I have now completed my first month as the newly appointed South Suffolk Coast warden and what a great month it has been! So, this is my first posting of what I hope will be a regular update of the goings on on Havergate Island, Boyton and Hollesley Marshes.
Firstly I will mention our successful breeding season (for gulls that is) on the Island. It was a record breaking season with 2070 pairs of Lesser Black Backs and 552 Herring Gull. Productivity is also looking good with thousands of young gulls taking over. We also had 60 pairs of Common Terns sitting. However, these pairs arrived rather late onto the island so are likely to have failed elsewhere. I will be able to confirm our final figures very soon.
With the tidal surge back in December there was worry about how the habitat and wildlife would fare. I can happily report that everyone has been pleasantly surprised with many grassland species such as meadow browns, gatekeepers, ringlets all present in abundance and also the Ground Lackey moths caterpillars. The Ground Lackey Moth is a saltmarsh species and therefore more able to cope with being submerged! I also have more good news for the Havergate Hares. We have had top sightings of around 9 adults and 2 leverets. This means the hares are breeding and we will hopefully start to see their numbers rise again. They are more wary of people now but can still be spotted enjoying the sunshine laying amongst the gorse.
Havergate Hare sitting under the gorse
I met up with the Woodbridge local RSPB group today who we will be running the Havergate Adventure with on the 16th- 18th August. This will be a great opportunity for visitors to get out to the island, experience the fantastic wildlife including plenty of waders, the brown hare, and possibly even get a sight of our regular Spoonbills. For more details of this event please look on our events page on the RSPB Havergate website.
After over four years of tireless work for the island and it's wildlife, Kieren has left us this month for new exciting challenges on different shores.
He will work not too far away from the Suffolk Coast, therefore, I hope very much to see him returning occasionally to the island which means so much to both of us.
In the past years, we have spent many happy hours together on the island and I have selected a few photos of more or less hard work:
Sailing to the island with the small speedboat on a sunny day in 2013.
Cleaning the jetty was a regular task for Kieren.
Checking the sluices and the water level in the lagoons is another regular thing to do on the island.
Playing with the birds must have been one of the highlights of the job: this young gull had to be kept happy while the birdringing team was at work.
Playing with mud was surely another highlight: the National Trust team got an introduction into the secret life of invertebrates in the mud.
Assessing the damage from the floodnight of 6 December 2013 was probably the lowpoint for both of us.
And this was the situation most people have met Kieren in: he sailed many visitors over to the island on the October Storm.
Goodbye and all the very best wishes.
Almost three months to the day since the storm surge that wracked the East coast and Havergate specifically the repairs to the seawall are complete.
The two major breaches and umpteen slippages were repaired in an operation lasting a little more than a month. At times the weather was simply awful but despite all this what we wanted to achieve, by and large, we did.
One of the striking things about the repair work done to the island was the change in policy towards the seawall. Rather than build it bigger and higher, the RSPB took the decision to lower, widen and reinforce the wall. Havergate is always going to flood and this decision was taken to lessen the impact of any further events on Dovey's lagoon. The idea is to control the overtopping by allowing the reinforced section to overtop first, this then fills the lagoons up and stops any major scouring occurring at higher thinner parts of the seawall.
Lowered and reinforced
However, as much as this is now complete, repairs work are still ongoing. Anyone who has visited Havergate before will be struck by the changes just one big tide can make. There is no Reception and visitor centre anymore, the remains having being demolished by the digger. Gullery hide has been taken down in a more controlled fashion and the toilet block, though now down from the tree is still not fit for use by the general public.
The end for the Reception centre
So, what happens next? Well the immediate crisis has passed the walls have been repaired, the integrity of the saline lagoon habitat has been maintained and the island is ready for the years breeding season. We also found the time to construct a new set of breeding platforms for the spoonbills and erect an electric fence around them.
New platforms for the spoonbills
In terms of the infrastructure; Reception centre will never be replaced, the sun has set on the remains of the oldest hide on the island. However, we have exciting plans to move the deconstructed Belpers hide down to roughly the same location as the reception centre was to give great views across Main. This however, will mean some disruption for at least the next year or so as it rebuilt in the new location but as the volunteer guide said to me on the recent Saturday visitor trip "it's not as comfortable as it was but the birds are just as excellent".
So, we are officially reopened albeit in a much reduced capacity having cancelled our major events for spring and several private trips but for details of how to book see our website. I should add that we are fully booked until July and a word of warning about the Hare population on the island. They are still around and you will definitely see them, however, do not expect to get as close as you have in previous years. Not only due to the reduction in numbers but those that are left are much more skittish.
On an unrelated note, sadly this will be my final blog as Havergate warden. After four thoroughly enjoyable years I have decided to move on to seek a new challenge with the Essex Wildlife trust. Since I won't get the chance to thank everyone personally, can I just take the chance to say a BIG thank you to all that have either helped or supported Havergate in my time as warden. I'm sure I will bump into some of you again, either on Havergate or elsewhere on the Suffolk coast.
All the best