How many birds are there in the Channel Islands? – an update

Kestrel and Elizabeth Castle. Photo by Romano da CostaHow many birds are there in the islands? That is bird species. Not individual birds as we can never really know that (well, except for the choughs). Each, since year since 2006 we have jointly published a list of the species seen on Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Sark and the sea area and smaller islands associated with each. The latest list, updated to the end of December 2015 is now available to download here and on our islands’ local bird sites.

Disappointingly there were no new species for the region recorded during 2015 but there were some minor changes to the individual Islands’ lists. Guernsey picked up its first glossy ibis (one at Vale Pond in October) and Alderney its first long-tailed skua (at sea in August). Alderney (on 8th November) and Jersey (on 22nd November) saw their first rose-breasted grosbeak – both records presumed to be the same bird (Guernsey had one of these North American vagrants in 1987 and Sark one in 1975).

Dartford warbler July 2006. Photo by Mick DrydenA remarkable 26 roseate terns were recorded in Jersey during the year and may possibly have bred. A tree sparrow put in a rare appearance in Guernsey – this bird has been recorded each autumn flying over Noirmont, Jersey, in recent years – and 22 bee-eaters were recorded in Jersey. Dartford warblers had mixed fortunes with two of these former breeding birds recorded in Guernsey but none were in Sark where the species had been breeding since 2002.

Other notable birds included Canada geese in Jersey and Guernsey, Guernsey’s sixth record of the rapidly increasing great egret, Alderney’s third black stork and second great bustard (like the 2014 bird the latter came from the UK reintroduction project), Little (house) swift. Photo by Mick DrydenGuernsey’s second and the islands’ third little (or house) swift, Jersey’s fourth red-footed falcon, Alderney’s third rose-coloured starling and Guernsey’s fifth black-headed bunting (all Channel Island records of this bird are from Guernsey).

And, of course, the first red-billed chough (Dusty) to hatch in the wild in Jersey for around 100 years put in an appearance in June.

Jersey’s bird total has risen to 330 and Alderney’s to 287. Guernsey’s, however, has actually dropped to 323 as they have removed three species of wildfowl from their list as their provenance is unknown (i.e. they could have hopped over someone’s fence). These three, barnacle goose, mandarin and red-crested pochard are renown escapees but two (the goose and the pochard) have been recorded reliably in Jersey. Mandarin have established, from formerly captive birds, a small but seemingly self-supporting population in Jersey as they have in the UK. Interestingly, a flock of, at least formerly, captive barnacle geese commute regularly between Guernsey and Jersey.

How will 2016 change things? One thing is certain, since the launch of the Alderney Bird Observatory, we could have a much clearer idea of bird migration through our islands.

Barnacle geese fly in. July 2016. Photo by Mick Dryden

Download the Working list of Channel Islands birds to December 2015 here