Birds On The Edge increases its presence

birds-on-the-edge-flyer_page_1Earlier this year Birds On the Edge were invited to several very important public events in Jersey including the launch of the Jersey National Park. As a project of multiple partners it was rather unfortunate that we did not have any publicity material or displays of our own that we could use in our own right to help reach out to the very people who would most appreciate learning about the project. We sought, however, to change that and with the kind assistance of Christine Holmes and Rich Howell at Durrell have started to make our presence in Jersey better felt. We are indebted too to Romano da Costa and the BOTE team for allowing us to use these beautiful photographs.

First we produced three beautiful pop-up banners displaying the three key elements of the project: the farmland scheme, conservation grazing and the return of the chough. Each of these banners, standing at over six feet tall, will brighten up any function!












To accompany the banners we created a full colour A5 flyer (top of page) that we can conveniently leave where people will pick them up and show them to their friends. In fact, please feel free to download one here, print as many as you like and spread the message!

Finally, and very importantly, as a thank you to our most important friends and partners – the farmers who are working hard with us to help the Island’s hard-pressed birds – we have produced a unique certificate of thanks. These beautiful documents convey our sincere appreciation to their hard work and they can be displayed on the wall as our permanent tribute for their efforts. They will also be useful during the farms’ environmental audits and on applications to funding bodies such as the Countryside Enhancement Scheme. These you can’t just download, you’ll have to join forces with us!


October volunteer activity

gerard-le-claire-woods-st-martin-photo-by-doeSunday 9th October 2016 – Gerard Le Claire woods, St Martin  – 10:30-13.00

From Jersey Conservation Volunteers

They’re back! It’s time for the first activity of the autumn/winter.

The details

The first task of the season will be to revisit to the young woodland planted in memory of Gerard Le Claire, former Director of the States of Jersey’s Environmental Services Unit, who was tragically killed in 2001 whilst working for the United Nations.

We last visited 2½ years ago to remove old tree shelters and do some woodland management, we now need to go back to do some more bracken management, gorse coppicing and tree pruning. There will also be some small scale felling required in order to ensure that the best trees are not crowded out and can develop fully.

Time We will set off at 10.30 promptly to allow time to walk to the site so please arrive a little earlier. We will be finished by 13.00.

Please contact Julia at or Jon at or phone Julia on 441600 or Jon on 483193 before you go just case anything changes.

The site Les Crete Quarry car park, St Martin. Head north along the coast road from Anne Port and park in the quarry on the left before you get as far as Archirondel (opposite the picnic area).

Jersey phone directory map 11, LL13. Google maps here

From there it is a 10 minute walk up a very steep hill to the work site. There is very limited field parking onsite for a few cars, please let us know if you need access to this.

Parking There is very limited field parking onsite for a few cars, please let Julia know if you need access to this.

The task Bracken management, gorse coppicing and tree pruning.

Tools needed As always, we can supply some tools, but please bring your own if you have them. Cutting tools such as secateurs and pruning saws will be particularly useful.

Clothing needed Good thick gloves (though we can supply a pair if you don’t have them), wellies or sturdy boots, (it shouldn’t be muddy but the vegetation may well be wet it and it may be rough underfoot) and common sense clothes to cope with the element, we go ahead whatever the weather!

Children All are welcome, young or old. Children under 16 must be supervised by a parent or guardian during the task.

Finally, and some would say most importantly, Kim the Kake will supply us with hot drinks and her yummy homemade cakes.

Chough report: September 2016

by Liz Corry

The six imported birds from Paradise Park, together with Durrell’s four foster chicks, begrudgingly completed their quarantine period this month. The foster chicks took an instant dislike to the latex gloves and quarantine footwear staff had to adorn which resulted in abject horror any time staff came near.

After a week of meet and greet between the half-inch mesh divide we mixed the Durrell four with the ‘newbies’. It was all very amicable and a lot of relief expressed amongst the newbies who took the opportunity to stretch their wings in the poly-tunnel. Having spent a week under cover they could also bathe in sunlight/shower in the rain/blow-dry in the crosswinds. Their frustration at being locked in the aviary was still apparent each time the free-living group returned to the aviary.

The quarantine group in the aviary paid a lot of attention to the free-living choughs. Often because they had no choice in the matter. Photo by Bea Detnon.

Weekly faecal screening showed that both groups had various levels of nematodes present in their faeces. Quarantine conditions were not going to eliminate Syngamus (gapeworm) from the group. They arrived with it and the outside group already had it prevalent in the population. However, to ensure that the group have the best chance of survival post-release we will worm the birds prior to release. In the meantime all staff could do was monitor the birds’ physical condition, try and minimise stress, and maintain hygiene standards.

A couple of this year’s wild-hatched chicks continued to have respiratory issues this month due to Syngamus. It is a lot harder now to trap the free-living group inside the aviary. The older birds (i.e. with more experience) have learnt to become more vigilant around staff if they see them near the release hatches. We did manage to lure in one of the wild chicks and treat with ivomec. He was quite thin and a lower weight than expected for a healthy bird his age. He was released straight away and has shown great improvement since. The other chick, from a different clutch, is still at large. She is sneezing and struggles with breathing if stressed. Easy to identify at the aviary at least. We will continue to monitor her and attempt to treat her when possible.

Wild chick (PP003) with parent back in July before she started showing signs of a Syngamus infection. Photo by Liz Corry.

A potential opportunity to worm the individuals with clinical signs of Syngamus arose when we caught the 2016 captive-bred chicks to attach radio-transmitters for post-release monitoring. The group we released in July were not fitted with transmitters because the manufacturers were still processing the order. This meant we now had all 10 locked inside to fit and the two parent-reared Durrell chicks to lure in from outside.

Sadly, the day the radio transmitters arrived in the post was the same day one of the parent-reared chicks went missing. Chick S  has not been seen since 18th September. He is the only chough to go missing in that time which adds to the suspicion that he has met an untimely end rather than flown away from Sorel. His disappearance is a significant loss to the group as a male and as Durrell’s first parent-reared chick.

One of Durrell’s parent-reared chicks is missing presumed dead after two months of being released into the wild. Photo by Bea Detnon.

We still had another eleven birds to catch up and attach transmitters to so work began with the inside group.

A radio-transmitter being fitted to the central tail feathers. The cardboard is used to keep the other feathers away from the glue. Photo by Liz Corry.

We teamed up with Durrell’s Vet Department to try and get as many birds as possible processed in one morning. With two people fitting the transmitters the entire group was done before lunchtime. Well we did start at 9am and had already given Chick X her gear a few days earlier.

With the bird in the hand it also gave the Vet an opportunity to check it over pre-release and for leg rings to be adjusted accordingly. The newbies had arrived with striped rings to distinguish between individuals. Some of the colours had proven difficult to read in the aviary. Once flying free it could only get worse so these were changed in-line with our ringing scheme.

Of course the one really obvious ring (green and white striped) turned out to be the only one that had broken and needed replacing. She now has the privilege of being the only Jersey chough with two red and white striped rings.

One of the Paradise Park choughs developed a swelling on one of their digits since moving into the release aviary. Photo by Liz Corry.

The Vet was happy with the condition of the birds taking into account the family of nematodes the choughs are harbouring at Sorel.

One individual presented with a swollen toe-pad evoking scary thoughts of bumblefoot.

The bird has not appeared to be in discomfort whilst being in the aviary or when we had her in the hand. We will continue to monitor this, but it terms of release she was given the all clear.

The last bird to be fitted with a transmitter was Chick T, the parent-reared Durrell chough living outside. With a bit of patience this was achieved a couple of days after the vet visit.

We had managed to trap two other birds in at the same time and had hoped to change a faded plastic ring on one of them. However, the weather was not in our favour so use of hand-nets in the wind and misty rain restricted us to our primary objective. Chick T was very compliant and was fitted with a transmitter in record time. He has now been officially named Trevor. A nod to Trevor Smith who works on Durrell’s Site Services team. He helped build the aviary and continues to help when major repair work is needed.

Chick T was the last of the 2016 captive-bred chicks to be fitted with a radio transmitter. Photo by Liz Corry.

The only concern we had with Trevor (the chough that is) was the presence of stress lines in his central tail feathers. These occur as the feather is growing at times when, for various reasons, the nutrients required for growth were not assimilated correctly. It is often associated with caged birds living in poor conditions, but can also be when healthy birds have a change in diet. For Trevor it might be related to the move from the aviary at Durrell to the aviary at Sorel where the diet is slightly different and the bird has access to a wider variety of insects.

Stress bars in the central tail feathers of a captive-bred chough. Photo by Liz Corry.

Trevor was released straight away to re-join the outside group who had been waiting around the aviary for the morning supplemental food. The free-living group have been getting on with life at Sorel relatively incident free. They appear to be finding more food in the wild, possibly related to the change in weather no longer desiccating insect larvae. There have been a few fights around the supplemental food bowls. With 25 birds and more to add soon, competition at feed times is to be expected. To address this we are looking to switch the ceramic dishes for specially designed chough troughs.

The checkout assistant may have questioned why I needed six end caps for one  length of guttering, but I left the DIY store content with my purchase and proceeded to make three new feeders. The choughs seem happy enough as now several birds can feed at the same time (or several feed whilst one walks down the middle).

Newly installed 'chough trough' at Sorel to help reduce competition. Photo by Liz Corry.

Newly installed ‘chough trough’ at Sorel to help reduce competition. Photo by Liz Corry.

The group has been observed using the area around the dirt-bike track a lot more for feeding as well as trips over to Devil’s Hole. They may well be going beyond that as we are not surveying them continuously. We had a report of a bird with an unusual call around the grounds of a house at the top of Waterwork’s Valley. The owner suspected it was a chough, but had no visual sighting. I also received a report of a single chough flying over a house at Victoria Village in the early morning.

Lee, Cauvette and Pyrrho have switched back to roosting at the aviary using the external roost boxes. Photo by Liz Corry.

Whilst each report had an element of doubt to it we can’t deny that the choughs will do things to surprise you and throw your own knowledge into doubt. Roost checks towards the end of the month revealed that three of the older birds have ditched their roost site in the quarry in favour of the external boxes at the aviary. Lee and Caûvette followed closely by Pyrrho return to the aviary at sunset.

There was a confused wild chick one evening who had become separated from the quarry group. After ‘discussions’ with the group locked inside he flew off towards the quarry calling all the way.

A wild chick separated from his roost group shortly before sunset looked for alternative accommodation at the aviary, but was turned away. Photo by Liz Corry.

The roost checks also revealed another interesting sight at Sorel….


If you look hard enough at the photo of the three older choughs returning to the aviary (LeeCaûvette and Pyrrho above) and, to be fair, use a certain amount of imagination, you will see a kestrel perched in the hawthorn tree. There are several kestrels around Sorel and an ongoing love/hate relationship with the choughs. The aviary provides a useful vantage point for hunting and attracts a lot of rodents (i.e. food). Of late the bond between chough and kestrel seems to have strengthened. This month they have been seen preening next to each other, sharing the same perch at the front of the aviary, and, more amusingly, flying together on the cliff face.

Lee and a few other choughs were observed hanging out with a kestrel on the cliffs flying in unison from rock to rock. Photo by Liz Corry.

We don’t know if it is the same kestrel each time, but there does appear to be one chough in particular who crops up in all the photos of these events; Lee. There is evidence of choughs associating with kestrels in other countries. Normally related to breeding territories and the benefit kestrels provide by deterring other bird of prey species which predate choughs. A lot more clinical and less anthropomorphic than our observations imply.

And finally….

The International Air show at the start of the month meant that once again the red-billed choughs ‘joined in’ with the Red Arrows display. Although this could only be appreciated from Sorel and photographic evidence is poor. A few of the planes used the north coast to turn around and re-group. Unlike last year the Red Arrows did not fly over the aviary much to the delight of the choughs locked inside. Those outside were making the most of the air currents along the cliff tops and put on an impressive display.

The Red Arrows in Jersey viewed from the release aviary at Sorel. Photo by Liz Corry.


The Red-billed choughs flying in Jersey (Red Arrows just out of frame to the right). Photo by Liz Corry.


“Living Shorelines” to combat sea level rise more inexpensively than walls and bulkheads

dungeness-peninsula-photo-by-simon-careyFrom Scientific American

As sea levels rise along US coasts, it may soon get easier for people and local governments to obtain federal permits to build what are known as “living shorelines,” natural or nature-based structures designed to protect communities and infrastructure from extreme storms and flooding even as they protect habitat. Should we start to look more closely at these ideas in the Channel Islands? There are already some good examples.

In the US, the Army Corps of Engineers is considering a new category to its nationwide permits that would allow speedier approval of living shorelines, which include wetlands with sea and marsh grasses, sand dunes, mangroves, and coral reefs. Currently, it’s much faster for property owners in many parts of the country to get a permit for sea walls, bulkheads and other so-called grey infrastructure than it is to get a permit for construction of nature-based systems. If the corps moves forward with the new category, though, permits to build living shorelines could be issued in as few as 45 days, instead of 215.

The move toward more natural coastline protection comes as federal agencies, state governments, and local and business leaders focus increasingly on the concept of resilience as they plan for how communities will adapt to climate change. The spotlight on dynamic systems is a major shift for agencies like the Army Corps, which in the past paid more attention to engineered solutions. Unlike with engineered solutions, there’s greater uncertainty with living shorelines. Researchers and engineers have less information about how they will respond to sea-level rise, storm surge and other extreme events. They’re learning to be more nimble.


Natural shorelines protect species, but what about homes?

1Other federal agencies, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, support living shorelines in places where they’re warranted. They work best in more sheltered systems with moderate wave energy, like the Chesapeake Bay, river systems, Puget Sound and even the Great Lakes.

A study by the Pew Charitable Trusts found that about 14% of the US coastline is what researchers described as “armoured.” A 2015 report from NOAA on living shorelines noted that if coastal populations continue to increase, and if so-called “shoreline hardening” continues at the current rate, nearly one-third of the contiguous US coastline could have sea walls or other grey infrastructure by 2100. The agency found evidence that shorelines with intact natural coastal habitats not only see less damage but bounce back more quickly from severe storms.

5“Studies have shown that living shorelines host greater populations of fish and other organisms crucial for shorebirds and for recreation and commercial fisheries”, said Rachel Gittman, a postdoctoral research associate at Northeastern University’s Marine Science Center. Gittman, who spends much of her time in North Carolina, was asked by the Pew Charitable Trusts to analyse the effectiveness of natural shorelines compared to hard infrastructure. The work is part of the foundation’s climate adaptation efforts to improve flood readiness in US communities.

Bulkheads, sea walls and vertical structures with marginal structural complexity don’t provide the same habitat for marine organisms as natural shorelines, Gittman said.

“It’s not the same type of habitat. It’s a difference in the slope of the shoreline. A vertical wall is very different than the slope of the shoreline. We think it has to do with the wave dynamic, so how sediment is transported changes when you put in a wall.” She added “And we also just think it’s a simplification of that shoreline. So you go from a shoreline that might have lots of pools and crevices and rocks … to a wall. Organisms are not finding refuge along that shoreline.”

The biggest drawback to living shorelines so far has been the uncertainty about how well they’ll work, and whether they are truly less expensive than hard infrastructure.

Finding hidden economic savings

st-aubins-bay-jersey-25-9-2016-photo-by-hgyoung-2Some organisations are trying to quantify whether living shorelines cost less to build and can provide the same protection. The Nature Conservancy found a perfect opportunity in Miami-Dade County in South Florida.

There, the county’s aging wastewater plant was under orders to stop dumping waste into the ocean. The Nature Conservancy is studying whether marshes surrounding the low-lying plant can help protect it from storm surge and flooding. The marshes aren’t just protection for the plant’s $3 billion in upgrades—they’re a part of the massive federal Everglades restoration project.

The Nature Conservancy hopes that what it learns about the project will make it easier for other communities weighing similar projects to move forward with natural systems. Wetlands like the ones in Miami-Dade County also have benefits that can’t be captured in traditional cost-benefit analysis. For example, mangroves might be used on either side of a road that frequently gets washed out during high tides. That allows people to get to work and protects infrastructure. Those are more challenging metrics to capture but they are crucial for keeping an economy operational after a storm, and for minimising expensive damage to roads due to sea-level rise.

Jennifer Molloy, green infrastructure coordinator for US Environmental Protection Agency, said that the agency often is criticised for not giving enough weight to the complexities of operating and maintaining living shorelines. But hard structures also have operational and maintenance issues. Both need flexibility with climate change. “They’re not that different,” she said of green systems. “We ought to not see them as so different. We’re going to end up with combinations of both, and they function together.”

4The traditional use of seawalls and bulkheads has slowly been hardening our coastline and destroying our marsh and wetland environments, which in turn damages the wildlife dependent upon them. A sensible and environmentally friendly alternative, the living shoreline, has been burdened by unnecessarily cumbersome scrutiny. The health of shores is integral to our fishing industry, our tourism appeal, and the coastal way of life

Despite the massive push for living shorelines, such natural systems may not be appropriate everywhere. But they do give communities options that might supplement hard infrastructure, Gittman said “I think it would be naive to say you shouldn’t modify your shorelines, because obviously we’ve built along our shores. We have a lot of infrastructure and communities that we need to protect.” “If you’re talking about a really urban area, you’re probably going to still need other structures for flood protection. Maybe there are places where a sea wall is the only option, maybe it’s a major port, so you really have to have a deep channel.”

“What it means is that we need to be more creative in how we stabilise shoreline, and I think we also need to learn a bit more from nature,” she said. “We should be thinking about how to incorporate natural shore protection components. Anywhere where naturally stabilising features can be incorporated—I think that’s what we need to be thinking about.”

Green spaces worth £2.2bn to public health in England

evington-park-leicesterFrom the BBC

Outdoor exercise delivers an estimated £2.2bn of health benefits to adults in England each year, a study suggests.

Scientists calculated that more than eight million people each week took at least 30 minutes of “green exercise”. They hope the results highlight how encouraging more people to use parks will help reverse the trend of rising obesity levels across the UK. The findings have been presented in the journal Preventive Medicine.

“What we look at here is something that can be converted relatively simply into monetary values,” explained lead author Mathew White from the European Centre for Environment and Human Health at the University of Exeter.

Dr White told BBC News that since the 1970s there had been studies showing the link between physical activity and health benefits. “There are very clear ideas about how much physical activity needs to be done in order to benefit health. What we have done here is to focus on those people who use the natural environment for enough activity a week (5 x 30 minutes) in order to justify gains in their health,” he added.

“First of all we looked at the total number of people that went to the natural environment in England each year. Then we looked at the total number of people who engage in what we call an active visit (cycling, walking, running etc).

“We then looked at how often they did that, and if they did it enough times to benefit their health which we converted into something called Quality Adjusted Life Years, which could then be converted into monetary estimates.”


The study estimated that it was worth an average of £2.2bn each year. Dr White said that there had been relatively few attempts to place a monetary estimate on the societal benefits from green exercise.

But he cautioned: “Just to make it clear, we are not saying this is the only way. There were a lot of people who achieve the physical activity guidelines who never went to nature, so we are not saying that it is the only way to do it but we are saying that a very large number of people who do achieve the guidelines do use nature.”

Dr White explained that the study only focused on those people who used natural environments to exercise and it did not look at people who used gyms or health centres for physical activities. Explaining the study’s findings, he said the data revealed a “socio-economic gradient”.

“It tends to be people from higher socio-economic groups who were more active in the environment, more so than people from lower socio-economic groups,” he observed.

“But crucially, among the two groups, once they were in the environment they do the same level of activity.

“So we think encouraging people from these lower groups to go to these essentially free environments will mean that once they are there then they will do as much physical activity as higher socio-economic groups. So it can help reduce inequalities in health.”

The team suggested that the findings presented a clear indication of the potential implications of policymakers tackling the upward trend in UK obesity levels through the use and availability of “essentially free-at-the-point-of-access environments”.

Dr White added: “We already know that many people with weight issues do not like going to the gym because they feel socially embarrassed, whereas a walk in the park does not have that stigma.

“We think it really takes the pressure of these groups in particular. The cost to the health service of obesity is just enormous and is growing every year. If we can encourage more people to do these simple activities outdoors we can make significant inroads into that trend.”

Full paper Recreational physical activity in natural environments and implications for health: A population based cross-sectional study in England here

More than one in ten UK species threatened with extinction

dartford-warblerIt’s not too late to save UK nature but we must act now – that is the conclusion from a coalition of more than 50 leading wildlife and research organisations behind the State of Nature 2016 report. Watch infographic here


Following on from the groundbreaking State of Nature report in 2013, leading professionals from 53 wildlife organisations have pooled expertise and knowledge to present the clearest picture to date of the status of our native species across land and sea. The report reveals that over half (56%) of UK species studied have declined since 1970, while more than one in ten (1,199 species) of the nearly 8,000 species assessed in the UK are under threat of disappearing from our shores altogether.

There are many inspiring examples of conservation action that is helping to turn the tide. From pioneering science that has revealed for the first time the reasons why nature is changing in the UK, to conservation work – such as the reintroductions of the pine marten and large blue butterfly (and our very own red-billed chough) and the restoration of areas of our uplands, meadows and coastal habitats. But more is needed to put nature back where it belongs.


lundy-cabbage-flea-beetleAs the UK Government and devolved administrations move forward in the light of the EU Referendum result, there is an opportunity to secure world leading protection for our species and restoration of our nature. Now is the time to make ambitious decisions and significant investment in nature to ensure year-on-year improvement to the health and protection of the UK’s nature and environment for future generations.

The State of Nature 2016 UK report will be launched by Sir David Attenborough and UK conservation and research organisations at the Royal Society in London this morning [Wednesday, September 14], while separate events will be held in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast over the next week.

Sir David Attenborough said: “The natural world is in serious trouble and it needs our help as never before.

dormouse“The rallying call issued after the State of Nature report in 2013 has promoted exciting and innovative conservation projects. Landscapes are being restored, special places defended, struggling species being saved and brought back. But we need to build significantly on this progress if we are to provide a bright future for nature and for people.

“The future of nature is under threat and we must work together; Governments, conservationists, businesses and individuals, to help it. Millions of people in the UK care very passionately about nature and the environment and I believe that we can work together to turn around the fortunes of wildlife.”

In order to reduce the impact we are having on our wildlife, and to help struggling species, we needed to understand what’s causing these declines. Using evidence from the last 50 years, experts have identified that significant and ongoing changes in agricultural practices are having the single biggest impact on nature.

corn-buttercupThe widespread decline of nature in the UK remains a serious problem to this day. For the first time scientists have uncovered how wildlife has fared in recent years. The report reveals that since 2002 more than half (53%) of UK species studied have declined and there is little evidence to suggest that the rate of loss is slowing down.

Mark Eaton, lead author on the report, said: “Never before have we known this much about the state of UK nature and the threats it is facing. Since the 2013, the partnership and many landowners have used this knowledge to underpin some amazing scientific and conservation work. But more is needed to put nature back where it belongs – we must continue to work to help restore our land and sea for wildlife.

freshwater-pearl-mussel“There is a real opportunity for the UK Government and devolved administrations to build on these efforts and deliver the significant investment and ambitious action needed to bring nature back from the brink.

“Of course, this report wouldn’t have been possible without the army of dedicated volunteers who brave all conditions to survey the UK’s wildlife. Knowledge is the most essential tool that a conservationist can have, and without their efforts, our knowledge would be significantly poorer.”

The 2016 report includes a section on UK Crown Dependencies and highlights Birds On The Edge, Jersey Butterfly Monitoring Scheme, Les Minquiers, Guernsey’s Operation Skylark and Track a Gannet.

For a full copy of the State of Nature 2016 report and to find out how you can do your bit to save UK wildlife visit the website here 

Reports for different areas of the UK will be launched on the following days:

UK, England and Scotland reports – 14th Sept

Wales – 21st Sept

Northern Ireland – 26th Sept

All reports will sit on the Centre for Conservation pages on the RSPB website after their launch.


The State of Nature 2016 UK partnership includes:

A Focus on Nature, A Rocha UK, Association of Local Environmental Records Centres, Amphibian & Reptile Conservation, Bat Conservation Trust, Biological Records Centre, Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland, British Bryological Society, British Dragonfly Society, British Lichen Society, British Pteridological Society, British Trust for Ornithology, Buglife, Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Butterfly Conservation, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Chartered Institute for Ecology and Environmental Management, Conchological Society of Great Britain and Ireland, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, Earthwatch Europe, Freshwater Habitats Trusts, Friends of the Earth, Froglife, Fungus Conservation Trust, Guernsey Government, iSpotnature (The Open University), States of Jersey Department of the Environment, Mammal Society, Manx Birdlife, Marine Biological Association, Marine Conservation Society, MARINElife, Marine Ecosystem Research Programme, National Forum for Biological Recording, National Trust, National Biodiversity Network, Natural History Museum, Orca, People’s Trust for Endangered Species, Plantlife, PREDICTS, Rothamsted Research, RSPB, Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science, Shark Trust, Sheffield University, Vincent Wildlife Trust, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, The Wildlife Trusts, Woodland Trust, World Wildlife Fund, Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, Zoological Society of London.



Chough report: August 2016

Alison and Ray Hales from Paradise Park handing over the choughs to the Durrell team. Photo by Lee Durrell.

by Liz Corry

We welcomed six new choughs into Jersey this August, albeit on the very last day of the month. Paradise Park, Cornwall, successfully bred ten chough chicks at their wildlife sanctuary this year and kindly provided us with two males and four females, all approximately four months old.

Once again Lee Durrell and Colin Stephenson generously offered their services to fly over and collect the new recruits. They were joined by keepers Jess Maxwell and Bea Detnon who provided on-board entertainment (more for the pilots than the choughs) on the hour long flight.

Bea Detnon and Jess Maxwell clearly regretting volunteering to go on the import trip. Photo by Jess Maxwell.

After a short delay waiting for a weather front to pass, the crew touched down at Perranporth Airfield around midday where they were greeted by Ali and Ray Hales patiently waiting with six  crated choughs.

Alison Hales (far left), Director of Paradise Park, handing over six choughs to Lee Durrell and team at Perranporth Airfield. Photo by Ray Hales.

There was sadly no time for the team to sample the delights of the Cornish coast, although they did squeeze in a Cornish pasty before heading back for Jersey. Bea and Jess drove the birds to Sorel where they were met by myself and the vet team. Each chough was checked over by the vet and given Jersey leg rings before being released into the aviary.

Durrell vet Alberto Barbon inspecting one of the new arrivals. Photo by Bea Detnon.

Neither photographer or chough were clear as to what this inspection was about. It passed the test whatever it was. Photo by Bea Detnon.

They will be kept locked in the aviary whilst they undergo a quarantine period. During this time we will collect faecal samples to assess their health, target-train them for feeds, and integrate them with some of our own chicks. The latter is important because when it comes to opening the hatches for the first time we want the new birds to follow the flock. Forming ‘friendships’ with the Durrell chicks prior to release should help with this. Friendship might be too emotive. At the very least they should just copy the Durrell chicks. The four foster chicks have been locked in a separate section of the aviary. After one week, to allow for health screening, the two groups will be mixed.

If the release of these new recruits is successful Jersey’s wild chough population will reach 36 individuals including the wild hatched chicks. By which time we will have released forty individuals over the past three years. We anticipated the need to release thirty to fifty individuals over a five year period in order to have enough birds survive and stay around to start breeding. We have now attained this target and have captive-bred pairs successfully nesting in the wild.  It is, therefore, highly likely that 2016 will be the last year of releasing juveniles from Paradise Park.

There is a skew in the sex ratio of the population with only 13 males in the group. We will look to address this next year using chicks bred at Durrell as well as waiting to see the outcome of the wild nests. If they all survive the winter there will potentially be four breeding pairs with another three young pairs attempting to nest.

Update on the July release

We reported last month on the release of six chicks bred at Durrell. They continue to thrive and have shown amazing progress in a relatively short space of time. The two parent-reared chicks continue to follow the adults around occasionally trying their luck  begging at Mauve a breeding female. At roost time they leave the flock and return to sleep in the aviary with the four foster chicks. Sometimes leaving it to the very last minute of sunlight to break off the fun.


We originally had concern over the foster chicks as they preferred to stay close to their human foster mums rather than the choughs. Knowing that it was probably related to confidence and age we persevered and encouraged them to join the flock. Operation chough crèche was a success. If the foster chicks flew over to us we would walk them towards the flock and stay with them, breaking up sheep dung and digging in the soil to encourage them to look for insects.


They started to become a bit too expectant in our provisioning of food demanding to be fed every time they spotted us. Apart from being extremely annoying it meant our post-release monitoring was heavily biased. They do not have radio-transmitters fitted at the moment so all our location fixes for the birds are based on visual ID of leg rings rather than the radio signal. We stopped the early morning feed and went into stealth mode observing the group from the other side of the valley.

After a week or so the foster chicks stopped being clingy when out with the flock. They would still fly over to say hi, then turn back straight away to join the flock rather than land on us. At the aviary feeds they were eating alongside the adults rather than waiting their turn.

We have previously used the analogy of the first day at school when it came to moving chicks into the aviary. Releasing chicks into the wild flock is exactly the same. They have only had four weeks of ‘term’ but already look like they will graduate with flying colours.

Keeping the analogy going the ‘kids broke up for half term’ on 30th August when it came time to lock them in before the new birds arrived. The easiest way to do this was to wait until after sunset when they had gone inside the aviary to roost. Sunset was at 19:55 that evening. Some birds had already gone inside by 19:30. The parent-reared two flew in from the quarry at 19:54. There were a few scuffles over who was sleeping where before settling down around 20:00 and the hatches could be closed.

In the morning I was greeted by a few disgruntled chicks at the aviary. Not before being greeted by a flock of twenty five outside the aviary. Puzzling since there should have been twenty four. A quick scan of the leg rings after several re-counts and it was clear X was not inside with the rest of her siblings. Presumably she roosted in one of the outside boxes. A morning of food bribery, opening and closing doors, and patience resulted in the four foster chicks being locked in to one half of the aviary along with one of the parent-reared chicks. He needed his identifying leg ring replaced after it fell off several days earlier. Once we had caught him up and added the ring he was released outside.

Veterinary concerns this month

There were two notable cases this month although nothing out of the ordinary. The wild chicks are now much more independent and can make it through an aviary feed without begging at their parents. Silence at the aviary was soon interrupted by sneezing. Two of the wild chicks, from separate clutches, have started showing signs of a nematode infection. Last year’s wild chick was the same a few months after fledging. Plans are afoot to catch up and treat these two.

Foster chick X turned up at the aviary one morning with a distinct limp only putting weight on her left foot at rest. The motherly instinct to wrap her up in cotton wool and keep locked away for a few days was over-ruled by common sense. The choughs have a tendency to have aches or pains every now and then. Life on the cliffs and quarry, in-fighting over food, and a penchant for bullying gulls/kestrels/buzzards lends itself to the occasional injury. We did of course pledge to monitor her closely and intervene if there was no improvement. Less than 24 hours later she was back to her usual self and incident free ever since.

Juvenile red-billed chough at Sorel. Photo by Liz Corry.

Questions over X’s physical state changed to concerns over her mental state when she demonstrated the most bizarre, yet endearing, behaviour we have seen to date. Choughs like to cache food to be able to provision in harsher times or prevent others from stealing their prize finds. Quite often we see the choughs take food from the aviary to bury on the grazed land or in the quarry. I’ve watched as a foster chick excavate under the edge of my boot, popped in a rabbit dropping, then covered it up. This month Bea witnessed X walk over to the GPS unit she had left on the ground beside her. X flipped it over with her bill down into a dip in the soil then proceed to bury it. Sabotage or stupidity? Feel free to leave your own thoughts in our comments section.

Chough chick burying the Garmin GPS unit belonging to the tracking team. Photos by Bea Detnon.

For an idea of scale here is what the GPS unit looks like when it isn’t buried in the ground…gps unit

Mystery disappearance

On 14th August, after three weeks of loyally staying around the release site, chick U disappeared. She was absent from the morning aviary feed and still missing by the evening. Dingle and his partner Red were also missing. It was less surprising that these two were missing given their independence. In fact we welcomed it. Maybe they had gone off to explore new territories, pioneers of the Jersey chough population.

Foster-reared chough ‘U’ before her mystery 24 hour disappearance. Photo by Liz Corry.

The fact a third bird was missing, who happens to be the most clingy of all the foster chicks, was very alarming. After several hours of searching and a restless nights sleep staff were relieved to count all thirty choughs at Sorel the next morning. And of course all behaving as if nothing unusual had happened.

And finally…

Trypocopris dung beetle at Sorel. Photo by Liz Corry

On a lighter note, we reported last month on how dry conditions had been at Sorel and how that was affecting the wildlife. August was still fairly hot although interspersed with heavy downpours and the odd bout of fog. It was a welcome relief to find dung beetles (Trypocopris spp.), locally known as chough hors d’oeuvres, wandering the cliff paths.

The change in weather fuelled the continued growth of bracken engulfing the cliff paths. Pretty panoramic views from the cliff path benches were still possible providing you stood on the benches. It highlights just how domineering bracken can be in the plant community and how the ground below is smothered. Bracken will start to die back in September to reveal the scenic views Jersey’s coastline has to offer. Only to return in spring if left unmanaged.

View of Bouley Bay (behind the bracken). Photo by Liz Corry

Looking out from Sorel towards Sark and Guernsey (on the left).


Jess and Bea had the ultimate view of Sark…

Jersey trio make the top 10!

by Liz Corry and Glyn Young

biaza-logoAs the State of Nature prepares to release its 2016 report that warns Britain’s wildlife is facing a “crisis” with more than 120 species at risk of extinction due to intensive farming, the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) reveals the top ten native species being supported by its members. Three of those species are being supported in Jersey through the work of the Birds On The Edge team and it’s supporters.

BIAZA’s Director, Dr Kirsten Pullen, says, “Most people equate zoos and aquariums to holding and protecting animals that are exotic to the UK. Certainly, during their visits, the public expect to see a wonderful range of creatures from all around the world. What is not well-known is that not only do modern zoos do considerable amounts of conservation work globally, they also provide their skills and resources to help wildlife at home.”

Native species conservation efforts are often collaborative with BIAZA members setting up projects with other BIAZA zoos and aquariums as well as wildlife charities and NGOs. Modern zoological establishments provide husbandry expertise, support breeding programmes and help raise funds to ensure Britain’s wildlife has the best chance of survival in the face of increased pressures from climate change, agriculture and persecution.

The red-billed chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax), number two in the top ten, is a perfect example. Today, much of Jersey’s coastal habitat, formerly an important resource for farming and grazing animals, is dominated by extensive swathes of bracken. With these changes the Island has seen the loss and decline of many birds such as the skylark, yellowhammer and stonechat.

Red-billed chough in Jersey. Photo by Liz Corry

The Birds On The Edge partnership between the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, States of Jersey Department of Environment and the National Trust for Jersey has, through the active management of Jersey’s coastland, endeavoured to restore populations of birds and bring back the red-billed chough to the Island after an absence of 100 years.  Supported by Paradise Park in Cornwall, Durrell began to release captive-bred choughs in 2013. By 2015 the birds had successfully nested in the wild and bred again in 2016, so far resulting in a wild population of 30 individuals (July 2016).

Agile frog. Photo by Department of the EnvironmentAnother example, and number three on the list, is the agile frog (Rana dalmatina). Jersey is the only place in the British Isles where this frog species can be found. Its population has been declining in both range and numbers since the early 1900s and by the late 1980s there was a single fragile population in the south-west of the Island.

To prevent extinction, the Agile Frog Group, a collaboration of local environmental and conservation organisations including Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, launched a comprehensive Action Plan detailing threats and actions needed to save the frog. On going research since 2000, habitat restoration, and captive rearing at Durrell for release using collected spawn to tadpole and froglet stage (head-starting) have all helped to increase the species survival chances.  Today, nearly 50,000 froglets have been released since the project began in 1987.

Staff monitoring the agile frog release in Jersey. Photo by Gerardo Garcia

A few of the species on the list are absent from the Channel Islands such as the Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber) and common crane (Grus grus). In the case of the cirl bunting (Emberiza cirlus) considered locally extinct in Jersey after an eleven year absence, a few individuals returned naturally and have been nurtured and protected by the Birds On The Edge team ever since. Their numbers have grown steadily from the one pair which settled in 2011 to seventeen individuals including eight young from this year’s breeding season.

Cirl bunting at Grouville, Jersey. Photo by Mick Dryden.

 You can learn more about BIAZA’s top ten native species by going to


Chough release 2016

by Liz Corry

The first release of this year’s captive bred choughs got underway on the 21st July. Six two-month old chicks from Durrell Wildlife Park were released from their aviary at Sorel to join the current flock of twenty four free-living choughs.

Adults and chicks enjoying the summer weather on the cliffs at Sorel. Photo by Liz Corry.

With more birds outside the aviary than inside, including four very loud wild chicks, the release cohort had more of a ‘hard’ release than the gradual introductions of 2014. The hatches were opened in the late afternoon much to the bemusement of the inhabitants. Once all thirty had mixed and mingled they were called down for food at the aviary, and then left to get on with it under the ever watchful supervision of the field staff.

Recently released chicks joined the free-living group for flying lessons. Photo by Liz Corry.

The release cohort is a mix of parent-reared and foster-reared birds which meant they had two different approaches to the ‘outside’ world. The parent-reared chicks had a tendency to follow the adults which meant they quickly learnt where the best foraging sites are, where to shelter from the rain, and how to react to potential threats most notably the peregrines. The foster four were not quite as willing or confident and tended to look to their foster parents for support.

A foster-reared chick doing its part for the Jersey Butterfly Monitoring Scheme. Photo by Liz Corry.

After the first evening flying at liberty around Sorel the six chicks returned to the aviary along with a few older birds and went to roost. The excitement of it all must have taken it out of them as the birds went in almost two hours before sunset and didn’t leave again until the morning.

Sunrise at Sorel: A panoramic view of the release aviary. Photo by Liz Corry.

Staff returned at sunrise to find one group of choughs breakfasting over on the other side of Mourier Valley. The begging calls of the wild chicks carried over the valley giving away their location.

The begging calls of the wild chicks carried over the valley giving away their location. Photo by Liz Corry.

Whilst another group were by the cliff path at Sorel. The foster chicks were at the aviary. On seeing their ‘parent’ (i.e. me) arrive over the brow of the hill the flew out to warmly greet and/or demand breakfast off her. This also involved landing on said parent’s head and backpack.  At first this behaviour was very concerning. Would they behave like this around other people? Are they going to be naive when faced with potential threats?

The foster reared chicks had to take things one step at a time when it came to the release. Photo by Liz Corry.

Over the next few days the chicks were put to the test by undercover bird keepers and unsuspecting public. They even had a few peregrine encounters. They passed every test and demonstrated how intelligent corvids really are. The foster four can identify their ‘parents’ from fifty metres away and will fly straight over to greet them. Or to be more exact if they think they can get an easy meal out of us. However, if we are with other people they won’t come near. As they grow in age and confidence and begin to find enough food to support themselves they should start to depend less on their foster parents.

Their young age is apparent not just by their behaviour, but by their physical appearance. The youngest chicks have a grey-yellow bill. Those a few weeks older have an orange colouration which should develop into the trademark red bill in another month.

A two-month old chough discovering the tasty morsels life in the wild has to offer. Photo by Liz Corry.

There are now thirty choughs flying free on the north coast of Jersey. It won’t be long before they start exploring and making appearances in other parts of the island.

Will the choughs decide to visit the newly restored Plemont headland this year? Photo by Liz Corry.



Chough report: July 2016

by Liz Corry

“The Guide says there is an art to flying”, said Ford, “or rather a knack. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss”.
Douglas Adams, Life, the Universe and Everything.

Wild and captive-bred chicks fledged and took flight this month. Photo by Liz Corry.

July was the month of learning and adventure for the captive-reared and wild-raised chough chicks at Sorel as they spread their wings and took the air for the first time. Fledging at the beginning of the month and, for the captive chicks, release into the wild before the close. And I’m happy to add that they landed on the ground safely.

Captive-reared chicks

The four foster chicks locked in the release aviary had already started stepping out of their nest-box and exploring their surroundings during feed times. In between they would hop back inside, preen and chat amongst themselves before falling asleep until the next feed. A simple life we all envy.

As they got older they spent more time exploring and by the 5th they had been given access to a section of the poly-tunnel to practise short flights and learn to fly to target areas for food. Weaning them off hand-feeding followed the same pattern as previous years although these four were less willing to find their own food than previous chicks.

Weighing the foster-reared chicks. Photo by Liz Corry.

The two parent-reared chicks at Durrell joined them on the 7th. They were caught up, given clearance by the vets, and transported to Sorel by keeper Jess Maxwell and student Bea. These chicks are two weeks older than the foster chicks and, therefore, a bit more independent by the time they arrived at the release aviary. That being said, at two months old they still have very strong associations with their parents and depend on them to bring most of their food.


Parent-reared chicks from Durrell moved to the release aviary at the start of July. Photo by Liz Corry

Separation from their parents and the move to an unfamiliar environment  meant they were naturally stressed upon arrival. They appeared to adapt quite quickly though, finding food bowls in the aviary and some level of solace from the chough flock calling outside of the aviary.

After a day to adjust, they were mixed with the foster chicks and the group given access to the entire first half of the aviary. A week later they had the whole aviary to themselves and the free-living group were locked out. Observations before the move confirmed that no one was using the aviary as a roost site anymore so no one was being cheated out of a secure night’s sleep.

Chicks inside the aviary feed alongside those outside. Photo by Liz Corry.

Target training the captive chicks in preparation for their release was a challenge. The parent-reared chicks wanted to be with the free-living group. They could see and hear the wild chicks being fed by their parents just metres away and wanted in on the action. They also didn’t want to go down to the target areas on the floor as they had little trust in the people putting the food out. The latter was solved by setting up a target area on the shelf between the captive chicks and free-living group. This way the chicks could get to food straight away and start associating the sound of the whistle with the arrival of the adults and food.

The foster chicks on the other hand had no problem with going to the food. Just as long as the people putting out the food stayed with them. Their behaviour changed from curiosity over the ‘outsiders’ whilst in the nest-box to abhorrent fear of twenty-four noisy choughs descending en masse at feed time. Opting to hop in to a shelter-box and act all nonchalant or just go for a nap in between feeds.


Adults arriving at the aviary in anticipation of an early feed. Photo by Liz Corry.

Trying to target train the chicks in between feeds, when the free-living group had left, was not successful either. The pressure on the parents to find food for the wild chicks meant they kept a keen eye on the aviary. Any hint that the keepers were going in or even near the aviary with insects for training and they would be over like a shot.

With time the foster chicks grew in confidence and started to eat alongside the adults and the parent-reared two settled down a bit around the keepers. Did they finally succeed in their target training? The ultimate test is always once they are outside of the aviary when they get released.

In the meantime…

Durrell’s breeding pairs return to their flock

Tristan and Iseult had a few days to adjust to the loss of their chicks followed by revelling in the peace and quiet of not having something insistently follow you around begging for food, before the other two pairs were moved back into the display aviary for the non-breeding season.

Gianna also moved back on show to join the flock, promptly ignore then, and turn her attention to her adorning fans (at least that’s how she views the public and keepers). This year she has the added enrichment of Durrell’s new keeper talks. Three times a week she has an audience to play to whilst we explain the important role the captive choughs have in the re-introduction project and Birds On The Edge.

Quarry capers

Viewing point in Ronez quarry used for observing chough nests. Photo by Liz Corry.

The wild chicks left their nests in the quarry sometime around the very end of June and first few days in July. As all choughs chicks do at that age they spent time exploring their nest sites, i.e. inside the quarry buildings, before making an appearance outside. The parents could be seen taking food back to their respective sites, but not always venturing inside. On one occasion Dingle or Red went to the staircase at the side of the building, perched at the doorway (opposite side to the nest), and started feeding something. Presumably her chick and not one of the quarrymen. We were able to record this activity because Ronez Quarry kindly gave staff access to the viewpoint. Our vantage points from Sorel or the Ronez loop road would not have had the same line of sight.

Once the chicks had ventured outside it was a bit easier to track their movements. They were the choughs that stayed on the buildings when every other chough flew away to the aviary for supplemental feeds. White and Mauve’s two chicks had a tendency to walk back into the building once their parents had left. Who can blame them with black-backed gulls nesting close by and the juvenile peregrines having introductory lessons on how to hunt in and around the quarry.

Two wild-hatched chicks making their first appearance in the quarry. Photo by Liz Corry.

Green and Black continued to return religiously to their nest site, often carrying food. The debate over whether or not they still had a chick was fuelled further when a fledgling was spotted on the roof of their building. Was this the fifth chick or was one of the other four making its way out of the quarry one building at a time?

The answer came when the chicks made their first flight out of the quarry. On the morning of the 4th four chicks were spotted at the bottom of Sorel Point with the other choughs. Lee, released last year, was observed pulling at the tail of one of the chicks. Not your typical welcome greeting. By the afternoon they had followed the flock to the aviary and were merrily feeding and begging and feeding and begging and feeding…

Dingle, a hand-reared bird, with one of his wild hatched chicks waiting for supplemental food. Photo by Liz Corry.

Mauve with one of her two wild-htached chicks at the release aviary. Photo by Liz Corry.

Anyone with experience of wild choughs will know how loud and incessant chick begging can be. And it lasts several weeks much to the dismay of the parents. Green and Black did not have a chick with them. Hopefully not having to participate in the cacophony of chick begging was some sort of consolation to them.

A wild chick being fed the supplemental diet by a parent outside the aviary. Photo by Liz Corry.

Veterinary intervention

Black was not in the best of health anyway. We had noticed for some time that she was returning from the quarry sneezing. Her symptoms started to worsen as fledging time approached. We intervened on the 6th after managing to get an individual faecal sample from her in the wild.

To catch her in order for the vet to administer drugs we tried trapping the group in the aviary at the feed. Normally this is an easy task, but the presence of the wild chicks meant that the chough families were on high alert and scarpered at the first sign of a staff member approaching the release hatches. The only two birds we could lock in before they had time to realise were Black (because she was ill) and Flieur.

This turned out to be useful as Flieur had lost her colour ring a couple of weeks prior so a replacement was fitted and she was released. Black was caught up, weighed, treated and released. Her breathing was very laboured and the worst we have seen to date. There was potentially a need to give a follow up wormer in two weeks times. Normally treated choughs stop sneezing within a day or so and don’t need the second injection. Black continued sounding rough for a week before clearing up. As always we observe daily and submit group faecal samples to the vets once a month to monitor the birds’ health.

Dusty, Egg, and Chickay

The nest site discovered in June potentially belonging to Dusty and one of his females failed to produce anything. Not too surprising as all three are quite young and it was their first attempt. Dusty and Egg continued taking food from the aviary to the quarry. Chickay remaining faithfully by their side feeding and preening Dusty when asked. As with Green and Black it would appear they were simply caching food for themselves away from the flock. Very sensible as competition grew over food bowls at the aviary in response to an increased demand for food.

Summer finally arrived…for a day

The 19th July saw temperatures in the aviary reach 34°C and the hottest July in Jersey. In fact the third hottest day since records began. Extra water trays were provided at the aviary. For the public the sight of sunbathing choughs might have appeared quite alarming since they often look like they have just been shot and fallen from the sky. They are just making sure every feather gets a piece of the UV action and any feather mites zapped out of existence.

A sun-bathing juvenile chough. Photo by Liz Corry.

Their main struggle with the weather was the fact that Sorel had not experienced much, if any, rain for a few weeks. With no shade cover or water the sun-baked ground had hardened to the point of cracks appearing. No chance of getting to any insects in the ground, assuming there were any. The sheep dung was also absent of insect larvae. Wild food resources for the choughs had become depleted and their dependency on the supplemental feeds increased. The effect it had on the flock added an extra challenge to the 2016 chick release.

The heat also appeared to have an effect on humans and their awareness of their surroundings. Scorch marks on the dry grass land at Sorel and Devil’s Hole show that people have had disposable barbecues and in one case a log fire on National Trust Land. The latter is illegal. There also seems to be an increase in the number of cigarette ends left around the site. With sun-parched grassland and heath these activities can be extremely dangerous. Exemplified by an incident at Grantez in which memorial bench was badly burnt when somebody left a used disposable BBQ under it.

Disposable barbeque damage to a memorial bench on National Trust land in July. Photo by Jon Parkes.

Preparations for release

As well as target training the captive chicks for their imminent release, staff worked on preparing the aviary. Simple tasks of oiling locks and hinges turned into DIY repairs to replace hinges and framework. A spot of up-cycling turned a pallet board and reclaimed wood from Durrell’s wood skip into steps and benches so keepers could securely reach the hatch locks. In the past we relied on conveniently placed logs and rocks. Not necessarily health and safety compliant, made worse by wear and tear over the years. The added bonus of the new additions was their unintentional enrichment benefits for the choughs.

The bracken started to fight back against the sheep this month. Photo by Liz Corry.

The biggest task was clearing the bracken from the embankment to allow the choughs to see from inside the aviary over to the grazed land. This helps with the release and provides an extra area for them to forage close to the aviary. This time of year the bracken reaches record heights in some places towering above both sheep and people. Removing the bracken by the aviary revealed a few desiccated toads and opened up areas for a slow worm and the occasional green lizard. It also meant the rats had fewer places to hide.

Bracken clearance alongside the aviary provided extra foraging ground for the choughs as well as a clear view. Photo by Liz Corry.

The aviary netting started to get to a lot of unwanted attention from rodents once the hatches were closed off to hold in the captive chicks. With no obvious way in and out to get to any spilt food left by the choughs the rodents took to chewing holes in the netting. The battle is ongoing with the rodents favourites to win.

Rodent activity in and around the aviary creating problems with the netting. Photo by Liz Corry.

Final preparations

Before take-off, the chicks need a clean bill of health. On the morning of the 19th chick V was missing from the melee that is breakfast time. A quick search of the aviary found her perched in one of the shelter boxes holding her head back and to the side. She wasn’t saying much and didn’t come for food straight away. With a bit of coaxing she came down and walked along the shelf to the food and the other chicks. She half halfheartedly begged and ate a mealworm then shuffled off into another shelter box.

Chick V was under the weather on the 19th, but perked up on hearing the threat of a vet visit. Photo by Liz Corry

Close, very close, observations of her throughout the morning showed no change and a tendency to hold her neck awkwardly. The Vet visited in the afternoon to examine her. She had perked up by that point (as animals always do when they know the Vet is on the way), yet still not 100%. With nothing obvious to diagnose a blood sample was taken and sent off to the lab. We had a two-day wait before hearing she had the all clear. By which time she was back to normal and understandably a little cautious around keepers.

Congratulations it’s a boy, and a girl, and another girl, and a boy….

The day after the vet visited we heard back for the diagnostics lab regarding the sex of the 2016 chicks. We now know that the foster four are all female and the parent-reared zoo chicks are both male.

In the wild we have a nice 50:50 split. We have a question mark over one of the samples so we cannot be 100% sure without taking another blood sample. Looking to tarsus (leg) length as an indicator it suggests the individual is female. If it turns out to be male then we have three males in total hatched in the wild this year.

Operation Chough

Paradise Park successfully raised ten chough chicks this year including two hand-reared. Once they have their sexing results they will work out which chicks can be sent over to Jersey to take part in the release. The plan is for the Durrell chicks to be released as early as possible to learn what life is like outside the aviary and acquire skills. When the Paradise Park choughs arrive we will call the Durrell chicks in to the aviary and lock the group in together whilst the UK birds fulfil their quarantine requirements.

After which point, the two groups will have socialised and formed relationships or at least connections. Once released, the Paradise Park chicks will hopefully follow the Durrell chicks and learn from them.

Paradise Park established Operation Chough in 1987. Our partnership since 2010 has now helped their objective to come to fruition. With the second release this year involving their chicks, Jersey’s free-living flock could reach a total of 36 individuals.