Can we bring back a missing predator?

Paul Stammers will present Returning a top predator: the reintroduction of ospreys in England at Durrell’s Academy Lecture Theatre at 19.30 on Friday 8th March. Free entry and everyone welcome.

We are increasingly familiar with rewilding environments: trying to bring back missing elements such as those important species that helped shape the landscape and the way that others including ourselves have lived. Think of beavers, marmots, bison and deer – all species returned successfully to parts of Europe. But, they are herbivores, how easy is it to bring back a predator? Well, agencies in the UK have become very good at bringing back predatory birds like the white-tailed eagle and the red kite. Less well known perhaps is the story with the osprey – a bird that famously came back naturally to Scotland in 1954 after a long absence and some serious effort to stop it leaving again. More recently this iconic bird has been directly restored in England, at Rutland Water, and work is underway in Poole Harbour which will see ospreys nesting once again in southern England.

Paul Stammers was born in Norfolk, the son of a gamekeeper. After leaving college, Paul joined Rolls Royce in Derby to serve an Engineer Apprenticeship and gained a degree in mechanical engineering. He went on to work on the design and testing of the RB211 engine at Derby and Hucknall.

In 1972 Paul was approached by Mars Ltd to join their design team at Melton Mowbray where he went to work in design, project engineering, production management, local external relations and finally environmental management. He then took the decision to retire at 50-years old to follow his interests in conservation.

In 1996 Paul started as a volunteer on The Rutland Osprey Project, assisting with translocation of osprey chicks from Scotland to Rutland Water. In 2007 he became a member of staff working with Dr Tim Mackrill, Project Officer Rutland Ospreys for the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust and Anglian Water.

During the last 12 years Paul has helped in the day-to-day running of the project and establishing a breeding colony of nine pairs of ospreys and in excess of 20 adult birds returning each year to the local area. Between 2011 and 2019 Paul regularly visited both Gambia and Senegal tracking ospreys and visiting schools that are supported by the project and LRWT.

At the end of the 2018 season Paul decided to step down from his staff position but continue to work as a volunteer with the project. In September 2018 he was appointed Trustee of the Osprey Leadership Foundation. The aim of the Foundation is to give young people the opportunity to study and work in conservation in both the UK and West Africa.

On Friday, Paul will talk about the translocation of ospreys to Rutland, the establishment of a colony and then on to Africa and the work with schools in The Gambia. Finally he will give a summary of the aims of the Osprey Leadership Foundation.

During his visit, Paul will have a look at Jersey with ospreys in mind. He will come to us from Guernsey where he will have been hosted by BOTE friend, and conservation stalwart, Vic Froome. Vic will come across with Paul, not least as he likes to see some choughs from time to time!

Durrell’s Academy is at the Les Noyers Hostel site across the green car park from the Zoo entrance (map here) . Please park on the grass or walk over from the main car park (you may need to bring a torch).

February volunteer activity

Sunday 10th February 2019 – Le Mont, Rue des Mans, St Brelade – 10:30-13.00

From Jersey Conservation Volunteers

The details Please note that due to ongoing industrial action, this month’s task will be managed by Robin and the team from Jersey Trees for Life

Task As part of the Jersey Trees for Life ongoing hedgerow campaign, native trees and hedging whips will be planted around fields in St Brelade. The purpose of this planting is to continue linking and enlarging the areas previously planted. The campaign project itself is to enable the establishment of wildlife corridors across the Island primarily for the benefit of squirrels, bats, hedgehogs and our native bird species, as well as the re-instigating of former hedgerows lost due to farming and natural causes. Jersey Trees for Life view this particular area of their work as fundamental in their core aims.

If you have any questions, or if you wish to be added to the Jersey Conservation Volunteers email list, please contact either Julia Clively (tel: 441600; or Jon Parkes (tel: 483193;

The site The property is called Le Mont, Rue des Mans, St Brelade. One of the Trees for Life Team will be on hand at the entrance to guide you to the parking place.  Jersey phone directory: Map 13, square M17. Google maps here

Parking Parking will be tight, so if you can share a lift it would be ideal. There may be parking spaces at the site or along the road.

Meet at 10.20 promptly for a 10.30 start. We will be finished work by 12.30 for well-earned refreshments.

Tools needed Please bring a spade if you have one, (please note that trowels, shovels and forks will not be suitable for this task!) Jersey Trees for Life can provide a limited number of spades and other tools.

Clothing needed Please check the weather for the day and bring suitable clothing, wet weather gear and wellies may be necessary but fingers crossed for some February sun! We can supply a pair of gardening gloves if you don’t have them, but you may have a favourite pair you’d like to bring.

Children All are welcome, young or old although we do ask that volunteers under 16 years of age are accompanied by an adult.

Refreshments After all the trees have been planted, Kim will reward you with a hot drink and a slice of homemade cake.



Chough report: January 2019

A chatter of choughs following the keeper along the cliff path. Photo by Liz Corry.

By Liz Corry

January was a pretty standard month for the choughs; forage, fly, try not to freeze. The weather is still mild considering the time of year although we have experienced gales, sleet, and hail*. The choughs don’t appear to be desperately hungry for their supplemental food which can only be a good thing. Even if it does make the staff feel a little redundant.

Take, for example, the day the choughs were not at the aviary for the supplemental feed. I trudged back to the car park only to find them hanging out at the motocross track. Their reaction was more pet dog trying its luck than wild bird in need of food for survival.

*an amendment was needed prior to publishing; we had snow! Not quite the polar vortex that North America are experiencing, but snow nevertheless. 

Replacement rings

We continue trying to catch up birds to check their leg rings and replace where necessary. We have two birds sporting identical leg ring combinations right now making it difficult to distinguish individuals. Even harder when the sheep muscle in on the action.

Sheep doing their best chough impressions at the supplemental feed. Photo by Liz Corry.

Since the birds are not desperate for the supplemental food they lack the motivation to go inside the aviary when we call them. They fly over to look then just sit on the roof preening and staring at staff who are poised ready to drop the hatches. The wet windy weather has also hampered plans.

Ubé being fitted with a replacement grey ring by keeper Hannah. Photo by Liz Corry.

We managed to catch one group this month. Of the twelve birds trapped inside only three needed new rings; Kevin, Wally, and Ubé. Each bird is weighed before being released so at least we came away with some useful data. All the birds fell into the healthy weight range for a chough, which again shows that they are doing well in the wild.

Preparations for the breeding season

As January came to an end the breeding pairs started to gear up for the new breeding season ahead. Lots of preening and pair-bonding on show at Sorel and Les Landes. Earl and Xaviour are frequenting Plémont again no doubt scouting out a suitable nest site.

I met with Ronez’s Toby Carteret and Paul Pinel to discuss plans for this season down in the quarry. Toby and his team will try and adapt the nest-boxes so we can have a better viewing angle from the nest cameras and allow more air to circulate inside for the nest. We have identified last year’s nest sites and co-ordinated planned maintenance work at the site to reduce disturbance to a minimum. We could have twelve to fourteen pairs trying to breed this year so it will definitely take a coordinated effort to find and monitor all the nests.

Preparations underway at Ronez for the start of the new breeding season. Photo by Liz Corry.

I was also pleased to hand over several sets of child-friendly binoculars for the school groups who visit the quarry. These were bought with money from the Insurance Corporation Award we received last year. Along with the use of a spotting scope, staff are hoping the children will see there is more to a life in a quarry than blasting rocks (admittedly the latter is way more exciting). The pupils can look out for choughs, peregrines and a penguin (apparently there is one!). Hopefully we can inspire the next generation of conservation-focused quarry workers.

Carbon-friendly choughs

We have always been conscientious about our impact on the environment when working on the north coast. The aviary, for example, is a temporary structure that will be removed and ‘recycled’ when no longer needed. Food waste is removed from the site, rusty hinges sent to scrap metal, used batteries sent for recycling etc.

Thanks to a small grant from the Jersey Ecology Trust Fund (ETF) we have stepped up our eco-friendly status for 2019. Firstly, we purchased a battery powered strimmer from Eastern Garden Machinery along with the necessary safety gear. The EGO strimmer is powered by a lithium battery. The same battery can be used in different attachments such as hedge trimmer, leaf blower, flame thrower…..ok last one made up, but you get the idea.

The EGO Powerplus is an environmentally friendly power tool (Its a little hard to take a selfie whilst strimming).

Up until now we have been using a petrol strimmer and push lawn mower to maintain the short grass in and around the aviary. Not only is ditching fossil fuel better for the environment, the battery-powered strimmer is quieter. Important for the birds (and the neighbours in Mourier Valley!).

Our capacity for rainwater storage at the aviary is increasing thanks to money from the ETF. Photo by Liz Corry.

The second element of our upgrade focuses on water sustainability. We already collect rainwater for use at the aviary. However, the container often overflows after just one downpour; in summer it runs dry.

Fed up of dragging jerry cans along the cliff path, we will install a second water butt outside and have an extra 25 litre container in the keeper porch.

Staying inside, we have switched to biodegradable bin liners and have a two year supply stock-piled thanks to the grant (nothing to do with Brexit).

Finally, we purchased a solar-powered charger for phones, tablets, the trail camera, and GoPro used by project staff. Smartphones are increasingly important in fieldwork. From the safety aspect of staying in touch, to ever-developing apps allowing in-field data recording. Sorel’s solar power will reduce electricity demands and save the pennies.

RAV Power solar charger soaking up the sun on the observation bench. Photo by Liz Corry.

Waiting for the clouds to break with the RAVPower solar charger. Photo by Liz Corry.

New year, new sign

Walkers at Sorel will have noticed we have replaced the sign at the car park. Long overdue, we needed to update the text to reflect the fact that Jersey has a resident population of choughs once again. It also details why we have sheep grazing the north coast and the other areas around Jersey you can spot the choughs. We are hoping this will encourage visitors to explore Jersey’s National Park. Thanks go to Durrell’s graphic designer Rich Howell and Site Services’ Trevor Smith for installing it.

Return of the Birds On The Edge sign to Sorel. Photo by Liz Corry.

Student participation at Sorel

Speaking of visitors, we have seen our first university field trips of the year visit Sorel to learn about Birds On The Edge first hand. Accompanied by a talk in the warmth of Durrell Academy’s lecture theatre, the undergraduate and postgraduate students are taken to Sorel and shown the supplemental feed, grazing sheep, and conservation fields. The rest of their week is spent in the zoo or lecture theatre.

From these visits we often have students interested in taking up projects for their dissertations. We already have three students lined up to visit Jersey and take part in research to benefit the project. We are still lacking a student placement to help with the daily running of the work. As student debts and the cost of living rises we have to be realistic – Jersey is not the most practical of places to relocate to for a student project. Especially the chough project which requires transportation around the Island. Plans are afoot to try and rectify this. We cannot simply rely on the appeal of the choughs and the experienced gained to attract student placements.

Although come on, who wouldn’t want to work with these guys….