Alderney Bird Observatory – a Channel Islands initiative

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From Alderney Wildlife Trust

Please note that since this post was written, the Alderney Bird Observatory has launched its own dedicated website which can be visited here


An exciting project is being developed by the Alderney Wildlife Trust, to establish an Alderney Bird Observatory. The volunteer warden John Horton has already been appointed and will commence recording across the island and ringing at fixed sites within the Island’s largest Nature Reserve, Longis, which covers much of the eastern end of Alderney and other productive sites like Mannez Quarry.

John Horton with kestrel. Feb 2016. Photo by John Horton.John is taking a sabbatical from his London Metropolitan Police Wildlife Crimes Officer role in order to support this two year project to achieve accredited Bird Observatory status from the Bird Observatories Council, the minimum time allowed for such recognition. John is an experienced ringer (having ringed more than 60,000 birds over the past 10 years), and has full trainer status. He has a very inclusive approach to ringing, evidenced through his ringing activities in the North Kent Marshes. John has experience of the Channel Islands as he spent a couple of years working at Durrell’s Wildlife Park in Jersey before joining the Metropolitan Police.

The Observatory aims to be an educational resource highlighting the value of wildlife to the next generation. John would very much welcome any visiting ringers who wish to support the work through whatever time they can make available. Please note that all ringing activity in Alderney including seabirds should be coordinated through the Alderney Bird Observatory Warden in the first instance. Data collected from the Alderney Bird Observatory will be collated by the Channel Island Bird Ringing Scheme.

What is a Bird Observatory?

A Bird Observatory is a place which conducts long-term monitoring of bird populations and migration. Individual observatories are located at prime migration points around the British Isles and activity is conducted within a defined recording area. The first observatory was established on the Welsh island of Skokholm in 1933 and since then the British network has become renowned worldwide for its observatories, the quality of their observations and the wildlife viewing opportunities they present.

An integral part of an observatory’s work is bird ringing, the capturing of birds by a licensed ‘ringer’, who acts as the observatory’s Warden, thus enabling the study of population dynamics across an international species (British Trust for Ornithology for information on ringing here). In Alderney’s case the Bird Observatory would work within the Channel Island Ringing Scheme, in parallel to the BTO.

Observatories encourage volunteers to participate in scientific studies of birds and the environment, including ringing and more casual observations whilst out enjoying the areas they reside within. The results of these studies are made freely available to researchers and to the public who are welcome to then visit the observatories.

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What benefits would a Bird Observatory bring to Alderney?

This is a project, born out of the Living Islands initiative, which has already attracted regional media interest and expects to focus the national media on the Island. It will also bring visiting scientists and it is believed a significant number of birdwatching enthusiasts form the UK and Continental Europe, as its reputation develops. It will be the only official Bird Observatory in the Channel Islands and the most southerly Observatory in the British Isles. The Trust also envisions the facility will bring an economic boost to the fragile Alderney economy by sustainably exploiting a resource which to a large degree Alderney owns and controls, attracting visitors who would like to participate in the work of the Observatory or who simply want to visit an island which has this resource and reputation.

Such visitors will stay in the Island’s existing accommodation (mostly in the shoulder months when migration occurs) and over time there may also be the potential to establish a new ‘hostel’ class of accommodation. This would provide cheaper dormitory or shared room style accommodation for visiting groups, including universities and clubs.

Photo by John Horton. February 2016From a wildlife perspective, the Alderney Bird Observatory will provide a mechanism to ensure a high level of continuity and scientific rigor in research, both through observational sightings and through ringing. The potential for reporting sightings of rare species of birds will be vastly increased through the coordination of the Alderney Bird Observatory’s full time Warden.

The Trust sees the Alderney Bird Observatory as very much a Channel Islands initiative. Environmental organisations and individuals from Jersey, Guernsey and Sark, as well as the host island of Alderney, will all be participating in developing the Observatory.

Alderney Wildlife Trust is looking for help funding the start of this project and you can contribute here

More information is available from Alderney Wildlife Trust here

Alderney Wildlife Trust

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