Now the secret is out I would like to say a huge congratulations to our very own Mike Matthewson. Mike was successfully nominated for the presidents award (which he collected over the weekend) for the time  he has given to the RSPB. The prestigious RSPB presidents award recognises significant volunteer contribution to nature conservation and to the work of the RSPB.

Mike is an outstanding example of an RSPB short term residential volunteer. Short term residential volunteers often get overlooked, when in fact, they have a huge impact on the reserves where they volunteer and the Wardens they work with. Mike has been a residential volunteer for 13 years on several reserves including Havergate, Coquet and Ramsey Islands These islands are all very individual, with unique living conditions, species and tasks to be undertaken. Never fazed, he throws himself into all that is asked of him and always gives 110%. Mike puts in a lot of time, thought and plans for each of his visits, meaning he can be counted on to know what needs doing and he consistently supports our wardens to keep our islands in top condition. Mikes enthusiasm and joy is infectious, and we can always count on him to take on the new challenges that only island life can provide.

Here is Mikes 3rd installment of the couple of weeks he spent on Havergate last month...

Havergate Island blog – September 2018

This time on the island was my third visit this year and the last until 2019. I was to be here for two weeks, at the end of September.

Since the three weeks I had spent on the island in June-July there had been three other groups of residential volunteers on the island so it was looking good as the paths had been mown and Doveys hide had been painted. But as usual Lyndsey provided me with a list of jobs and alerted me to three visits that were planned and the work to be undertaken on the river wall.

The first visit was by a volunteering group who were undertaking various one day projects in the area. On Havergate they came to lagoon sample and to examine what they had discovered in the way of invertebrates in the mud. The group sampled 10 random sites on Cottage lagoon and following the sieving of the mud found some worms, crustacea and molluscs. The second and third groups were specifically for birding and the highlight was an immature osprey ringed in Scotland. This bird was seen on Main lagoon and spent some time on the ground before flying South.

A major project is underway on Havergate to lower the river wall opposite Main hide. The wall will be lowered by about 0.5 metre over a length of approximately700 metres. Once lowered the area will be covered by metal netting, soil and then seeded. This intervention will allow any future river water surge to overtop the bank with the minimum of damage to the bank structure. Some years ago a similar process was undertaken at Doveys lagoon along part of the North bank. During my last week on the island the diggers had arrived together with 300 rolls of metal netting and the work had begun. The work will continue over the next few months and while the diggers are on site they will be used to change the island structures in each of the lagoons to make the area better for birds.

While I was on the island I mowed the paths, cleared the old tractor shed, prior to its removal, undertook lagoon salinity checks and water heights, repaired boardwalk, brushcut the area around the Belpers boardwalk, the path to the beach and cleared the path to the hide at Doveys, litter picked and did other minor jobs. One important job was to clean out the three owl boxes prior to the next season. At the gator shed, where kestrels had bred this year, this was straightforward as it was empty but the box at Cottage, where three barn owl chicks had fledged, a woodpigeon had two chicks and at North, as I inspected the box, an adult barn owl flew out. Both boxes were left undisturbed.

Birds seen during my visit included immature osprey, immature and female marsh harrier, kestrel, peregrine, barn owl, short eared owl, Canada geese, a single brent goose, little egret, grey heron, widgeon, teal, mallard, shoveller, pintail, avocet, curlew, whimbrel, Black tailed godwits, redshank, immature spotted redshank, greenshank, lapwing, ringed plover, oystercatcher, curlew sandpiper, little stint, dunlin, immature sanderling, male wheatear, wren, whitethroat, linnets, meadow pipit, magpie, carrion crow, male pheasant, sandwich tern, black headed, herring, lesser and great black backed gulls and a yellow legged gull. Two spoonbills were also seen on Main lagoon. Of the mammals there were voles and brown rats, Chinese water deer and at one sighting 7 brown hares, of various ages. Also Lyndsey found fresh otter tracks at the mud edge of Cottage lagoon.

During my last visit a freelance reporter, Mike Trippitt, had come on to the island to interview Lyndsey in order to write a piece for the Suffolk Magazine. This piece is now published in the October 2018 issue under the title of “How much longer for Havergate?”.

It just remains to thank Aaron, David and Lyndsey for again allowing me to spend time on this amazing island. I am looking forward, already, to my visits in 2019.