Posted by: Ross Gardner | October 11, 2015

The Brents are Back

Leigh Marshes at high tide with the Brent Geese scattered on the water above the saltmarsh.  Ross Gardner 2015

Leigh Marshes at high tide with the Brent Geese scattered on the water above the saltmarsh. Ross Gardner 2015

The wonderful Brent Geese have begun crowding back onto the mudflats of the Leigh Marshes in the Thames Estuary.  I watched them at low water, a couple of days back, for the first time this autumn .  There must already be a couple of thousand, perhaps more.  There could be 3 or 4 times as many by the time the last of them make their arrivals. They appeared restless.  Small skeins of these small black geese, 200 or so in number, seemed continuously to be lifting off from the gleaming mud, wheeling round to settle again a few hundred metres from where they started.  The warm sound of their ceaseless, soft babbling calls was a welcome as ever.   Once numbers have built up it is truly a sight to behold, rising into the sky en masse, all the more when it is one that can be had in the midst of the urbanised northern bank of the estuary.  These are the ‘dark-bellied’ Brents, the race of Branta bernicula that breed on the Siberian tundra and descend each autumn to winter on the sheltered shores of eastern and southern of England.  The ‘pale-bellied’ Brents are Canadian breeders and find their way instead to the northern and western shores of the UK and Ireland.

Brent Geese (Branta bernicula).  Ross Gardner 2014.

Brent Geese (Branta bernicula). Ross Gardner 2014.

The estuaries are coming alive.  I went to see the geese again today and found them in a sprawling flotilla on a tide nearly at its peak.  This time, on the receding ribbons of mud edge the saltmarsh I also found flocks of Knot and Turnstone, birds that have made their own epic journeys to be here and which along with others over the coming weeks will comprise a scene of avian abundance that is as freshly spectacular from each year to the next.

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