Jenny James, the Publicity Officer for the group wrote to me about the group's marvelous Havergate Island experience. She says
"In August this year the RSPB Woodbridge Local Group claimed a remarkable achievement. The group has made profits totalling £50,000 from organising the Havergate Adventure every August for the last 25 years. During this time, nearly 10,000 visitors have been taken by boat from Orford Quay to Havergate Island, enjoyed a bird-watching walk with a guide from the group and finished up with home-made cakes and sandwiches.
This four-day event started in 1989 as a way of raising money for the restoration of Havergate Island after the Great Storm of 1987 and has since become an annual fixture. We have looked after local people, families and summer visitors; some of them experienced bird watchers and others looking closely at birds for the first time. Many are curious to see the hidden lagoons and to experience the sight and sound of the flocks of gulls and waders which rest and feed there. All of them appreciate this quiet and secluded place, tucked into the Ore and Alde estuary at its junction with Butley Creek.
Havergate Island has evolved from the time when it was the haunt of smugglers and when the early river walls protected pastures used for summer grazing. Since 1948 the RSPB have created a haven for wildlife by making a series of salt-water lagoons concealed behind the strengthened river walls. These are overlooked by a series of hides and connected by board walks and bridges.
Each year of the 25 years has been different, both for the weather and for the birds. The unreliable August weather has mostly been very kind to us. We have sometimes basked in blue skies and light winds, with resident and migrant waders, gulls and terns feeding peacefully in the lagoons until a passing marsh harrier or sparrow hawk sends them up in swirling clouds before they settle again. However there have been times when high tides, strong winds or heavy rain have forced a retreat from the island to ensure the safety of our visitors.
Perhaps surprisingly, August is a good month to visit Havergate Island. On many reserves it can be a quiet period, between the breeding season and the autumn passage migrants. Here, one of the attractions for our visitors has been the spoonbills, each year they arrive from early summer onward, from the near continent. Alongside them there are increasing numbers of avocets, arriving from other UK breeding sites and from Holland and Germany. These lovely birds can be seen in flight as a swirling flock of black and white before they descend to feed in the lagoons.
In most years we have had a wealth of passage migrants arriving as they complete their breeding further north. Dunlins, little stints, turnstones, greenshanks, spotted redshanks, ringed plovers, ruffs and many others have been seen in August on the lagoons as they call in to feed and rest on their way south. Many of the birds still show remnants of their breeding plumage and in some years we have seen chestnut coloured black tailed and bar tailed godwits or dunlins, grey plovers and golden plovers with their striking black markings.
As we look back on our 25 years of The Havergate Adventure, we feel happy that we have given a great many people and families a good day out introducing some new people, particularly youngsters, to the delights of bird watching."
The Havergate Adventure takes place over the 3rd weekend of August.
In 2014 it will be August 19-22. Booking starts on August 4.
For all details of the RSPB Woodbridge Group’s activities please see the website www.rspb.org.uk/groups/woodbridge.
Seven years ago, in a fit of abstraction, I moved, bag and baggage, from a miniscule village in the depths of Cardiganshire to the city of Hereford. After I arrived it dawned upon me that I knew not a single soul in this mighty emporium of a place. In fact, in terms of social life it would have been wiser for me to have headed for the innermost parts of the Sahara Desert. For the first year or so, I was heavily engaged in the resolution of mysteries such as washing up, cooking, cleaning, and all the other things that normal people deal with as a matter of course. This, naturally, could not go on forever; it just felt as if it did.
I had, as a member of the RSPB, taken up a comparatively simple job of taking care of some of the shop counter boxes through which we sell pin badges to the augmentation of the Society’s funds. When I agreed to do this I had little idea of the lengths to which this might lead. About six months later I received the fateful email which changed my life completely. As far as I can recall, it invited me to the nearby Country Park at Queenswood and, once there, I would join some chap whose function in life was to persuade the local punters that the RSPB was the greatest thing since sliced bread, and that it was a jolly good thing to be part of. My particular role in this would be that of keeping any children of the party of the second part amused, whilst their parents were being given the sales pitch.
I replied to the effect that I had had no dealings with children since my three had grown up, left school, and embarked on their respective anti-social lifestyles. Further, I did not like children, and they, likewise, did not like me. This was answered by an invitation to come next week and give it a go. Being of unsound mind, I agreed.
The following week I duly made my way to the place appointed where a small marquee was occupied by a rather large chap. His first step was to demonstrate the manufacture of the RSPB dragonfly (Mark I). I am now able to report that, five years later, I’m getting quite good at it. This turned out to be the basic child distracter, but there were (and are) others. These include owl pellet dissecting, badge making, bird feeder making to name but a few. I have, therefore, acquired a range of skills, which will stand me in good stead should I ever want to dissect an owl pellet, make a dragonfly, mix ‘em together, put ‘em in a birdfeeder and stick a badge on it so that the birds know the contents of that of which they are about to partake.
Seven years ago, I came to Hereford after a divorce which nearly destroyed me. Volunteering for the RSPB has given me back the schoolboy sense of humour I had over 60 years ago. That’s what comes of learning to love kids. It’s what comes of working with an organisation whose staff and members accept you for what you are, and ask no more of you than what you can give. It takes you to beautiful places to meet all kinds of wonderful people. It gives you the joy of being able to do something positive to help keep this miraculous world, and the miraculous life that lives in it, in being. It can make old age among the happiest years of your life.
Written by Bryan Holmes
Week 2 of Brian’s Coquettish blog – Brian McCullen blogs about his time volunteering with our Residential Volunteering scheme on Coquet Island. Isolation, Gulls, Terns and the arrival of the Puffins . . .
THE COQUET EXPERIENCE Cont . . .
Not a great deal to report for today. I finished repairing and preserving the nest boxes ready for positioning on the two terraces. What I DO recall is the amount and intensity level of noise from the Black-Headed Gulls today. A few of them appeared to object to the fact that I was here, and showed their displeasure by swooping low where I was working. Their constant squawking was driving me nuts, but I guess we have our place on the planet and this was theirs. I figured that they must be starting the breeding process to be so agitated at my presence… WOW, does this mean that spring is FINALLY here??
Am feeling rather emotionally isolated, and its having the effect of making me want to retreat into my Cancerian Crablike shell. But I always knew that this day would come by being on Coquet, so I will be ok. When you are taken out of civilisation and placed on an island, the transformation in terms of what you are used to in daily life is gradual, but it does set in. However, today it is “Boules” with the team and some friends!!
Sooooo, today we are erecting the ‘Hide’ on the jetty. ‘Hide’ ?? Ahhh sorry yes… the ‘Hide’ is a small shed like creation used for keeping watch over the Tern terraces overnight. It is to deter unscrupulous ‘human egg thieves’ from carrying out their wicked deeds. It has a small wood burner, table and a chair… (5 star luxury eh), and whoever is here, takes turns in doing a night-shift on watch. It took us just over 2 hours to complete, reasonably hard work, but we were treated by the wonderful Hilary to some of her sausage plait and hot mead and whilst we all sat on the jetty making merry we noticed a wonderful sight out in the water… THE PUFFINS HAD ARRIVED yayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy.
Well here we are. The start of the final stretch of my “Coquet Experience”. Am painting the ground level windows on the cottage for the next 48 hrs, then the afternoons will be dedicated to sealing the “Hide” with waterproofing mastic. The mornings and evenings are getting lighter now and time seems to be flying by, given the advent of my stay here. I sat on the jetty for ten minutes just taking it all in today. This really is a special place. More and more Gulls are arriving now and settling on the plateau, you can also see the puffins mixing in with them. Just wish this weather would warm up and the sea settle down; it would be so much nicer. Right, off to bed now see you all tomorrow. Night.
Penultimate day for me, and I am helping to clear the Heli-Garden log chopping area so that the Terns will have a safe place to roost and breed. It’s harder than I thought chopping logs but hey, I could do with shedding a few pounds
Well, it’s arrived all too soon. At 15:00hrs today, Hilary will come out on the launch and pick me up to go back to the mainland. I was dropped off in Alnwick as I staying in a B&B pre my journey back down south tomorrow L But first, there are jobs to do and I am going to be mowing all around in preparation for the Terns. The grass has to be kept short as if it’s allowed to grow, it will trap the rain which is no good for the nesting chicks. So done all that, and now to pack my stuff up for the journey back. Half hour before we are due to leave, I cart my stuff down to the jetty and just chill for a bit, just to take it all in for one last time, just to reflect on this amazing place and experience. This has been my home for two weeks and I kinda got used to it and its ways. I blended in to the way of life. Now it’s back to normality and I wonder how I will react… 15:00hrs and here comes the launch. Goodbye Coquet Island. Thank you for allowing me an insight into your heart and soul. After a quick shower at the marina, Wes drops me off at my guest house. I am going to miss him; he has been my companion and friend. I settle into my room and after a while, go to the town centre to get some supper. I find Carlo’s fish shop and as I eat my Cod and chips, I look out onto the towns activity, I feel strangely isolated. How can you feel like that in a bustling town of people and cars, having just come from somewhere there are no cars and very few people?? Goodbye Coquet, thank you for everything