Every month a group of young Wildlife Explorers meet at RSPB Minsmere for a morning of fun and wildlife watching. Their programme is varied, ranging this year from learning about Aldeburgh's swifts to felting. Last Saturday they had the chance to something completely different: a visit to Havergate Island. As both a parent and assistant leader, I was lucky enough to join them for my first visit to the island for a few years!

We couldn't have asked for a better day. As we gathered on Orford Quay for our 9.30 am departure there wasn't a cloud in the sky. A light southerly wind blew up the river, and the warm sun and bright blue skies brought back welcome memories of summer. There can be few better places to be on such a day, then messing about on the river.

The falling tide had already exposed large areas of mud, which proved attractive to various waders, including dunlins, redshanks, curlews and avocets.

Soon we were disembarking on the island, leaving David to return to collect the second group (they saw a seal on their way out!).

We were left with two hours to explore this magical island.

As we crossed the saltmarsh, Davene, our guide on the island, pointed out the various plants that thrive in this inter-tidal habitat.

Excitement levels were high as we headed off in search of hares.

After a lesson in hare diet, and a look at their poo(!) we reached their favoured part of the island and met up with Mike, the volunteer who was staying on the island that week.

The hares were proving hard to spot, but we did eventually find a couple.

The barn owls weren't on view during our visit - the weather was probably too nice - and we were told that this box has been taken over by stock doves.

Soon it was time to meet up with the other group in the reception hide for a spot of birdwatching and a chance for the children to complete their bird bingo sheets. Flocks of golden plovers included a few birds still in summer plumage. One or two of the grey plovers also retained their breeding finery. Other waders included redshanks, both black- and bar-tailed godwits, avocets, ringed plovers, oystercatchers and about 200 dunlins. This little group was very obliging.

The peaceful feeding was disturbed by a hunting marsh harrier that cruised across the lagoon.

The spoonbills had deserted the island for the day, though three of the adults spotted one landing on the river after the children had left the hide. Typical. The salicornia looked fantastic on the islands, though, especially in the bright sunshine.

Birdwatching completed, it was time for some fun activities.

There was time for some games and singing with a pirate-theme, and everyone made a flag to remember their visit.

All too soon it was time to leave the island.

It was great to visit again, if only for a short time, and to remind myself what a special place Havergate Island is.

A massive thanks to Aaron, Lyndsey, David and the volunteers that help us to manage this fabulous island. And to you, our members and supporters, without whom places like Havergate and Minsmere would not be homes to such special wildlife. 

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