Little Owl Athene noctua ©Nigel Blake Website
Birding Essex

Essex is a large county with a great variety of habitats, from the mud flats & sea-watching of the north Thames, many scattered woodlands, an area of chalk-land in the extreme north west, large reservoirs, coastal salt-marsh & last, but not least, vast arable fields that, surprisingly in some areas, still support large numbers of Corn Buntings.

Essex is heavily populated; this means that a lot of public areas are intensively used by the public, which means early mornings are quite commonplace on Essex birders days in the field.

There are many excellent local nature reserves (see below); which cater for a good range of birds & general wildlife.

Estuaries, Salt Marsh & Grazing Marshes – Essex is a county with many good examples of this sort of habitat, having as it does an indented & eroded coastline. Places worth a visit are the Blackwater estuary and Stour estuary including: Tollesbury Wick, Old Hall Marshes RSPB, Copperas Bay RSPB Reserve, Hamford Water, Rainham Marsh, Aveley Bay, Havengore Creek, Reeveshall Marsh, and Fingringhoe Wick.

Farmland, Lakes & Woodland – Farmland in Essex is very intense but some areas still hold good numbers of Corn Bunting, Yellowhammer etc. Good areas are the Dengie peninsular, which runs north south from Bradwell in the north to Holliwell point in the south. It is short on both woodland and lakes but there are some good examples, such as: Amwell Lakes, Berwick Ponds, Connaught Water, Dagenham Chase, Danbury Lakes CP, Gunners Park, and Hainault Forest.

Reservoirs – There are many good reservoirs to choose from each with their own character, including: Abberton and Hanningfield. The Lea Valley reservoirs are mostly permit access only & stretch from Walthamstow (G London) in the south to Hoddesdon (Hertfordshire) in the north. The best area is around Fishers Green.

Migration points – The best-known migration area has to be the Naze, which is the point of land NE of Walton-on-the-Naze. Its huge area of bushes with a scattering of Sycamores provides ideal habitat for tired migrants, but can be frustrating to try & find birds or re-find them. It has had many rarities in its time the most well attended twitch was the Red-throated Thrush the first for Britain, which stayed for some time around the outskirts of the town.

Sea-watching – The place to sea-watch in Essex is the Thames estuary, Specifically: Southend Pier and Wakering Stairs.

Top Sites
  • Abberton Reservoir

    WebpageSatellite View
    Excellent for wildfowl & occasional rarities, it also has the advantage of a visitor centre selling everything from food to optics. (August 2011 access restricted by construction work - check the Essex Wildlife Trust website for access details)
  • Aveley Bay

    Satellite View
    River Thames & marshy fields.
  • Berwick Ponds

    Satellite View
    Reedy ponds.
  • Bradwell Bird Observatory

    Satellite View
    Lies on the south shore of the Blackwater estuary by the river mouth, access from Bradwell-on-sea.
  • Canvey Island

    Satellite View
    Seafront shelters, this is just far enough up river to funnel the birds close in before they turn around & fly back to sea, Long-tailed Skua & Sabines are regular on Easterly winds in August/September.
  • Connaught Water

    InformationSatellite View
    Good for Mandarin & woodland species.
  • Copperas Bay RSPB Reserve

    Satellite View
    access east of Mannningtree.
  • Copperas Wood

    Satellite View
    This is an Essex Wildlife Trust reserve.
  • Dagenham Chase

    Satellite View
    Lake & surrounding fields.
  • Danbury Lakes & Country Park

    Satellite View
    Hawfinch & woodland.
  • Fingringhoe Wick Nature Reserve

    WebsiteSatellite View
    An Essex Wildlife trust reserve & is excellent for a wide range of species. In spring it is probably the best place in the country to see Nightingales sitting in the open in full song. Up to 40 pairs in this reserve. The Fatbirder has sat in his car in the car park here hearing 10 nightingales and seeing three or four without even breaking sweat! The reserve has salt marsh, estuary, scrub and young woodland and there is a gravel pit close to the entrance road which is excellent for swifts and hirundines.
  • Fishers Green

    Satellite View
    Complex, which is accessed off the B194 just north of Waltham Abbey. This area is famous for it's wintering Bitterns, which show extremely well from the Bittern hide. It is also very good for Smew in the winter.
  • Gunners Park

    Satellite View
    Good for migrants.
  • Hainault Forest

    WebsiteSatellite View
    Typical woodland species.
  • Hamford Water

    InformationSatellite View
    Area is excellent, especially in winter, but access & parking are difficult. Best access is from Walton-on-the-naze. The John Weston Nature Reserve on the Naze is a special protection area and the backwaters behind the Naze, called Hamford Water, is a National Nature Reserve and is recognised as being an internationally important wetland for birds (RAMSAR).
  • Hanningfield Reservoir

    WebsiteSatellite View
    Smaller than Abberton but has a totally different character, it often gets sea birds for example, which Abberton does not , there are hides & a visitor centre.
  • Havengore Creek

    Satellite View
  • Holland-On-Sea

    Satellite View
    Holland Haven lies just south of Walton-on-the-Naze & is Excellent for migrants, gardens along the seafront held a Steppe Shrike for sometime in 1996.
  • Old Hall Marshes

    WebpageSatellite View
    …In winter, 4,000 brent geese feed on the pasture, with small flocks of ruffs and golden plovers. Thousands of wigeons, teals, shelducks, grey plovers, curlews, redshanks and dunlins frequent the marshes. Divers, grebes, goldeneyes and occasional seaducks are seen in the estuarine channels. Short-eared owls, hen harriers, barn owls and merlins regularly hunt the reserve…
  • Rainham Marsh

    WebpageSatellite View
    Thames foreshore & rough grassland recently purchased from the Army by RSPB - a grazing marsh hardly changed in centuries. The Rubbish tip is renown for attracting unusual gulls.
  • Reeveshall Marsh

    Satellite View
  • Southend Pier

    Satellite View
    Sea Watching.
  • Tollesbury Wick

    WebpageSatellite View
    Open access is from the village of Tollesbury.
  • Wakering Stairs & The Broomway

    WebsiteSatellite View
    Sea watching & migrants. The Broomway is a Byway Open to All Traffic, which means that the public is entiled to drive any kind of vehicle over it, rather than traffic being restricted to certain kinds as would be the case with a public footpath or public bridleway.
County Recorder
  • Michael Tracy

    Robins, Hayhouse Road, Earls Colne, Colchester CO6 2PD

    07500 866335

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 390

    County Bird - Brent Goose Branta bernicla
Useful Reading

  • Tetrad Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Essex

    | By M K Dennis | Essex Birdwatching Society | 1996 | Paperback | 312 pages, Colour photos, line illustrations, distribution maps, figures | ISBN: 9780902131095 Buy this book from
  • The Birds of Essex

    | By Simon Wood | Christopher Helm | 2007 | Hardback | 656 pages, Line drawings, maps, tables, 32 colour plates | ISBN: 9780713669398 Buy this book from
  • Where To Watch Birds In East Anglia

    | By Peter & Margaret Clarke | Christopher Helm | 2002 | Paperback | 270 pages, B/w illustrations, maps | ISBN: 9780713658644 Buy this book from
Useful Information
  • Abberton Reservoir

    Essex Wildlife Trust, 01206 738172
  • Bradwell Bird Observatory

    Observatory WebsiteSatellite View
    The reserve is run jointly by Essex Wildlife Trust and the Essex Birdwatching Society. The latter also operates Bradwell Bird Observatory, situated in the grounds of Linnett's Cottage on the edge of the reserve…
  • Essex Bird Watching Society

    We are the county bird society for Essex and collate data on the status of birds within Essex including much of N.E. London. This data is analysed to produce the Essex Bird Report. We also publish Essex Birding magazine twice a year.
  • Essex Wildlife Trust

    We manage 93 nature reserves covering 7,700 acres of land. We give advice on wildlife problems and campaign on wildlife issues. We run five visitor centres that welcome 200,000 visitors per year. We have a membership of over 16,000 that is growing fast. Our members are the backbone of the Trust, funding its activities, providing volunteers that are vital to its operation, and spreading the word to others. Without them the Trust would not be able to function and wildlife would be under even greater threat.
  • Harlow Conservation Volunteers

    Harlow Conservation Volunteers (HCV) is a group of volunteers who work for nature conservation in and around Harlow - Essex. Their aim is to improve the environment for wildlife, nature conservation, and recreation, and to improve public access. All over the country conservation volunteers do practical work which makes a major contribution to our natural heritage. They manage trees, woodlands, and hedgerows; build bridges, hides, steps, and stiles; and clean out streams and ponds. They work on footpaths, clearing them of vegetation and making them easy to walk along; they work mostly on nature reserves and public open spaces, but occasionally on privately owned land. The work done depends on the time of year, but has included coppicing, tree planting, hedge-laying, scrub control, wild flower planting, constructing boardwalks, and even charcoal making.
  • Holland Haven Birding

    All holland haven cp (in ne Essex) recent sightings, updates and info by the group of local birders. Run by @lonsdalebirding . Holland haven blog link below.
  • RSPB Chelmsford & Central Essex Local Group

    The group's aim is to support actively the work of the RSPB in the local community and to involve RSPB members and the wider public in the Society's conservation, public affairs, education, fundraising and other activities. We have regular monthly indoor meetings locally throughout the year and have occasional day-trips to local nature reserves.
  • RSPB Colchester Local Group

    The group's aim is to make people aware of the need for wildlife conservation, to introduce more members to the RSPB and to raise funds for our local nature reserves. We hold indoor meetings with slide presentations on the second Thursday of the month between September and April.
  • RSPB South East Essex Local Group

    The South East Essex Local Group supports the RSPB in carrying out the Society's objectives in the Thames Estuary area. Those objectives include: promoting the conservation of wild birds and their habitats, informing and involving the RSPB's members in conservation issues, developing policies and practical actions to protect important wildlife habitats and working with central and local government to create and implement solutions to conservation problems.
  • Southend Ornithological Group

    The Southend Ornithological Group (SOG) is an informal group of birders who watch and record birds from sites in the Southend area of Essex, England. Some areas of this website, such as record submission and the chat forum, are restricted to known SOG birders.
  • The Greater Thames Marshes Nature Improvement Areas

    Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs) were nationally launched in April 2012. The Greater Thames Marshes NIA has been awarded £571,875 funding over 3 years…
  • Wakering & District Natural History Society

    Facebook Page
    Early in 1980 John Threadgold was approached by Councillor Ernie Adcock to see if he would be willing to start up a Natural History group in the village. The answer being 'Yes', John then had to liaise with the Parish Clerk to fix up a meeting place and then get some helpers. The obvious choice for help was George Bailey who was a keen photographer and a fellow member of the South Essex Natural History Society…

Abbreviations Key

  • Accessible Essex Reserves

    WebpageSatellite View
    Each of the following links lead to a BFA assessment of the reserve by BFA members and others, using the BFA form. ALL types of mobility problem are assumed so there are details of path surfaces, gradients and distances as well as benches and hide details.
  • EWT Abberton Reservoir Visitor Centre

    WebpageSatellite View
    Visitors can enjoy walks on Essex Wildlife Trust’s Nature Reserve; with stunning panoramic views across the Reservoir and surrounding villages as well as superb views of the water’s edge from three accessible bird hides.
  • EWT Bradwell Shell Bank Nature Reserve

    WebpageSatellite View
    Bradwell Cockle Spit on the Dengie Peninsular consists of some 30 acres of shell bank together with extensive saltmarsh. The spit has been built up by tidal currents and is mainly cockle and oyster shells.
  • EWT Cranham Marsh Reserve

    WebpageSatellite View
    The reason is that Cranham Marsh is home to wildlife that is so rare or so threatened that it has been listed for national action: animals like the water vole - Ratty from Wind in the Willows - or the great crested newt, and birds like the song thrush, once common in suburban gardens but now worryingly scarce are cause for concern.
  • EWT Fingringhoe Wick Nature Reserve

    WebpageSatellite View
    Essex Wildlife Trust's first nature reserve and visitor centre, set in a spectacular position overlooking the Colne Estuary, even on the dullest of days the views are fantastic. It offers the visitor real peace and quiet and a chance to escape from it all. A wide range of habitats are on view here, including grassland, heathland and ponds.
  • EWT Hanningfield Reservoir

    WebpageSatellite View
    Providing panoramic views over the 870 acre reservoir. The visitor centre is set in mature woodland and has proved a popular bat roost, with a beautiful carpet of Bluebells in the spring.
  • EWT John Weston Nature Reserve

    WebpageSatellite View
    This 9 acre reserve lies within the Naze public open space. It consists of Blackthorn and bramble thickets, rough grassland and four ponds or 'scrapes', three of them excavated since the reserve was established.
  • EWT Tollesbury Wick Nature Reserve

    WebpageSatellite View
    This 600 acre site is a rare example of an Essex fresh water grazing marsh, worked for decades by traditional methods sympathetic to wildlife. Tollesbury Wick is home to Essex Wildlife Trusts flying flock of sheep. You should be be able to see Marsh Harriers at most times of the year.
  • Essex Reserves

    WebsiteSatellite View
    A number of pages about reserves in Essex from Essex Wildlife Trust…
  • Lee Valley Park

    WebsiteSatellite View
    Covering a thousand acres on either side of the River Lee between Waltham Abbey (Essex) and Broxbourne (Herts) River Lee Country Park is a unique patchwork of lakes, waterways, green open spaces and countryside areas all linked together by paths, walkways and cycle tracks. The River Lee Country Park abounds with wildlife throughout the year and is the perfect venue for informal, outdoor recreation.
  • Nature Net

    WebsiteSatellite View
    List of reserves etc
  • RSPB Old Hall Marshes

    WebpageSatellite View
    In winter, 4,000 Brent geese feed on the pasture, with small flocks of ruffs and golden plovers. Thousands of wigeons, teals, shelducks, grey plovers, curlews, redshanks and dunlins frequent the marshes. Divers, grebes, goldeneyes and occasional sea ducks are seen in the estuarine channels. Short-eared owls, hen harriers, barn owls and merlins regularly hunt the reserve.
  • RSPB Rainham Marsh

    WebpageSatellite View
    One of very few ancient landscapes remaining in London, these medieval marshes right next to the River Thames were closed to the public for over 100 years and used as a military firing range. We managed to acquire the site in 2000 and set about transforming it into an important place for nature and a great place for people to visit. Now you can expect to see breeding wading birds in spring and summer, and large flocks of wild ducks in winter.
  • RSPB Stour Estuary

    WebpageSatellite View
    The Stour Estuary is a nature reserve in Essex, England, east of Colchester on the estuary of the River Stour. Enjoy trails up to five miles long as you stroll through the woods. To watch wading birds, ducks and geese on the estuary, visit during the autumn and winter.
Forums & Mailing Lists
  • EBwS Bird News

    The EBwS's aim is to promote birdwatching & all bird conservation issues in Essex with news gleaned from local & national sources.
  • East London Birders Forum

    Facebook Page
    Mike Dent started the ELBF in August 1997 as a forum for local birders to network more easily and to accumulate data on the local avifauna while promoting the importance and enjoyment of local patch birding. Things have changed over the last 18 years and we have moved with the times from initially meeting once a month in a pub in Chingford to the creation of our website and now inevitably embracing Facebook.
  • Southend Ornithological Group Bird News

Guides & Tour Operators
  • Birding Pal

    Local birders willing to show visiting birders around their area
Places to Stay

Click on WAND to see Fatbirder’s Trip Report Repository…

  • Bird Watching Holidays Essex

    Essex is ideal for bird lovers and those looking for Birdwatching holidays, and near the Essex Coast there are some wonderful Bird Reserves, - the Stour Estuary near Harwich and also Old Hall Marshes near Maldon. Enjoy a Bird watching break in Essex and stay in one of our farmhouse B&B's or Holiday Cottages where you will find a haven of wildlife on the farm, throughout the countryside, and on the coast.
Other Links
  • Birdline East Anglia

    Birdline East Anglia What's about? Simply phone 09068 700245Please report your bird sightings to phone/text 07941333970 or e - Calls to 09068 700245 cost 60p/min from a BT landline other networks may vary
  • Brian Anderson - Brian’s Birding Blog

    Essex Birder using the blog as a diary of my trips around the country chasing birds. Enjoying the places it takes me and the people I meet along the way. Great to spend time with my Dad and brother as we chase our year lists and grow our life list in the process.
  • Chris Jones - Chris' Birding

    Not updated since 2012 - Wildlife photography concentrating on UK birds…
  • Dave Morrison - Dave Mo Birding

    I Have been birding around the Hornchurch and Rainham area for 20 years now and enjoy local patch birding.I also enjoy birds of prey,and have travelled abroad to watch and photograph them.
  • David Bradnum - Bradders Birding

    Not updated since 2014 - David has always loved birding and spending time outdoors. I enjoy the odd twitch and birding holiday but generally I'm happy to let him get on with it while I spend time crafting at home…
  • Jim Anderson - Jim's Birding Blog

    A diary of birds and birding trips…
  • Jim Anderson - Tick 'N' Go Birding

    Hi, I have been out & about with Jimmy & Brian & sometimes Robert, 3 of my sons to see as many birds as we can. The boys got me into bird watching 8 years ago when I retired. They have been bird watching from a very young age & I am glad to say that it is one of the best things that I have ever done.
  • Lee Brown - Lee's Local Birding

    The Learner Birder – Lee's Birding – Local Birding - I started birding a local patch known as Rainham Marshes back in October 2010 (so in birding terms i am still learning and have a long way to go). My skills as a birder have increased massively and i have found an interest in bird calls within birding…
  • Mark Braun - Birding Braunie

    Not updated since November 2016 - Being on the outskirts of North East London, my reports will not only cover my local patch of Redbridge/Waltham Forest, but also dip into deepest Essex, Suffolk, Kent and Norfolk…
  • Mick Rodwell - Holland Haven Birding

  • Paul Hawky - Hawkys Blog

    Not updated since July 2016 - Welcome to my blog. I am Hawky, 37 year old local birder to mainly Rainham marshes RSPB and Barking Bay most recently, with occasional filthy twitches further away, have been birding over 25 years now and am interested in all natural history and can't wait for my young son Jack to follow in my footsteps…
  • Steve Arlow - Birders Playground

    I have been birding since the early eighties with my early visits being around the Two Tree Island and Benfleet Creek areas before branching out to other nearby locations within the Southend area. I have been a member of the Southend Ornithological Group since about 1985/1986 and made some good birding friends.
Photographers & Artists
  • Photographer - Ian Rose

    Photos of British Birds, mostly taken in Essex and Herts
  • Photographer - Peter Mann - Manny's Wildlife

    Mainly common birds of the UK including the odd deer
  • Photographer - Richard Chew

    I am an amateur photographer and my principal interest is the wildlife and landscapes of the UK. My website includes a selection of photos that I have taken over the last 12 years or so in England, Wales and the Scottish Highlands and Islands. I have also included details of the equipment that I use and some of my own personal photography tips which I feel have contributed to my development as a photographer.
  • Photographer - Thomas Harris - Tom's Photography

    This website has most of my best photos that I have taken around Essex and the UK. The pictures here were taken using a hand-held Canon 1000D or my newer Canon 600D and a 75-300mm or 150-500mm lens. Images are updated frequently

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