Saturday marked the end of last weeks residential volunteers stay on the island. Thanks must go to David and John two volunteers who have being coming out to Havergate and helping in the residential volunteers scheme for sixteen and five years respectively. There where a great help to the island, painting and decorating and completing the important task of roping off the Common gull colony. This week I am joined by Julia and Brian, who in a complete contrast, will be there first time living and staying on Havergate Island. I think we all wish them luck.
Migration has been relatively slow in the last week on Havergate; the persistent northerlies haven’t helped that. However, there have still been good records of Hobby and Cuckoo on the island amongst other things. Undoubtedly, the star bird last week was the return of the male and female Spoonbill. Hopes of a breeding attempt are always raised when we see a pair at this time of the year. The male Spoonbill looks quite striking with his Ochre breast patch, compared to the all white look of the female. However, despite the two birds being on the island at the same time, they actually spent very little time interacting with each other, each taking up residence at the opposite end of the island.
We are particularly keen to record any evidence of courtship on Havergate, very rarely seen, the courtship dance consists of the same dancing seen in storks, bill rattling, mutual preening and raising the distinctive crest on the back of the head. That it so rarely observed is perhaps related to the Spoonbills nocturnal nature, even seeing them feeding during the day is unusual. Once observed however, it is impossible to forget, the sight of such a large bird and its unique and distinctive bill sweeping through the water to catch small fish and any other food of interest is unforgettable, it sounds ungainly but it actually quite majestic. A feeling only enhanced when you compare it to the dagger thrusts of the Little Egrets.
On Havergate an area of the island as been put aside for them and it is managed to aid and promote any such breeding attempt. Spoonbills like there close relative the Heron are associated with trees but they will also quite happily nest in marshy, reed filled islands in saline lagoons with access to sheltered feeding areas. This almost perfectly describes the back of Gullery and main lagoons on Havergate. We know we are doing something right, as a huge proportion of the young raised from the Dutch colony of Spoonbills heads straight to Havergate at the end of the breeding season. From mid July onwards it is not unusual for there to be twenty plus Spoonbills on Havergate. All we need now is for our own breeding attempt to be made.
For more information about how you can help us with our work in establishing a breeding colony of Spoonbills on Havergate and the other work we do on here, please visit the website.