As the breeding season begins to enter the final furlong, it’s time for an update on this troubled breeding season.
Unfortunately, there is rather more bad news than good news. Starting with the bad news.
Common gulls are having a disastrous year, for the first time in two years the number of pairs has fallen but more troubling is the complete lack of young. There may be a few young birds hiding in the gorse but overall this spells bad news for the future of the colony.
The 11 pairs of avocets did really well, they managed to hatch their eggs but it’s a short and somewhat sad life for an avocet chick on Havergate and all of them have been predated.
The terns have just started to hatch their young but given all the work put into trying to restore a healthy and thriving tern colony to Havergate it has been sad to see the number of pairs this year drop dramatically this year, to just 11 at the peak. Currently only about 6 remain, and this is by no means big enough for the colony to sustain itself.
The supporting cast of shelducks, oystercatchers, tufted ducks have not fared much better.
What has caused this bad year? Well, no doubts the weather has been a hugely contributory factor. Wind and rain have plagued the island during the summer, it seems that almost every week has brought at least one big Atlantic storm. This will have caused young to be chilled and eggs to be abandoned. The other big factor that cannot be ignored is predation by the large gulls.
However its not all bad news, the lesser black backs and herring gulls will almost certainly produce a lot of young (though I will be the first to admit this may not seem like good news to everyone). In fact after believing the gull colony to have stabilised or even in slight decline, the numbers of lesser black backs has increased to the highest total ever on the island (1267 pairs). In addition Herring gulls have risen to the 2nd highest ever total. Whilst there has been some shifting around in the relative locations and numbers of the colony, by far the biggest increases are in the northern lagoons but I think this reflects an increase the ease of surveying the gulls rather than a sizeable leap forward in the actual numbers of gulls breeding.
However, the true star of the early spring has been the now virtually resident spoonbills. Encouraged by a stickleback (a small fish) run into the island, five birds 4 first years and a second year have taken up residence on the island. At one point the peak number was 8 including two adults. This can be attributed to improved management of the reserve including the new slucies and is very encouraging for the future of this species on Havergate
Because one should never get bored of video’s of spoonbills here is one taken by the Snape Warden, David Fairhurst.
Which for some reason beyond my control is only available as a link! Enjoy.