Winter is my favorite time of year when it comes to Havergate Island. It is cold, windy, isolated and absolutely stunning! Winter is the time I see the short eared owls hunting over the saltmarsh and the marsh harriers gliding along the seawall. Barn owls, kestrels, Hen harrier and peregrines have also been regularly seen.
The volunteer work party are still working hard, we are preparing to extend our hide at the North end of the island to accommodate more people looking out onto North Lagoon, and we have also been working on the accommodation huts and generally tidying up the area. I have a never ending list of things to do on the island and with all this wind we have had recently I have added replace felt roofing on the huts to it!
Winter is a fairly quiet time of year on Havergate with minimal habitat work. We opened up the sluices and let the lagoons fill up to cover most of the islands. Doing this kills off a lot of the vegetation on the islands and makes them more favorable for nesting birds come spring and also makes the lagoons as a whole more favorable for wildfowl. On our last full island count we had over 400 wigeon, 67 Pintail, 700 Teal, 70 Gadwall and 163 Shoveler. I also had up to 6 Goldeneye last month on our small lagoon cottage flood.
Doveys lagoon looking full Jan 2016
Unfortunately due to the wind we have had to cancel 3 of our visitor trips (Nov, Dec and Jan) but I did manage to get a group onto the island for our wildfowl event on the 23rd Jan. We all had a great afternoon despite the fog rolling in over the island making it impossible to see out of the hides. Thankfully it had cleared within half an hour just in time for the boat trip back to Orford Quay.
To see dates and information about our trips please see www.rspb.org.uk/havergateisland. All booking information can be found here or call Minsmere on 01728 648 281 for more details.
It is that time of year again when we take October Storm out of the water to antifoul her and have her annual inspection (which she passed with flying colours!) We had an exciting trip up the River away from Havergate towards Aldeburgh where she was hauled out on a trailer. Whilst she is on the trailer we get the opportunity to antifoul the hull and really check it over and make sure everything is in good condition.
However she has been out of the water for 2 weeks now due to having some work done on her prop shaft and some other minor repairs. We plan to get her back in the water tomorrow and I am looking forward to getting to Havergate and seeing what is about.
Over the summer we have the help of volunteers who stay in our hut on the island. These volunteers have been coming to Havergate for a number of years so they know what to expect and how remote and basic it is. They are invaluable and really make a difference in helping to keep the island and its infrastructure in good shape. Here is a blog from Becky who spent a week on Havergate at the end of August.
A week in the life...
Having an entire island to yourself for a week is always an exciting prospect. Occasionally you have to share it with visitors but once they go, it's all yours again.
So, what's it like living on Havergate Island? Well, there's no running water, no shower, no mains electricity, no internet and no television. But there is now a lovely new composting toilet rather than a chemical porter pottie, birds galore and an ever increasing number of hare's. And of course as much bird watching as you can squeeze in.
Here is a brief diary of my week spent on Havergate Island in September this year. I have to say, I timed it with the weather to perfection, I had glorious sunshine every day.
Saturday, arrival day. I managed to meet Lyndsey really early and got on to the island before the day visitors arrived. It was good to be back and to see the improvements to the volunteers accommodation. It was quite badly hit in the tidal surge of 2013 but I have to say that it's definitely 5 star now. As much as I'm not a girly girl, it's nice to have Lyndsey add a few feminine touches. Needless to say there was very little work done today as there was too much bird life to go and see.
Sunday saw the Bawdsey bird group come over. It's always nice to have a chat with the birdwatchers who come over. It was good to see that a Spoonbill had made an appearance too. Definitely one of the highlights of Havergate Island in my opinion. Unfortunately it's not all about the bird watching, there is work to do as well. Today's job was to paint the new door on the tool shed.
Monday I had the Island all to myself. It was also the day of the lunar eclipse. I set my alarm clock for 1am and shuffled out of bed in my sleeping bag, I stayed awake for an hour and saw no change in the moon. I eventually figured out that if I reset the alarm for just before 4am I'd get to see the copper coloured moon. When the alarm went off again I got out of bed shuffled out into the living area in my sleeping bag. I have to say I did actually see the moon in my bleary eyed state but it was much smaller than I expected it to be. Needless to say I had a bit of a lay in before cracking on with cleaning and painting the little footbridge nearest to Main Hide. Today's bird highlight was a male short eared owl and a Peregrine.
Tuesday Lyndsey came out and we collected lagoon samples from Doveys and Cottage Flood. This is the first time I'd collected samples on the Island so it was quite interesting. It was also quite amusing as I'd managed to get my wader well and truly stuck in the mud. Good job I had a walking pole with me so I could pry my wader out of the mud. Lyndsey showed me how to sift through the samples so that I could get on with them during the week. Once Lyndsey had left I made a start on painting the stairs and hand rails on the new Main Hide. Not a great deal of bird watching today as I was too busy, but the Marsh Harriers and the male Short Eared Owl put in a good appearance.
Wednesday started off with sifting through some of the lagoon samples. It's quite interesting to see what little beasties are present. Next was to finish off the little footbridge by the North Hide and to finish painting the stairs and handrails at Main Hide. Due to the lunar eclipse earlier in the week the tides were much higher than I'd ever seen on the Island before. The footpath leading to and from the jetty was flooded today as was the little footbridge you'd walk over to get to Belper's Hide after getting odd the boat. The footbridge was under at least 2 inches of water. The bird highlight of today was the return of the Spoonbill.
Thursday saw the local voluntary working group come out with Lyndsey to continue working on the Main Hide and to grease the sluices. As I'd never greased the sluices I thought I'd tag along to see how that was done. Once the working group left I painted the new additions to Main Hide, prepped another footbridge for painting and sifted through some more lagoon samples. Thursdays bird highlight were the two Spoonbills and quite a few Goldcrests hanging around outside the Main Hide.
Friday and sadly my final day on the Island this year. At least I had the Island all to myself for one more day before having to return to civilisation on the Saturday. I spent most of the day trying to squeeze in as many of the jobs left on my job list. I painted another little footbridge leading to North Hide, cleaned the insides of all the hides, sifted through a couple more lagoon samples and I did the quarterly inspection. I did manage to get in a bit of bird watching today too and saw three Spoonbills. One of them had coloured rings so I'm hoping Dave will find out where it was rung for me. Whilst stood in the kitchen area that evening looking out of the window I managed to see a Sparrowhawk swoop down and take another bird, a little sad but always exciting to see.
Saturday was home time but not without first seeing a flock of Goldcrest arrive on the Island. They were quite tired and kept flying into the windows of the volunteers hut. One actually managed to get into the accommodation and I had great fun trying to get it back out again.
I was homeward bound but I couldn't resist nipping to the Hollesley Reserve en route. What a difference a year has made here too. So much more bird life there than I saw last year. It was also lovely to bump into Dudley the volunteer reserve guide. I would definitely recommend a visit here and if you're lucky enough to bump into Dudley he'll give you some good pointers as to what to look out for. I managed to spot one of the two Little Stints Dudley had told me about.
So, why do I go back every year? The solitude, the getting away from the hustle and bustle, the getting to go places on the reserve visitors aren't allowed, getting to see the bird dramas no one else gets to see and of course volunteering for the RSPB.