Would you know if you have bats in your belfry? Jersey bat workshop on 5th July

lebat10vrIslanders with an interest in helping to protect Jersey’s bats are invited to a workshop at the Durrell Conservation Academy on 5th July organised by the Department of the Environment and the Jersey Bat Group.

The workshop, which includes talks and training, will help people learn how to survey bat roosts in local buildings to record and learn more about where they roost.

Jersey is lucky enough to have more than 11 recorded species of bats. The most commonly found bat species is the common pipistrelle, but the Island also has long eared bats and serotines.

Volunteers from the Jersey Bat Group and the Department of the Environment record information on bats by making ‘exit counts’ – watching and counting bats as they leave their roost around dusk.  Where possible, they identify species using special equipment that translates the ultrasonic calls that bats make into sounds a human ear can hear.

140624 Photo of a Natterer's batVolunteers are trying to visit roosts that have been recorded in the past to see if the bats are still using them, and are also keen to find new roosts not currently on record. They want to hear from people who think they may have bats on their property. Signs include:

  • tiny droppings on window ledges or stuck on the side of walls
  • bats seen emerging from gaps in the property such as from under ridge tiles, or from under fascia boards
  • clear, cobweb-free gaps under fascia boards.

It’s an important time of year for bats as females will have recently gathered in their ‘maternity roost’ to have their single ‘pup’. They are usually loyal to old successful roost sites, often for generations.

Chair of the Jersey Bat group Nicky Brown said, “Bats are an amazing and vital part of our wildlife, providing a valuable service to our environment; a single pipistrelle can eat 3000 mosquitoes or midges a night.

“But if we’re to continue to conserve the many different species we’re home to, it’s crucial that we continue to monitor their population and raise awareness of their needs. For that, we really do rely on the good will and knowledge of volunteers. If you think you might be interested in knowing more, or helping us with our summer surveys please sign up for the training day, and consider joining the Jersey Bat Group.”

The workshop is open to anyone interested in learning more about bats and who want to get involved helping with the summer surveys. It is being held at Durrell Conservation Academy on 5th July between 2 pm and 8 pm. If you would like to attend, please reserve a place by contacting Nina Cornish on 441624 or by email: n.cornish@gov.je.

If you think you may have bats on your property, or you would like more information on the bat group or the summer surveys please contact Nicky Brown at jerseybatgroup@yahoo.co.uk or David Tipping at d.tipping@gov.je or on 441623.

Download the workshop details here

First global assessment of seabirds threatened by invasive species on islands

Galapagos petrel. Photo by Mick Dryden 2006From British Birds

To guide island-based seabird conservation actions, a new review has been published in Conservation Biology. The paper identifies, for the first time ever, every single island and islet worldwide where globally threatened seabirds breed, as well as whether invasive alien species are present and threatening them.

Seabirds are some of the most threatened marine animals in the world, with 29% of species at risk of extinction. Significant threats to seabirds occur on islands, which is where seabirds breed, including predation and disturbance from invasive alien species such as rats, cats and pigs. However, in many cases, effective island conservation can mitigate these threats.

’Thanks to hundreds of collaborations from seabird biologists around the world, we were able to compile a global database that identifies islands where threatened seabirds are vulnerable to extinction.  The Threatened Island Biodiversity database also highlights islands where invasive species eradications are needed or where protected areas are missing”, said Dena R. Spatz, lead author of the paper.

African penguin. Photo by Mick Dryden

The Biogeography of Globally Threatened Seabirds and Island Conservation Opportunities, written by scientists from the Coastal Conservation Action Lab at the University of California, Island Conservation, and BirdLife International, identified all islands where populations of the 98 globally threatened seabird species (as classified by BirdLife International on the IUCN Red List) now remain, and documented the presence of threatening invasive species, protected areas, and human populations. This list was then refined to identify islands that have the greatest opportunity for interventions to benefit threatened seabirds. It will now form the basis of further priority-setting to determine where action is most urgently needed.

“This information is critical to guiding where to prevent threatened seabird extinctions, and is a rare opportunity for effective conservation at scale,” said Nick Holmes, Director of Science, Island Conservation.

“Invasive alien species like rats cause significant economic damage and harm to people too, but on islands it is often feasible to eradicate invasive species, benefiting local communities as well as native wildlife,” added coauthor Dr. Stuart Butchart, Head of Science at BirdLife International.


Over 1300 present and locally extinct seabird populations (representing 98 species) were identified on 968 islands;

Invasive species – a major threat to seabirds – potentially impact breeding populations on 60% of these islands;

Only one third of threatened seabird islands (359 islands; or 37%) are formally protected (i.e. >90% covered in protected areas), and over half (534 islands; or 55%) have no legal protection. 83% of threatened seabird islands lack adequate protection and/or are threatened by invasive alien species;

Eradicating invasive mammal populations to benefit native species is a tried and tested conservation technique. Most islands with threatened seabirds can easily be saved from these threats because the islands are small (57% were <1 km2), uninhabited (74%), and are owned by relatively wealthy countries (96% owned by higher income countries). Collectively these attributes make islands with threatened seabirds a rare opportunity for effective conservation at scale.

Shag 3. Photo by Mick Dryden

No Channel Islands seabirds are globally threatened although possibly all are now locally threatened with extinction. This new review is, however, invaluable to local conservationists as many of our former and potential breeding sites are home to invasive species (notably rats and cats) and all need protection and restoration if we want to see seabirds in our waters in years to come. Birds On The Edge has reported on several projects around the British Isles aimed to restore locally threatened seabirds which might be appropriate in our islands (see Ramsey, Scilly and Calf of Man).

Download the Conservation Biology paper here: http://bio.research.ucsc.edu/people/croll/pdf/Spatz_2014.pdf

Iconic seabird found prospecting Plémont

Manx shearwater. Photo by Regis PerdriatBy Cris Sellarés

Local ornithologists are investigating the possibility that Manx shearwaters may be trying to breed near Plémont, after a recent survey suggested once again that some of these birds might have been prospecting the area for nesting opportunities.

Manx shearwaters are shy, burrowing seabirds related to fulmars, petrels and albatrosses that spend most of their life at sea and only land to dig a burrow where they will lay a single white egg. Like that other burrowing seabird the puffin, shearwaters are susceptible to human disturbance and predation by introduced mammals such as rats, cats and dogs. In areas where these predators are found the seabirds favour coastal cliffs that are difficult to access. Even then, they will only visit their nests during the darkest nights, to avoid predation by gulls and other birds.

Manx shearwater. Photo by Regis Perdriat (2)Their name comes from the Isle of Man, where once a large colony was found on the Calf of Man. The species became extinct there after a shipwreck in the 18th century accidentally introduced rats onto the island. Rat eradication projects have succeeded in restoring the breeding colonies of this seabird not only on Calf of Man but also on Lundy (where the population has grown from 166 pairs in 2001 to over 1,000 in 2008), the Isles of Scilly and Ramsey Island (where its population grew from 850 pairs in 1998 to over 3,800 in 2012).

In the Channel Islands small numbers of Manx shearwaters have, in recent years, nested in Sark and Jethou, although no surveys have been undertaken recently. The closest colonies are in the Isles of Scilly and Brittany. In Jersey, small numbers have been recorded in the vicinity of Plémont almost every summer at the height of the breeding season. Unfortunately it is unclear whether they have actually nested here or are merely non-breeding individuals visiting the area looking for a potential future nest site.

Manx shearwater. Photo by Mick DrydenThis year’s survey detected more shearwaters (four were over the land after dark) in the area than in any previous years, and local biologists are eager to find out if the species is breeding in Jersey. Further surveys are planned for the next few weeks.

Whilst the birds may not be breeding this year, they might be prospecting the area for a suitable nesting site, and their presence is an encouraging sign. If shearwaters were to establish a small breeding colony in the Jersey it would greatly enhance the ecological value of our coastline and maintain seabird diversity of the Channel Islands. Pairs from this species form life-long monogamous bonds and can live for over 50 years, so it is hoped that a breeding colony would have a long and safe future in the coastal cliffs. Any possible restoration projects at Plémont like those mentioned above aimed to encourage nesting by shearwaters could only be beneficial to puffins as well.

Chough report: April 2014

Green, Mauve, Blue, Black, Red, and White flying free above Sorel in April 2014. Photo by Liz CorryBy Liz Corry

The avid reader amongst you will have noticed a delay in monthly reports of late. There are two very worthy reasons for this. The first is the extraordinary busy schedules of the breeding season and the release project. The second is the sensitivity surrounding both those areas. However, I am now pleased to be able to report on the highs and the lows of April and it was well worth the wait!

Breeding season begins at Durrell

A decision was made at the start of the season to hand-rear the first clutch of eggs from each pair and try double clutching. The parents would then be allowed to rear the second batch. Hopefully we would increase productivity and have a mixture of hand-reared and parent-reared chicks to release into Jersey. Each group would share their knowledge with the other, thus avoiding imprinting in the hand-reareds and making the parent-reareds more willing to co-operate with training.

The first chough egg of the season was laid on 6th April. Nest-cameras had been setup in all three breeding aviaries so keepers could closely monitor progress. And boy did it pay off!

Down in Shep’s Field we had Gwinny with her inexperienced male (Mauve) in SF3 aviary and Tristan with our inexperienced female, Black, in SF2 aviary.

Gwinny’s nest with an egg before the male removed them. Photo by Liz Corry

Gwinny’s nest with an egg before the male removed them. Photo by Liz Corry

Despite Gwinny being the first female to start nest building she was the last to lay. In fact she did so only after the others had already laid their clutches. On the 25th keepers noticed that there was an egg in her nest and a second on the 26th. Then suddenly nothing!

Searching back through the recorded footage an interesting relationship unfolded. Bearing in mind these two birds did not choose each other as the other pairs did it was quite warming to observe the male feed Gwinny in the nest.

Closer observations, however, showed a very inquisitive, slightly confused, male. With an egg in the nest, the male would often stand on the edge of the nest peering at it. Gwinny would come back, chatter at him and display until he left the nest. On the morning of the 26th the male edged further into the undefended nest, moved a few twigs, and then carefully removed an egg.

Gwinny laying an egg whilst the male watches with interest. Photo by Liz Corry

Gwinny laying an egg whilst the male watches with interest. Photo by Liz Corry

He repeated the behaviour an hour later leaving behind an empty nest and a very disheartened female.

In SF2 things were looking more promising. A nest had been built and an egg was laid on the 6th around 23.00. The video showed an exhausted female panting and pushing out the egg, resting in the nest until dawn and then leaving to find food. When she returned three hours later she looked in the nest and spotted the egg. Having never seen an egg before, and maybe not realising that is what she had been pushing out (?), she decided it shouldn’t be in her nest and carefully removed it.

Black removing her first egg from the nest. Photo by Liz Corry

Black removing her first egg from the nest. Photo by Liz Corry

A decision by staff was made to swap the next egg she laid for a dummy egg and artificially incubate the next egg. For some reason the male took offense to the dummy egg and removed it in the evening. In total the female laid five eggs, but with one already destroyed, only four were taken to Durrell’s Bird Department for artificial incubation.

Black was only left with the dummy eggs for a couple of days after the last egg was laid. They were removed by keepers to encourage the pair to double-clutch. They did! On the 26th Black laid an egg in the morning, but once again destroyed it by the evening. A second egg appeared on the 29th and was taken for artificial incubation. Egg-laying stopped.

Tristan and his female Black fighting in nest-box. Photo by Liz Corry

Tristan and his female Black fighting in nest-box. Photo by Liz Corry

Without looking back through the footage keepers would never have known that on at least two occasions in the nest-box the pair had been physically fighting. This implies that despite choosing each other as mates there is something amiss. It might just be her inexperience and a second season may be needed before the pair can become harmonious.

The third pair, both established breeders, housed in the display aviary starting laying on 6th April as well. The camera in here is linked straight to a monitor and not recorded so information is based on keepers’ periodic observations. This pair followed the plan of laying a clutch of five eggs which could then be exchanged for dummy eggs after a period of parental incubation. From observations it appeared that Issy (female) did not really sit tight on the eggs when it came time (they incubate from third or fourth egg). When keepers’ observed from outside of the aviary she would leave the nest every time the public went past. This problem needs to be addressed by next season.

Catherine Francescon and Harriet Clark collect the egg to be replaced with a dummy (fake egg) so the female continues to lay. Photo by Liz CorryIssy also went on to produce a second set of eggs two weeks after the dummy eggs were taken away. Unfortunately, for some reason she did not take to these eggs. The first was kicked out, the next two were taken for artificial incubation, but she kicked out the dummy eggs. There was an additional problem. Two days after the first egg of the second clutch was laid Arthur (her mate) escaped. He was seen in the morning on the other side of the netting. Presumably he left through one of the holes in the netting. These cannot be fixed by staff without scaffolding or a cherry picker and during the breeding season neither can be used.

Chough at Mont Orgueil, Gorey, May 2014. Photo by Chris Durbano Arthur paid a visit to the other choughs down in Shep’s Field before flying over the Orang-utan House and out of sight by 10:30. Appeals to the public resulted in a positive sighting at Gorey Castle four days later and then two days later at Les Platons. There have been a handful of reports since but all describing blackbirds or (we think) in one case a jay. We have tried to follow up as many as possible. In reality it will be very hard to recapture Arthur unless he is weak or injured. If he is located and remains in that area it might be possible to supplementarily feed him and later, if the situation allows, trap him. For now we have to hope that Arthur has the means to survive and may well be the first breeding chough to live in Jersey.

Artificial incubation of chough eggs

Four of the eggs set in the incubator. Photo by Liz Corry

Four of the eggs set in the incubator. Photo by Liz Corry

In 2012 Durrell attempted to incubate two eggs from an abandoned nest. These unfortunately failed early on. So you can imagine how nervous keepers were this time round with nine eggs to incubate followed by another three from the second clutches. With advice from Paradise Park, who have achieved success in the past, and using our existing knowledge with other species we managed to hatch five eggs. A lot has been learnt from the experience and will be used next season to increase this success rate.

All eggs were weighed and candled on a daily basis to monitor development. Egg weight-loss graphs were plotted so incubation parameters could be altered in accordance to development. Eggs such as these are expected to lose 15% of their original weight by the time of hatch.

Eggs are candled and weighed daily to monitor development. Photo by Liz Corry

Eggs are candled and weighed daily to monitor development. Photo by Liz Corry

Our eggs all appeared too wet and were not losing enough weight so humidity was reduced dramatically. For some eggs it was too late or made no difference. Some embryos died early on, two eggs reached the chipping stage but died before hatching. One chick hatched but had developed an abnormality with its yolk-sac which led very swiftly to death.

Post mortems were carried out on eggs and chick to try and underpin the cause(s). No evidence of bacterial infections was found. Most signs pointed to failings with the environmental conditions in the egg.

The first egg hatched on 30th April with the second close behind. Photo by Liz Corry

The first egg hatched on 30th April with the second close behind. Photo by Liz Corry

For those eggs that were successful in hatching there will be more to read in May’s report. Not simply to keep you hanging on bated breath, but because the first egg only hatched on 30th April.

First release of 2014

The choughs at Sorel have spent the last few months riding out the winter gales in the aviary. All hatches firmly battened down. With conditions favourable and all health checks passed it was time to restart the releases. On 9th April the hatches were opened and the birds allowed to fly free. The intention was to give them thirty minutes of playtime before calling them back in for food. What happened in those thirty minutes was exhilarating, poetic, and simply nerve-wracking for both chough and their team.

The group of eight choughs took to the air, rising higher and higher, swooping left, swooping right. Sometimes in a 3, 3, 2 formation, at others a 2, 2, 4, and 5, 1, 2. It was like watching a red arrows display only without the trailing smoke (in discussion for next year’s releases). All the time they stayed around the neighbouring fields, never really crossing over Mourier Valley, never out of sight to the east and only two or three fields inland. Bearing in mind at the height they were reaching they would be able to see Jersey in its entirety.

Day 1 of the 2014 release and the choughs fly higher than ever before. Photo by Liz Corry

Day 1 of the 2014 release and the choughs fly higher than ever before (look for two black dots to the left of the vapour trail). Photo by Liz Corry

As the stop-clock ticked down and their keeper was about to call them back for dinner, the inevitable happened. They headed for the quarry. Interestingly when the keeper blew the whistle one bird, Red, headed back to the aviary. She did the same thing last year after her original mate died in the quarry. She has the desire to explore, but maybe it is overcome by her knowledge of easy food and protection at the aviary.

Red obediently returning to the aviary. Photo by Liz Corry

Red obediently returning to the aviary. Photo by Liz Corry

We had thought she would stick with her new partner, Yellow, the older male who arrived in December. With hindsight and all the ingredients of your favourite soap opera we should have realised otherwise. Whilst in the aviary Yellow had been seen courting Red and they would often feed and roost together. As hormones kicked in for the breeding season Yellow started making advances on Mauve. Mauve’s partner, Green, naturally objected to this and on a few occasions the team had witnessed fights between the two males. Red, whilst still keen on Yellow, was starting to get the cold shoulder.

Yellow, the oldest in the group, before he disappeared on Day 1 of release. Photo by Liz Corry

Yellow, the oldest in the group, before he disappeared on Day 1 of release. Photo by Liz Corry

It is hard to tell who is who when they are flying high above your heads, but we know that Yellow parted ways after the thirty-minute mark on the first day of release. When the others flew to the quarry, Yellow headed inland. Rather naively we thought he was heading the long way round to the quarry, but after a relatively short time of radio tracking to account for the other six birds we had lost his signal completely. Not only had he ditched Red but the entire group. We expected from previous behaviour that the two older males would not want to hang out together given the choice, but we didn’t expect a new arrival to leave the entire group.

To further add to the confusion only five choughs were visible in the quarry yet six signals were being picked up. After many questions, equipment testing, and stroking of chins it became clear that the sixth signal was not a true signal. Instead it was a combination of electrical interference (e.g. electric fences surrounding horse paddocks) and picking up the tail-end of another bird’s frequency. Much like when you tune in a transistor radio and can hear two stations competing. This missing bird was Cerise a 2013 female brought to Jersey in December. We think she might have followed Yellow.

By the end of the first day there was one chough in the aviary, five roosting in the quarry, and two missing. It is worth noting that the birds in the quarry visited the exact same sites as they did last year and did not deviate. They returned to the aviary over the course of the next two days and were locked back inside as they arrived. Releases were put on hold until we had a better idea of where the missing birds were.

The new students Pierre and Adam were put to the test straight away. The team covered many miles on foot and even more by car in an attempt to radio search the island in a short a time as possible. After two days of hearing nothing but white noise it was an tremendous feeling to be able to hear the beep beep of a transmitter signal once again.

Radio-tracking the missing choughs in Jersey. Photos by Liz CorryRadio-tracking choughs from the air. Photo by Liz CorryIt was Yellow’s signal, detected at Noirmont Point but coming from the St Aubin side. This is an area 9.5km south of the release site. In fact it is quite close to the last reported breeding site for choughs back at the start of the 20th Century. The cliffs to the west of the point seem favourable for a roosting chough and Noirmont has a large area of suitable feeding ground. However, these days it is a popular tourist and recreational area so disturbance is frequent. What didn’t quite fit was the exact location of the transmitter; low sandy cliffs and a forested area above them. Visual searches were hampered by the tides and when access was finally gained the signal had disappeared. No sight or sound of Yellow has been detected since. Nothing at all has been heard from Cerise.

Within the first few days of their disappearance two other search methods were adopted based on previous studies. Lee Durrell kindly allowed the use of her plane piloted by Colin Stevenson. Whilst the choughs in the aviary could be detected from the air no other signals were picked up. This method has its flaws. It is very dependent on the bird being out in the open. It is also easy to miss something as you can’t tell the pilot to “stop, back up, I think I heard something”.

A search from the sea was also attempted. Peter Haworth of New Era Vets loaned his boat and services to search the north coast. Signals from the Sorel choughs could be detected, but no others. Time constraints meant that further boat searches have not been attempted.

The releases of the six remaining choughs continued on 15th April. At first the birds were behaving as individuals. The pair Green and Mauve would fly off to the quarry in search of the buildings. The lone females, Black, Blue, and Red would follow but head to the grassy areas in the quarry. They would return to the aviary but often Black and Blue would look to Green and Mauve for guidance as to when to do this. White, the 2013 male brought over in December, did the opposite.

For the first week of releases White wouldn’t leave. Photo by Liz Corry

His behaviour was typical of a scared bird that wanted to be with other choughs but didn’t want to leave the security if the aviary. His first day of release on the 9th saw him return in the evening to the cliffs by the aviary. He spotted the team but was too anxious to take food and went back to the quarry to roost with the others. He returned the next morning and went straight into the aviary. For the next week or so any time the hatches were opened he would fly to them with the others but never actually leave. He would fly straight back to the other end and call loudly. Almost as if he was shouting “Where are you going? Why can’t we just stay here where the food is? I don’t like wide open spaces. Come back”.

White searching for the others at sunset on Day 1 of release. Photo by Liz Corry

White searching for the others at sunset on Day 1 of release. Photo by Liz Corry

Finally he caved-in to the pressure of being left alone each day and joined the group. By this point the other five had started flying and feeding together. The team found it difficult sticking to their original plan of calling birds back and locking them in as they arrived. For starters this meant waiting around all hours from dawn until dusk. We were also faced with the intelligence of the pair. Whilst they knew that returning to the aviary meant food, it also meant they would be locked in and their freedom to roam the quarry restricted. At the first sign of one of us approaching the aviary they would bolt straight out and off to the quarry. Unless they were desperately hungry or one had been caught and the other wanted to be with it. April was a hectic time for all involved. Yet all signs were positive that the release process was heading in the right direction and choughs were once again flying free in Jersey.

Red-billed chough. Sorel 9-4-2014. Photo by Mick Dryden (4)


Electrical devices may disrupt the migration of some birds

Robin. Photo by Mick DrydenFrom Birdguides and BBC

A new study has found that anthropogenic electromagnetic noise, emitted everywhere that we use electronic devices, has a negative impact on birds’ magnetic compasses. The work, which used robins as a study species at the University of Oldenburg, found that the birds could not use their compass when exposed to electromagnetic noise but, when shielded from it, soon regained their navigational abilities. The ‘noise’ is produced by equipment plugged into mains electricity supplies and through AM radio signals.

Prof Henrik Mouritsen (University of Oldenburg) said “They (birds) have their different compasses: a star compass, a sun compass and a magnetic compass”. It is thought that a built-in magnetic compass, which senses the Earth’s magnetic field, helps them to find their way. Prof Mouritsen told BBC News he stumbled across the fact that low frequency waves could be interfering with this by accident while studying European robins.

“The basic experiment we do in bird navigation research is that we put birds into an orientation cage,” he explained. “They are so eager to migrate, that they will jump in the direction in which they want to fly, and if you turn a static magnetic field in the horizontal plane they will start to jump in a different direction.

“That experiment has worked for more than 40 years in a number of locations. But here in Oldenburg, we couldn’t get that basic experiment to work until one day we got the idea to screen these huts on the inside with aluminium plates so the electromagnetic noise was reduced about 100 times.

“And suddenly the birds started to orientate.”

Over the course of the next seven years, he and his team carried out numerous experiments to look at how the weak electromagnetic field affected the behaviour of the robins. In essence, he found that birds exposed to electromagnetic “noise” between 50 kHz and 5 MHz lost all sense of direction. But when the field was blocked out, they found their bearings again.

Prof Mouritsen said that migratory birds flying over towns and cities, where there are more homes and businesses that use electrical devices, would be most affected – and they would probably resort to back-up navigational systems.

“The birds wouldn’t be completely lost because they have three different compasses: a star compass, a sun compass and a magnetic compass, and they work independently of each other. As long as it is clear they should be fine with their sun compass or star compass.”

These findings are particularly fascinating when considering the vagrancy of migratory birds. While the impact of electromagnetic noise is unlikely to be a primary cause of vagrancy, its potential to disrupt migrating birds — whether lost or following a more typical path — is evident if and when they pass through populated areas, where use of electronic devices is high, and there can be no doubt of its potential as a contributing factor. Further study on other migratory species would be useful in establishing the true extent of such problems.

Read more about the history of experiments at National Geographic and read the abstract at Nature

Robin. Photo by Mick Dryden

Gannets: technology reveals impact of fishing vessels

Gannet (3. Photo by Romano da Costa

From Exeter University

Fishing vessels have a far bigger ecological footprint than previously thought, according to research which tracked the movement and behaviour of seabirds using GPS devices.

Scientists discovered that northern gannets change their behaviour in response to the presence of large vessels such as trawlers, suggesting each boat can significantly influence the distribution and foraging patterns of these and other marine predators.

Northern gannets are known to feed on discards from fishing vessels as well as diving for fish, and their population has been steadily increasing for decades. Studies have confirmed their use of fisheries waste by showing that the birds are eating fish that have come from far deeper than they are able to dive.

Scientists at the Centre for Ecology and Conservation at the University of Exeter and the Coastal & Marine Centre at University College Cork analysed GPS tracking data from 74 gannets from six breeding colonies around Ireland, and combined these with similar GPS tracking data from fishing vessels.

Gannet (2). Photo by Romano da Costa


The information gathered revealed that gannet behaviour is influenced by fishing vessels at distances of up to 11km – the first estimate of the distance at which vessels start to affect these birds’ behaviour.

Dr Thomas Bodey of the University of Exeter, who led the study, said: “Our work suggests each fishing vessel has a substantial footprint, with the behaviour of seabirds affected within a 22km diameter circle surrounding it, much larger than we expected.”

By studying bird-boat interactions, the team also discovered that individual gannets can adjust their behaviour depending on whether the vessel is actively fishing or not, and also based on the type of fishing gear carried.

Dr Mark Jessopp of the Coastal & Marine Centre at University College Cork, a co-author of the work, added: “The fact that birds responded differently to boats depending on whether they were fishing or not, and the type of gear they were carrying, indicates just how finely attuned these animals are to the opportunities humans can provide”.

The findings help to understand the spatial influence of fisheries, which is critical to marine planning and policy – including shipping, offshore development, bycatch and fisheries themselves.

Co-author Professor Stuart Bearhop, also of the University of Exeter said: “We know that seabirds are facing many impacts within the marine environment, and we have tended to think that interactions with fishing boats were a localised phenomenon. Our work indicates that the scale of impact on these top predator’s behaviour is much broader.”

Gannets are the UK’s largest seabird, foraging up to 500 km from their colonies. They forage almost exclusively during daylight hours, with birds resting on the sea surface at night. They are visual foragers with no external nostrils and relatively small olfactory bulbs.

All fishing boats greater than 15 m in length must carry a GPS transmitter as part of the European Union Vessel Monitoring System.

The results of this study are published in Current Biology.

Fishing boat. Photo by Mick Dryden


Exciting news from Plémont

Plemont 2012  (2)The National Trust for Jersey

The National Trust for Jersey announced on 31st May that it has entered into an option agreement with Plémont Estates Limited to purchase the former holiday camp at Plémont for the sum of £7.15 million.

The Trust is in the process of confirming pledges amounting to just over £3.5 million, and is also seeking the support of the States of Jersey to provide a ‘pound for pound’ grant to match the generosity of its supporters .

plem217In this respect, Senator Sir Philip Bailhache will be lodging a proposition early next week requesting States members to agree to a one-off grant to the National Trust for Jersey to assist them in securing the area for the benefit of the Island and the people of Jersey. It is envisaged the proposition will be debated during the week commencing 1st July. If the States decides to support the Trust’s request, it is hoped that demolition works will commence later in the Autumn, with the whole site being cleared during 2015.

Celia Jeune, President of The National Trust for Jersey, stated:

“We are delighted that Plémont Estates Limited has agreed to sell this important coastal site to the National Trust for Jersey so that we may secure its future permanently.

“Over the last 18 months, we have actively sought to address the valid concerns raised by States Members in the debate of December 2012 by agreeing a fixed figure with the owners of the site and dispensing with the need for compulsory purchase. We sincerely hope that States Members will now be able to fully support our on-going efforts to help restore a significant part of our coastline forever and for everyone.

“Finally, I would like to add that the National Trust is enormously grateful to Carey Olsen for helping facilitate this agreement, as well as the owners of Plémont Estates Limited for negotiating with us to secure this outcome.”

The coastline at Plémont is very important for a great variety of bird and other animal and plant species. Both peregrine and raven nest along that stretch of cliff as do Atlantic puffin, razorbill, fulmar and gulls. Storm petrel and Manx shearwater have an enigmatic presence here too. Possibly Jersey’s largest (but declining) colony of swifts nests on the headland and kestrel, rock and meadow pipit, common whitethroat, Dartford warbler and linnet nest on the clifftops. Stonechat nested here until recently and may come back with restoration.

Meadow pipit. Photo by Paul Marshall

UPDATE At the beginning of July Jersey politicians voted to support the above plan.  National Trust for Jersey responded:

THANK YOU AGAIN…….Words cannot express our gratitude to all Islanders who have helped us to secure the future of Plémont. Without your support it would simply not have happened. From those who signed our petition forms, joined hands along St Ouen’s Bay, completed our Love Plémont cards, emailed and wrote to States members, donated and pledged money, wrote letters to the JEP, joined us in the Royal Square this morning, and made passionate speeches in the States Chamber, we are enormously grateful for your vision and determination…Plémont is indeed now safeguarded forever and for everyone