November volunteer activity

JCV 2017

Sunday 5th November 2017 – La Vallette, St John – 10:30-13.00

From Jersey Conservation Volunteers

The details Based at National Trust for Jersey land at La Vallette, St John. This scenic hillside overlooking Bonne Nuit Harbour is in need of a bit of JCV TLC.

Please contact Julia at or Jon at or phone Julia on 441600 or Jon on 483193 before you go just case anything changes.

The site  National Trust for Jersey land at La Vallette, St John: scenic hillside overlooking Bonne Nuit Harbour.

Parking  Meeting point is at the bus stop overlooking Bonne Nuit Harbour. Parking is quite limited with perhaps space for 2 or 3 cars next to the bus stop; however, there is public parking down on the pier.

(Jersey phone directory Map 4, W4). Google maps here

The task In order to encourage new heather growth and enhance existing patches we are planning to cut and clear bracken and rake off the bracken litter. This will open up the soil and give light and space for any new shoots to thrive. Sycamore saplings and re-growth have been creeping onto the heathland from neighbouring woodland so we will also be aiming to remove these by either cutting or uprooting. In order to give the heathland a real boost we are hoping to have some freshly cut heather seed harvested from another site to rake into the soil.

The task is open to all but, as ever, due to the fairly steep, uneven ground a reasonable level of fitness is required.

We will meet at 10:20 for a 10:30 start. We will work until about 12:30.

Tools needed We will provide some tools and gloves but if you have any of your own then feel free to bring them along.

Clothing needed We will provide protective gloves as well as hand washing facilities and ask that all attendees kindly use them.

Children All are welcome, young or old. Children under 16 must be supervised by a parent or guardian during the task.

Work will finish by 12:30 when cake and refreshments will be served by our super talented baker Kim the Kake.

See you there!


Already vulnerable British birds are likely to be the worst affected by climate change

Common snipe. Photo by Mick Dryden (2)From RareBird Alert

Latest research by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) has found that, although several birds may benefit from a changing climate, particularly in the north, some species will be hit hard and among these are some of the most vulnerable British birds.

Researchers have long investigated the effects that climate change might have on where different species might occur in the future. However, for the first time, scientists at the BTO have investigated how climate change will affect how common different species are likely to be across Great Britain.

Analysing data for 124 different bird species allowed scientists to understand how the whole bird community might change as a consequence of climate change.

Several species (55 of the 124 considered in this study) are likely to benefit from future climate change and their populations may increase significantly by 2080. In contrast, fewer species (11 of 124) are likely to suffer from climate change. This may apparently look like good news, but in reality six of the 11 species that are projected to decline are already included in the British red list of the birds that are at highest risk of local extinction (grey partridge, curlew, grasshopper warbler, ring ouzel, pied flycatcher and yellowhammer), two, curlew and yellowhammer, are on Jersey’s red list (here), and four (red grouse, common snipe, willow warbler and meadow pipit) are currently in the amber list (willow warbler is red on Jersey’s red list!). These species will be at even greater risk of extinction if urgent actions are not taken to improve the habitats and landscapes they require to give them a chance to adapt to climate change.

Ring ouzel (3). Photo by Mick Dryden

In contrast, 40 of the 55 species that are likely to increase are either green-listed, which means they are not currently threatened, or do not yet breed in Britain. This highlights how climate change will more seriously hit those species that are already of conservation concern.

Dario Massimino, Research Ecologist at BTO, and lead author on the paper, said, “This is the first time that count data have been used for future projections on such a large-scale and for so many species, and the findings are very interesting. Gains in the north and west, apparent stability in the south-east and a worsening scenario for those species already in precipitous decline. Without the dedication of BTO volunteers who collect the observations, this type of analysis just wouldn’t be possible; thank you to them all.”

Dr Mark Eaton, RSPB Principal Conservation Scientist said: “This paper serves as a clear warning that we must rise to the challenge of climate change if we are to avoid seeing species disappear from the UK. We already know that climate change is among the greatest long-term threats to our wildlife and research like this is invaluable by identifying the individual species that could be lost if we fail to act. Using the findings of this work we can plan for the future and the role the UK must play in protecting vital habitats and helping species adapt to a changing world.”

Among the 124 breeding bird species, researchers also considered some which are not yet present in Great Britain but could potentially colonise if they take advantage of higher temperatures. To achieve this, data from the UK Breeding Bird Survey were combined with data from its French counterpart (the Suivi Temporel des Oiseaux Communs). French data were included to better understand how species respond to warmer temperatures that are found in France but yet to occur in Great Britain, and to consider potential colonists such as melodious warbler and tawny pipit.

Tawny pipit. Photo by Mick Dryden

As a consequence of these responses to climate change, different regions of Britain will see net gains and losses in bird numbers. The projections show that the largest gains will mostly be in northern and north-western Scotland and other smaller areas of western Britain. The south-east shows apparent stability, but this is a result of potentially large declines in red-listed species and compensating increases in green-listed species. We are likely to see dramatic changes in the bird community throughout British Isles, but in particular in the west of Scotland.

The full paper Projected reductions in climatic suitability for vulnerable British birds can be accessed here

Birds On The Edge and Durrell: an evening with Dr Julian Hume, Saturday 11th November 2017

timthumbBirds On The Edge and Durrell: an evening with Dr Julian Hume of the Natural History Museum

In the footsteps of a hairdresser: Dodos, giant tortoises and the fossil record of the Mascarenes

Jersey Zoo Discovery Centre – 1900 on 11th November 2017

Animals and plants on islands often evolve in isolation of those on the mainland – a widely studied discipline know as island biogeography (see e.g. site here). Without the same pressures that their relatives might be facing the island forms can become very different to their ancestors. And not just species but the ecosystems that they live in may be very different, having been sculpted by a different set of influences – in the absence of predators unlikely species can become dominant or become landscape engineers like the tortoises in the Galapagos or the Indian Ocean islands and geese and geese-like ducks in Hawaii.

However, when the balance of these ecosystems is upset the whole thing can come crashing down. Unique animals, plants, whole ecosystems can disappear. Typically, and perhaps unsurprisingly, the usual culprit that brings about these crashes, or least usual for the last few millennia, is us humans. With help of course, from the plants and animals that come with us.

Lost landCloser to the mainland, the wildlife and ecosystems of the Channel Islands, may not seem like classic examples of island biogeography. However, like more distant oceanic islands we currently have no native predatory mammals (several introduced ones) and none of the normal natural grazers to keep vegetation in check (not since we became islands probably) the latter roles currently partially filled by introduced rabbits and, at least in places, by managed sheep and cattle. And like the Mascarenes, Hawaii and New Zealand we are seeing the impacts of man and the animals and plants we like to surround ourselves with.

Birds On The Edge welcomes Dr Julian Hume, a recognised authority on islands, their unique species, their ecosystems Extinct birds (2)and just what can go wrong with them when man gets involved. Julian will give a talk on Friday 11th November at Jersey Zoo. Julian has authored many books on extinct birds, globally and particularly from the Hawaiian and Mascarene Islands (Mauritius, Reunion and Rodrigues). However, Julian is much more than an author though, his intense research into his subjects has included reconstructing and painting species known only from bones or travellers notebooks and establishing their niche in ecosystems once untroubled by

Extinct birds (Hawaii)An expert on the dodo, a species very familiar to Channel Islanders, Julian will talk about his research into the birdlife of Mauritius and his most recent discoveries on the life and observations of Etienne Thirioux, the hairdresser and amateur naturalist, whose contribution to the fossil record of Mauritius has never been bettered. Julian will illustrate his talk with contemporary artwork and his own paintings. He will reflect too on just how easily islands and their natural inhabitants can be changed for ever.

Please come along to this free presentation at Jersey Zoo’s Discovery Centre (formerly the Princess Royal Pavilion) at 1900 on Saturday 11th November. Please come to Zoo entrance a few minutes before 1900 for access.

Julian P Hume website

Julian P Hume Wikipedia 


Chough report: September 2017

by Liz Corry

Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.” – George Eliot
If that bird happens to be a Jersey chough, substitute “earth” for Les Landes and “successive autumns” for lots and lots of insects. For the first time since the choughs have been living at liberty, the entire flock have snubbed their morning supplemental feed in favour of wild pickings out at Les Landes.

Chough spotting in the middle of Les Landes Racecourse (the red circles indicate choughs, not cowpats). Photo by Liz Corry.

Choughs taking flight at Les Landes Racecourse. Photo by Liz Corry.

They have been flipping over and picking apart cow pats, probing the grass on the spectators’ stand at the Racecourse for cranefly larvae, and scouring the cliff face for anything else they can prise out of the ground.

A group of choughs (under the arrow) and starlings foraging in the spectators’ area of the Racecourse. Photo by Liz Corry.

This is obviously encouraging news for the project. The choughs are clearly content and they are gaining popularity with the public, both locals and tourists who delight in watching their antics. Especially the flying displays.

For the lone observer tasked with keeping track of all 38 choughs it is a roller coaster of emotions; pride, joy, irritation, despair etc. The blessed things don’t stay still nor in one group and it is near impossible to read leg rings. Add to that the inevitable sod’s law factor and you get events such as (1) Racecourse tractor mowing back and forth along your observation site (2) friendly kestrel spotting lunch slap bang in the middle of the foraging chough flock sending them scattering just as you are half way through counting said flock and (3) random 10 minute hail storm!

La Nethe Falaise is a favourite spot for the choughs to hang out when they are up at Grosnez. Photo by Liz Corry.

There is, however, one trick of the trade that can be deployed and moments of need. It should only be practised by a trained professional. It can only be practised by a trained professional since without the recognition from the foster-reared and hand-reared choughs it probably wouldn’t work and you would be left looking like a right Parus major (one for the bird geeks).

Like any species, the offer of free food is too tempting and providing I can get close enough in an area where the birds do not feel threatened I can get the choughs to gather together in one place. Note in the video and photos the choughs closest to me are Ubè and Vicq, both foster-reared, and a couple of the older adults who have known me for four years.

Thirty of the choughs getting a sneaky supplemental feed at Les Landes Racecourse. Photo by Liz Corry.

It is possible to identify most of the leg rings when the choughs are this close. Right up until the point when sod’s law example number 2 comes into play. After that, only the clingy types stay behind begging for more free food.
For the past few weeks the maximum number of choughs at any one time has been thirty-four. There should be thirty-eight. The individuals who appear to be absent most often are Lee and Caûvette, their chick Pink, and Carmine another wild chick hatched this year.

Carmine, a wild chick from this year, was last seen at the aviary on September 2nd. Photo by Liz Corry.

Whilst it would be nice to assume Pink is with her parents, both chicks are of an age now not to be dependent on their parents. Furthermore they were both showing signs of having nematodes back in August. Failed attempts to catch them up in the aviary meant that they were never treated before they were last seen at Sorel at the start of September.
It is quite possible that Carmine and Pink have sadly perished. Ever optimistic we will continue monitoring the population and ask the public to keep their eyes (and ears) open.

As a footnote, apologies for the media quality this month. The trusty camera has packed up and I am relying on my camera phone!