I have now been the South Suffolk Coast warden for 5 months, and what a 5 months it has been!
I have learnt the ropes on October Storm, our visitor boat without too much drama and got to know Havergate Island pretty well now. I have met many visitors who have spent time on the island all of whom have really enjoyed themselves and had a very special day seeing the birds, hares and other wildlife.
I had heard and seen the photos of the island after the incredible 2013 tidal surge and the damage it had caused, but when I arrived I could see the wonderful recovery the island had made and I could see that it had had no effect on the birds choosing to breed and feed or the insects that had obviously managed to survive. The recovery of the brown hares has been fantastic and the island is now alive with wintering wildfowl on the lagoons, waders on the small islands in the lagoons and huge numbers of geese.
I am now also going to be lucky enough to help get the islands infrastructure back up and running with a new hide taking the place of reception hide and gullery hide which were both damaged beyond repair. The new hide will offer a great view over two neighboring lagoons and give us another central point to welcome visitors onto the island.
The highlights for November have included 170 canada geese, nearly 600 wigeon, 800 Teal, over 100 Pintail, 230 Black tailed godwit, flocks of Dunlin, Avocet, Golden Plover, 4 Spoonbill are sticking around, Hen harrier and Marsh harrier to name but a few.
We have had a taste of winter the past couple of days, I am now looking forward to experiencing Havergate and what it can offer over the next few months when we will see these figures of wildfowl and waders rise and the lagoons become full of life.
We had an early start last week to meet Guinevere on the quay. Guinevere is the vehicle ferry over to Orfordness, however she is always happy to assist us getting supplies across and onto Havergate. Occasionally, when we have bigger jobs that need completing on the island the ferry allows us to take heavy materials over all at once- including tractors and diggers.
The main job at the moment is rebuilding the warden and volunteer accommodation huts on the island which were flooded in last Decembers tidal surge.
So, now we have all the materials and equipment on the Island we have the busy task of building ahead of us. It will certainly keep us warm this winter!
Havergate is looking great at the moment with birds galore on the lagoons. We still have 4 Spoonbills hanging around on North Lagoon, a female hen harrier offering us amazing views whilst she hunts along the longer grass on the sea wall, over 500 avocet and dunlin, over 500 teal and growing numbers of wigeon. Brent geese are making a racket as they fly overhead and Canada geese feeding on the islands. Other waders such as redshank, curlew and golden plover to name a few have all been sitting very close to the hides offering spectacular views for visitors.
It is certainly feeling colder now, especially on Havergate where there is little protection from the wind. If you are booked onto any trips make sure you are wearing sensible footwear and have waterproof clothing on you.
I think autumn has definitely settled in now. I was told Havergate could be a very cold and harsh place, especially in the winter and I can quite believe it! Even now in mid October a warm coat and a hat is recommended. You shouldn’t be put off by this though. Havergate is a spectacular place this time of year and autumn/ winter is the best time to see high numbers of waders and wildfowl feeding on our lagoons.
Yesterday we had our first visitor trip in collaboration with the Crown and Castle Hotel in Orford. 5 visitors staying at the hotel donned their waterproofs and braved the bad forecast to visit Havergate and despite the constant rain, we all had a fantastic day.
A good variety of birds could be seen feeding on the lagoons and to top the day of we had amazing views of a ring tailed Hen harrier and Marsh Harrier hunting over the longer vegetation along the sea walls. The weather didn’t dampen everyone’s enthusiasm as we stopped and watched a couple of hares who didn’t seem to mind the rain sheltering under the gorse bushes.
I think everyone deserved the chocolate cake and coffee that was waiting for them in the hotel when they returned and I am looking forward to our next trip next week. Please check our website events page http://www.rspb.org.uk/discoverandenjoynature/seenature/reserves/guide/h/havergate/events.aspx. We will be updating it very soon with all the trips and events running next year.