2013 was a very busy year for the Farmland bird monitoring team. Whatever the weather, and last year there was plenty of it, we were out counting birds. The ‘Farmland’ title of the project is a little misleading as we count birds at 20 sites across a variety of habitats including true farmland, woodland, heath and sand dune. The project doesn’t include seabirds at sea or on the cliffs or waterbirds on open water – but any that fly over our transects are fair game!
In 2013, 486 record sheets were filled out by our team of 13 volunteer recorders. Since the project started in 2005 we have filled out 2,517 sheets. That’s a lot of birds to put into the data base. We’ve now seen 161 species, one more since the last posting in June, with yellow-browed warbler the most recent addition (recorded at Durrell and Le Saie) this autumn.
Why do we record all these birds?
Consistent, systematic, long-term bird monitoring like this can tell us a lot about what is happening with our local bird populations. This is very important information when planning conservation strategies and updating protection laws or establishing protected sites. The red list of Jersey’s birds (available here) was based on long-term projects like this. Monitoring can show us too seasonality of birds (how many there are through the year) like the common whitethroat (below) but it can also show us alarming trends in their status over the years like the unfortunate greenfinch. It can, of course, also show us those birds that are actually doing pretty well like the great tit.
What were the team’s highlights in 2013?
The team were asked what their personal highlights were. Sally and the National Trust team told Birds On The Edge that, “whilst hundreds of birds have been seen and counted, including kingfishers, marsh harriers, peregrines, stonechats and goldcrests, the sighting that stands out the most has to be when we found long-eared owl chicks, sitting in a tree in Fern Valley.
“It was a lovely, sunny, still morning; we had almost finished the transect, and it had been rather quiet, not many birds had been seen, probably because sunrise was a little earlier than our start time. Jonny ‘Hawk-eye’ Parkes spotted them first, sitting quietly on the spindly branches on an alder tree, four pairs of big, glowing, orange eyes looking at us, looking at them. We were transfixed, they were so beautiful to see, very fluffy and cute, with big saucer shaped eyes, and they were as interested in us as we were of them.
“None of us had seen real live, wild owl chicks before, so it was really hard to drag ourselves away, we had to finish the transect after all, and report our sightings to anyone and everyone that would listen”!
Cris also wrote: “I enjoy these (two) transects as they happen to go right through a bit of land that is the focus of my work – habitat restoration to save Jersey’s endangered birds. Walking the transects allows me to witness how the restoration management is being implemented and how it’s slowly changing the landscape and improving the habitats for the wildlife community. Hopefully, in time, the data from the transects will show an increase on bird numbers and diversity that will reflect those habitat improvements. The second best thing about this transects is that, on a good day, I get to record all five resident raptors in Jersey: kestrel, sparrowhawk, buzzard, peregrine falcon and marsh harrier”.
Harriet (W) was more than happy too with her year. In November she found not one but two cirl buntings on the Noirmont transect! Harriet (C) found a common quail and Glyn’s highlight was getting two bitterns together on a transect!
Very sadly, one of our stalwart counters, Richard, has had to retire from the programme. Richard covered two transects on the east of the Island and was lucky enough to have breeding cirl buntings, firecrests and buzzards on his patch. We will all miss Richard very much but we do know that we’ll still see him as he’ll continue to feed the cirl buntings to make sure that they are getting enough food throughout the year.
Like to join us?
With Richard’s retirement we are looking for new volunteer recorders. As you can see, it’s always fun and we need someone who can commit themselves to doing their transect once in each fortnight (you can chose which day and we can bring on a sub for holidays and other absences). No transect is much more than one kilometre in length and they are all easy to walk. It is, of course, important to be able to identify our common birds both by sight and , often more importantly, by sound but don’t worry about those rarities if you aren’t certain about Richard’s pipits or honey-buzzards. Rarities may just the icing on the cake for us observers and you’ll learn about them as you go! We will show you the routes and help with bird identification. If you are interested please reply through this web page.