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.
The Havergate Adventure is nearly upon us! If you haven’t yet had the chance to visit the island then this is a great chance for you to come and see for yourself what all the fuss is about.
This year will be its 27th year of running and it is still as popular now as it was back then. Book onto one of our guided tours and you will have the chance to enjoy a 20 minutes boat ride to the island where you will then be met by one of our expert guides who will show you the wonderful birds, wildlife and flowers that can be found on Havergate Island. You will then have the chance to enjoy a cup of tea and cake before being taken back to the quay.
Saturday 15 – Monday 17 August
Boats depart Orford Quay hourly from 9.30 am to 1.30 pm. Tours last 2 hours 40 minutes.
Cost: Adults £12, under 16’s £3
Free binocular hire
Refreshments available on the island
Advance booking is essential: 01728 648281
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