Today we reached a significant milestone when the 2,000th data sheet was input into the Farmland Bird Monitoring database. The first sheet, from Crabbé, was filled out on 1st April 2005 when we made 45 records involving 100 birds of 15 species. The 2,000th sheet, from Les Creux on 19th January, detailed 144 records of 729 birds from 25 species – an event greatly helped by the arrival of heavy snow. At the beginning of this long-term survey there were only five sites being monitored but that has now increased to 18 transects at 16 sites covering farmland, parkland, woodland, heath and unimproved grassland. To date 160 bird species have been recorded including six escapes (three living wild), two feral and two introduced species. The species total includes two identifiable subspecies of white wagtail (most records go under just the one catchall race!) and two yellow wagtails. We have so far input over 80,000 records detailing 200,000 birds!
The data collected in this survey is not suitable to estimate the size of our bird populations at any of the individual sites or for an overall Island figure. This form of consistent data collection does, however, provide a fantastic tool for seeing how our birds are faring both within a year and from year to year.
Each fortnight, 21km of transects are walked once whatever the weather. To date, 24 observers have contributed records with a core of around 10 real diehards who laugh off the horizontal rain and the attention of the many dogs we seem to meet on each transect. The real benefit to a scheme like this will only begin to be seen several years after the start as long term trends in our bird populations become apparent. While some transects have now been counted for nearly eight years others have come in to the project much more recently. The database will allow us to look at population trends at single sites or at combinations of sites. Obviously the biggest benefit will come from the biggest size of dataset and at the moment that is the set that comprises of the five original sites (Les Landes, Crabbé, Les Creux, Les Blanche Banques and Noirmont). In the future we will be able to run off graphs like that here for linnet from a combined dataset of maybe 16 sites. The greatest value of this project is in highlighting the status of our Island’s birds, of the environment in which they live and in planning for the future.
So, with this project…..
- What are the most recorded species? Blackbird, robin, wren and great tit seem to be seen most regularly but possibly chaffinch is the most recorded overall;
- What is the rarest? Luckily for the recorders several of the rarest birds recorded in Jersey have turned up on a transect during a count including solitary and buff-breasted sandpipers. Fan-tailed warbler and firecrest were first found nesting on a transect and the returning cirl buntings were found on one too;
- And favourites? Each of the counters has their own favourites but the occurrence of bearded tits in St Ouen’s Bay and the possibility in season of migratory yellow wagtails, wryneck and ring ouzel are always highlights. However, little can beat finding a bittern or a long-eared owl stood on a transect staring at the observer!
- And the least favourite? Well, surely there are none but some can be a bit tricky at times to pick out as they skulk or when their songs resemble others -dunnocks and garden warblers stand out here (or are too high-pitched for ageing recorders like me);
- And the saddest? The loss of yellowhammer and steady declines in stonechat and skylark numbers are perhaps most poignant;
- And the next species? Well, there are some obvious candidates but surely it will be red-billed chough!