Havergate Island

Havergate Island

Havergate Island
Welcome to the Havergate community group. Havergate is a magical place, Suffolk’s only island! The reserve is nestled within the Alde & Ore estuary and is well known for its year round bird spectacle.

Havergate Island

  • Road to recovery

    More than a year-and-a-half after the winter tidal surge that wreaked havoc on the Suffolk Coast, we can report that some of the hardest hit wildlife is showing signs of recovery. Surveys carried out after the tidal surge in 2013 failed to find certain plant species including yellow  fetch, which is a saltmarsh specialist and not very common on the South Suffolk Coast. It was feared this species had been lost from Havergate but surveys this year found it growing in a restricted area on the South end of the island. 

    Havergate’s famous population of brown hares have made a remarkable recovery and are almost back to pre-storm surge levels. After the surge the numbers were very low with only a maximum of 6 being counted.  However, after regular monitoring and a recent count,  the island now has a healthy population up to as many as 18. Leverets have been seen lazing around on the shingle in amongst the gorse bushes and adults are often seen chasing each other along the sea walls.  

    Photo: Christine Hall

    Havergate is also having a successful season for its breeding birds. In recent years the island has become an important place for breeding gulls with numbers growing each year.  Some species of gull are now on the list of conservation concern including the herring gull which is a red listed species and the greater and lesser black-backed gulls which are amber listed species. This years count showed the island hosted 2399 pairs of lesser black backed, 614 pairs of herring gull and 1 pair greater black-backed gulls.  The island has been alive with gulls souring over head and chicks feeding in the shallow lagoons.

    While the reserve’s wildlife has most certainly bounced back after the storm, the infrastructure that was damaged in the surge has needed a helping hand. 

    We have been working hard this winter to repair the damage done by the storm. Volunteers have replaced the old hide, which was damaged beyond repair when the sea washed over the island, lifting it off its foundations. Now with the new hide in place visitors can again get great views looking out onto our main lagoon and see waders, wildfowl, gulls and spoonbills.

    Spoonbills have been a regular on Havergate for the past 15 years using the lagoons to rest and feed. They can usually be seen from March all the way through till October, however this year we had 4 overwinter which was great to see

  • Alde-Ore Estuary Project recognised in Natura 2000 awards 2015

    The project was one of the most ambitious habitat enhancement projects ever undertaken on the Suffolk coast. The partnership project undertaken by the National Trust at its Orford Ness site and the RSPB at its nearby Havergate Island nature reserve was shortlisted as a finalist in this year’s highly coveted Natura 2000 Award.

    David Mason (National Trust), Aaron Howe (RSPB), Grant Lohoar (National Trust) attended the award ceremony along with 23 other finalists from around the European Union.

    Ninety-three entries involving major projects across Europe were originally submitted and judges have shortlisted 23, with the Suffolk scheme battling it out with entries from Portugal, Latvia, Cyprus, Hungary and Denmark in the awards’ Conservation category. All 23 of the shortlisted projects are up for the Natura 2000 Citizens’ Award, with Europe’s public being invited to chose the winner. In addition, the awards’ judging jury will choose winners in each of the competition’s five categories.

    A grant totalling about £900,000 of European Union LIFE+ funding was made available for the Herculean amount of enhancement work at Orford Ness and Havergate. The scheme, which took four years to complete and was finished in 2014, was also supported by funding from other sources, including the SITA Trust, a Biffa Award (for Havergate), the Environment Agency and the National Trust’s Neptune Coastline Fund. The Suffolk project has enhanced the rich mosaic of wetland and shingle habitats on Orford Ness and Havergate by improving water management and reducing disturbance to wildlife. The logistical difficulties encountered in getting heavy machinery onto both sites were huge and added considerably to the challenge. On Orford Ness, the site of the former military airfield that was drained and levelled in 1913 has been enhanced with low earth bunds holding water in about four hectares of deepened scrapes, linked by a 2.6km network of new ditches with 18 water control structures. Other work has included the installation of a 3.9km network of shallow footdrains to enhance the breeding and feeding opportunities within grassland areas for declining species such as lapwing and redshank. On Havergate, new islets covering about six hectares have been created and the ditch network that transports water around the lagoons has been improved. Six sluices were also rebuilt on the island in a project which has benefitted any species, including the rare starlet sea anemone and a wealth of birds that breed or overwinter on Havergate and use it on migration.

    Thank you to everyone who helped to make the project a success. This was a major achievement for the wildlife, landscape and people of the Alde-Ore Estuary. You can find out more on the awards here:

  • Gulls, gulls, gulls

    Over the last 2 months on Havergate we have been cracking on with the new hide (being built to replace main hide and Gullery hide which were both destroyed during the tidal surge)  As you can see from the photo we have had to get a lot of equipment and material out to the island but with the help of volunteers and the ferry we are just about there. At the other end of the island we have also been making progress on the volunteer accommodation hut. Again this was damaged with the tidal surge so we have had to completely gut it and replace the flooring and walls. Just a freshen up with paint and some new furniture to go in and we will be ready to welcome our first volunteer at the end of May.


    Currently Havergate is awash with Gulls squabbling on the lagoon islands and everywhere else really, it is quite an experience to hear and see! Havergate has Greater black backed, lesser black backed and herring gull nesting as well as black headed and common. The short eared owls have moved on, common gulls have turned up and the hares are still chasing each other around. The sea campion and thrift are threatening to make an appearance, just some more warm weather and the island will be full of colour again.