SOG Summary 2011

by Paul Baker, Southend Ornithological Group


Last month's influx of White-fronted Geese maintained their number with 207 still on Wallasea on the 1st along with three Barnacle Geese with both species moving out after the 5th. A Black-necked Grebe was a good find on Paglesham Lagoon on the 1st where it remained through to the 20th. Three Snow Buntings flew over Canvey Point on the 1st when a male was also found on Vange Wick. Bird of the day, if not the month, was the Bittern found late on the 1st at Vange Marsh where it stayed through to the 4th although predictably was incredibly elusive. As expected `Rossi' the Ring-billed Gull was duly recorded at his usual haunt along Westcliff seafront where he typically resided all month. A male Blackcap visited a Leigh garden daily from the 2nd throughout the month, the only other record this month being another male attending a South Benfleet garden during the last week of the month. No wintering Chiffchaffs were reported in January and only one in February. Waxwings were still around in unprecedented numbers with flocks of 70 at South Benfleet on the 3rd, 100 at Rayleigh on the 5th, and 100 at Pitsea on the 17th the largest gatherings until the final days of the month. At South Fambridge on the 3rd, 75 apparently wild Barnacle Geese remained from December, mostly favouring the north side, whilst a little further down the Crouch, a Lapland Bunting flew over Wallasea on the 3rd with two there on the 9th. A number of Green Sandpipers were seen on the 3rd, with three on Vange Marsh, three in Benfleet Creek, and three on West Canvey, a further single was in Eastwood. Other over-wintering waders were represented by three Spotted Redshanks at two sites, five Greenshank at three sites, nine Ruff on Vange Wick and the Purple Sandpiper on the Pier which was logged on the 4th and 9th only. At least six Tundra Bean Geese passed low over Wallasea on the 5th where Dark-bellied Brent Geese reached an incredible 5,000. Ten Tundra Bean Geese were subsequently found on Foulness Island on the 15th along with 168 White-fronted Geese. A Water Pipit was a good find along the saltmarsh at South Fambridge from the 5th to the 12th where the wintering Twite remained through to the 12th also. A female Eider lingered around the Wallasea wetlands from the 7th to the 23rd. Five Bearded Reedlings were recorded again at Fleet Head on the 8th after initially being reported on the 24th December, they remained until the 19th. Nearby, a mobile and elusive flock of seven Snow Buntings were discovered along Shoebury East Beach on the 8th where they remained intermittently through to the 1st February. They were most likely the same flock which was originally seen there on the 3rd December but not subsequently. The 9th was the last date that the four Bewick's Swans at Paglesham were seen whilst at nearby Great Stambridge, the maize strip which played host to good numbers of finches and buntings last month still held two Tree Sparrows, four Bramblings, ten Yellowhammers, 60 Reed Buntings, and 100 Corn Buntings on the 9th along with the over-wintering Common Buzzard which remained there through to the 16th. The regular female Merlin on Wallasea was joined by a second bird on the 9th when both were observed sparring with one another. Meanwhile a Red Kite was reported over Southend. A Bittern seen at Wat Tyler on the 9th, 22nd and 23rd was almost certainly the Vange Marsh bird relocating to more extensive habitat. Given the extent of the cold this winter, an Adder on Benfleet Downs on the 9th was a remarkable record. On the 10th, a Stoat ran across a road just outside Rayleigh. Up to four Mandarins frequented their favoured haunt at Friars Park during the first half of the month but typically disappeared after the 14th, after which there were no further records for the winter or spring. The two Ring-necked Parakeets were seen around Shopland on the 14th with one seen in Priory Park four days earlier. A notable wisp of 42 Common Snipe were observed flying around Vange Marsh on the 14th. Somewhat surprisingly, no Jack Snipe were reported from anywhere during the first three months of the year. Wallasea hosted a fine adult Black Brant on the 11th and 21st, and a very impressive count of 11 Pale-bellied Brent Geese on the 15th. Hockley Woods came good from mid-month with daily reports of both male and female Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers from the 14th, as well as a wintering male Firecrest which proved most reliable and was also recorded daily throughout the month from the 14th onwards. From a county perspective, a Coal Tit located in Hockley Woods on the 15th may not seem that exciting yet strangely they are totally absent now from the entire recording area, with the last twitchable one in February 2006 and no records from Hockley Woods for at least fifteen years. To the delight of many, the Coal Tit remained into the spring and was duly paired up with a second bird from the 22nd onwards. One or two Mealy Redpolls were picked out from the Lesser Redpoll flock in Hockley Woods between the 16th and the 23rd. Five of the Wallasea Pale-bellied Brent Geese wandered over to Wakering Stairs on the 16th whilst seven were again present on Wallasea on the 21st. Another bird which is unusually scarce locally is Egyptian Goose so when two turned up on Vange Wick on the 20th, they too proved popular. They remained until the 23rd and were the first twitchable ones for ten years! Marsh Harriers peaked at three on Wallasea on the 21st where Hen Harriers also reached a month high of just two ringtails the same day. One or two other Marsh Harriers were seen on a couple of dates in the Vange Marsh and Wat Tyler area but no other Hen Harriers were reported away from Wallasea this month. A Razorbill was a good find off the Pier, particularly as auks have been incredibly scarce in the Thames since the winter of 2008/09. Four Common Scoters around the Roach on the 23rd was unusual and also doubled the number of scoter seen all month from all locations. The Pier produced 23 Kittiwakes and a Little Gull on the 24th. Hockley Woods continued to impress in the final week of the month with the highlights being 12 Goldcrests, eight Treecreepers, 54 Lesser Redpoll, a pair of Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers, four Nuthatch, and 30 Siskins, all seen between the 22nd and 26th. When coupled with the daily sightings of Coal Tit and Firecrest throughout, plus Mealy Redpoll until the 23rd, it goes to show what a remarkable stand of woodland this is. On the 30th, the Waxwing flock at Pitsea reached an impressive 200 and an escaped Red-breasted Goose put in its fourth appearance of the month, this time at North Fambridge after previously visiting Vange Marsh, Bowers Marsh, and Wat Tyler


The Shoebury East Beach flock of Snow Buntings were present for the final time this winter on the 1st when they numbered five. Further along the coast, at Westcliff seafront, `Rossi' the Ring-billed Gull was recorded on the 1st and was subsequently reported on only two other dates this month. A modest flock of 12 Lesser Redpolls was located in Belfairs Great Wood on the 1st but the highlight was the two Mealy Redpolls which accompanied them. Meanwhile, 55 Lesser Redpolls and one Mealy Redpoll were still to be found in Hockley Woods on the 1st where Siskin numbers were much reduced, with 18, also on the 1st, the only double figure count from anywhere this month. The over-wintering Firecrest in Hockley Woods was seen on the 2nd and 3rd and was joined by two others on the 2nd. A Muntjac was also present in Hockley Woods on the 3rd. The Purple Sandpiper on the Pier reappeared on the 3rd and was seen again on the 4th and 9th. With the finding of a putative Slaty-backed Gull on Rainham Tip on the 13th January, the local private tip at Pitsea was well grilled in anticipation of a visit. Efforts were rewarded on the 3rd with the Slaty-backed Gull appearing late in the day and well photographed. Other larids of note on the tip on the 3rd were a brief first-winter Iceland Gull, and five Caspian Gulls. Surprisingly but perhaps not entirely unexpectedly, the Slaty-backed Gull reappeared on the tip on the 19th when it also had the decency to rest up on Vange Wick for a while allowing a dozen birders to connect with it from Wat Tyler C.P. marina. An elusive Black Redstart was found at Tewke's Creek on the 4th where it was seen again on the 12th. After an entire absence of records for January, Short-eared Owls began moving through the area from the 5th onwards with singles over Canewdon and another on Wallasea. By mid-month, four were roosting together on Wallasea for several days with one remaining into April at least. Waxwing numbers were still high but the flocks were very mobile; the largest gatherings were 180 at Pitsea on the 1st, 120 at Cherry Orchard C.P. on the 5th, 73 in Eastwood on the 11th, and 150 in the RBS grounds in Westcliff on the 15th. Six Ruff were still to be found on Vange Wick on the 8th. Last month's female Eider at Wallasea was seen again on the 11th and once more on the 20th. The two Ring-necked Parakeets visited their favoured Prittlewell garden for the first time this year on the 11th. Blackcaps also visited a number of gardens at this time with two in a South Benfleet garden on the 12th, and three other males in gardens in Benfleet and Thorpe Bay on the 15th and last month's regular bird still in attendance in a Leigh garden most days. The Great Stambridge Common Buzzard put in an appearance on the 12th, with it or another over Paglesham on the 27th. Three other singles were seen during the month. A Water Pipit was seen briefly at Tewke's Creek on the 12th when last week's Black Redstart also put in another appearance. The first of only two Bramblings this month was seen in West Wood on the 12th, with the other record coming from Hockley Woods on the 24th. Marsh Harriers reached a high of four around the Fleet Head and Wallasea area, another single continued to be reported intermittently from Wat Tyler C.P. The two ringtail Hen Harriers remained all month on Wallasea as did the female Merlin. Up to five Pale-bellied Brent Geese were also still to be found on Wallasea on the 15th and 21st. On the 17th, Spotted Redshanks now numbered three at Wat Tyler C.P. with three Greenshanks at two sites and three Green Sandpipers also at two sites. An adult Black Brant was picked out on Wallasea again on the 20th and 21st but more unusual was the `flock' of six Egyptian Geese in fields at Paglesham from the 20th to the 27th. A Chiffchaff in a garden on Canvey on the 20th was the first local record since mid-December. One of the Hockley Woods Coal Tits was seen again on the 22nd and 24th by which time it was singing. A Firecrest in Coombe Wood on the 26th was a good find. Two Red-throated Divers off Wallasea on the 27th were unusual given that they were some way up the Crouch, however one was unfortunately oiled. Strangely, these are the only records from anywhere this first-winter period except for two on 22nd January off the Pier. A Red-tailed Hawk complete with jesses was over Paglesham Lagoon on the 27th. Good numbers of Corn Buntings were around as the month closed with 58 on West Canvey on the 27th, and 53 on Wallasea the largest gatherings. Smaller flocks of between eight and twenty birds were at Barling, Fleet Head, Paglesham, Great Stambridge, and Wakering.

MARCH 2011

Three Adders were found basking on Benfleet Downs on the 3rd. Across the creek at Tewke's creek boatyard, the elusive Black Redstart and Water Pipit both put in an appearance on the 4th and 5th. A Long-eared Owl took up station at one site on the 4th where it remained all spring, with display noted on one occasion. After an inexplicable absence of records in February, the Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers were noted again in Hockley Woods from the 4th onwards with two seen on a few dates, and three together on the 14th. The Coal Tit also showed in Hockley Woods from the 4th onwards with two seen together on several dates. A pair of Eider was off the Pier on the 5th as was a Porpoise; the Purple Sandpiper was logged on the 6th only, and not subsequently. A fine male Goshawk displaying over woodland was an unexpected find on the 7th. It remained for over a month and could often be seen performing its rollercoaster display over the woods but was unsuccessful in attracting a mate. A very early Wheatear on West Canvey on the 11th preceded the next one in Gunners Park on the 30th by almost three weeks. Other impending signs of spring on the 11th were the first Red Admirals and Commas, and a Pipistrelle Bat in Priory Park. Brimstones were seen the following day and both Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock one week later on the 19th. There was some evidence of Common Buzzard passage this month with three over Hockley Woods on the 12th and seven others across the region during the month including one or two lingering over suitable woodland. The Egyptian Goose flock at Paglesham had reduced to three on the 13th. Hockley Woods still hosted 40 Lesser Redpolls, an impressive flock of five Mealy Redpolls, and eight Treecreepers on the 14th. Waxwing sightings were intermittent this month but did include 36 at Pitsea on the 15th, 40 at Hawkwell on the 26th and two at Rawreth on the 27th. `Rossi' the Ring-billed Gull at Westcliff seafront departed a week earlier than usual, being last seen on the 16th. A report of two Ring-necked Parakeets along Canvey creek on the 17th was unusual but may refer to the regular two females around Prittlewell which are known to range widely. Five Gannets moved out the estuary offshore from Shoebury East Beach on the 18th, the same day that a marked passage of Bramblings began through a Canewdon garden with birds noted daily through to the 4th April, peaking at six on the 27th March. Migrant Chiffchaffs arrived on the 19th with five singing on Benfleet Downs and singles at several other sites. The pair of Firecrests in Hockley Woods was seen for the final time on the 19th although this may be due to reduced observer effort, or the birds falling silent once paired up. Single figure counts of Siskin were widespread this month with the only flock of any size being 30 at Rochford Golf Course on the 20th, the same day that two Water Voles were seen on Two Tree Island. Continuing the mammalian theme, a Muntjac was seen again in Hockley Woods on the 21st whilst an Adder the following day on West Canvey Marsh maintained the reptilian interest. A Grey Partridge at Temple Farm, Southend, on the 25th was unusual given that this is not a former site for this species and the habitat is not optimal. The last Goldeneye of the winter was a passage bird on Vange Marsh on the 26th whereas the over-wintering birds at Paglesham Lagoon were last reported on the 13th. On the Roach and surrounding creeks, Red-breasted Mergansers were also reported for the final time on the 26th with, ironically, a peak winter count of eight around Fleet Head, and three in the Roach. The over-wintering waders persevered with the Spotted Redshank still in the creek at Wat Tyler all month and a passage bird at Fleet Head on the 26th along with two Green Sandpipers also there the same day. In total there were just the two Spotted Redshanks at the two aforementioned sites, three Greenshanks at two sites, and an increase in Green Sandpipers which now numbered six at four sites. Seawatching off Gunners Park on the 27th proved mildly fruitful with the first Guillemot and Sandwich Tern of the year, and a supporting cast of four Common Scoter and an impressive 90 Great Crested Grebes. A singing Blackcap at Rochford Golf Course on the 27th may have been the first returning migrant as opposed to an over-wintering individual. The two Swallows over Canvey on the 27th were the first of the summer; a single was also at Wat Tyler two days later. A Kingfisher on Wallasea on the 28th was only the second record from anywhere this year, their numbers having been decimated by the hard winter. A cracking Mealy Redpoll was a much appreciated garden tick for one lucky Canewdon birder on the 28th. An Osprey flew west over Benfleet on the 31st providing an excellent spring record of this increasingly regular visitor. Wallasea continued to host a single ringtail Hen Harrier, a single Short-eared Owl and Peregrine, and the female Merlin, with all being seen regularly throughout the month and all still present on the 31st.

APRIL 2011

The last few Bramblings and Siskins of the spring lingered through the opening four days of the month with three Bramblings and two Siskins at Canewdon, and three Siskins along Prittlewell Brook. Four Common Buzzards were seen on the 2nd, with a total of 24 individuals passing through the area this month. The first of three Honey Buzzards this month was claimed over Coombe Wood on the 3rd, a full two weeks earlier than the previous earliest ever Essex record; further birds were a possible over Leigh on the 12th, and another over Hockley on the 23rd. All three sightings are exceptionally early and will no doubt come under close scrutiny from the county records committee. Three Red Kite sightings were also made this month, the first of which was a single over Rawreth on the 2nd, the other sighting being of two together over Leigh on the 12th. The Coal Tit pair in Hockley Woods was still together and showing well on the 5th where they remained all month. Waxwings were reluctant to leave, somehow finding the warm and sunny conditions to their liking! A flock of 79 were initially found on the 5th in Prittlewell with 30 still present on the 16th. A flock in Rochford from the 10th to the 20th could have been the Prittlewell flock on a sojourn but may just as equally have been a separate flock. Three ringtail Hen Harriers could still be found on Wallasea on the 6th where at least one remained all month. Also patrolling the ditch lines on Wallasea this month were two Short-eared Owls which also obligingly remained all month. The first Nightingales were back on territory on the 6th with a bird on Two Tree Island. It was shortly joined by at least two others. In addition, singing birds were also at Belton Hills, Benfleet Downs, Canvey Wick, Wakering Stairs, and Wat Tyler C.P., with perhaps eleven territories across the area. The only Black Redstart of the spring was predictably in Gunners Park on the 6th where Wheatear numbers reached a spring high of nine whilst the following day an elusive male Ring Ouzel was also reported. Continuing the run of various Buzzard sightings, a Rough-legged Buzzard was seen well over Cherry Orchard C.P. on the 7th with either it or another over Southchurch on the 12th. The anticipated return of Grasshopper Warbler occurred on the 8th when two were found on Canvey Wick, with another two the following day on Two Tree Island. A third reeling bird joined the Canvey Wick and Two Tree Island birds a few days later. There were no reports this spring from Wakering Stairs. Two Little Ringed Plovers at Vange Marsh on the 9th were the first of the year. A truly excellent find came on the 10th with the arrival of a first-summer Night Heron on Two Tree Island which was retaining the majority of its juvenile plumage. Being the first twitchable one in Essex since 1987 it proved popular, and although elusive at times, it remained until 2nd May. A Cuckoo on Canvey Wick on the 10th was almost a week earlier than the main arrival when approximately 22 calling birds were at 15 sites during the last half of the month. Two Egyptian Geese at Fleet Head from the 10th to the 12th were probably part of the original flock of six at Paglesham at the end of February. On the 12th a Woodchat Shrike was found just outside the recording area at Rettendon where it stayed until the 14th and would probably have stayed longer had it not been taken by a Sparrowhawk! A female Redstart was reported on Two Tree Island on the 15th by visiting birders twitching the Night Heron. Avocets numbered 100 on Two Tree Island on the 16th with the majority paired up and nest building; a Spotted Redshank was also on the lagoon. The only Green Sandpiper of the month was on Vange Marsh on the 16th. A lone Egyptian Goose arrived at West Canvey on the 17th where it remained all month. Another inland Osprey, the second of the spring, passed over Belfairs golf course on the 20th. Hobby appeared daily from the 21st onwards with seven arriving in the final week of the month. Turtle Doves also returned with three singles noted at three sites between the 21st and 25th. A singing Savi's Warbler was an extraordinary find on Canvey Wick late on the 21st , even more so given the small, insignificant stand of borrowdyke reeds that it favoured. It showed occasionally early on the 22nd, and reeled again briefly after dark that evening too but was not seen or heard subsequently. Keeping up the Mediterranean theme an obliging Hoopoe was a wonderful find on West Canvey on the 22nd where it performed well until late afternoon before disappearing, possibly to Stow Maries. Having never had a twitchable Savi's Warbler or Hoopoe previously in the region, or any records whatsoever of Night Heron, April 2011 was shaping up to be one of the best months on record. Whimbrel reached a spring high of 26 on Wallasea on the 23rd which also coincided with the peak movement of Yellow Wagtails when 25 were at Fleet Head and 15 on Wallasea. A first-summer Little Gull was busy hawking insects over Vange Marsh between the 24th and 26th and proved to be the only record of the spring. An Arctic Skua off Canvey Point on the 26th was the only spring record of any skua species. Given the strong easterlies and passage past Dungeness this was disappointing but not unexpected. In contrast to the autumn, the Thames simply does not attract skuas in the springtime. The 29th produced some interesting records, namely the first (!) Black-throated Diver of the year which was off Gunners Park, a Jack Snipe on Benfleet Downs, 110 Dark-bellied Brent Geese and three Arctic Terns at Canvey. A Wood Sandpiper also on Vange Marsh on the 29th would in any other year be a particularly noteworthy spring record, however the following day there were six, and by the beginning of May there were eight which set a new Essex record spring count. Wall butterflies were first noted on the 29th with singles at Canvey and Vange Marsh, whilst the following day the first Small Heaths were on Hadleigh Marshes and Vange Marsh. Keeping company with the six Wood Sandpipers at Vange Marsh on the 30th were a spring maximum of 23 Greenshank and three Spotted Redshanks as well as a White Wagtail. Continuing the month's Mediterranean feel and rounding off a truly remarkable run of sightings, a party of four Black-winged Stilts dropped in at Wat Tyler C. P. at midday on the 30th before relocating to Bowers Marsh, and then back to Wat Tyler C.P. They departed overnight and were relocated one week later in Cornwall.

MAY 2011

On the 1st a Red-throated Diver off Gunners Park became the last winter record of a truly dreadful first-winter period for divers. There were just two other reports of Red-throated Diver totalling four individuals, one of Black-throated Diver, and none of Great Northern Diver. A Green Sandpiper at West Canvey on the 1st was the last of the spring. The Night Heron on Two Tree Island was seen for the final time on the 2nd. A fine drake Garganey on Vange Marsh on the 2nd remained through to the 15th and was seen daily. The eight Wood Sandpipers there on the 1st remained to the 2nd after which just a single was seen until the 6th. The wintering Short-eared Owl on Wallasea was seen for the last time on the 3rd when two ringtail Hen Harriers were also still lingering. At Rayleigh Mount thirteen Waxwings on the 3rd were exceptionally late while a first-winter Iceland Gull on the scrape at Wat Tyler C.P. on the 3rd and 4th was similarly tardy. The Coal Tit pair in Hockley Woods were confirmed as breeding on the 3rd when they were seen visiting a nesthole with caterpillars. On the 5th the first of just three Buzzards this month was over Eastwood, with others passing over Wat Tyler C.P. and Wakering later in the month. An adult Yellow-legged Gull visited the scrape at Wat Tyler C.P. on the 6th, the same day that a singing Garden Warbler took up territory near Rawreth all month. A pair of Bullfinch was also noted here on the 6th only. A Mealy Redpoll took a liking to a Leigh garden from the 7th to 14th where it was photographed visiting a nyger seed feeder. A late Merlin could still be found on Wallasea on the 7th while next day the Hen Harrier was seen there for the last time. Turtle Dove numbers remained low this month with three at Wakering Stairs on the 8th and a single at Wat Tyler C.P. the only records. Cuckoo were relatively numerous with four at Wakering Stairs on the 8th and four at Wat Tyler C.P. on the 14th being the best counts with 1-2 at seven other sites this month. A Grey Partridge was claimed at Wakering Stairs on the 8th, as was an Arctic Tern on Wallasea, the same day 14 Crossbills were in Hockley Woods and the first local Avocet chicks hatched, three days earlier than last year. A colony of Green Hairstreaks was found on Canvey Wick on the 9th where up to 14 individuals were counted along with ten Brown Argus and five Wall butterflies. Other Green Hairstreak sightings this month were singles on West Canvey, Vange Marsh, and Benfleet Downs. A Red Kite over Thundersley on the 10th was a good local record as was a Little Stint on Bowers Marsh on the 13th. A typically brief Golden Oriole was found early on the 14th on Canvey Wick before flying off high towards Fobbing. The few remaining wintering Dark-bellied Brent Geese moved on over the following two days with two on Wallasea on the 14th, and nine on Two Tree Island on the 15th the last records. An unusually confiding Quail on West Canvey on the 17th allowed several birders to actually see this notoriously secretive bird. South Fambridge hosted the last Wheatear of the spring on the 17th with three other singles seen earlier in the month at other local sites. Equally, a Common Sandpiper on West Canvey on the 18th was also the last of the spring with another twelve moving through earlier in the month which included three together at Vange Marsh and three on Two Tree Island. The White Wagtail present at Vange Marsh since the end of April was seen for the last time on the 18th. Attention turned to odonata on the 20th with the discovery of a colony of 31 Banded Demoiselles in Cherry Orchard C.P. The following day a pair of Egyptian Geese also dropped in for a day whilst a single remained all month on West Canvey. On the 27th, five Crossbills headed north over Leigh and the following day a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was reported from near Rawreth. The 28th saw the arrival of a stunning pair of Black-necked Grebes on Canvey where they remained until the 30th.

JUNE 2011

Two Turtle Doves in suitable habitat were a welcome find near Rawreth on the 1st. The first of only two Marsh Harrier and two Buzzard sightings this month was on the 3rd, with the former at Paglesham and the latter over Leigh. A drake Garganey at Wat Tyler C.P. on the 5th was probably different to the Vange Marsh bird which remained through to the 11th on which date both drakes were together on Vange Marsh. A Common Sandpiper at Vange Marsh on the 5th was possibly a late spring straggler while a Gannet off Canvey on the same day was an unusual summer record. A Yellow-legged Gull was at Wat Tyler C.P. on the 6th with it or another at Vange Marsh on the 18th. Seven Crossbills over Thundersley on the 8th continued to hint at an influx; however no more were reported during the summer or autumn. Two Spoonbills, an adult and a juvenile were found on Vange Marsh on the 10th with both still present on the 11th until one flew off south leaving one remaining until the morning of the 13th. Two Green Sandpipers there on the 10th signalled the start of the return passage with records almost daily subsequently for the rest of the month. A female Red-backed Shrike at Vange Marsh on the 11th was most unexpected; it was often elusive and mobile and had moved on by the end of the day. A Buzzard flying east over Wat Tyler C.P. on the 11th was the second and last bird of the month. Some of the more unusual butterflies took to the wing from mid-month starting with 13 White-letter Hairstreaks and seven Marbled Whites on Benfleet Downs. A Painted Lady in Shipwrights Wood on the 18th was the only sighting this month, and the first four White Admirals were in Belfairs N.R. on the 19th where they continued to be reported for the remainder of the month. Heath Fritillaries peaked at 32 in Belfairs N.R. on the 19th with a further 27 earlier in the month at Thundersley. A Kingfisher at Vange Marsh on the 21st was remarkably only the third of the year whereas a Red Kite over Wat Tyler the same day was the sixth of the year! Purple Hairstreaks were discovered in Hockley Woods on the 21st when six were typically frequenting a favoured oak tree. Single Purple Hairstreaks were also noted in Belfairs and on Benfleet Downs in the last week of the month. White-letter Hairstreaks peaked at 21 on Benfleet Downs on the 25th where Marbled Whites numbered up to 25 individuals. On the night of the 26th 27th, four different species of Hawkmoth were trapped in a Prittlewell garden with Eyed, Poplar, Elephant, and Privet all recorded. The second and last Marsh Harrier of the month was patrolling Wallasea on the 27th. Return wader passage was well and truly underway by the end of the month with eight Spotted Redshanks, and nine Green Sandpipers now at Vange Marsh on the 27th and 28th. A count of six purring Turtle Doves at Wakering Stairs on the 29th was the highest count locally since six in 2004. One or two continued to be reported infrequently from Wat Tyler C.P. during the month. A Long-eared Owl in the east was seen visiting a potential nest site with prey on the 29th. A count of 30 Marbled Whites was made on Canvey Point on the 29th and a female Southern Migrant Hawker was reported from Wat Tyler on the

JULY 2011

A Quail was a good find on Wallasea on the 1st where it continued to be heard through to the 3rd. The Long-eared Owl in the east was seen visiting the likely nest site again on the 1st. White Admirals peaked at ten in Belfairs on the 1st and Purple Hairstreaks now numbered three in Belfairs. On the 2nd, eleven White-letter Hairstreaks were still present on Benfleet Downs, whilst the next day Marbled Whites peaked at an impressive 110 on Canvey Wick. Pleasingly, last week's group of six Turtle Doves at Wakering Stairs had increased to eight on the 3rd, a count not reached since 2002. The two Turtle Doves near Rawreth were seen again on the 4th as was a Bullfinch and a Purple Hairstreak. A Water Vole showed itself on Wallasea on the 4th. Nearby at Paglesham Churchend two Quails were very vocal from the 5th through to the 13th one of which may well have been the Wallasea bird relocating. Also present at Paglesham Churchend were another three Turtle Doves on the 5th and two Water Voles on the 11th. Ruff returned on the 10th with four at Vange Marsh, with three the following day reducing to one through to the end of the month. Two Bullfinch showed themselves on Benfleet Downs on the 10th whereas a Dark-bellied Brent Goose north past Wakering Stairs the same day was less expected. A Buzzard was at Ballards Gore on the 11th, the first of just two birds this month although up to five could be viewed distantly to the north of South Fambridge. The Turtle Dove pair at Wat Tyler C.P. had been joined by another pair on the 11th the same day that a count of Marbled Whites on Hadleigh Marsh on the 11th revealed 50 present. A Southern Migrant Hawker was also seen on Hadleigh Marsh on the 15th repeating last year's series of sightings. Nearby a Hummingbird Hawkmoth was on Benfleet Downs the same day with it or another seen there again on the 24th. A pulse of waders came through on the 15th with Vange Marsh holding ten Spotted Redshank, 17 Greenshank, nine Common Sandpipers, and up to 12 Green Sandpipers. Two Coal Tits in Coombe Wood on the 15th and 19th were the first records from this former stronghold since the late 1990's. Coincidentally, another Coal Tit was reported from a Benfleet garden on the 17th. A Muntjac was seen in Thundersley Glen on the 16th; these still remain very scarce locally. At Wat Tyler C.P. on the 17th both Little Ringed Plover and Bearded Tits were proved to have bred with a pair and three juveniles of the former, and two family parties including five juveniles of the latter. Wall butterflies numbered six at Hole Haven creek on the 20th. A seawatch off Canvey on the 21st proved rewarding with the highlight being the first local Balearic Shearwater since 1998. Also seen were two Gannets, 45 Common Scoter and a Porpoise. A further seawatch off Canvey the following day was less fruitful although a Black Tern and a Guillemot offered some interest. A walk around Fleet Head on the 22nd provided further evidence of return wader passage with 30 Greenshank, nine Green Sandpipers, and six Common Sandpipers. A family party of five Turtle Doves at Wakering Stairs on the 24th included two juveniles. The first formal count of the year of Mediterranean Gulls along Southend seafront revealed 91 birds present on the 24th. On Benfleet Downs on the 25th two family parties of Bullfinch were noted and three Purple Hairstreaks were still at their preferred oak tree. The first returning Wheatear was scored on Wallasea on the 30th with a second bird at Paglesham Lagoon the following day where a Buzzard also passed overhead. By the 31st, three Southern Migrant Hawkers could now be found patrolling the ditches on Benfleet Downs where 30 Marsh Frogs were also counted.


The month got off to an excellent start when an adult and a juvenile Cattle Egret were found together in the Benfleet creek area. As hoped for, they came in to roost with up to 126 Little Egrets on Two Tree Island most evenings. As the juvenile was keeping close to the adult many speculated as to whether they may have bred nearby, perhaps in north Kent? The adult was seen through to the 15th after which the juvenile continued to come to roost until the 24th. As the first local record was only last year the hope is this will now become a regular species following post breeding dispersal. Willow Emerald Damselfly joined the ever growing list of scarce odonata on Hadleigh Marshes when one was found on the 3rd increasing to fifteen by the 21st. Glow worms rarely get a mention but a count of 28 was notable along Belton Hills on the 5th. Seawatching on the 5th at Canvey was entirely unproductive in terms of birds but five Porpoise did offer some consolation; they continued to be seen intermittently throughout the month. A Temminck's Stint found late on the 5th at Vange Marsh was gone by the following morning leaving local yearlisters frustrated although the close scrutiny the marsh received on the 6th did reveal an autumn peak count of 15 Common Sandpipers and a fleeting view of a Kingfisher. An inland Pied Flycatcher was an excellent garden tick near Coombe Wood on the 8th. An immature Red-crested Pochard in the borrowdyke at Wakering Stairs on the 13th was a most unusual record; it was reported as not looking too well and was nowhere to be seen one hour later. Two Water Voles, an adult and juvenile, were a nice find at Rochford golf course on the 13th, further sightings this month came from Vange Marsh on the 9th and Wallasea on the 14th. A small influx of Painted Lady butterflies was discernible following one at Wakering Stairs on the 13th when a further ten were recorded from four sites by the month's end. On the 15th came an unconfirmed report of a Montagu's Harrier on Wallasea. A Wood Sandpiper dropped in to West Canvey on the 16th where Green Sandpipers hit an autumn high of 23. The first evidence of skua passage came on the 17th when six Arctic Skuas along with two Little Gulls passed Canvey. Also on the 17th on West Canvey, the first Whinchat of a good autumn for this species was noted, increasing to two the following day. A Black-necked Grebe on the sea off Canvey on the 18th was a little unusual but three there on the 26th was really quite unexpected although in August 2008 one was seen on the sea off Canvey so perhaps the area is a staging post during post breeding dispersal? A Kingfisher on Two Tree Island on the 19th was the fifth record of the year from the entire area whereas a Buzzard reported over Leigh on the 19th was the first of three sightings this month. The first Spotted Flycatchers were reported on the 20th with two briefly at South Benfleet, and a Redstart was claimed on West Canvey along with three Whinchats. It was a good month for Osprey sightings with several different birds passing through and a long-stayer at the now regular staging post at Wakering Stairs from the 21st through to mid-September at least. The first twitchable Spotted Flycatcher of the autumn was at Barling on the 21st. The 23rd was the best day of the month in terms of skua passage with three Pomarine Skuas, 24 Arctic Skuas, and 13 Great Skuas, as well as an impressive 60 Black Terns. Three Wood Sandpipers on West Canvey on the 24th were new arrivals. All three were still present the following day reducing to two on the 27th which remained until mid-September. After an absence of four months, two Egyptian Geese were again to be found at Fleet Head on the 25th, the same day as Wallasea held the first Curlew Sandpipers of the autumn with three juveniles, as well as the highest count of Wheatears this month with eight which included a downy juvenile. The following day three Whinchats were counted on Wallasea; a total of twelve passed through the recording area this month at six sites. Seawatching on the 26th at Canvey was generally slow but it did provide the first Sabine's Gull of the year along with three Little Gulls and a Pomarine Skua. There were some good counts of Green Sandpipers from the 27th through to the 31st with 12 at Fleet Head, 14 on Wallasea, 14 on West Canvey, and 12 at Vange Marsh. Another Wood Sandpiper was found on the 27th, this time at Fleet Head where it stayed until the 30th when the pool dried out. Two adult Curlew Sandpipers dropped in to Canvey Point on the 27th and a juvenile roosted there on the 31st. A Ring-necked Parakeet over Ashingdon on the 27th was unusual and might have been a recent escape or just simply one of the more regular birds ranging widely. The first Merlin of the autumn was predictably on Wallasea on the 28th with apparently a different bird there on the 30th. A Spotted Flycatcher in Gunners Park on the 28th was soon joined by a second bird the following day and then a third individual on the 30th with all three still present on the 31st. Also seen in Gunners Park on the 29th was an elusive Wood Warbler. Having had no autumn records for over a decade, this one follows hot on the heels of one seen briefly in August last year. A Kingfisher at South Fambridge on the 29th rounded the month off nicely.


A seawatch from Canvey on the 1st failed to produce any sizeable movement although a single Pomarine Skua was notable, along with a single Great Skua and five Arctic Skuas. Canvey Point continued to appeal to Curlew Sandpipers with ten there on the 2nd, the best count of the autumn. Up to four birds were also seen in Tewke's Creek, along with 1-2 on Two Tree Island, Wallasea, and Potton Creek early in the month. A Wood Sandpiper dropped in on Vange Marsh on the 3rd and last month's duo remained on West Canvey through to the 13th. The only Tree Pipits of the year were singles at Barling on the 3rd and West Canvey on the 13th. The first of only two Painted Lady butterflies this month visited a garden in Leigh on the 3rd; the other was in Gunners Park on the 15th. Following single Little Stints in Tewke's Creek and at Wakering Stairs on the 3rd, numbers increased over the next few days with five on Canvey Point on the 4th, up to two on Vange Marsh from the 4th to the 18th, and an individual on West Canvey from the 6th to the 12th. Two Spotted Flycatchers on Rayleigh Mount on the 4th were an excellent inland find, two additional birds were found in Pitsea the following day. Further singles were discovered later in the month at Wat Tyler C.P., Canvey Wick, Coombe Wood, and West Canvey whereas Mount Bovers held two on the 17th and Gunners Park hosted up to three mid-month. An adult Cattle Egret, presumably last month's bird, roosted at Wat Tyler C.P. on the evening of the 5th. A Fulmar was watched leaving the estuary off Gunners Park on the 9th and was remarkably the only record of the entire year! The only confirmed sightings of Redstart this autumn were of two elusive birds on Canvey Wick from the 9th to the 12th. A Wryneck was an excellent find on the 9th at South Fambridge. It frequented the seawall and typically could either be very obliging, or could go missing for hours at a time seemingly into a solitary hawthorn bush. It remained through to the 14th but proved frustrating for several birders. The 10th was one of the best seawatching days off Canvey yielding another Balearic Shearwater, and six Manx Shearwaters, which started an incredible run of sightings for both of these species, a Pomarine Skua, 80 Arctic Skuas, a juvenile Long-tailed Skua, and four Great Skuas. The first Siskin of the autumn was a single over Canvey Wick on the 10th swiftly followed by records over the following week from Gunners Park, Rayleigh, Rochford, Leigh, Wallasea, West Canvey and Wat Tyler C.P. where forty passed over on the 14th. The only Hummingbird Hawkmoth of the month visited an Ashingdon garden on the 10th. On the 11th came the first of several interesting Ring-necked Parakeet records, commencing with one over Coombe Wood which was seen subsequently on the 13th, followed by one over Westcliff on the 13th, another over Rochford golf course on the 25th, and then a group of three east over Vange Marsh late on the 27th. Whinchat had a very good month and reached a peak of 13 on the 11th on West Canvey. Additional records included five on Bowers Marsh, six at South Fambridge, and three on Wallasea. Another Balearic Shearwater passed by Canvey Point on the 13th as did a Puffin making it an excellent day for these highly sought after Essex birds. A seawatch off Canvey on the 14th failed to live up to expectations with the first returning Dark-bellied Brent Goose the only record of note. The two Coal Tits at Coombe Wood first seen in July, put in another welcomed appearance on the 14th and 19th, and the single bird frequenting a Benfleet garden since July was also seen daily through the month until the 18th at least. A Water Vole on West Canvey on the 14th was the only record of the month. The 15th and 16th saw some terrific seabird passage off Canvey which included a phenomenal movement, by Essex standards, of shearwaters. On the 15th, an amazing three Balearic Shearwaters were seen as were at least eight Manx Shearwaters, a Guillemot, a Puffin (presumably same as 13th), three Pomarine Skuas, eight Arctic Skuas, and three Great Skuas. The 16th saw an Essex record count of 19 Manx Shearwaters off Canvey along with 52 Gannets, three Guillemots, 13 Pomarine Skuas, 32 Arctic Skuas, two Long-tailed Skuas, a solitary Great Skua, and the second Sabine's Gull of the autumn. On the 18th, a summer plumaged Red-throated Diver, the first of the second-winter period was seen off Canvey Point, as was a Porpoise. Disappointingly, a Pied Flycatcher in Gunners Park on the 18th was the only record all month and only the second local bird all year. The second half of the month was considerably quieter but not before a small, slim-winged ringtail harrier caused some excitement on the 22nd and 23rd, unfortunately it was frequenting Foulness and so could only be viewed distantly from Wallasea. With unprecedented numbers of Pallid Harriers in the UK, this one will have to be remembered as `the one that got away'. Time spent on Wallasea searching for the harrier between the 22nd and 24th was not entirely unproductive though with 13 Marsh Harriers logged going to roost on the 22nd, two Short-eared Owls seen on the 22nd and 24th, and a flock of 24 Arctic Terns and an Osprey seen flying down the Roach on the 24th. The only other record of note in the last week of the month was of two Lesser Redpolls flying over a garden in Leigh on the 26th.


Signs of summer were still apparent in the first week of the month when four Wall butterflies and a Brown Argus were on Hadleigh Downs on the 1st and 300 Red Admirals were reported flying south over the Crouch seawall at South Fambridge on the 2nd. The birdlife also gave a hint of late summer with three Wheatears still at Haven Point on the 2nd, single Hobbies at Canewdon on the 2nd and Bowers Marsh on the 3rd, two Whinchat on West Canvey from the 4th to the 13th, and single Little Tern and Black Tern off Canvey on the 6th. A Porpoise and a Guillemot were both seen from the Pier on the 6th. It was a four skua species day on the 8th on what was the best seawatching day of the month. The tally for the day however was relatively low with two adult Pomarine Skuas complete with spoons, three Arctic Skuas, one juvenile Long-tailed Skua, and ten Great Skuas. An additional one or two Pomarine Skuas and Arctic Skuas passed through during the month as did another ten or so Great Skuas but the Thames was unusually quiet this month. Other seawatching highlights on the 8th included 53 Gannets, 46 Common Scoters, two Red-breasted Mergansers, three Little Gulls and two Razorbills whilst the following day 85 Gannets passed by but there was little else of note. The first Redwings were noted on the 8th with the first Fieldfares predictably a few days later on the 13th. A Black Brant was a good find among the 5,000 Dark-bellied Brent Geese at Leigh on the 11th. Signs of migration were evidenced on the 13th when 10 Ring Ouzels dropped in to Gunners Park and 63 Song Thrushes passed through as did three Bramblings. Also on the 13th the first Great Northern Diver of the year (!) passed downriver off Gunners Park. Meanwhile, seawatching off Canvey on the 13th failed to live up to expectations but did yield four Guillemots and the first local individual of a nationwide influx of Short-eared Owls when one crossed the Thames heading south. Consistent patch work in Gunners Park eventually revealed the hoped for Yellow-browed Warbler on the 14th, it stayed until the 16th. Also present in Gunners Park on the 14th were 16 Siskins and a Kingfisher. Siskins were fairly numerous this month with around 100 at various locations, whereas Kingfishers which have been very scarce all year were noted at four coastal locations this month. Wallasea played host to the first Hen Harrier of the autumn on the 14th as well as two Short-eared Owls and two Barn Owls. After hearing about a Great White Egret at Blue House Farm on the north side of the Crouch, Southend birders waited on the south side at South Fambridge at dusk on the 19th and were rewarded with good views of the bird flying to roost near the marina. It roosted from the 19th to the 23rd after which time it was seen during the day feeding at Canewdon and on Wallasea. This was the first twitchable Great White Egret for the recording area. Three Common Buzzards on fields at Canewdon on the 20th was a good local record and an increasingly common sight. A small movement of Lesser Redpoll started with five in Gunners Park on the 20th increasing to 15 in early November. Additionally, another flock of five Lesser Redpoll appeared on Canvey Wick which also stayed into early November, four flew over Canvey seafront and two others visited a Benfleet garden. Time spent at South Fambridge on the 22nd in anticipation of the Great White Egret coming to roost was doubly rewarding when a Spoonbill also flew into the roost from Blue House Farm, and a Merlin flew south. The first Goldeneye of the winter appeared on Paglesham Lagoon on the 23rd where a Weasel and a Brambling were also present. A Grey Phalarope was reported off Canvey on the 24th at a time when there were several around coastal Essex and Kent. A Wheatear was reported on Wallasea on the 24th whilst an even later Redstart was reportedly claimed from a garden in Ashingdon the next day. A Short-eared Owl was flushed from the seawall at South Fambridge on the 25th with other singles at Wakering Stairs on the 16th and in-off the sea at Canvey on the 24th while the regular bird on Wallasea remained throughout the latter half of the month. A Black-throated Diver was on the Thames between Canvey Point and the Pier on the 26th. Two House Martins at Gunners Park on the 26th were the last of the year, as was a Swallow there the next day. A Firecrest was a good find in Gunners Park on the 26th where it remained to the 28th, whilst a second Firecrest was found nearby at Shoebury East Beach on the 27th. A seawatch from Canvey on the 28th gave two Red-throated Divers, two late Common Terns, three Arctic Terns, and a Porpoise. At nearby West Canvey, a Lapland Bunting was seen briefly on the 28th following a report of four on the nearby marsh earlier in the month. A late Wheatear was on Bowers Marsh on the 29th, the same day that six Whooper Swans flew low over South Fambridge. A juvenile Curlew Sandpiper on Two Tree Island on the 30th was rather late and not unsurprisingly was the only record of the month; up to ten Spotted Redshanks were also present on and off through the month at Vange Marsh. Near Rawreth, a count of six Bullfinches on the 30th was noteworthy and equalled the highest count in the recording area over the last ten years. As the month and the autumn drew to a close, Wallasea now held three ringtail Hen Harriers, two Peregrines, a Merlin, and the aforementioned Short-eared Owl.


A Black Redstart flitting around the rooftops in central Westcliff on the 1st was an excellent find and the only autumn passage record, and just the third bird of the year. The Firecrest in Gunners Park present since 26th October showed itself for one last time on the 1st, also present were 17 Siskins and 16 Lesser Redpolls. Two Blackcaps were competing in sub-song at Rayleigh Mount on the 4th, both of which remained into 2012. A female Blackcap was also seen there on the 28th. Another singing Blackcap was at Wakering Stairs on the 20th and a female visited a Leigh garden on the 14th. For several days from the 6th, seawatching dominated with some spectacular passage by Essex standards off Canvey. On the 6th, 315 Gannets, 180 Common Scoter, and eight Red-breasted Mergansers signalled the start of the movement which gained full momentum over the next two days. On the 7th, nine Red-throated Divers, one Black-throated Diver, 181 Gannets, 33 Pomarine Skuas, one Arctic Skua, 64 Great Skuas, a Sandwich Tern, 134 Guillemots, four Razorbills, two Little Auks, and a Puffin were all seen from Canvey. The count of Pomarine Skuas is believed to be the second highest ever day count in Essex, whereas the Guillemot count is one of the highest in Essex since the early 90's, and seeing four auk species in a day in Essex is almost unprecedented. Highlights of seawatching from Canvey on the 8th were one Great Northern Diver, three Black-throated Divers, the only Leach's Petrel of the year, 155 Gannets, five Scaup, a Woodcock (!), 26 Little Gulls, an adult Sabine's Gull, and three Puffins whilst further downstream two Velvet Scoters flew east past Gunners Park and a Little Auk was on the sea although was unfortunately found dead the next day. Attention switched to the Pier on the 9th and 10th by which time the majority of birds had left the estuary although two Great Northern Divers and the first Slavonian Grebe of the year were present on the 9th, with 22 Eider and a Porpoise seen the following day. A Snow Bunting was found along the seawall at Benfleet on the 11th the same day that two female Scaup arrived on the scrape at Wat Tyler C.P. where they remained through to the 17th. A Buzzard was over Hullbridge on the 11th whilst another took up station around Wallasea the following day where it remained through to 2012. Single Jack Snipe and Water Pipit were good finds on Bowers Marsh on the 12th, while on Canvey two late Sandwich Terns patrolled the Point with one remaining through to the 20th. There was an influx of harriers mid-month demonstrated by a count of six Marsh Harriers and five Hen Harriers on the 13th around the Fleet Head and Wallasea area. The pair of Ring-necked Parakeets visited their favoured Prittlewell garden mid-month with the female on the 6th and the male on the 13th; there were no further sightings around Prittlewell or Priory Park for the remainder of the year. An incredibly late Wheatear was reported from the seawall at Benfleet on the 14th, the same day that the regular wintering Purple Sandpiper returned to the Pier. There was an unexpected arrival of grey geese on West Canvey on the 15th when flocks of eight Pink-footed Geese and four White-fronted Geese dropped in and stayed through to the 17th. The Puffin from earlier in the month flew by Canvey Point again on the 16th. One or two Waxwings were reported by a single observer around Southchurch on the 16th and 17th but eluded everyone else. A family party of five Grey Partridges on Bowers Marsh on the 17th was a good find and the highest count in the recording area for over twelve years. The surprise find of the month must surely be the juvenile White-rumped Sandpiper which spent the afternoon of the 18th on West Canvey; it could not be found the next day. Last month's Great White Egret was still roaming the area and was seen at Raypits on the 19th where it had apparently been present for several days. It subsequently moved onto Wallasea on the 23rd. Vange Marsh held a Little Stint from the 19th through to the 25th when two were present, and a Ring-necked Parakeet was also seen on the 19th flying west to roost. A flock of seven Egyptian Geese flew in from the west at South Fambridge on the 20th before alighting on the Crouch. The influx of Short-eared Owls continued with six on Wallasea on the 20th, five on Potton, four at Fleet Head, three on West Canvey, and singles at several other sites. The Corn Bunting flock on Wallasea had doubled over the last week to reach 200 on the 20th when two Snow Buntings dropped in at Wakering Stairs. The last of four Red Admiral butterflies seen this month were noted on the 20th with singles at Canvey Point and Leigh. Continuing the recent run of wild geese sightings on West Canvey, a group of five Barnacle Geese dropped in on the 24th where they stayed until the 2nd December. The timing of their arrival and their wary behaviour gave them good credentials for being wild birds. On the 25th, Wallasea held an impressive flock of 150 Linnets while on the nearby Ness a group of six Snow Buntings was found which were quite possibly the same six as those on Foulness two weeks earlier. The Snow Buntings stayed until the 5th December. On the 26th, the Corn Bunting flock on Wallasea was estimated to have increased further to 250. A Merlin, no doubt attracted by the high number of passerines became a regular sight on Wallasea from the 25th through into 2012.


A Bullfinch was seen at Wat Tyler C.P. on the 1st, now a rare sighting here at what was once a former stronghold. At nearby Vange Marsh five wintering Spotted Redshanks and a Water Pipit on the 2nd were notable. A pair of Coal Tits were reported from a Benfleet garden on the 2nd and were apparently the first here since 1996. Two Pale-bellied Brent Geese were seen among the 3,000 Dark-bellied Brent Geese on Wallasea on the 2nd and 3rd. All six Short-eared Owls on Wallasea were present again on the 3rd, and along with up to seven ringtail Hen Harriers, and four Marsh Harriers, proved very popular throughout the month. Less accessible was the family party of five Grey Partridge seen again on a private area of Bowers Marsh on the 3rd. After reports were received of at least one Rough-legged Buzzard wintering on Foulness it was possible with patience and luck (and high magnification!) to `scope a Rough-legged Buzzard from the eastern seawall of Wallasea on the 4th and intermittently through into 2012. A Weasel was also seen on Wallasea on the 4th. A juvenile Pomarine Skua was seen from Canvey Point on the 4th; there then followed several other reports of what was presumably the same bird during the month and into 2012. The 6th brought an unconfirmed report of a Snow Bunting at South Fambridge. A pair of Bullfinch were regular on Hadleigh Downs between the 10th and 25th. In addition to the one or two Buzzards in the Wallasea area, the only other report this month was of a pair over woodland near Hockley on the 14th. Up to three Great Northern Divers took up station off the Pier head between the 15th and 18th where they made short work of the local crabs. The Purple Sandpiper was also logged there again on the 15th and 26th. An immature Velvet Scoter was loafing just offshore at Canvey on the 16th. Apart from the two Velvet Scoters that flew by Gunners Park in November this was the only other record all year and was therefore successfully twitched by a few locals; surprisingly it was seen there again on the 26th and 27th. Two Ring-necked Parakeets headed noisily north-west over a Leigh garden on the 17th with a single seen nearby on the 26th. Four Snow Buntings arrived at Shoebury East Beach on the 20th. Their number reduced to three from the 24th but they remained faithful to one small area of beach around the boom through into 2012 and so proved a popular distraction over the Christmas period. A Shag and a drake Goosander were both seen from the Pier on the 21st and represented the first sighting of each this year. Three drake Mandarins returned to Friars Park on the 22nd where they remained most days into 2012. Where they go to when they are not in Friars Park still remains a mystery. The second Slavonian Grebe of the year was found off Shoebury East Beach on the 24th when 26 Red-throated Divers were seen flying around in the outer estuary and a female Eider lingered just offshore. Unexpectedly, another drake Goosander was seen, this time flying over Wallasea on the 25th when a Porpoise was glimpsed off Gunners Park and two Waxwings arrived at Vange. One Waxwing remained at Vange from the 26th through to the 12th January. At Canvey, one or two Arctic Skuas were noted lingering offshore from the 26th to the 28th and a Black-throated Diver was recorded on the 26th and 30th. On Canvey Wick a flock of 15 Lesser Redpoll was found on the 26th. Close scrutiny of the flock revealed the presence of up to four Mealy Redpolls among the Lesser Redpolls. A Black Swan joined up with Mute Swans on Wallasea on the 29th before moving to Paglesham the next day. Also on Wallasea on the 29th there were now three Pale-bellied Brent Geese in with the 3,000 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, and two Greenshank were wintering on the wetlands. Three Woodcock were seen leaving woodland on Hadleigh Downs at dusk on the 30th; other singles were seen earlier this month on Wallasea and Coombe Wood. A Weasel ran across the road at Wat Tyler C.P. on the 31st. Four drake Eider flew upriver past Shoebury East Beach on the 31st and a Chiffchaff was found wintering in Friars Park. Fittingly, the year ended well with the Great White Egret watched flying west over Wallasea, then north over the Crouch to roost near Creaksea at dusk on the 31st. Lamentably `Rossi' the Ring-billed Gull at Westcliff failed to return after gracing us with his presence since March 2000. In summary, the year proved to be another excellent one with 227 species reliably recorded locally.