Having recently returned to work after spending 9 months on maternity leave, I have returned to a workplace that is a very different workplace to the one I left. Although no visitor trips have taken place allowing people out to enjoy Havergate as they usually would, the island has still been moving beautifully on through the seasons oblivious to everything else that has been happening.
Unfortunately, not all the usual surveys were able to be carried out due to many of us being furloughed, however, I can report that the gulls had a relatively standard year with numbers staying similar to previous years. 550 Herring Gull and 1,775 Lesser black backed gulls. However, productivity was down for unknown reasons. Unfortunately, our Common gull and Common tern numbers are still declining on the island. We had 8 pairs of Common tern nesting, successfully fledging 2 chicks. Only one chick hatched from a pair of Common gulls but was unfortunately predated early on. 2 pairs of Barn owls successfully nested in our boxes and a pair of Kestrel also successfully fledged young.
However, despite the seasons' ups and downs, a great success story was told, when Havergate became home to Suffolk's first breeding Spoonbills in 300 years. The last time they were recorded in Suffolk was 1688!
The team has been working towards and hoping the attract Spoonbills to breed on the island for over 10 years. Many different techniques have been attempted to attract these beautiful birds, including artificial nests, plastic decoy birds, and planting scrub to try and create a perfect and safe habitat for them.
Last year they finally gave it a go and we reported several nesting birds with a couple of the pairs successfully hatching chicks. Unfortunately, much to our dismay, these nests were predated, but we didn’t give up! Last winter we dug out the 350m ditch surrounding the nesting area and installed a partially submerged predator fence in the hope this might prevent a repeat of the predation.
Quite late in the season (May), a small flock of 15 birds turned up and spent a lot of time in the newly fenced-off area, adjacent to the artificial nesting area and decoy birds. This just so happened (luckily) to be the same area they had nested in 2019, so things were looking good. From a safe distance to ensure no disturbance, we monitored plenty of courtship and breeding behaviour, and eventually, it was obvious that 2 birds had set up nests on the ground.
Drone shot clearly showing one of the nests and chicks
Due to the location of the island and the nature of the nests, they were very hard to observe and monitor, however towards the end of June the first young were seen leaving the nests to flap their wings and beg from the adults. Towards the end of July, the chicks finally fledged! We were delighted to record 4 fledged Spoonbills from Havergate Island. A fabulous achievement indeed. The birds and nests were all observed from the hides and a drone at high altitude with a zoom lens was used to avoid any disturbance.
We managed to get our volunteer guide Steve safely out to the island with his super lens and he captured some beautiful shots of the fledged young playing around on the lagoon.
Photo Credit: Steve Everett
More information can be seen in Steve's brilliant article HERE
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