We do have a Thursday work party on Havergate with the volunteers currently working hard to build and maintain the current infrastructure on the island.However smaller jobs do get missed which is why it is great to have Mike on the Island. He has a very keen eye in spotting the smaller jobs that often get missed but ultimately make a difference in keeping up to date and the island looking good. Here is his blog of what he got up to when he spent a chilly but mostly dry week this month out there. Thanks again for all of your hard work Mike!
Two firsts, one that I have not stayed on Havergate Island this early before, my earliest stay previously being April in 2009, and second that this time in March it was only for a week when before I have spent either two or three weeks there. It was my 12th year on the island.
I arrived on Saturday 11 March. On the island already was a day party brought over by Lyndsey in two groups to view the hares and birds. On arrival most of the group were around the huts observing the hares in the gorse area and with a dead male kestrel that was found. Initial thoughts were that it had died flying into one of the hut windows but on closer inspection showed it to be emaciated with virtually no breast muscle. A result, perhaps, of the cold, wet winter.
One of the first jobs is to review the list of work that Lyndsey has set and to prioritise those jobs that need to be done by specific times. The single priority was cleaning the jetty prior to a visit by a local group to litter pick the following Wednesday and a hide construction group on the Thursday. That taken care of Lyndsey and I took a walk up the island to familiarise me with changes that had happened since my last visit. Chief of these were that the two barn owl boxes I had made in 2016 were now up, on posts, near the tractor shed and the North hide and that her local group had started on the new hide at Cottage Flood. This is sited adjacent to the tractor shed, which will eventually come down, and will replace the simple screen at Cottage Flood. Lyndsey also showed me the new platforms that are under construction and in place and that will hopefully, with the stick “nests” encourage spoonbills to settle and breed.
Barn owl box
Cottage Flood has changed in character over the years I have been on Havergate with the water levels now encouraging a much wider variety of birds such as waders. Now it is a must visit whereas once it was quickly passed by with not much of interest. The new hide, positioned where it is will give a much better view of the little lagoon, improving it even more.
The two marked differences to being on the island that early are the short days, with dark coming around 6.30 pm and the cold. The short days mean that it is not possible to walk the island in the evenings which is what I enjoy doing when I am there in the Summer. However, it does serve to concentrate what you need to get done into a shorter period and so plan better. The cold is simply fixed by a good down sleeping bag and a covering of blankets and duvets!
The work on the island is very varied, which is one of the reasons I enjoy spending time there. This time I did bird surveys, more of this later, cleared paths up to hides and bridges of weeds, cleaned hides and windows, put up bird poster at Main, infilled area of path by the jetty that had been washed away by the tide, fitted rain deflectors on the bases of some hide windows, cleaned and sterilised rain water butts, put up the hide sign at Doveys, took lagoon depth and salinity measurements and checked the heights of the two measuring posts at the jetty and on the river bank adjacent to Doveys. These measurements are to determine how mud levels are changing over time. So, largely tidying up the island plus some observational studies. What was missing was grass cutting of the paths, not necessary this early! I also repaired (beak and leg) one of the spoonbill models that are part of the process to encourage these birds to nest and breed on Havergate. Finally I did some clearing of vegetation at the site of the old cottage, revealing some interesting archeology which Lyndsey hopes to incorporate, with old photographs she has, into visitor walks on the island.
Site of old cottage and the remains of the generator which ultimately shook it down.
For those keen to know what birds were present over the week here is a list of what I saw: short eared owl, barn owl, male hen harrier, female marsh harrier, kestrel, large numbers of roosting cormorants (> 300), little egrets, Canada and Brent geese, pintail, mallard, pochard, gadwall, widgeon, shoveller, teal and shelduck, redshank, dunlin, curlew, ringed plover, oyster catcher, meadow pippet and a male reed bunting. Lacking were my alltime favourites, the spoonbills.
While it was cold, often with a chill wind, I was very lucky with the weather with many sunny days and only a few showers which were easily dodged in the hides.
Thanks as always go to Lyndsey for providing me with interesting work and to her and Aaron for allowing me to visit this very special place.
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