This Saturday the Minsmere Wildlife Explorers set off for Suffolk’s only island. Two boats of eager explorers departed Orford quay and crossed the choppy waters to the stunning Havergate Island. We were lucky that the sun was out and the warm September weather had remained even if it was a little blustery!

Before even arriving on the island we had been lucky enough to see curlew, dunlin, ringed plover and black headed gulls on the shingle beaches either side of the river Ore. Our skipper Aaron landed us safely onto the landing jetty and we headed for the main hide on the island.

From the hide we played a game of bird i-spy. The explorers had many to tick off from their list but they got off to a great start sighting black-tailed godwit, dunlin, oystercatcher, redshank, lesser black backed gulls, ringed plover and avocets; the reason why Havergate Island is such a precious and iconic place today. The ultimate highlight from the hide had to be about a dozen spoonbill on the far side of the lagoon standing out clearly from amongst a group of avocets and gulls.

We were all engrossed in the magnificent birdlife in front of the hide when one of the explorers spotted a hare out of the side window of the hide. He had spotted us too but was not disturbed by us and carried on grazing and sunning himself on the side of the lagoon. After a while he disappeared back into the gorse and we decided to go and meet the other boat from the jetty.

The whole group then headed towards the huts on the island which is the best place to view the hares from. We stopped in at Belper’s Lagoon hide and ticked off a few more species from our i-spy challenge. On top of the Cottage Flood hide we spotted a lovely female wheatear watching us as we all trooped past.

After a snack at the huts we had a tour of the accommodation on the island and some information about the island from our skipper Aaron. We then played a game where the Wildlife Explorers had to guess the number of breeding pairs of a species in 2016 and then race to win points for their team.

On the way back to the landing point we had a good look for hares in the gorse from the designated path. We saw a fairly young hare quite close to the path and he gave us all a good show by moving around the gorse slowly whilst in front of the group a vole scuttled around in the grass. We had learnt that hares had been introduced to the island by the family which farmed on the island in the early 20th century. They had been introduced back then as a food source for the family and since then their numbers had increased until the tidal surge in 2015. There is now thought to be only nine hares on the island so we all felt very lucky that we had managed to see two of them.

As the first boat departed the muddy shores of the island (because the tide was very low) the second boat went exploring North Hide and Main Hide and were fortunate enough to see spoonbills as well.