Jersey choughs stretch their wings

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Well, it had to happen. After staying patiently around the release aviary at Sorel for several months, the choughs have begun to explore the Island’s coastline. On Monday (27th October) we received the first reports of choughs away from the north coast. At first slightly sceptical, it quickly became obvious that all 16 birds had left to do some exploring. It also, very quickly, became apparent that the birds were not all together.

The 10 young birds (all reared this year) had gone down to the Island’s south-west, to cliff sites where choughs once bred. The chough team had recorded all the birds at Devil’s Hole shortly after dawn so were surprised to hear that they were now several miles away. The older six birds had also gone on an expedition but only got about half way along St Ouen’s Bay before heading home. The team caught up with the very settled young birds and watched them head north again in time for lunch! All the birds remained at Sorel throughout the afternoon and roosted there.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACome Tuesday, we were interested to see what would happen. The 10 flew south again and were tracked quickly. Again they flew home for lunch. On Wednesday we lay in wait for them, watched them leave the north coast and saw them arrive in the south-west. We also timed them leaving and arriving back ‘home’ for their lunch. The pattern seemed set and we have a good idea of the route they were taking and the landmarks they were using. The commuting flights were taking around 15 minutes although an impressive 11 minutes was recorded on Thursday.

While the younger birds were roaming a little like a gang of teenagers the older birds were pretty well staying put. Except for a brief wander west along the north coast. The pattern seemed set. Until Sunday, when, in heavy early morning rain, no one moved! It will be interesting to see what happens next. We wondered exactly how the 10 found the traditional sites in the south-west when, thanks to the team, we knew roughly where the birds were each day and couldn’t see when they had had time to find the new spots. Then, we thought, if they soar (as they often do) above Sorel they can see all the Jersey coastline. Is that how they knew where to go? It makes sense too when you realise that the commuting flights are direct and not following the coastline.

We received several very important sightings of the birds during the week and would not have put the whole story together without them. We are grateful to everyone who sent in sightings through the website, by phone or through social media. The wanderings are, no doubt, going to increase from now on so please carry on with the sightings. Even with transmitters on the younger birds we can lose track of them if they are moving fast. Your sightings can help us piece together the birds’ activities and the routes taken. You can use the webpage here, through the Birds On The Edge email address birdsote@gmail.com, social media, directly to the team or through Jersey Birds.

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