Chough report: August 2019

By Liz Corry 

August has been a relatively quiet month. The youngsters are showing increasing signs of independence and the flock is spending more time exploring the island.

The parents have stopped feeding their young as the three-month-old chicks are independent…well almost. Photo by Liz Corry.

The results are in

Results came back from the UK lab regarding the DNA sexing samples. From the twelve we sent off, three are male and five are female. And one was Chewbacca (see below). We need to re-sample three birds due to a mix up in the lab and we still have the Plémont chick to catch.

DNA sexing results have shown ‘PB-CS‘ is one of at least five females hatched this year. Photo by Liz Corry.

There is growing concern for four birds as they have not been seen in a long time. We receive reports from Plémont of 2, 3, 5 birds, but it doesn’t necessarily mean Earl, Xaviour, or their chick are present in that group.

Chough travels around the north coast

On the occasions when I have been able to go on a ‘chough hunt’ around Jersey, I fail to see the missing chicks. In fact, quite often I fail to see any choughs! 

I did watch Earl and Xaviour at Plémont one evening. Lovely to see them foraging around the cliffs; Earl looked to have been bathing in the intertidal zone. No sign of a third chough on that occasion.

Chough or rabbit hole? A favourite pastime of chough watchers at Plémont. Photo by Liz Corry.

Over at Les Landes, the only choughs I have seen there this month were Beanie Baby and Beaker. A surprise pairing and a delight to see. They kept me on my toes, literally, as I only heard them after completing a lap of the racecourse. They were over by the MP3 tower foraging on the cliffs above a group of rock climbers. As I reached the cliffs they decided to fly over to….the racecourse, so back I went. They waited for me to arrive, perched on the railings so I could see their leg rings, then flew mockingly over to  Le Pinacle

Two choughs picking out insects from the soil on the far end of Les Landes Racecourse. Photo by Liz Corry

Anyone who knows the area is fully aware of how the footpaths are interwoven into the heather and gorse landscape. The only straight lines belong to the model aircraft runway to the south. Cue WW2 fighter planes ducking and diving overhead as I navigate over to Le Pinacle, a Neolithic site with the ruins of an old temple (200 AD), to find two choughs perched on top of the granite stack. 

You must navigate the heather and gorse to reach the MP3 tower in the distance. Photo by Liz Corry.

For the visitor, it is breathtaking scenery. For the chough monitor, it is breath-holding for this area is synonymous with peregrines. The choughs were risking life and limb. I didn’t have to hold my breath for long as they moved on again. This time I lost them as they followed the cliff face obscured from my view.

Le Pinacle is a granite stack where Neolithic treasures have been unearthed as well as the visible ruins of a temple dating back to 200 AD. Photo by Liz Corry.

Of course, just because I have not seen them doesn’t mean the choughs are not around. A tourist spotted two choughs at Les Landes and emailed the few photos she managed to snap before they flew away (bird not tourist). Squinting at the leg rings I think she saw Beaker and guessing the second was Beanie Baby!

A visitor to Jersey managed to spot Beaker whilst out on a walk at Les Landes. Photo by Susan Mueller.

We have also had three confirmed sightings from Le Pulec this month. None when I visited of course. The same for Grosnez and at Grantez. 

Beanie Baby and Beaker visiting Le Pinacle. Photo by Liz Corry.

Supplemental feeds

All of the sightings away from Sorel are of pairs or small groups in the single figures. We are only seeing numbers in the 20s or 30s at the supplemental feeds compared to the 30s or 40s last month. This is because the pairs no longer need to find food for their chicks as well as themselves. The independence is allowing them to spend more time away from Sorel which makes it harder for us to monitor.

It is now hard to spot the juveniles in the flock unless you can read their leg rings. Photo by Liz Corry.

Of course they could just be sulking over the fact we have not been able to provide as many live mealworms this month. The UK supplier has had a few problems and a change in delivery policy to the Island has resulted in delays. Delays for live food tend to result in death; the correct temperatures are not maintained and the insects don’t get fresh air. We have had to send most of our monthly order straight to the compost bin.

Miss-taken identity

I will end August’s report as it started with the sexing results. The chicks were not the only ones to be tested. We sent a sample from Chewbacca, a two-year-old, parent-reared bird.

The lab came back with female whereas the first test back in 2017 said male. Judging by size and behaviour this Chewbacca is definitely a girl.

 

 

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