In recent years Havergate Island has become home to the 2nd largest breeding Spoonbill colony in the UK. This year will be their 4th year nesting on the island and so we wanted to undertake some habitat works to make sure the island was in the best condition for them.
Last year we were lucky enough to secure a generous grant from the Suffolk Coasts and Heaths AONB which would allow us to carry out this work. This included – the spoonbill deep water creation project. The overall aim of this project was to maintain and optimise Havergate islands’ habitat by digging out the existing ditches to create refuges in the deeper water for fish, and to create enhanced conditions for the spoonbills to feed. As a result of the material from the ditches, we planned to build up existing islands, and create new nesting islands within the lagoons which are used by waders and other birds all year round, particularly breeding gulls.
In preparation for us to take the digger out to Havergate in January this year we opened the sluices well in advance (September) to make sure that the water on our Main/North lagoon drained down to its lowest level. This would enable us to have the digger out on it to do the work and move around freely.
However, throughout December and also into January we continuously experienced extremely high tides that coincided with small tidal surges. These North Sea surges are becoming more frequent and are linked the numerous north Atlantic storms the UK has experienced. The result of these was that the spillway kept overtopping and the lagoons water level just continued to stay high. The water had just started to drain away again over the Christmas period but unfortunately, we had yet another surge the day before we ferried the digger out to the island. If we were worried about the water level in the lagoon before – this just finished our plan for the project!
As we had everything ready to go and the diggers booked, the AONB very kindly agreed for us to transfer the grant to our nearby Hollesley Reserve which, as the crow flies, is just 2 miles away. Hollesley is a popular feeding place for our Spoonbills and so we thought it would be an excellent alternative and provide just as much benefit to our spoonbills and other waders and wildfowl. We transferred the waiting digger straight there and proceeded to dig out ditches and open up existing pools foot drains etc.
The digger stayed at Hollesley for 10 days and really done an amazing job as you can see from these aerial photos. We are really looking forward to seeing what spring brings to the reserve.
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