To most people the term ‘wildlife spectacle’ likely brings to mind images of Starlings flocking together in their hundreds of thousands, wheeling en masse across a winter sky; migrating salmon leaping from the torrent as they make the seemingly impossble journey to the river of their birth; or feisty March hares charging around arable fields, jumping, kicking and squaring up to each other for a bout of fisticuffs. But what most people probably don’t know is that Essex has its very own wildlife spectacle, of which it can justly be proud.
Every year more than 20,000 Brent Geese arrive on the Essex coast, having flown more than two-and-a-half-thousand miles from their breeding grounds in Siberia, in the Arctic Circle. 10,000 of these descend on the Thames estuary, with up to 4,000 gathering at Leigh-on-Sea. There is little to beat the spectacle of skeins of geese winging their way across Autumn skies, and at Old Leigh these small (about the size of a Mallard), surprisingly beautiful and rather charismatic birds congregate right under the noses of lunchtime diners and casual passers-by on the riverfront.
But Brent Geese need our help. Their saltmarsh habitat is under serious threat, and an area close to the size of Hyde Park is lost every year. Essex is home to the largest percentage of saltmarsh in the country, and the RSPB are working hard to try to protect it.
So if you fancy witnessing a true wildlife spectacle head down to Old Leigh, where you can see these remarkable birds flock across the estuary.
Written by Andrew Fallen
Photo by David Lee
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