Here is the last guest blog for this year from our residential volunteer Mike. He, as always, done a fantastic job of looking after the island, keeping an eye on our breeding birds and generally keeping it in top condition for us. Again, thank you for all of your help and support this year Mike- we look forward to seeing you again next year!
There is certainly something special about Havergate Island. Isolated, atmospheric and magical. All reasons why I continue to residential volunteer there. This was my third stay this year.
I arrived some weeks after the most recent volunteers and there was the usual process of getting the island “tidied up” with path clearing through the walk ways, hide entrances and bridges. Those who visit Havergate will know that the area between the bridge, just after Belpers hide, and the jetty can become inundated by the river especially at high or spring tides. The plan is to put a boardwalk there and this was one of the jobs I was hoping to start, by making the boardwalk near the workshop prior to placing it there. Cooler heads then mine prevailed when it was realised what an impossible job it would be to transport such a big object, even in three sections, to that site. It will now be made by the construction volunteers later in the year.
This left Lyndsey with the job of gainfully employing me during my stay, which she did excellently with a range of jobs that included, salinity and water height measurements on the lagoons, checking on the mud level indicators at the jetty and near Doveys lagoon, painting the gator shed and hides, gull chick counts, general bird counts lagoon by lagoon, monitoring fox activity using trail cameras, hide cleaning, close checking on common tern and black headed gull nesting on Cottage Flood lagoon and litter picking.
Highlights on the bird front were barn and short eared owls, marsh harriers, black tailed godwits, little terns and spoonbills, the latter still not breeding but one male practising on the artificial nests moving twigs about. Having been volunteering on the island since 2006 and seeing the effect of large gulls on birds like avocets and terns it was good to see successful breeding on Cottage Flood of common terns. In order to observe them for long periods and to minimise disturbance a temporary hide was erected on the Southern end, with camouflage netting (see pic) and the open top hide was covered in more camo netting. During my time there nests of terns and black headed gulls were plotted on the many small islands and chicks counted and watched as they grew. On my final day a total of 27 tern chicks were seen ranging in size from a few days old to ones close to fledging. Unfortunately very few black headed gull chicks seemed to have survived, with only two seen although several birds were still on nests.
In 2016 while on the island I had made two barn owl boxes and is was very exciting to see that the one set up near the old tractor shed had a family of kestrels. Initially I saw only the adults but gradually two chicks (see pic of one of these) changed to three and then incredibly four fledged chicks on the ledge outside the nest box entrance. These advanced from early solo flights and crashes onto unsuitable perches to much more adroit flying and one day on the way to Belpers hide I startled the group and one of the young dropped a newly killed vole.
Despite enjoying the isolation it is always good to have visitors and during my stay there was an evening guided trip using the boat “Regardless” and an off island bbq at the new site at Snape. The latter was put on by Aaron, Dave and Lyndsey as a thank you for all the volunteers and partners who contribute so much to the various sites run by that group of three. Last year it was held on the island while I was there. It certainly makes a change to my rather uniform diet to tuck into burghers, sausages and the various cakes and puddings.
It remains to thank Aaron, Dave and Lyndsey for their help and hospitality while I was on the island and for continuing to allow me to stay on this special place.