Airport skylark survey 2013

Jersey Airport. June 2013. Photo by Glyn YoungOn Wednesday, 26th June, we conducted our annual survey of the skylarks Alauda arvensis and meadow pipits Anthus pratensis at Jersey Airport. As ever, this is one of the hardest monitoring exercises we undertake each year. It’s also the only one where we need security clearance before even setting foot on the grass. The airport is obliged by law to manage its entire site to dissuade large birds from coming into proximity of the planes and the length of the grass throughout the area is very important. All bird-friendly plants are discouraged too but strangely both skylarks and meadow pipits seem to thrive here.

Jersey Airport is now almost the last site for breeding skylarks in the Channel Islands. None have bred at Les Landes for two years and, it appears, there are now none in St Ouen’s Bay away from the Blanche Banques where there are only a small number of birds despite protection for their nest sites. Sadly, now, even at the Airport numbers are declining although how much this is the impact of consecutive poor springs is unclear.

Jersey Airport. June 2013. Photo by Glyn YoungThe skylark team this year, Tony Paintin, Hester Whitehead and Glyn Young once again covered the grassy areas of the airport either side of the runway while remaining very visible at all times and keeping in radio contact with Air Traffic Control throughout. There are very sensitive areas that the team cannot enter and we all have to withdraw to a safe point when a plane is landing, taking off or taxiing.

Skylarks are never very easy to count as some birds can stay put in the grass while others fly up and sing at us. We walk out in a line and record each lark and pipit. Whatever the failings in our technique are though, we have used the same methodology since 2006, and we are beginning to see a trend in numbers developing. This year we counted only 26 larks, our lowest figure so far.

Date

Singing   males

Flushed   birds      

Total

Meadow pipits

15June 2006

14

22

36

5

12June 2007

12

22

34

8

5 June 2008

14

50

64

16

24June 2009

12

32

44

2

9 June 2010

12

34

46

3

27 July 2011

4

85

89

32

27June 2012

26June 2013

 

9

7

21

19

30

26

21

8

Once again we are indebted to the airport authorities for allowing us to count the birds and for helping with security clearance and for providing radios and high-visibility vests etc.

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