I’ll keep this brief but sad news..... The Flamingo has departed the islands. No more will anyone look across Main lagoon and be cheered by sight of a large pink bird, normally with his head in the water, feeding away, no more will he take off in flight and look like a long thin pink pencil with wings. Perhaps the urge to find his own was to strong or perhaps he realised that the world was to replete with possibilties after his daring bid for freedom to stay in one place forever!? Whatever it was, we will never know.....
Godspeed, big fella, we wish you luck wherever you next surface.
However, on a positive note, Spoonbills have started arriving on the island, as mirrored nationally, with large influxes from Aberdeenshire to Essex. So far the max count is 10 but three where present this morning, along with 12 Black tailed Godwits (commuting between here and Boyton), good numbers of Lapwings and Curlews and the Avocets are starting to build up, soon it will be September and the numbers will peak at a 1000.
However, I am wishing the summer away, the breeding birds are still going strong and at some point in the next week or so, I will have an idea of numbers although the success rates will have to wait for a little later. This will only be known once the birds have fledged or given up on the breeding season. I will post them here, when the totals are in.
The breeding season continues a pace on the island. However, firstly I must break some bad news. In my last blog piece I reported that the island was playing host to 23 Avocets the highest breeding number in some time, however between the dates 14th to the 16th of July all the nests where predated. One particular Herring gull was believed to be the cause of the predation, Avocets can be quite adept at chasing away predators when they swoop in but once the predator realises it can walk into the colony, the colonies chance of fledgling any young drops dramatically. Sadly, it is far too late in the season for any relays. However, having seen the gulls “modus operandi” I have some plans for next year that may help the Avocets and deter the gulls.
So moving on, there are still lots of Common gull chicks around, some approaching a good size. I do worry that there appears to be very little activity in the colony i.e. parents feeding their young but the chicks continue to grow and at the last count there where at least six still alive. Viewing of them can be tough, given that they spend most of there time tucked in the gorse but this is no bad thing as it keeps them safe. Sadly, several nest where lost in the big tides last weekend but this was to be expected. Some have even re-laid out in the middle of the lagoons. At least one pair is present on Belpers and another on Cottage flood.
The first large gull fledgling was noted on Sunday the 20th of June. Gulls have a funny way of welcoming their young into the world of flight, generally it involves a good “kicking”. Assumedly, the adults mis-associate the young with a potential nest predator and therefore try to drive it away. Juvenile gulls are a speckled brown colour and could easily be mistaken for a predator by a worried parent. However, the Herring and Lesser black backed Gulls are bucking the national trend and continue to do well on Havergate. Most nests contain at least 2 chicks and in some cases more. Both the Lesser and Herring Gulls found on Havergate are of significant conservation importance. Indeed Herring gulls are a red listed species, this tops even the Avocet which is only Amber listed. This is due to a 50 percent decline in the breeding population in 25 years, even more worryingly this currently cannot be explained. This may come as a surprise to many who consider the Herring gull to be close to the level of vermin. Even the Lesser’s are specially protected as the British sub species is restricted to just 10 breeding sites in England.
One of our lesser spotted and less celebrated species but one that is of national importance due to its scarcity is the ground lackey moth. Which breeds at high densities in our salt marshes, well we conducted the count last week and the number was 154. An increase from last year, therefore we can conclude that our Saltmarsh is healthy. I’ll try and post a picture of one of their fantastic “tents” that the caterpillars construct.
Migration is quiet at this time of the season, most things are away and breeding but there are still regular visits from Spoonbills, soon we should start to see the build up of our post breeding flock and yes, the Flamingo is still here......
What an odd few days on Havergate but more of that later.
Summer has definitely arrived on the island. With it though, something exciting has happened. Those who are familiar with Havergate will know that recently the population of Avocets have been going through what looked like a terminal decline. In fact, with only four pairs nesting last year, the unspoken fear was that 2010 would mark the end of breeding Avocets on the island still famous for being the “Home of the Avocet”. Ever since the return of Avocets in a breeding context to these shores Havergate and Avocets have been synonymous with each other, in fact in its peak over 10 percent of Britain’s Avocet population nested on the island.
These days are over, a bittersweet fact to all associated with Havergate, bitter because having over a 100 breeding Avocets was something to behold and was very much the island’s calling card but sweet because Havergate played such an important role in the establishment and even without the Havergate birds the species continues to go from strength to strength, so much so that there are now over a 1000 pairs in the country breeding from Dorset to Durham.
It is with therefore with great delight that I can tell you that rumours of the demise of Avocets on Havergate have been greatly exaggerated. 23 pairs have chosen Havergate to nest on this year, the highest number since 2007. It is simply indescribable how good this is for the island. To give it some context the target for numbers of Avocets nesting on the island as proscribed in the Havergate management plan is 50. Anyone who has ever been to Havergate, worked on Havergate or simply loves Avocets should cross their fingers for some fledglings. I am currently mulling over what practical steps we can take to aid these birds, specifically the ones on Belper’s lagoon which holds thirteen of the 23 birds currently nesting. However, one must be careful to ensure that one does not do more harm than good, even with the best of intentions. However, whatever is done, will have to be done soon, as it will not be very long till we get our first chicks.
So more about the oddness that is currently affecting Havergate. Well, this week the island has played host to not one but two “exotic” species of bird. Saturday morning two Egyptian geese where sat on top of the tractor shed but even more bizarre was the sight of a presumably greater Flamingo (consider yourselves lucky that the title for this post was not titled Flamingoin crazy!) feeding in main lagoon. What the story of that bird is, I suspect we will never know. I’m just pleased I was there to see it, as I would have smiled and nodded if someone had told me there was a flamingo on the island. Quite how long he will stay is unknown but he looks at home feeding around the cormorants and nesting gulls. Just to prove that we do get real wild birds on island, a short eared owl has taken up residence in the long meadow, delighting me, the residential volunteers and visitors (those who saw it) in equal delight. I could dedicate an entire blog just to it but it is a rare treat to see it hunting and quartering over the long grass, long may it continue.