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.

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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.

One thought on “Chough report: February 2018

  1. For those who haven’t seen it, may I refer readers to my 1990 paper ‘Observations on two Red-billed Choughs Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax in Cornwall: habitat use and food intake’. Bird Study 37: 199-209. This deals very much with winter feeding strategies of two pioneer birds on the Rame Peninsula during very cold weather. Wonderful progress on CI. Well done to all concerned, we always knew it was possible.

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