea on the 12th where one remained until the 25th at least. Bramblings were conspicuous by their absence in the first four weeks of the month with just a single in a Leigh garden on the 6th. A redhead Goosander on the Crouch at South Fambridge on the 8th was most likely the same as that which frequented Bridgemarsh Creek from the 13th December before being found dead on the 20th December. The saltmarsh at South Fambridge revealed a Jack Snipe on the 9th which was seen through to the 17th when it was joined by a second bird, and a reasonable count of nine Rock Pipits was also made there on the 9th. The two Ring-necked Parakeets visited their preferred Prittlewell garden again on the 10th. Three adult Bewick's Swans arrived on the Crouch at South Fambridge on the 11th where there had also been an obvious influx of geese with 40 freshly arrived Barnacle Geese in the fields to the north and a Pale-bellied Brent Goose was on the Crouch with 900 Dark-bellied Brent Geese. Another Pale-bellied Brent Goose also arrived on the 11th on Wallasea where it was seen again on the 12th. By contrast, quite remarkably, an Adder, the same male as that seen last month, was still to be found on Benfleet Downs on the 11th. A second wave of Waxwings arrived between the 11th and 14th with five flocks, the largest numbering 70 was in Shoebury. On the 12th, two White-fronted Geese that had been present on Blue House Farm since the 8th were finally viewable from South Fambridge whilst the Barnacle Goose flock there had increased further to 50. A Tree Sparrow was discovered wintering on farmland at Great Stambridge on the 12th, the first instance of this species overwintering locally for nearly twenty years. Nearby, in the adjacent field, a Stoat was seen on the 13th and 27th. Repeating events of recent winters, a Firecrest was found wintering in Hockley Woods on the 15th and 18th, and into the New Year. One or two Crossbills were also claimed there on these two dates but were typically in flight only. Two Twite found feeding on the saltmarsh at South Fambridge on the 15th were more than welcome and created quite a stir, being the first twitchable Twite locally since January 2001. They both remained through to the 18th, with one staying into 2011. Blackcaps struggled on, with singles visiting two different gardens in Leigh on the 16th and 19th, and a Thorpe Bay garden on the 24th, whereas Chiffchaff were represented by a single in a Leigh garden on the 18th. The previous week's Tree Sparrow at Great Stambridge was joined by two further birds on the 17th. A handsome adult Black Brant was among the 2,000 Dark-bellied Brent Geese on Wallasea on the 17th and 19th. A male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was with a tit flock in Hockley Woods on the 19th with seven Great Spotted Woodpeckers and three Green Woodpeckers also present. Three Twite on Canvey Point on the 19th would have got a lot more attention had it not been for the two at South Fambridge four days earlier. An eye-watering 1,000 Skylarks on Wallasea on the 19th was the first four-figure winter count in Essex since 1991. Wallasea also played host now to four Pale-bellied Brent Geese which remained until the 26th whilst the adjacent Crouch was visited by a flock of 15 Scaup. A fine adult male Hen Harrier took up residence on the island from the 19th. A Muntjac deer was an unusual find in Hockley Woods early on the 20th, whereas two Jack Snipe flying out of Coombe Wood the same day were a much less expected woodland sighting. Three adult Bewick's Swans with the 102 Mute Swans near Paglesham on the 20th were most probably the same three which arrived nine days earlier on the Crouch. The three Bewick's Swans remained into 2011 and were occasionally joined by a fourth adult from the 31st onwards. A party of four Goosanders, including a fine adult drake, dropped in briefly to the Crouch at South Fambridge on the 20th. This is the highest local count of this species since 2002, not too unsurprising given the lack of large fish holding bodies of freshwater. As the cold really took a grip, large numbers of White-fronted Geese began appearing in the country. It was evocative to see and hear the first flock of 75 come in to land at dusk in fields beside the Roach on the 20th. West Canvey also enjoyed the influx with a flock of 32 heading north the same day. Yet another Jack Snipe was reported, this time on the 21st near Hullbridge. Geese continued to arrive over the next few days, most likely displaced from the frozen near-continent. At South Fambridge on the 22nd, 26 White-fronted Geese, eight Pink-footed Geese, and 77 Barnacle Geese were all newly arrived. A calling Lapland Bunting flew low west towards Brandy Hole whilst a restless flock of 11 Scaup over the Crouch were almost certainly part of the same group which were at Wallasea three days prior. A seawatch at Canvey on the 22nd was unusually quiet but did yield a group of three Velvet Scoters heading out of the river. A full day on Wallasea on the 23rd started well with two Common Cranes flying east onto Foulness at first light. They were reported the previous evening going to roost around Blue House Farm. White-fronted Geese put on a spectacle with a staggering 250 grazing the fields on Wallasea, accompanied by 11 Barnacle Geese; 120 Avocets were counted on the adjacent wetlands. Seawatching from Canvey on the 23rd was again quiet with just a Pomarine Skua to show after two hours. A third and even larger wave of Waxwings occurred between the 23rd and 30th with seven double-figure flocks including a peak of 120 at Pitsea on the 28th. Wallasea attracted six Pink-footed Geese on the 24th whilst White-fronted Geese numbered 220 and Barnacle Geese were down to two and the four Pale-bellied Brent Geese were still present. The other highlight at Wallasea on the 24th was a much anticipated and long overdue Lapland Bunting, particularly as it was the first twitchable one locally in nearly twenty years, while the three ringtail Hen Harriers continued to roost on the island. As well as hosting a handful of Tree Sparrows, Great Stambridge also attracted a very impressive bunting flock comprising 30 Yellowhammers, 200 Reed Buntings, and 50 Corn Buntings on the 25th. Yet again Wallasea produced the goods on the 26th with 11 Pale-bellied Brent Geese now present with the 7,000 Dark-bellied Brent Geese and 207 White-fronted Geese. Perhaps better still, eight Lapland Buntings and a Snow Bunting were now in among the 800 Skylarks and all three ringtail Hen Harriers and the adult male Hen Harrier performed over the island. Elsewhere, Goldeneye reached a high of 26 at Paglesham Lagoon on the 26th which is in line with most years, so they were clearly unaffected by the cold snap. The following day on the 27th, Pintail reached 78 on Paglesham Lagoon which almost doubles the previous high count for this site. Woodcock were also more widespread this month with five on Benfleet Downs on the 27th and nine others at seven further sites. Yet another seawatch at Canvey on the 28th found a sea almost devoid of birds again although a drake Velvet Scoter managed to save the day. On the 28th Hockley Woods revealed the female Lesser Spotted Woodpecker again, as well as 15 Goldcrests, which appear to have recovered from their demise at the start of the year, 60 Lesser Redpolls, four Treecreepers, and a Nuthatch. At Great Stambridge on the 28th, the maize strip now attracted 80 Corn Buntings as well as five Bramblings. Two further Bramblings were recorded with singles in Canewdon on the 27th and Leigh on the 30th. A Spotted Redshank at Wat Tyler on the 28th was the only record this month. The Tree Sparrow flock at Great Stambridge reached the dizzy heights of five on the 30th marking this as another good year for this species. The hope is that the slow upturn experienced over the last three years will continue. A quest for Grey Wagtails in suburban Southend on the 30th did reveal three along Prittle Brook but quite what the Spoonbill was doing there is anyone's guess! Once more, the two Ring-necked Parakeets roosted in Priory Park on the 30th. The year ended with another fly-over Crossbill this time at Rochford golf course on the 31st which remained untwitchable despite everyone's best efforts. A record-breaking 224 full species were recorded in this over populated corner of south-east Essex during 2010!