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.
Thanks Ian. It's quite a famous or should I say notorious bird, it even made the weekly birdguides email! Whatever, it origins it seems quite at home on Havergate, feeding away on main lagoon. I suspect it may be settled in for a long stay. Its not to far away from the Spoonbill, the two together, that would be quite some picture!
It seems your flamingo was a lesser flamingo and it had been tracked down the Norfolk coast before settling on Havergate. Don't know where it came from, but definitely an escapee from a collection. Lesser flamingos are increasingly under threat in Africa, despite occuring in large flocks, because they nest at very few locations and many of these are being damaged by human activities. Nice bird to see though - whatever its origins.
I did not realise that the breeding population of Avocets had decreased that much on Havergate. I have not visted the island for several years and infact the last time I did there were around 100 pairs nesting.
Great news. Hope the avocets have some success. Great too that you have a summering short-eared owl. They're always such a delight at any time of year. As for the flamingo! It's always bizarre to see them on our shores. I remember watching one at Titchwell many years ago stood next to old Sammy the Stilt. Could easily have been in Spain had the flamingo not be of the Chilean variety. Also watched a pair mating at Minsmere years back! Even more bizarre. must get out to the island again soon.