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
Kieren, the island's warden, has done an incredible job over the past weeks to re-instate the protection of the island while literally fighting the elements in all weathers. He has been supported by a very hardworking digger driver and different groups of volunteers and the riverbank and the banks between the lagoons look like they are mostly back into working shape by now.
The December flood leaves visible changes to the island and some will effect the human visitors much more then the visiting and resident wildlife, because our old, spacious Visitor Centre didn't look very well after it had been lifted up and shifted by all the water.
Last week, Kevin Sawford, one of our Days of Discovery Photography Tutors, a handful of enthusiastic young volunteers and I helped with the flood clean-up on one of the brighter days this month. Lucky us: we had picked a dry and mild day and it started raining only when we arrived back at Orford Quay.
We fulfilled the sad task to collect the leftovers from the demolished Visilor Centre building and gathered a huge heap of broken timber on the lawn.
I didn't make photos that day, but Kevin has uploaded a long post on his website which is illustrated with his fantastic images - including some new hare pictures of course - and because I couldn't tell it better, please enjoy reading his version of our story: www.kevinsawford.com/havergate-island-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly/