THE Brent Geese are back! These icons of Essex’s estuaries are arriving in our county after an epic migration to Siberia and back.
No other bird loves Essex like the Dark-bellied Brent Goose: a quarter of the world’s population spends winter here. By November, in the region of 30,000 ‘Brents’ will be in our estuaries. Right now, a few thousand are already back, with numbers building daily. Most birds head to the Thames Estuary first, especially to Leigh-on-Sea, to feast on the abundant Thames eel-grass. Essex Wildlife Trust’s Two Tree Island nature reserve is a great place to watch the geese – as is the outdoor seating in the cafés of Old Leigh village.
From late October, many of the geese disperse to Essex’s other estuaries. Several Essex Wildlife Trust estuary reserves will be good places to see them, including Blue House Farm on the Crouch, Tollesbury Wick on the Blackwater, Fingringhoe Wick on the Colne, and Wrabness on the Stour.
“The Essex coast is one of the most important places in the world for Dark-bellied Brent Geese in winter,” Charlie Oliver, Media & Marketing Co-ordinator at Essex Wildlife Trust, said. “It is wonderful to have them back from their breeding season in the Arctic: monochrome beauties that will carpet our coast, cloud our skies and fill our air with a carefree chunter for the next six months.”
It is not just the Brents that are on the move: thousands upon thousands of the world’s birds are migrating, post-breeding. In Essex, almost all summer visitors, bar the odd Swallow and Sandwich Tern, have left to begin their arduous migration to Africa. Numerous species are stopping off in Essex to rest and refuel, as they too head south, such as Wheatear, Little Stint and Osprey. There are rare visitors, too, blown off course or simply disorientated, such as the Red-breasted Flycatcher at Holland Haven, near Clacton, last weekend – it should have been on its way to Asia!
Over the next few weeks, winter visitors to Essex will arrive in droves: as well as Brent Geese, numbers of waders and ducks are rising and soon thousands of winter thrushes – Redwings and Fieldfares – will descend on Essex from Scandinavia. A few of our most spectacular winter visitors, Short-eared Owls, are already here, including up to three individuals showing well at Essex Wildlife Trust’s Thurrock Thameside Nature Park. Other birds of prey, including a few Hen Harriers, will soon be here, too.