The events season in 2013 has been very busy on Havergate Island with a handful of fantastic 'first ever' events with brilliant response by our participants. I have written about the Days of Discovery and the Big Wild Sleepout in other posts already, but there is at least one more story to tell:
This year's success would not have been possible without the extremely motivated and enthusiastic volunteer team including the Photography Tutors, the Digiscoping Tutors and our Artist in Residence. All of them have strongly supported my publicity efforts and when I gathered their activities in a list for my end of season report I was overwhelmed by how active they have been to help get the word out about the island in 2013.
This post is entirely dedicated to my passionate volunteer team and the following is a chronological list of their posts about our beloved island:
21 February: Celia Bartlett posts on her blog "Havergate Island, Suffolk" www.ailecphotography.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/havergate-island-suffolk.html24 February: Celia Bartlett posts on her blog "Photography: Day of Discovery" www.ailecphotography.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/photography-day-of-discovery.html
6 March: Celia Bartlett posts on her blog "Mad March Hares" www.ailecphotography.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/mad-march-hares.html
22 April: Celia Bartlett posts on her blog "Havergate Day of Discovery" www.ailecphotography.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/havergate-day-of-discovery.html22 April: Tony Pick posts on his blog "Havergate Island – 21st April Photography Day of Discovery" www.tonypickphotography.co.uk/2013/04/havergate-islandphotography-day-of-discovery/
23 April: Danny Porter posts on his blog "RSPB Havergate Island "Photography: Days of Discovery" www.dannysdigiscoping.com/rspbdaysofdiscovery.htm
25 April: Tony Pick posts on his blog "Havergate Island: RSPB Photography Days of Discovery" www.tonypickphotography.co.uk/2013/04/rspb-havergateisland-photography-days-of-discovery/25 April: Ben Andrew, Adviser at RSPB Wildlife Enquiries in his day to day job, posts on the RSPB Wildlife blog "Hare Heaven at Havergate" www.rspb.org.uk/community/wildlife/b/wildlife/archive/2013/04/25/hare-heaven-at-havergate.aspx
18 May: Tony Pick posts on his blog "RSPB Havergate Island" www.tonypickphotography.co.uk/2013/05/rspb-havergate-island/24 May: Tony Pick posts on his blog "Flashing: prohibited on the island – for Photographers – but the Hare showed it all!" www.tonypickphotography.co.uk/2013/05/flashing-prohibited-on-the-island-for-photographers-but-the-hare-showed-it-all/
24 June: Liza Adamczewski posts on her blog "Havergate Island Weekend" www.lizaadamczewski.wordpress.com/2013/06/24/havergate-island-weekend/28 June: Celia Bartlett posts on her blog "Havergate Ahead..." www.ailecphotography.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/havergate-ahead.html
18 August: Liza Adamczewski posts on her blog " Big Wild Sleep out under a very Big Sky www.lizaadamczewski.wordpress.com/2013/08/18/big-wild-sleep-out-under-a-very-big-sky/31 August: Tony Pick posts on his blog "Havergate Island – ‘Days of Discovery’ Exhibition" www.tonypickphotography.co.uk/2013/08/havergate-island-days-of-discovery-exhibition/
Last week I took the opportunity to stay out on the island for six days, despite having accommodation out on the island this is something I rarely if ever get the chance to do. So, despite the presence of the diggers down at Hollesley I took the chance to get out on the island with one of the residential volunteers.
The main purpose was to have a big push and really try and make a difference to the rat control programme; however, there was still ample time to enjoy the island for what it is.
Whilst living out on the island sounds like a real rough and ready experience and in some cases it is, there is no running water, electricity is at a premium and if the weather closes in it can be a wet and windy experience. However, it is also extremely comfortable almost ridiculously so! The huts are warm, the gas cooker is just like cooking at home and whilst the gas fridges are small they do a great job at keeping your milk cold.
Monday was a bit hectic as we where also hosting both Paul Forecast and Shaun Thomas the regional director and Operations director respectively for a trip out to the island as well as trying to complete the first rat circuit of the island and unpack our gear and stow it away.
Tuesday was much more of a normal day with an early morning rat circuit followed by an afternoon recording birds or in my case report writing. The only really rough day weather wise was Wednesday afternoon when a cold front whipped up the wind and bought a large rain storm which drove us inside. However, this did give us the lovely site of 6 ruff using the lagoons with a short eared owl for company hunting along the grassy banks.
Luckily for us, Thursday turned out to be a nice day so we were able to complete a number of odd jobs around the island before Friday bought our last rat circuit and in the afternoon we were able to do a high tide count of the island off which the highlights where 215 black tailed godwit and over 300 golden plover using the island to roost on.
During the week we were joined by a plethora of bird species both big and small with stonechats, many thrushes, woodcock and snipes all turning up from Scandinavian climes. The real treats where merlin, red breasted merganser, short eared owl, peregrine, curlew sandpiper and great numbers of avocet, black tailed godwit and the first significant numbers of wintering duck arriving.
It is hard to beat an early morning stroll on Havergate or to watch the sun setting below Dovey’s lagoon, to watch the roosting gulls coming in from the mainland or the avocets flying up the river and the call of a redshank, grey or ringed plover in the evening finding a place to feed or roost.
If staying out on the island for a week sounds like something you might enjoy, contact our residential volunteering department or see our website for how.
As summer rolls into autumn and the first wintering duck begin to return to the island it is time to look back at the breeding season on Havergate.
Starting with the large gulls, Herring gulls clocked in at 503 AON’s up by 17 from 2012. The lesser black backs had a massive increase, the reasons for this seems unclear but the almost complete collapse colonies on the nearby Orfordness are no doubts a contributory reason (1747 AON’s up by 500 from 2012). For both species productivity (the number of young produced) was poor, the final figures have yet to be worked out but it would seem to be significantly less than the years before. Quite why this is is unclear, strong signs that fox predation was higher this year than before in parts of the colony.
19 pairs of common gulls nested in the usual spot in and around the gorse and volunteer huts an increase of three from 2012. However, it was a terrible year in terms of productivity with no young fledged, disturbance and predation no doubts all playing a part. It was a hugely successful year for black headed gulls, 35 pairs producing around 15 young. This is the first fledgling BHG’s for almost a decade on the island and may or may not mark the resurgence of this species on the island. Either way the presence of this species was a boon for the common terns that nested amongst them.
The Common terns had a good year as 21 pairs nested in front of north and Gullery hide, fledging 11 chicks. Nest protection was once again deployed in the colony stopping the large gulls from swooping in and taking young chicks.
The common tern camp; photo by Kevin Sawford.
14 pairs of Avocets nested however rather sadly they produced no young; predation from the gulls was predictably high.
Not strictly a breeding species, however it was a promising year for spoonbills with a max count of 18 spoonbills in late August. However the real excitement came with the four birds using the nesting platforms constructed in winter 2013 throughout June and July including one adult bird. All birds showed exceptionally advanced territorial behaviour, mutual preening and stick exchanges. As of the last few days there are still at least three spoonbills on the island showing exceptionally well as they use the lagoons to feed. It will be interesting to see if these three stick around for winter or move onto the more traditional wintering grounds in southern Europe.
Spoonbills using the platforms; photo by Kevin Sawford.
More recently the island has been notable for its place as a stopover for migrant birds heading south or arriving for the winter. Up to 500 avocets can be seen daily, 400 dunlin, 500 redshanks, 20 grey plover, 15 knot, 40 black tailed godwits, 11 bar tailed godwits and a whole host of other birds.
In the next few months the amount of waders moving through the island will slow down with the wintering flocks establishing themselves, however, the flip side of this is that duck movement will intensify and the next two weeks will see over 1500 ducks arrive on the island and over 6000 in the wider estuary. There is always something to look forward to when you work on a nature reserve!