Every year, one of the most greatly anticipated visitors to Chichester Harbour are the Dark-bellied Brent Geese.
These wonderful birds arrive in Chichester Harbour in November. The usual flocks total around 10,000, although this varies each year according to how successful their breeding season has gone in Siberia. Once they’ve arrived the Brents are seen right across the Harbour, often in large flocks, which can be a spectacular sight.
These interesting birds are easily disturbed, which makes them very vulnerable. Usually small disturbances or noises cause them to raise their heads before resuming feeding. If disturbance increases, they fly away before resettling, or look for another quieter site nearby. All this requires a great deal of effort which impacts on their feeding patterns and general energy levels. As a result, it’s important to keep dogs on a lead, and maintain a distance away from the flocks.
If you’re out walking the Brents are easy to spot; they are small and dark, with a white neck collar and white under the tail. You are likely to hear them too as they gossip cheerily to each other. They feed on eel-grass and algae on the mudflats at low tide but also enjoy grasses on the surrounding fields at high tide.
This month offers the last chance to see them this winter. They tend to depart as quickly as they arrive, usually sometime in March. A spell of good weather and a favourable wind direction will see them heading north to their breeding grounds in the Artic for the summer months.