Of late the blog seems to have been dominated by articles on “issues”. As a change I thought it would be nice to update people about what has been going on, on the island.
Every day seems to bring a good species to the island and the island is jumping with birds. Most lagoons are full of wintering ducks, on the recent Webs count 1104 Teal and over 1300 Wigeon where counted. These are not far away from our winter peaks. Interestingly, and I’m not sure if this has been repeated elsewhere but the moult process seems to have been a long drawn out process, there are still a lot of scruffy looking ducks on the lagoons.
Pintail numbers are relatively low (29), however since I believe there are still is a decent sized flock at Minsmere that would seem to account for this. The first Brent geese have returned to the estuary, never more than a transitory visitor in the Alde – Ore estuary, the truly big numbers are found on the Stour estuary, the small skeins that fly over the island and occasionally land on the reserve are more than welcome.
In the past week, the island has played host to its 15th ever Bonxie (Great Skua), the first Kingfisher since 2003, the first Rough Legged Buzzard since 1994, the first Stonechat since 2008, the first Blackcap since 2005 and the first Redwings, Fieldfares and Goldcrests of the year. Two Spoonbills and a Spotted Redshank flew over on Thursday and three Marsh Harriers. A Hen Harrier and Two Short eared Owls have been around all week.
In recent years both Hen Harrier and Short eared Owls have reflected national trends on Havergate by becoming increasingly scarce. That both these species have been around for the past week raises hope that both may chose to winter on the island, as was always the case up to the late 1990’s.
The story of the discovery of the Rough Legged Buzzard is worthy of repeating. It owes quite a lot to chance. Initially, I was not intending upon visiting the island on Sunday, planning instead on taking that day off but due to the calm winds decided to take my chance and head out to the island to complete the saline monitoring. As I was walking down to Doveys lagoon, I noticed a disturbance in the crows and the Starling on the Saltmarsh, pondering that it had been a while since I had seen the Peregrine. As I got closer the crows where mobbing a specific spot. I decided to go and inspect closer, suspecting that I would flush one of the shorties. I must have got to within 5metres of the bird, when it exploded out from under my feet, immediately recognising it as an extremely pale Buzzard, the give away was the white upper tail feathers, found on Rough legged Buzzards but not on common Buzzards.
The Rough legged Buzzard is a rare bird of prey in this country. The ones we get are almost certainly from northern Scandinavia and between 10 and 150 winter in the country, seeing out the winter in the relatively mild conditions of the UK. It is much like our Common Buzzard but paler and with a different feather arrangement and a subtly different flight style. Given the numbers that have arrived in the country in the last few days, the potential for an invasion year is high. This is caused by a good breeding season and immediately followed by a collapse in the Buzzards food, in this case Lemmings. Therefore many juveniles and adults are forced to take flight to find more food.