Guest Blog - Steve Everett

It’s Springtime! That means everyone’s thoughts turn to Hares on Havergate. Although the Hares are visible all year round, it always seems logical to have a guided walk event at this time of the year in their honour and the weekend just gone provided the perfect weather for it. Although it was a bit misty and cold inland first thing, on the coast it was sunny and lovely to be out in the fresh air. These events are normally fully booked and this year was no exception – some of the boats were full before Christmas! With boats at 9, 10, 12 and 1 each day, it’s a busy weekend for the island, though for those more used to the facilities of Minsmere just up the coast, Havergate’s isolation makes it amazingly quiet and peaceful. The only constant sounds are those of the skylarks showing off high in the sky and the occasional spat between the gulls over prime nesting spots.

We started each tour in the Main hide, it helps to orientate new visitors and gives us a chance to see what’s about. In our case, it was a cruising Marsh Harrier (a female this time), on the lookout for anything interesting.

There were still quite a few duck about, a few Pintail and Shelduck mainly – this one deciding against staying with the company.

Plenty of waders were spotted – Redshank and, Dunlin mainly, with the occasional Curlew camouflaged against the mud and a lot of Avocets in the water and on the little islands. They seldom nest on Havergate nowadays, preferring the mainland side of the river (Boyton & Hollesley) rather than setting up home next to all the hungry Herring & Lesser Black Backed gulls, but there were plenty around showing off and mating. Used to seeing them locally on a regular basis, it’s always nice to share the excitement of visitors from other parts of the country when they see these elegant birds close up for the first time.

Going through photographs later, I’ve even spotted this one has some leg rings – I’ll have to ask the experts for some contacts, see if I can discover where it’s come from!

Marsh Harriers weren’t the only raptors about over the two days, a number of Kestrels were seen, including one that went past the front of the hide like a bullet, but the stars were the Short Eared Owls. A couple of them at least are still on the island and were regularly seen from Main and Belper’s hides

One was lifted from the undergrowth by the group strolling between hides – I’m not sure who was the more surprised by the close encounter, but suffice to say no-one managed to get their camera up quickly enough to get anything other than shots of tail feathers! Another missed opportunity award goes to fellow guide Jon who had a male Spoonbill, complete with breeding plumage, right in front of Main hide. When his camera was half an island away with the Hares! Ah well, with luck, one of the visitors who saw it will oblige us with a picture.
Hares were roaming the island quite a bit, one in particular seems to have taken up residence on the far bank visible from Belpers (at least in the mornings when the sun’s just right), but the best sightings were (as is often the case) around the warden hut area. Some visitors were lucky and had exceptional views of this extremely chilled out individual

Whilst others had to search a bit harder to spot them hiding amongst the gorse

It must be admitted that not all were happy to have photographers there – sticking your tongue out just as the camera goes click is positively rude!

But in general, they took it all in their stride and were happy to pose.

You need to keep your wits about you though – interesting little birds hang around the area too, like this Linnet

All too soon it was time to head back to the boat for the trip back to Orford (for some reason time always seems to fly past when you’re on the island). Many thanks to my fellow guides Mick, Jon & Davene, not forgetting Lyndsey and Aaron for driving the boat.
We left the island to the Hares sleeping off the excitement, but we’ll be back.

All images courtesy Davene & Steve Everett