Seawatching continued to remain slow although a count of nine Red-throated Divers off the Pier on the 1st proved to be the highest count of the first winter period; an immature Pomarine Skua past was less expected and Kittiwake managed just a single. The pair of Nuthatch in Belfairs Woods proved popular throughout the month and two Treecreepers were also regularly seen. A Chiffchaff at Paglesham Lagoon on the 1st was one of only three seen this month. Six Barnacle Geese were seen to fly onto Bowers Marsh late on the 1st; they were not seen here again until the 21st but were noted on West Canvey Marsh in the interim. A Woodcock was flushed from the seawall at Gunners Park on the 1st with a further two noted throughout the month at their more traditional stronghold on Hadleigh Downs where a Coal Tit put in a surprise visit from the 2nd to the 4th. The Coal Tit in Hockley Woods was joined by a second bird from the 2nd as was the wintering Firecrest whilst Goldcrest there peaked at just three. The adult Bewick’s Swan flew over Paglesham on the 2nd but continued to prove untwitchable. The Bittern was seen at Wat Tyler C.P. for the final time on the 3rd when a Weasel put on a good show at Hadleigh Downs after losing its prey to a Magpie. A female Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was reported from Pound Wood on the 5th along with three Bullfinch and two Treecreepers, but was not seen subsequently despite searching. Two Twite were the ‘real deal’ on Two Tree Island on the 5th but frustratingly only stayed ten minutes before heading off in the direction of Canvey Point. Wallasea hosted three Ruff on the 7th which moved to Lower Raypits on the 10th (and still no Twite!). A Shag was seen from the Pier on the 9th. Last month’s Lesser Redpoll flock in Hockley Woods had fragmented by now with small mobile flocks of six and five seen this month on the 10th and 23rd. A Red Kite was photographed over Canvey Wick on the 10th, the first record of what turned out to be a bumper spring for this increasing wanderer. The three drake Mandarin at Friars Park performed their usual disappearing act after the 11th and were not to be seen again during the first half of the year. There was an interesting report of four Bewick’s Swans on Wallasea on the 13th. A Short-eared Owl was on Two Tree Island on the 16th and a Long-eared Owl was noted at one site in the south on one date mid-month. The Corn Bunting flock on Wallasea peaked this month at an impressive 300 on the 17th whilst next day 100 Corn Buntings were counted at an inland field near Rochford which has been left fallow in readiness for becoming a housing estate in the near future. Remarkably this one field also held 20 Yellowhammers, 10 Reed Buntings, and 30 Skylarks. At Wakering Stairs two Pale-bellied Brent Geese were reported on the 18th. Short-eared Owl numbers remained fairly steady on Wallasea throughout the month with eight counted on the 19th. Also present throughout the month were four Marsh Harriers, two ringtail Hen Harriers, seven Kestrels, two Merlins, three Peregrines, a Barn Owl, and the ever popular juvenile Rough-legged Buzzard. The flock of six Barnacle Geese appeared back on Bowers Marsh on the 21st where they were seen through to the 25th although they still went missing on the 24th when they visited West Canvey Marsh. The only Great Northern Diver of the month showed well off the Pier on the 21st. An immature Glaucous Gull was at Bowers Marsh on the 22nd with two immature birds present on the adjacent tip on the 24th. Both birds commuted between the tip and Holehaven Creek to roost through to the 5th February. A flock of nine Lesser Redpolls perched up in a silver birch along Prittlebrook in Leigh for a short while on the 25th when both a Weasel and a Muntjac showed well on Hadleigh Downs. A Dartford Warbler was an excellent find in Gunners Park on the 26th and was the first record in the area for eight years. Frustratingly it was only seen briefly but was well photographed but to everyone’s relief it was refound in a different area of Gunners Park on the 30th keeping company with some of the six Stonechats wintering there. Remarkably the finder of the Dartford Warbler went on to find and photograph two male Serins in Gunners Park on the 29th. They proved hugely popular during their prolonged stay and were last reported on the 21st March. They could even be heard singing regularly towards the end of their stay. Interestingly a lady subsequently forwarded some photos of the Serins which she had taken a few days earlier on the 25th unsure of what they were! A slightly tricky larus was photographed on Pitsea Tip on the 31st and showed a suite of characteristics to suggest a Kumlien’s type Iceland Gull although there may have been a small element of impurity about it; the jury is still out! Blackcaps ended the month with a flourish with at least three birds in Benfleet and singles in North Shoebury, Canewdon, Coombe Wood, and Leigh.
The month began with an unconfirmed report of a Glossy Ibis at Wat Tyler C.P. on the 2nd. The Lesser Redpolls in Hockley Woods regrouped this month with a flock of 32 on the 3rd when Goldcrest numbers had increased to a paltry six and two Treecreepers remained. The two immature Glaucous Gulls continued to be noted through to the 5th with a single thereafter remaining throughout the month and continuing to commute between Pitsea Tip and Holehaven Creek. The Thames still held little of note although two Red-throated Divers and a Great Northern Diver were off the Pier on the 6th whilst on the 8th a Slavonian Grebe drifted out past Gunners Park and three Eider were off Wakering Stairs. Short-eared Owl numbers on Wallasea fell away slightly this month with six recorded on the 8th. Also on Wallasea the juvenile Rough-legged Buzzard continued its presence along with two Marsh Harriers, one ringtail Hen Harrier, a Sparrowhawk, five Kestrels, two Merlins, a Peregrine, and three Barn Owls. Just two Chiffchaffs were seen this month with singles on Benfleet Downs on the 9th and in Priory Park on the 13th. By contrast Blackcap numbered four which included the three still in Benfleet and a single still in Leigh. Last month’s Dartford Warbler was claimed again on the 9th and 10th in Gunners Park where the two Serins continued to perform to the crowds all month. Bowers Marsh hosted the first Common Sandpiper of the year on the 10th along with two Ruff and twenty Snipe. The Shag was seen again on the Pier on the 11th but the estuary continued to remain unusually quiet. Bowers Marsh held a respectable 60 Snipe on the 14th and an unseasonal gathering of five Green Sandpipers the following day. The flock of Lesser Redpoll in Hockley Woods now numbered forty on the 15th and also held within their midst a Mealy Redpoll. The wintering Firecrest was proving elusive but was noted on the 15th and 19th this month. The pair of Nuthatch in Belfairs Woods were recorded for the last time on the 15th but only due to lack of observer effort subsequently. Despite significant effort in Hockley Woods there were again no records of Nuthatch since the last bird which was seen in April 2013. A Red Admiral brightened up the day in Leigh on the 18th where the sunshine held promise of a not too distant spring. A Long-eared Owl was again seen on one date at one site in the south. The only Red Kite of the month was reported over Rochford on the 21st. The pair of Coal Tits in Hockley Woods were loosely joined by a third bird on the 22nd and 23rd. A Water Vole showed well on Two Tree Island on the 24th when the Red Admiral was busy sunning itself again in Leigh. An Adder on Hadleigh Downs on the 27th was unsurprisingly the first of the year.
The white-wingers put in another appearance early on in the month with the immature Glaucous Gull roosting at Holehaven on the 2nd and the problematic immature Iceland Gull there the next day. Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, and Peacock were all noted during the opening week of the week. The over-wintering Firecrest in Hockley Woods was seen for the final time on the 5th. A Glossy Ibis was reportedly seen on Two Tree Island on the 8th but eluded the locals who arrived quickly on scene. At least one Red Kite wandered around the Southend and Leigh area on the 8th when there was an apparent influx across Essex. A Long-eared Owl was again noted at a site in the south on the 8th. The strengthening sun encouraged five Adders and four Common Lizards out on West Canvey Marsh on the 12th and a newly arrived Black Redstart was reported along the foreshore at Gunners Park. At dusk on the 12th a pair of Tawny Owls were dueting at Rayleigh Mount. The first returning Chiffchaff was back on territory and singing on Benfleet Downs on the 13th with a further seventeen holding territory across the area by the month’s end. A drake Goosander was a surprise find on Bowers Marsh on the 14th although it only stayed for a short while only to be reported the next day from Vange Marsh where it again only stopped briefly. A Bittern at Vange Marsh on the 16th was unexpected and may have been a transient bird relocating through the country as it was not seen subsequently. A Blackcap passed through a Leigh garden on the 18th whilst three could still be found in gardens in South Benfleet. The solar eclipse on the 20th may have been a disappointment but it did produce the only male Hen Harrier of the winter which appeared momentarily confused as it considered roosting at Vange Marsh. Two Sand Martins passing through there at the same time were particularly early given the unfavourable weather and cold temperatures. The 20th held a few more surprises in the shape of a Woodcock sitting out on a Prittlewell lawn and a Red Kite over Wallasea. The two Serins in Gunners Park were noted for the last time on the 21st. A drake Scaup visited West Canvey Marsh on the 21st and 22nd and was ‘the real deal’ this time after numerous reports which had misidentified the over-wintering Aythya hybrid. After almost giving up hope this year, a female Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was finally found in Hockley Woods from the 22nd to the 27th. Unfortunately no male was seen this spring and so the fear is that Lesser Spotted Woodpecker will go the same way as Nuthatch in Hockley Woods and become locally extinct next year. Another Black Redstart was reported on the 22nd in Southend but again managed to avoid the local yearlisters. A migrant Firecrest put in a brief appearance in Gunners Park on the 23rd. Red Kites passed over Two Tree Island on the 23rd and Paglesham on the 26th. Good numbers of Short-eared Owls persisted with singles on Two Tree Island and at South Fambridge along with four still on Wallasea on the 27th. Also present on Wallasea at this time were four Barn Owls, a ringtail Hen Harrier, three Marsh Harriers, a Merlin, a Peregrine, and the site faithful juvenile Rough-legged Buzzard. Hockley Woods yielded a Woodcock and four Treecreepers on the 27th being the last time that the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was seen. A Brimstone through a Rochford garden on the 27th brought to four the number of butterfly species for the year. An Osprey flying low upriver past Canvey Point on the 29th was the unexpected highlight of an otherwise uneventful seawatch. Yet another Red Kite was seen from Wat Tyler C.P. over Vange Wick on the 30th when the first Blackcaps were back holding territory at Rayleigh Mount. The month ended with an unconfirmed sighting of Glossy Ibis at Wat Tyler C.P. on the 31st where an early Swallow passed through along with another at Rochford.
The first Wheatears of the year were two reported from Bowers Marsh on the 2nd. A Merlin flashed past Fleet Head on the 3rd when the first two Sandwich Terns of the year passed Canvey Point. The following day saw the last Red-throated Divers of the winter when three flew East off Gunners Park as did a Gannet whilst two House Martins were claimed over Vange Marsh. Also off Gunners Park were the first Common Terns of the year on the 5th on the day which saw the final appearance of the juvenile Rough-legged Buzzard at Wallasea where four Short-eared Owls could still be found with one lingering into May. The 6th saw a Red Kite over Battlesbridge along with limited signs of wader passage when two Spotted Redshanks and three Green Sandpipers dropped in to Vange Marsh. A Black-necked Grebe was a pleasant find at Bowers Marsh on the 6th; it remained into May and was joined by a second bird for several days mid-month. At Bowers Marsh on the 9th the erratic immature Glaucous Gull was seen for the last time despite several claims subsequently by those unfamiliar with the multitude of hybrids and leucistic individuals frequenting Pitsea Tip and its environs. Gunners Park experienced a small fall of migrants in the rain on the 9th with a long overdue Wheatear, four Fieldfares, three Redwings, eight Song Thrushes, and a male Brambling which was surprisingly the first of the year, whilst a Red Kite was reported over Daws Heath the same day. The first Willow Warbler was singing on Two Tree Island from the 10th where a Short-eared Owl was also reported. Wallasea hosted twenty Yellow Wagtails, twenty Pied Wagtails, and two White Wagtails on the 12th and the Merlin was recorded there for the final time. A Short-eared Owl at Gunners Park on the 12th was an interesting record of an apparent migrant. Little Ringed Plovers arrived back at Bowers Marsh on the 13th with others noted this month at Lower Raypits and Wallasea with Bowers Marsh also playing host to a Common Sandpiper. Meanwhile on Two Tree Island on the 13th the first Cuckoo was heard. The following day the familiar and welcome sound of a reeling Grasshopper Warbler came from the west end of Two Tree Island and a Red Kite was patrolling the nearby Hadleigh Downs. The highlight of the month, and not altogether unexpected, was the pair of Black-winged Stilts found on Bowers Marsh on the 14th. They were present until the 21st although did go missing several times and tantalised with thoughts of what may happen, but just as they appeared to be settled for the summer they moved on, perhaps to Cliffe. The immature Iceland Gull was seen for the one and only time this month when it came to roost at Holehaven on the 15th. The first Whimbrel was noted at Lower Raypits on the 15th and the first Hobby flew across Two Tree Island on the 16th when a flock of five summer plumaged Little Gulls flew by Gunners Park. A pair of Ring Ouzels proved popular at West Canvey Marsh from the 16th to the 18th and were a good spring record as were two Black Terns following a ship upriver off Canvey on the 17th. The last remaining Hen Harrier on Wallasea was seen for the one and only time this month on the 19th when by contrast, a Whinchat there was the first of the year. There was an unseasonal high count of three Short-eared Owls claimed at Wakering Stairs on the 19th. Nightingales duly arrived back from the 22nd with two on Canvey Wick; additional sightings included three at Wakering Stairs and one at Wat Tyler C.P. before the end of the month. A Spoonbill was reported from Bowers Marsh briefly on the 23rd when two more White Wagtails were found, this time in Gunners Park. A drake Garganey was reported from Bowers Marsh on the 24th but remained hidden until early May. It was pleasing to note four Turtle Doves at Wakering Stairs on the 25th although here is rapidly becoming the last bastion of this much declined visitor. A smart male Redstart was a good find in Gunners Park on the 26th where two Ring Ouzels also spent most of the day. A trip of three Dotterel spent just one hour on Wallasea on the 26th where at least one Arctic Tern was also singled out. An early stroll along the seawall at Wallasea on the 27th was rewarded with a Montagu’s Harrier lifting up out of the grass and four Wheatears were also present along with a further three in Gunners Park, two at Wakering Stairs, and five others across the area. A male Redstart was claimed on the 28th from Wallasea when another Grasshopper Warbler was found reeling on Canvey Wick on the 28th and two Willow Warblers were also singing. The Montagu’s Harrier on Wallasea was possibly seen again on the 29th. Small Coppers and Holly Blue brought the number of butterfly species up to twelve this month along with odonata represented by Large Red Damselfly and Hairy Dragonfly. The last day of the month saw two Whinchat and an escaped Cape Shelduck at Bowers Marsh and a Garden Warbler and Common Sandpiper on Two Tree Island.
The month started with a bang when a Red-rumped Swallow was found over the lake in Gunners Park at 8am on the 1st. It remained for just under two hours before departing with the hirundine flock. Also on the 1st a Ring Ouzel was reported at Wakering Stairs when a Nightingale arrived on Two Tree Island and held territory all month. A Black Swan was at Bowers Marsh at the start of the month where it remained throughout the summer and one or two drake Garganey were also present from the 1st through to mid-June. The Cape Shelduck was reported at Battlesbridge on the 1st before it relocated once again to Bowers Marsh on 3rd and 4th. Another drake Garganey visited Vange Marsh from the 2nd to the 4th when single Wheatears were still to be found on Wallasea, Bowers Marsh, and in Gunners Park. A Pectoral Sandpiper was an excellent find on Bowers Marsh on the 3rd; it stayed until the 4th and was only the second spring record for Essex. Also at Bowers Marsh on the 4th were two Common Sandpipers, and a Pink-footed Goose was added to the motley crew of gathering waterfowl of dubious origin. The only Green Sandpiper of the month was on Vange Marsh on the 4th. A Red Kite drifted over Leigh and a male Montagu’s Harrier passed high over Canewdon on the 4th, the same day that a Short-eared Owl was noted again on Wallasea where it lingered intermittently until the 20th. A Spotted Redshank at Bowers Marsh on the 8th was the only record this month. The last Wheatear of the spring was on Wallasea on the 10th where an Arctic Tern was also noted. A report of a Bullfinch at Wakering Stairs on the 10th was noteworthy. Two Little Terns were reported off Canvey Point on the 11th. Turtle Doves were noted at several sites other than Wakering Stairs between the 13th and 20th with one to two at Canewdon, Rochford, and Wallasea. Up to five Wall butterflies were noted from the 13th to the 26th at four traditional sites and a Muntjac was recorded on Hadleigh Downs on the 14th. A small passage of Red Kites was noted on 16th and 17th with a total of four birds seen at three sites. The Green Hairstreaks on Canvey Wick were seen on the 16th only when between three and five were counted. The following day the first Painted Lady of the year was seen at Wakering Stairs. A singing Siskin in Coombe Wood on the 17th was a surprise. The Black-necked Grebe present at Bowers Marsh since early April was seen for the last time on the 20th. A Barnacle Goose of doubtful origin was at Lower Raypits on the 22nd, the same day that two Crossbills flew over Coombe Wood. An unseasonal influx of 20 Guillemots into the Thames off Canvey was all the more remarkable given that they were the first sightings of the year! A showy Grasshopper Warbler was at Wakering Stairs from the 25th to the 30th and a Little Stint there on the 25th was a good spring record. Another Red Kite was reported on the 25th when one passed over Shoebury. A pair of Black-winged Stilts toured Bowers Marsh and Wat Tyler C.P. on the 26th but unfortunately did not linger. A Spoonbill was at the former site briefly on the 27th. Little Ringed Plovers reached a spring peak of five on Bowers Marsh on the 29th when there were a further three on Vange Marsh and one on Wallasea. Two Grey Partridges were found on Wallasea on the 30th where one remained through to the 8th June, three Painted Lady butterflies were also noted there. The pair of Bullfinch near Rayleigh were seen again on the 30th but were getting increasingly harder to find.
June was a very quiet month with little of note besides butterflies. A Green Hairstreak was an unusual find on Benfleet Downs on the 7th. The following day Painted Lady butterflies reached a high for the month of 17 on Wallasea. A drake Garganey was present on Bowers Marsh from the 8th to the 12th. Low numbers of Heath Fritillary butterflies appeared in Belfairs Woods from the latter date through to the month’s end but with no more than seven recorded on any one day due to deterioration of suitable habitat. Little Ringed Plovers bred successfully on Wallasea as a pair with three chicks was seen there on the 15th. Two Turtle Doves continued to visit a Canewdon garden infrequently from the 16 to the 24th. There was a small arrival of Hummingbird Hawkmoths in the latter part of the month with sightings on 17th, 24th, and 27th at Leigh, Ashingdon, and Westcliff respectively. A Red Kite was reported over Ashingdon on the 18th. Ten Siskins at Sutton Road Cemetery on the 27th were both unseasonal and unexpected. The first White-letter Hairstreak of the year was on Hadleigh Downs on the 29th, the same day that the first two White Admirals were recorded in Belfairs Woods.
The first half of the month was very quiet for bird sightings with two Garganey at Vange Marsh throughout the month being the only avian record of note. Non-avian highlights comprised a Red-veined Darter photographed in Gunners Park on the 3rd, a Hummingbird Hawkmoth in Leigh on the 7th and five White Admirals in Belfairs Woods on the 9th. Little Ringed Plovers are typically the first returning autumn wader as evidenced on the 12th with an impressive count of 21 on Vange Marsh and a further six on Bowers Marsh. Siskin passage began on the 15th with almost daily sightings through to late September. Up to 50 birds in total passed through before the end of the month, an unprecedented number for July. The first Willow Emerald Damselfly of the year was noted at Star Lane Pits on the 17th. Two White-letter Hairstreaks were still present on Hadleigh Downs the following day when a Red Kite was also reported over Canvey. A Garden Warbler was a welcome visitor to a garden by Coombe Wood on the 20th. The second ever Southern Emerald Damselfly for Essex was sheltering in the SSSI reserve in Gunners Park from the 21st through to the 5th August. The second Red Kite of the month was seen over Southchurch on the 22nd the same day that the first Clouded Yellow of the year arrived at Paglesham. Wader numbers continued to build towards the end of the month with 14 each of Spotted Redshank and Green Sandpiper on Vange Marsh from 23rd to the 27th whilst adult Curlew Sandpipers commenced their return passage with singles at Wakering Stairs and Two Tree Island on 25th and 31st respectively. The Grasshopper Warbler was seen and heard again at Wakering Stairs on the 25th as were three Turtle Doves. Three adult Arctic Terns and a Little Tern were seen off Canvey on the 25th, the same day that two Southern Migrant Hawkers were found again at Wat Tyler C.P. where they continued to show through to the end of August. The month ended well for one lucky observer when both Silver-washed Fritillary and White Admiral visited his garden beside Coombe Wood on the 30th.
A Red Kite was reported over Wat Tyler CP on the 1st. The adult Curlew Sandpiper on Two Tree Island was seen daily through to the 4th whilst it or another was seen at Tewke’s Creek on the 2nd. Diligent counting of the high tide roost on Two Tree Island on the 1st also revealed 2,167 Black-tailed Godwits along with seven Common Sandpipers and two Clouded Yellows. At Wakering Stairs, three Arctic Skuas and an early Short-eared Owl were all reported on the 1st, and five Turtle Doves were present there the next day. The first Spotted Flycatcher of the autumn was reported near Rayleigh on the 2nd as were two Purple Hairstreaks. A Siskin visited a garden feeder in Hadleigh on the 2nd with three there on the 6th. During the first week of August Southern Migrant Hawkers reached six at Wat Tyler CP, four at West Canvey Marsh, and a single was on Canvey Wick. Reasonable numbers of Black Terns passed through this month commencing with 30 off Canvey on the 7th and peaking at 47 there on the 31st. A female Red-backed Shrike was a good find at Bowers Marsh on the 11th. It had the decency to stay until the 21st allowing most people to connect. Also present at Bowers Marsh along the tip fenceline were six Whinchats and four Stonechats. Seawatching at Canvey on the 13th provided paltry totals of five Arctic Skuas, one Great Skua, 26 Black Terns, and seven Common Scoters. This represented the peak count of Arctic Skuas this month and was the only Great Skua of the month. A Wryneck was an excellent find in Gunners Park on the 14th, as was a Tree Sparrow there the same day. The Wryneck was not seen after the 14th but the elusive Tree Sparrow did put in an appearance on the 15th and 19th. Sandpiper passage peaked mid-month with Vange Marsh hosting 12 Green Sandpipers and 11 Common Sandpipers whilst Bowers Marsh held ten Green Sandpipers and the first Wood Sandpiper of the autumn on the 15th. A ‘flock’ of three Wood Sandpipers were on the underwatched lagoon at Lower Raypits on the 16th where one remained through to the 26th. Three juvenile Little Ringed Plovers frequented the newly created habitat on Wallasea on the 16th. Another inland passage Spotted Flycatcher was at Coombe Wood on the 19th where two Purple Hairstreaks were added to a rather impressive garden butterfly yearlist. Two Garganey and a Wood Sandpiper arrived on Vange Marsh on the 21st with all remaining until the end of the month. Yellow Wagtails reached a year high peak of 50 on Wallasea on the 21st where two Short-eared Owls arrived the following day and remained all month before being joined by a third individual on the 27th. The third Spotted Flycatcher of the autumn was reported from Bowers Marsh on the 22nd. A juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper spent the day on the scrape at Wat Tyler CP on the 23rd yet remarkably was not even a yeartick for most locals following the spring bird on Bowers Marsh! Attempts at seawatching were made but usually failed through lack of birds; three Arctic Skuas, nine Arctic Terns, eight Little Terns, and a Porpoise off Canvey on the 24th were the ‘highlights’. Drift migrants arrived in Gunners Park on 24th and 25th with single Spotted Flycatchers on both dates and a Pied Flycatcher on the former, at least one Redstart from the 25th onwards and four Wheatears. The low water levels and muddy margins at Vange Marsh continued to pull in the waders with three Little Stints arriving on the 26th, six Little Ringed Plovers and 15 Spotted Redshanks on the 27th, and 15 Ruff on the 29th. Not to be outdone, West Canvey Marsh produced a Wood Sandpiper and 11 Green Sandpipers on the 29th. A claim of six Whinchats was made on Two Tree Island on the 29th when four Clouded Yellows were on nearby Hadleigh Downs. Around the creeks, 52 Common Seals and a Grey Seal were counted from a dedicated boat trip on the 29th. A new Spotted Flycatcher and Pied Flycatcher dropped in at Gunners Park on the 30th when five Porpoise were seen off Canvey but not much else. A surprise local rarity on the 31st came in the guise of a pair of Egyptian Geese in Southchurch Park East; they were shamelessly twitched the next day but had already moved on elsewhere.
The two Egyptian Geese had apparently moved to Wat Tyler CP on the 1st but still they did not linger. More typical autumnal fare was to be had in Gunners Park where there were now two Redstarts from the 1st to the 13th and two Wheatears. A total of just seven Wheatears passed through the entire area this month. Two juvenile Spoonbills flying high up-river at Gunners Park on the 2nd were a surprise but the Siskin passage which recommenced there on the 2nd and remained strong into October was more expected. Low numbers passed through at many sites on a daily basis through the month peaking at 85 in Gunners Park on the 6th. On the 3rd an impressive 600 House Martins moved through Gunners Park in just thirty minutes. West Canvey Marsh hosted a Garganey on 4th and 5th, a Wood Sandpiper from the 4th to the 9th, and 800 Swallows on the 5th. Across the creek on Bowers Marsh a Red-crested Pochard was present on the 4th and 5th as was an unusually late Cuckoo on the latter date. A Little Stint on Wallasea on the 6th was a good site record and one or two Curlew Sandpipers frequented Tewke’s Creek on the 6th and 7th. The last Turtle Dove of the year was at Wakering Stairs on the 6th when a Hedgehog visited an Eastwood garden for a few nights. An obliging Shag was close inshore at Gunners Park on the 7th where it remained for the rest of the autumn. Seawatching at Canvey yielded 15 Arctic Skuas and nine Arctic Terns on the 7th with Little Gull, two Guillemots, and three Porpoise there the next day along with the first two Dark-bellied Brent Geese of the autumn. Numbers built rapidly to 400 here just four days later with a further 130 at Wakering Stairs. Another Wood Sandpiper paid homage to Vange Marsh from the 8th to the 18th. As expected, Buzzards were more widespread this month but a count of 15 over Paglesham Lagoon was quite exceptional for our corner of Essex. A Curlew Sandpiper was claimed from Two Tree Island on the 10th. Gunners Park was productive on the 11th with two Spotted Flycatchers and a Pied Flycatcher all newly arrived along with two Clouded Yellows. There were two Little Stints on Bowers Marsh on the 11th with up to seven the following day on Vange Marsh with some remaining all month. The two Egyptian Geese were seen again early on the 12th, this time at Vange Marsh but once again they soon disappeared. Little Tern passage peaked at 22 at Wakering Stairs on the 12th and Spotted Redshanks numbered 21 the following day at Vange Marsh. A Redstart was reported from Hadleigh Castle on the 13th with another photographed in a Thorpe Bay garden earlier in the month. Just a single Short-eared Owl was reported from Wallasea this month with sightings on 13th and 26th, with another single along Benfleet Creek on the 24th. A Garganey was at Bowers Marsh on the 14th with possibly the same bird at Wat Tyler CP the next day. Whinchat numbered six again this month at Bowers Marsh on the 15th with five at Fleet Head and three at West Canvey Marsh earlier in the month. Seawatching at Canvey continued to be poor all month with the 16th being one of the rare days of note when 11 Arctic Skuas, six Great Skuas, nine Black Terns, and a distant Roseate Tern were all recorded. A Glossy Ibis was reported at Wat Tyler CP briefly on the 17th before becoming a little more reliable from the 19th to the 23rd. A Caspian Gull bearing a green ring remained loyal to the scrape at Wat Tyler CP on 18th and 19th providing many with the opportunity to enjoy this scarce but regular visitor, a Redstart there on the 18th was a good site record. Little Egret roost numbers broke new records this month with 224 along Benfleet Creek on the 19th and 143 on Two Tree Island on the 14th. A late Swift was in Gunners Park on the 19th as was the last Spotted Flycatcher of the year. A check on the local population of Hazel Dormice in Belfairs on the 19th with a qualified handler yielded eight adults and 24 young. On the 20th, visiting birders found and photographed a Wilson’s Phalarope at Vange Marsh, although its identity was not confirmed until the following afternoon. Fortunately it remained until the 3rd October and was always on view albeit distantly at times. A first for the area and seventh for Essex it proved popular with birders from across the country. Five presumed Lesser Redpoll flew over Rochford on the 20th with another over Westcliff on the 23rd. An early Merlin kept the Short-eared Owl company on Wallasea on the 26th when a Willow Emerald Damselfly was photographed in Gunners Park. A Hummingbird Hawkmoth was a welcome visitor to a Leigh garden on the 27th. A group of three Great White Egrets were watched circling over Bowers Marsh on the 27th before appearing to land behind the tip; one was seen later that day flying low across Vange Wick. A late Pied Flycatcher dropped in at Gunners Park on the 28th and unsurprisingly was the last flycatcher of the year. Both Curlew Sandpiper and Pale-bellied Brent Goose were reported around Two Tree Island on the 29th. Still the seawatching season failed to gain momentum with the only records of note on the 30th being a respectable 65 Pintail off Canvey Point and two Little Gulls.
Three Little Stints remained at Vange Marsh on the 1st. Both Pale-bellied Brent Goose & Black Brant were picked out from the thronging Dark-bellied Brent Goose flock which numbered 6,000 off Two Tree Island on the 2nd and a Great White Egret was seen distantly from Wallasea also on the 2nd. A late burst of passage in Gunners Park saw a Firecrest there from the 2nd to the 4th along with 35 Goldcrests, 27 Chiffchaffs, and 16 Blackcaps. A late Curlew Sandpiper was found in Potton Creek on the 4th. Last month’s Glossy Ibis put in a fleeting visit to the scrape at Wat Tyler CP on the 6th. Finches were on the move this month evidenced by 20 Lesser Redpolls at Wakering and 20 Siskins in Gunners Park on the 6th with passage of both species continuing daily throughout the month in small numbers. There were shades of summer on the 8th when a Hobby was at Wat Tyler CP, a Common Sandpiper was at Bowers Marsh, and five Wall butterflies were on Hadleigh Downs. An adult Crane parading around and calling on the scrape at Wat Tyler CP on the 9th was a fantastic local mega. It was rumoured to have been seen the evening before flying towards Bowers Marsh. It remained at Wat Tyler CP until mid-morning on the 9th when it flew off high to the south and was presumably the same bird seen later that day at Dungeness. With just a pair or two of Coal Tits in Hockley Woods, Benfleet, and Thundersley, a Coal Tit in Gunners Park on the 9th was quite likely of the continental race whereas the two near Thundersley the same day were local birds. A Painted Lady in Gunners Park on the 9th was the last of the year. Searching for the Glossy Ibis in the local Little Egret roosts on the 9th was unsuccessful but did reveal 198 Little Egrets still present on Benfleet Downs and 62 on Two Tree Island. A seawatch from Wakering Stairs on the 10th produced the highest count of the year for Gannets with a paltry 20, and the month’s only Great Skua! Two Clouded Yellows persisted on Wallasea on the 10th as did a single Little Stint at Vange Marsh. The nomadic Egyptian Geese duo finally settled down at Friars Park from the 10th onwards. The equally mobile Glossy Ibis paid brief visits to Wat Tyler CP on the 11th, 14th, and 15th. There was a small fall of Firecrests mid-month with three in Coombe Wood on the 11th, one in South Benfleet also on the 11th, and one at Shoebury East Beach from the 15th to the 18th. The first Eider of the year (!) were two off Gunners Park on the 11th where a fine summer plumaged Red-throated Diver was present the next day along with a Guillemot. There were now two Merlins on Wallasea as at the 13th with a male and a female present intermittently until the end of the month. A showy and confiding Black Redstart was present around the seawall at Gunners Park from the 13th to the 20th, and one of the resident Coal Tits visited a Hockley garden on the 13th. Southend Pier was unproductive on the 14th yielding just a late Arctic Tern. Significant thrush movement was noted from the 14th to the 17th with a Ring Ouzel and 211 Redwings over a Leigh garden on the 14th, 107 Fieldfares over the same garden on the 17th, and three Ring Ouzels in Gunners Park on the 17th where one remained until the 23rd. The last of three Wheatears this month was along Canvey Seafront on the 16th. Single Bramblings were noted over Leigh and Rochford on 17th and 18th when another Firecrest was located in gardens in Rayleigh. A party of three continental Coal Tits were a very good find at Shoebury East Beach on the 18th. They worked their way along the treeline before disappearing inland. Nearby, a Velvet Scoter was reported off Wakering Stairs the same day. The wandering Glossy Ibis visited Vange Marsh for ten minutes on the 20th before flying off once more. Hen Harriers returned to Wallasea on the 22nd with two ringtails present daily through to the end of the month. A Ring-necked Parakeet was reported over Southchurch on the 22nd and then again over Westcliff on the 26th. Finches continued to pass through Gunners Park with 20 Siskins, 25 Lesser Redpolls, and three Bramblings there on the 25th when the Shag out in another appearance too. A Coal Tit prospected gardens in South Benfleet on the 25th and 31st. Two Red-breasted Mergansers and the Shag were on the sea off Gunners Park on the 26th. The Glossy Ibis was finally nailed down at Wat Tyler CP from the 27th onwards when its preferred feeding area along Timberman’s Creek was found. Meanwhile an adult Spoonbill flew over West Canvey Marsh on the 27th but did not land. Yet another Firecrest was located on the 27th when one took a liking to a garden in Leigh for two days. Two Black Redstarts were in Gunners Park on the 28th with one reported in Southchurch the next day. By comparison, one Brambling was reported in a Leigh garden on the 28th with two in Gunners Park the following day. A Ring Ouzel reported in Gunners Park on the 31st could equally have been one from mid-month keeping a low profile or a new arrival. The influx of Short-eared Owls noted across the country gained momentum locally in the final days of the month with five at South Fambridge on the 31st, three at West Canvey Marsh, three on Wallasea, two on Two Tree Island, and singles at Wat Tyler CP and Battlesbridge. A Barnacle Goose on the Roach on the 31st had probably not come from very far but was still a good local record. This autumn’s seawatch totals make for dire reading with a total of 51 Gannets, 50 Arctic Skuas, eight Great Skuas, three Little Gulls, three Guillemots, and two Eider. No Pomarine Skuas, Long-tailed Skuas, Shearwaters, Petrels, Fulmars or Sabine’s Gulls were recorded during the peak autumn migration months making it possibly the worst on record. Whether this has anything to do with the dredging of the Thames for the deep water port or the profusion of offshore windfarms is open to discussion, or it may just be that the days with optimum weather for seawatching were in short supply this year.
Last month’s Glossy Ibis was still playing hide and seek and seek in the creek at Wat Tyler C.P. from the 1st to the 4th before disappearing once again for the rest of the month. A Great Grey Shrike was an excellent find around the car park at Bowers Marsh on the afternoon of the 3rd where it remained until dusk. The 8th produced a mixed bag of sightings, the best of which was an incredibly late Common Redstart on Two Tree Island which remained through to the 13th. Other sightings of note on the 8th were a Nuthatch and a Chiffchaff in Pound Wood; two Ring-necked Parakeets, a Chiffchaff and a Goshawk with jesses at Star Lane Pits; the long staying Black Swan in Gunners Park, and the pair of Egyptian Geese which were still residing in Friars Park. The following day, there were two Chiffchaffs in Friars Park, a Ring-necked Parakeet over an Ashingdon garden, and the last two Swallows of the year flew across Tewke’s Creek. Between the 11th and the 15th there were a dozen sightings of Red Admirals including several at Wakering Stairs, and the last Peacock butterfly was also noted. Bramblings were scarce this month with just a fly-over at Canvey Wick on the 14th and a male at Gunners Park on the 22nd. Wakering Stairs produced an unusual report of a drake Mandarin on the sea(!) on the 15th and a Slavonian Grebe flying upriver, whilst later that day Short-eared Owls continued their strong showing this autumn with two on West Canvey Marshes and singles at five other sites. On the 16th wintering Greenshank on Two Tree Island reached a respectable high of four. Strong northerly winds and freezing temperatures over the weekend of 21st and 22nd produced some excellent seawatching for a few hardy souls. The worst of the weather was on the 21st when the fierce winds pushed two Sooty Shearwaters, 180 Common Scoter, a Goldeneye, three Pomarine Skuas, two Great Skuas, 16 Guillemots, and a Little Auk into the Thames. In the relative calm of the 22nd a Great Northern Diver, three Eider, a Velvet Scoter, a late Sandwich Tern, a Razorbill, and two Little Auks were all added to the impressive tally. The harsh conditions were also responsible for bringing in a pair of Goosanders to Vange Marsh on the 21st. Sightings quietened down during the last week of the month with the highlights being three Green Sandpipers on Bowers Marsh on the 25th, six Stonechats (three pairs) along Benfleet Creek on the 26th, and the long staying escaped Snow Goose on Vange Wick on the 27th. The month closed with two Woodcock and a feeding flock of 19 Lesser Redpolls on Canvey Wick on the 29th.
Bowers Marsh hosted six Stonechats on the 1st and 120 Fieldfares on the 2nd and 3rd. A Long-eared Owl was seen hunting daily at dusk at a traditional site in the south-west from the 3rd onwards. Dodgy wildfowl was well represented on the 5th with a drake Mandarin and the two Egyptian Geese in Friars Park, a Barnacle Goose on Wallasea, the Black Swan still in Gunners Park and the Snow Goose still on Vange Wick. A Firecrest was a welcome visitor to a front garden near Coombe Wood on the 5th. The Lesser Redpoll flock on Canvey Wick had increased to 27 on the 6th with one Woodcock also still present there. The Glossy Ibis put in just a single showing this month when it flew over Wat Tyler C.P. at dusk on the 6th. The first of just two Chiffchaffs this month was seen in a Leigh garden on the 11th; but interestingly there were no reports of Blackcaps during November or December. A female Hawfinch which visited a local birder’s back garden near Coombe Wood on the 13th was a superb find, with Hornbeams unsurprisingly being the attraction. The estuary was fairly quiet although a Great Northern Diver flew past Gunners Park on the 13th and up to 45 Kittiwakes lingered in the Thames for a few days mid-month. Wintering waders were evident on 15th when there were five Greenshanks on Two Tree Island, four Green Sandpipers on Bowers Marsh, and a Spotted Redshank at Wat Tyler C.P. A strong movement of Fieldfares on the 15th and 16th saw 130 at Bowers Marsh and an impressive 200 on Canvey Wick. A Grey Parrot sitting in a tree in the car park at Hockley Woods on the 17th was only slightly less expected than the Nuthatch that was found there the next day. Following a slow and steady decline locally the Nuthatch became extinct in Hockley Woods in March 2013 so hopefully this is the beginning of recolonisation. A hybrid duck which superficially resembles a Chiloe Wigeon was present again on Paglesham Lagoon on the 18th where it has been seen intermittently since January 2013. The next day the Egyptian Goose pair had relocated a short distance to Shoebury Park where they remained into 2016. Hockley Woods revealed many of its specialities on the 20th with 30 Goldcrests, a Firecrest, two Coal Tits, the Nuthatch, and two Treecreepers all recorded. A Goosander flew over Wat Tyler C.P. late on the 20th and was thought to have landed on Vange Marsh but could not be relocated the following day. A ‘Scaup’ arrived on West Canvey Marsh on the 24th and stayed through to early January. For the purists there was some debate as to whether or not it had any hybrid influence however for those doing a yearlist it was certainly good enough! A thorough search of suitable habitat on Benfleet Downs on the 24th revealed three Woodcock. The pair of Egyptian Geese took a brief sojourn to Southchurch Park East on the 25th before returning to Shoebury Park later the same day. Three Hen Harriers had returned to their wintering haunt on Wallasea on the 26th when three Peregrines were also present. The unseasonably mild conditions were responsible for several Pipistrelles flying around Paglesham at dusk on the 27th. The 29th produced a flurry of good records from all corners with three Firecrests, the Nuthatch, and a Coal Tit in Hockley Woods; a Hen Harrier, a Merlin, and two Short-eared Owls on Wallasea; 15 Red-throated Divers, seven Guillemots, and a distant Puffin past Gunners Park; and a Water Pipit at Vange Marsh which remained into 2016. A Slavonian Grebe which drifted past Gunners Park on the 30th was only the third record of the year. By the 31st, the Lesser Redpoll flock on Canvey Wick had increased further to 35 and a Chiffchaff was also noted there. Green Sandpiper numbers remained high with 12-14 birds wintering locally including three on Vange Marsh on the 31st. The year ended with a Great Grey Owl apparently photographed on the 31st in Cherry Orchard C.P. before being retrospectively identified; although considered an escape it did raise a few eyebrows. There was however no doubt surrounding the Hornbill which was photographed on Canvey the same day!
In summary, a mediocre 211 species was reliably recorded in 2015, matching the previous year. Highlights included the popular Serins, a Dartford Warbler, a showy Rough-legged Buzzard, the pair of Black-winged Stilts, three Dotterel, two Montagu’s Harriers, two Pectoral Sandpipers, a twitchable Red-rumped Swallow, Red-backed Shrike and Great Grey Shrike, the first twitchable Common Crane for over twenty years, and of course the bird of the year, the Wilson’s Phalarope - a first for the area.