Planning application for chough release aviary submitted

An application for planning permission to construct the chough release aviary was submitted to States of Jersey on 13th August. Application P/2012/1033 and all supporting documents can be viewed in full on the States of Jersey website.

Chough release aviary plans. Photo by Naish Waddington ArchitectsThe aviary will be constructed in Field 6, La Rue de Sorel, St John. This field belongs to the National Trust for Jersey and is adjacent to Le Don Paton. The aviary will house the choughs for at least six weeks before they are released into the wild. The birds will be fed in the aviary while acclimatising to their new environment before being allowed to fly free. After release the birds will still be fed in the vicinity of the aviary and may even return to roost inside at night. If any of the birds have difficulty acclimatising to their new life, or if Field 6, Sorel. Photo by Glyn Youngweather conditions become difficult for them, they may be returned to the aviary.  

We are extremely grateful to Naish Waddington Architects who produced all the plans for the aviary and have provided support throughout the planning process. Please check the BIRDS ON THE EDGE website for updates on the aviary and the release programme. Details on the choughs and their management can be found here.

Are Jersey’s cirl buntings back to stay?

Cirl bunting at Les Landes 7th June 2011. Photo by Mick DrydenOn 7th June 2011 a single male cirl bunting was, rather surprisingly, found singing merrily on the perimeter fence at Les Landes racecourse. Not only had this bunting, whose decline and disappearance from Jersey been one of the catalysts to BIRDS ON THE EDGE, not been recorded here since 2004 but Les Landes was not a typical site for the species. As the excitement of this find settled a pair of buntings were located on the golf course in Grouville on 24th June. There may have still been time for these birds to breed in 2011 but there were no signs of activity so we settled down to watch over them through the winter.

Male cirl bunting at Grouville feeder. Photo by Richard PerchardOne of the possible causes for this bunting’s decline in the UK has been identified as a lack of winter food. The RSPB supplied us with details of feeder designs and good seed mixes and several hardy volunteers maintained the feeders through the winter months. After apparently ignoring the feeders for several weeks the buntings, who remained in the area throughout, began to feed on the seed provided and, while not a very hard winter, this may have helped them survive. If nothing else it may have stopped them wandering away from this traditional site.

Cirl bunting chick, Grouville, 24th July 2012. Photo by Mick DrydenThis year we watched as the pair remained in the area and gave tantalising hints of a breeding attempt. The weather, however, may have contrived against them as heavy rain in spring washed out lots of our birds. Then, on 24th July, Mick Dryden, one of the pair’s active monitors, found a single chick – the first hatched on the Island since possibly 12 years ago. A subsequent visit found a second chick and the female may be attempting to nest again.

It may take more than one pair to spur on recolonisation but it is a positive start. Thanks are due to the many people who helped out with feeding the birds, to the RSPB for their advice and to the Royal Jersey Golf Club for their support throughout.

‘Citizen science’ shows that protected areas allow wildlife to spread in response to climate change

Press release from University of York 

Dartford warbler. Photo by Mick DrydenA new study led by scientists at the University of York has shown how birds, butterflies, other insects and spiders have colonised nature reserves and areas protected for wildlife, as they move north in response to climate change and other environmental changes.

The study of over 250 species, led by researchers in the Department of Biology at York, is published online by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA (PNAS). The conclusions were based on the analysis of millions of records of wildlife species sent in predominantly by members of the public.

The work represents a major new discovery involving collaborators in universities, research institutes, conservation charities, and regional and national government but – crucially – fuelled by ‘citizen science’.

Many species need to spread towards the poles where conditions remain cool enough for them to survive climate warming. But doing this is complicated because many landscapes across the world are dominated by human agriculture and development, which form barriers to the movement of species.  The mainstay of traditional conservation has been to establish protected areas and nature reserves to provide refuges against the loss of habitats and other threats in the surrounding countryside. 

But this method of nature conservation has been questioned in recent years, partly because of continuing degradation of habitats in reserves in some parts of the world.  Increasingly, however, the value of protected areas is being questioned because climate change is taking place – wildlife sites stay where they are while animal species move in response to changing conditions.

However, the new research shows that protected areas are the places that most animal species colonise as they spread into new regions. “Protected areas are like stepping stones across the landscape, allowing species to set up a succession of new breeding populations as they move northwards,” said lead author Professor Chris Thomas, of the University of York.

Co-author Dr Phillipa Gillingham, now a Lecturer at Bournemouth University, calculated that species are on average around four times more likely to colonise nature reserves than might be expected.  “For the seven focal species of birds and butterflies that we studied in greatest detail, 40% of new colonisations occurred in the mere 8.4 per cent of the land that was protected,”  she said.  “Similar patterns were observed among more than 250 invertebrate species.”

But the study showed that species vary greatly in how much they need reserves. “Some species, such as the Dartford warbler and silver-spotted skipper butterfly, are largely confined to nature reserves,” said Dr David Roy, of the NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology. “Whereas others like the nightjar and stone curlew are less dependent on these sites.” 

Dr Richard Bradbury, of the RSPB, said: “Sites of importance for wildlife stand out like beacons in otherwise impoverished landscapes. This study shows that the hugely important role they play now will continue undiminished in the future. Protecting these arks, as well as restoring and re-creating new ones where we can, will provide the vital network enabling more species to survive the spectre of climate change.”

This study is a great example of how volunteer recorders and national monitoring schemes together provide the information to answer key conservation questions of global importance, such as how we can help wildlife cope with climate change,” said James Pearce-Higgins of the British Trust for Ornithology. “Only through the dedicated effort of so many people can we undertake the scale of long-term monitoring required.”