Feed the birds, but be aware of risks – especially if you feed the gulls in Jersey!

Blue tit (2). Photo by Mick DrydenFrom The BBC

Scientists are warning of the risks of wild birds spreading diseases when they gather at feeders in gardens. Experts led by the Zoological Society of London say people should continue to feed birds, especially in winter, but should be aware of the risks.

A newly published review of 25 years’ worth of data has identified emerging threats to garden birds. Finches, doves and pigeons are vulnerable to a parasite infection and form of bird pox is becoming more common, causing warty-like lumps on the bodies of great tits and other birds while other disease threats, such as salmonella, appear to be declining. If birds look sick, food should be withdrawn temporarily, the authors say.

Chaffinch 2. Photo by Mick Dryden

“Our study shows how three of the most common diseases that affect British garden birds have changed both dramatically and unpredictably over the past decade, both in terms of the species they affect and their patterns of occurrence,” said Dr Becki Lawson from ZSL’s Institute of Zoology.

Common signs that a wild bird is ill include unusually fluffed-up plumage and lethargy. Diseases can be spread through droppings or regurgitated food around bird feeders.

Finding out more about the changing pattern of diseases will help to ensure that garden birds can be fed safely, say the researchers. ZSL, working with experts from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), say people who notice sick birds should:

  • take practical steps to minimise risks
  • report your observations to the Garden Wildlife Health Project
  • seek advice from a vet
  • withdraw food for a while to let birds disperse over a wider area
  • Feed birds in moderation, clean bird feeders regularly, and rotate feeding sites.

Co-researcher Kate Risely from the BTO (BTO News) said anyone who feeds wild birds should be aware of their responsibilities for preventing disease.

She told BBC News: “Be very vigilant – enjoy feeding the birds but educate yourself about what the risks are and what to do if you see signs of disease.”

It was important to continue to feed wild birds, especially in winter, when they need lots of food to survive, she said.

The review found that patterns of infection in wild birds are changing. This may be influenced by wild birds congregating at bird feeders and coming into contact with species they don’t encounter naturally in the wild.

Download the full review Health hazards to wild birds and risk factors associated with anthropogenic food provisioning here

Meanwhile, in Jersey

Herring gull (2). Photo by Mick DrydenChanges to a law to try to reduce problems with seagulls and other wild birds are now in place (see update here). Under the Statutory Nuisances (Jersey) Regulations 2017, it’s against the law to feed wild birds or other creatures in a way that means they become a nuisance or harmful to health. Some birds and rodents carry diseases which can be harmful to human health.

Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said (BBC 13 March 1256):

  • Don’t scatter food on the ground where it is an easy source of food for rodents
  • Bird tables can be accessible to rodents. Don’t overstock them or provide large quantities or unsuitable foods
  • Use bird feeders with a catch tray to reduce debris falling on the ground
  • Site your feeders with care. Suspending them from a metal wire is the only way to be certain rodents won’t get into them
  • Ideally, place a small amount of food in feeders daily to ensure they are emptied daily
  • Don’t use your garden as a dump for unwanted food waste, the birds may not want it but rats and mice probably will
  • Seagulls are protected under the Jersey wildlife law and can only be moved by licensed pest controllers.

The Department said it had taken the action as some birds and rodents carry diseases that can be “very harmful to human health” and gulls were beginning to build their nests and are attracted to places with easily available food.

Anyone found to be feeding (the gulls) illegally would be served with an abatement notice to either stop or restrict their activity. If ignored it would be an offence and the person responsible could be prosecuted.

Herring gull. Photo by Mick Dryden


Another first for Jersey – Lesser horseshoe bat

Lesser horseshoe bat (Jersey). Photo by Ani BinetFrom Annyctalus Ecology

We are delighted to announce that we have confirmed another new bat species for Jersey. A single Rhinolophus hipposideros, or Lesser horseshoe bat, was spotted during our final hibernation survey of the winter on Sunday 4th March 2018. This bat species can be found on the nearby Cherbourg Peninsula, as well as in south west England, and Wales, but it is a first for Jersey.

Lesser horseshoe bat (UK). Photo by Daniel Whitby

Lesser horseshoe bats are notoriously difficult to record on bat detectors due to having a very high frequency, directional call. A single file containing echolocation calls which appeared to be of this species was previously recorded at the same site in September 2016, but despite numerous surveys of the site, both visual and using capture techniques and almost constant deployment of static bat detectors at the site since June 2017 no further records of the species were made, until now.

Horseshoe bats are listed under Annex II of the Habitat Directive due to their rarity and specific habitat requirements. In most areas horseshoe bat summer colonies are usually found in the roofs of larger rural houses and stable blocks offering a range of roof spaces. They are very shy and require dark vegetated corridors in which to travel as well as woodland areas in which to feed.

Horseshoe bats are very distinctive in appearance and are the only UK bat species which hang freely when roosting. If you have seen horseshoe bats within your property, or elsewhere in the Island we would love to hear from you in order to allow us to learn more about this species. We would also welcome any information about other bat roosts! Please send your roost information to us at ani@jerseybatgirl.co.uk or to the Jersey Bat Group on enquiries@jerseybatgroup.org

Chough report: February 2018

By Liz Corry

Chough update

February – the shortest month of the year and the shortest report to date. The chough population has remained at 35 birds. None have shown signs of being sick. We have not witnessed any fights within the group or with any other species.

Not all are present for the afternoon feeds, but that is not unusual. The breeding season is upon us and pairs are starting to spend more time away from the group. A breakaway pair at Les Landes feed there during the day, returning to Sorel to roost.

Choughs at Les Landes. February 2018 (2). Photo by Liz Corry

Birds in foreground are choughs foraging at Les Landes (see below). February 2018. Photo by Liz Corry

Cauvette with (we suspect) Lee foraging at Les Landes Racecourse. Photo by Liz Corry.

There has also been an unconfirmed report of four choughs over Gorey Village. This is the east side of the Island and, while it’s uncommon to see choughs there, it’s not impossible.

The one afternoon when we did have all 35 choughs at the feed was the coldest of the month. The wind chill factor brought the temperatures down to -10°C and not surprisingly the birds wanted to stock up their energy stores with free food.

So all in all February was underwhelming.

I have now seriously jinxed March.

Planning Permission

As we reported here in November, permission was sought from Jersey’s Department of the Environment Planning and Building Services to extend the life of the Sorel aviary for another five years. We received approval for this extension on 6th February and are grateful to Planning for this. You can see details of the application and approval here.

DIY rodent control

With a further five years of the aviary we have been kept busy trying to rodent proof as best as possible. Guttering has been fitted along the edges of he aviary where the netting meets the timber. Rats are good climbers and we suspect they have been climbing the half-inch weldmesh along the polytunnel to get to the netting, chew holes, and enter the aviary. The slippy surface of the half round guttering should be of suitable size and shape to deter the rats. This technique is successful with our polytunnel aviaries at the zoo. The question is, will it work with the Sorel rats?

Upturned half-round guttering added to the aviary as a rodent deterrent. Photo by Liz Corry.

The inner partition dividing the tunnel into two sections has also been modified. There are several holes running along the ground where the rats have tunnelled or chewed through once inside. We have sunk half inch mesh into the ground and added plastic panels.

There are new food stands to replace the picnic tables which finally broke after five years. The stands have covers around the bases to deter rodents.


The best way to deter the rodents is to remove the food source they are seeking inside the aviary. Choughs are messy eaters when it comes to the supplemental feed. They flick pellet around looking for mealworms first, before going back to the pellet.

We are trying out a new enclosed feeder intended for chickens. If the choughs take to it we can look at adapting the existing feeders.

March volunteer activity

Hedge planting with Birds On The Edge (Resize)Sunday 11th March 2018 – Queen’s Valley, St Martin – 10:30-13.00

From Jersey Conservation Volunteers

The details

Planting hedges for Birds On The Edge(s)

Now that we have hopefully seen the back of the cold weather, this month’s task sees us back to hedge planting, this time for Birds On The Edge and we will be helping Cris and Will to plant some hedges in St Martin.

Please contact Julia at j.meldrum@gov.je or Jon at jonparkes@nationaltrust.je or phone Julia on 441600 or Jon on 483193 before you go just case anything changes.

The site  Meet at Queen’s Valley Reservoir (top/north car park), by kind permission of Jersey Water, from here it is a five minute walk to the planting area at the junction of Le Passage de L’Hopital and Les Monts.

Parking There is parking at the meeting point: Jersey phone directory Map 11, JJ15; Google maps here

The task The hedges will be planted at a ‘winter bird crop’ site, where birds spend the winter feeding on sunflowers and other plants which have been planted just for them. The hedges will offer them protection and a safe place to rest between feeds or to roost, increasing the value of the site for the birds. The hedges will also provide a source of flowers for pollinators, bugs, buds, berries, nesting material, shelter and corridors to many other wildlife in the area.

We will meet at 10.20 to ensure we start at 10:30 prompt and plan to work until about 12:30

Tools needed Please bring your own spade if you have one (note garden forks and trowels are not suitable for this task), we have some spades but not enough for all.

Clothing needed. It may be cold and, being Jersey, it may be wet so please dress sensibly and wellies may be absolutely essential!

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

We will work until about 12:30, when we stop for a hot drink, a slice of Kim’s cake and a chat about what an excellent job we have done.

See you there!


Are you interested in joining the ranks of Jersey’s butterfly recording volunteers?

Gatekeeper. Photo by Mick DrydenThe Jersey Butterfly Monitoring Scheme is a Department of the Environment initiative set up in 2004. The scheme depends on volunteer recorders who make a weekly count of butterflies at around 35 locations across the Island. Butterflies are an important indicator of the general health of the countryside, so this information helps the department to monitor the Island’s ecosystems and countryside. See previous BOTE reports here and here and read the report The State of Jersey’s Butterflies: Jersey Butterfly Monitoring Scheme 2004 to 2013 here


Training will be held at Howard Davis Farm (Committee Room, upstairs) (location here) at 10am until 1pm on Saturday 24th March and everyone is welcome, whether you are an experienced volunteer or a complete novice.

You will be taught how to walk a transect and also butterfly identification.  If you have been part of the volunteer team for a while and feel you do not need further training, you may wish to come anyway and share your experiences or provide some feedback.

To find out more or to book a place please contact Denise McGowan Tel: +44 (0)1534 441606 (after 14th March) or Email: d.mcgowan@gov.je

Clouded yellow. Photo by Mick Dryden