2688ac/1088ha LNR, SPA, SSSI
Grid ref: TQ 911 837 (click for o/s map)
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Stretching more than eight miles from Leigh-on-Sea to Shoeburyness, Southend's foreshore – the area lying between normal high and low tide marks, also known as the intertidal zone – is internationally important for migrating birds, and for that reason has been declared a Local Nature Reserve.
In winter, its mudflats serve as a feeding ground for large numbers of birds that migrate to the Essex estuaries from their less hospitable breeding grounds further north. The sheer numbers of birds and their movement as they retreat before the advancing tide make for a tremendous spectacle. You can expect to see flocks of waders such as knot or dunlin wheeling and circling, along with lapwing, curlew, redshank and grey plover. Ducks that feed here include teal, mallard, wigeon and shelduck.
There are fewer birds in summer, some resident like shelduck, oystercatchers, ringed plovers and redshanks, and others, like the common and little terns, that arrive here in spring and stay on to breed.
Southend pier is a good vantage point for watching terns plunge diving for food in summer, and on cold days in the winter you may see a variety of divers, grebes and other sea birds out on the estuary, and possibly purple sandpipers around the pier itself.
If you don't have your own binoculars, you can use telescopes positioned all along the seafront and on the pier.
Viewable from many points along the seafront from Leigh-on-Sea to Shoeburyness, and from Southend pier.
Train to Southend Central or Shoeburyness, then work back along the front as the tide drives the birds westwards towards Two-Tree Island, returning from one of the other stations.
Accessible at all times.
Winter for large numbers of birds feeding on the mudflats –best viewed when the tide is low, so check tide tables before you visit.