The Brents are back!

Tuesday 3rd October 2017

Dark-bellied Brent Goose. Pic: Andrew Armstrong

Brent Geese – icons of Essex’s estuaries in winter - 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. Monochrome beauties that will carpet our coast, cloud our skies and fill our air with a carefree chunter for the next six months.

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 of cafés in 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.

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 long migration to Africa. Numerous species are stopping off in Essex to rest and refuel, as they too head south, including Wheatear and Osprey. There are rare visitors, too, blown off course or simply disorientated, such as the Red-breasted Flycatcher currently at Holland Haven, near Clacton – it should be on its way to Asia! Our Gunners Park reserve, in Shoeburyness, and the Naze, where we have The Naze Centre and John Weston nature reserve, are both great places to look for migrant birds.

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 our Thurrock Thameside Nature Park site.