Restoring farmland ponds attracts more farmland birds

From Rare Bird Alert

Less than 70 years ago, ponds were a common feature of the farmland landscape, and were routinely managed just like hedgerows. Since the 1950s, many ponds have been filled in to reclaim more land for farming; however, a large number have been left unmanaged, meaning they have become overgrown with trees and bushes, making them dark and uninhabitable to many species.

Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust has been working with the Natural History Museum and University College London on research that shows reinstating traditional pond management methods, of tree and mud removal, can benefit not only pond species, but also farmland birds.

Ponds restored by the Norfolk Ponds Project, were compared to neighbouring unmanaged and overgrown ponds; restored ponds contained twice as many bird species and almost three times as many birds, as the overgrown ponds.

Bird species at the restored ponds included skylark, linnet, yellowhammer and starling, all species that are Red Listed in the UK because they have declined drastically in recent years.

There were 95 sightings of these four species in and around the restored ponds, which compared to just two sightings of yellowhammer and none of skylark, starling or linnet at the unrestored ponds.

The total number of birds visiting was also greater at restored ponds with almost three times as many birds attracted to the restored ponds. This was shown to be linked to the abundant insect food resources emerging from restored ponds.

According to lead researcher, Jonathan Lewis-Phillips of UCL’s Pond Restoration Research Group:

“Restored ponds are teeming with insects, and because different ponds have insect peaks on different days, birds can move from pond to pond, and get the food that they need. A network of high-quality ponds is, therefore, brilliant for birds in the breeding season.”

With a network of restored ponds across the landscape, birds were able to move between insect emergence events, providing an ongoing insect food resource during the breeding season.

The research comes at a time when farmland birds are under huge threat, having declined by 55 per cent in the last 50 years, largely due to changes in agricultural management to increase food production, according to the recent State of Nature 2019 report.

As well as providing a beneficial habitat for woodland birds, farmland ponds also provide an important landscape feature, and act as stepping-stones for other wildlife including frogs and dragonflies.

Despite their importance, according to a report published by the RSPB, WWF and the Wildlife Trusts, there are no plans to protect them included in the UK’s new Agriculture Bill.

“Our research shows how important it is to restore and manage ponds in farmland. Here in Gloucestershire, preliminary evidence suggests we have lost around two-thirds of our farmland ponds since 1900. That’s why we have been working with Farming & Wildlife Advisory group (FWAG SouthWest) and local farmers to restore a number of ponds across different farms on the Severn Vale.”

“Even following long periods of dormancy, overgrown farmland ponds can quickly come back to life, with plants, amphibians and insects starting to colonise them in a matter of months. That is why this research could be an important pointer of where the UK’s environmental and agricultural policy should focus post Brexit.”

Carl Sayer of University College London Pond Restoration Group said: “The research on birds was inspired by Norfolk farmer Richard Waddingham. His constant belief has always been that farming and wildlife can co-exist and with wildlife declining at an alarming rate, at no time in history do we need to make this work more than now. Restoring farmland ponds is clearly part of a positive way forward.”


A Shire for Jersey’s puffins

By Cristina Sellarés

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit puffin. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit puffin-hole, and that means comfort.”

And so the story begins for the puffins, I mean the hobbits, according to J.R.R. Tolkien, of course. I could be forgiven for hoping that J.R.R.Tolkien was inspired by puffins when he devised the short, wobbly, round-bellied, food-loving, funny-looking creatures that live in a hole in the ground, which he named hobbits. Even his own fictional etymology traces the word to ‘holbytla’, which he created by combining the two real Old English words ‘hol’ (hole) and ‘bytland’ (to build) – a name that would be not completely unfit for the puffins either.

Like hobbits, Atlantic puffins build their homes underground, digging holes using their bills and powerful claws, to create a tunnel that leads to a larger inner chamber for the nest. And also like hobbits, puffins like their home comforts and line their nests with soft grasses and feathers, to keep the egg and later the chick safe and warm. They are very tidy too, and manage to keep the chick clean by using a toilet chamber located in a bend before the main room.

And finally, like hobbits again, they do not like unexpected visitors, defending their burrows from envious neighbours, fighting food thieves like gulls, and avoiding, however they can, attacks from invasive predators such as rats, cats and ferrets.

Knowing all this, Birds On The Edge has been trying to improve the homes and breeding grounds of our Jersey puffins, especially in view of he precarious state of the population – down to four pairs from more than a hundred in the space of a century. Sadly, this follows the trend of many other puffin colonies around the world, which have declined or collapsed due to causes ranging from loss of habitat, predation from invasive species and human-caused disturbance, amongst others.

Over the last year we have been monitoring the puffins and other seabirds in their breeding cliffs of the north coast, studying the potential predators in the area and noting the presence of people for leisure and commercial purposes too.

We have also built and installed puffin nest-boxes in some cliffs in the north coast, so that they can be used as artificial burrows by prospecting new pairs. Our breeding puffins, all four pairs of them, already go back to the same burrow each year, so with the boxes we are hoping to attract new pairs recruiting into Jersey’s population, especially ones who were born here and are ready to settle (puffins take 5-6 years to be mature).

As for the boxes themselves, there have been various designs, all following the concept of a tunnel leading to a main chamber. We have stuck to this, building a closed box with a roof, which is completely buried. The access to the chamber is via a 1m-long pipe which is buried too, so that the entrance from outside looks like a hole in the ground. The box is almost one metre long and has a small partition near the entrance, to create the illusion of the toilet chamber, should they like to use it for this purpose. As finishing touches to the installation we packed a layer of mud and soil against the back wall, to give the puffins the chance to dig a bit if they wanted to, without going too far, and for the same reason the boxes have no floor, but a good layer of soil so that the puffins can shift the ground about and decorate their nest as they please.

Digging and burying the boxes in the cliffs wasn’t an easy task; Geomarine sent their “rope team” to assist the rangers of the National Trust and Natural Environment for the job. The team successfully installed some of the boxes in an otherwise inaccessible slope, which was deemed suitable for the artificial burrows.

With the breeding season upon us and our puffin pairs due to arrive anytime now, we will be keeping a close eye on the seas around Plémont, hoping to see the faithful locals come back to their usual spots, and even better to see new pairs flying into the cliffs, their purpose-built homes waiting for them.

The boxes might be a bit too small for a hobbit, but we hope our puffins will approve of their very own Puffin Shire.


Jersey Bat Group Open Meeting and Volunteer Drive

When:              1 April 2020

Where:            Société Jersiaise

Time:               19:30 – 21:00

The Jersey Bat Group are holding an open evening 1st April to welcome anyone who would like to know more about the work they do. The group invites anyone with an interest in conservation, wildlife volunteering, public engagement or arts and crafts to come along to find out about the volunteering opportunities and training they have to offer.

PLEASE NOTE there may be disruption to planned events through concerns over Covid-19 so watch out for any changes to plans.

Over the last few years, the Jersey Bat Group has been busy. They have discovered new records of bat species in the Island, learnt more about the roost sites of different bat species, increased public awareness by providing talks and walks for schools, building professionals and other organisations. Members have learnt new skills including identifying different species of bats from sounds and appearance, rope access skills to check for roosts in trees, advanced survey skills to carefully trap bats for analysis in the hand and release. Members have also assisted with the ringing of bats as part of licenced projects studying the movement and migration of bats and help track radio-tagged bats to find out where they live and forage.

As the hibernation season draws to a close, the group are gearing up for another busy season of public engagement and research. There are lots of activities that you can get involved in even if you haven’t got any previous experience. For the seasoned bat enthusiasts there are plenty of opportunities for you to develop and grow your skills with the advanced surveys.

The April meeting will give an overview of some of the activities volunteers can get involved in and you will be able to sign up on the spot!  Activities include:

  • Public engagement – including stalls, public walks and talks. This year’s focus is on light pollution and the effect this has on humans as well as nocturnal wildlife
  • Fund raising – e.g. pub quizzes, stalls, cake sales, bat themed merchandise and any other great ideas volunteers may have
  • Transect surveys – walking a set route after sunset with a bat detector to record bat activity 
  • Passive acoustic surveys – assisting with the collection of data from bat detectors left at sites to record activity at a specific site (great for those who prefer to volunteer during daylight hours!)
  • Sound analysis – learn to analyse the recordings from the surveys above to identify the species of bat present and see if the bats are feeding or socialising as well as echolocating to find their way around
  • Members’ activity walks – informal walks, usually monthly, where members can learn to use bat detectors and chat to others about all things batty
  • Roost monitoring
    • counting bats as they emerge from known roosts. This helps us to see how bats are doing year on year and if populations are increasing or declining
    • Checking bat boxes
  • Advanced bat surveys – trapping bats so we can find out more about the breeding status of different bat species within the Island and learn more about the cryptic species of bat in Jersey (these sound similar on the acoustic survey, so the way we find out more is by looking closely at the bats to identify the specific species)
  • Arts ‘n’ crafts – we are keen to recruit artistic or creative volunteers to make batty themed products for the stall and liven up our website and social media.

Amy Hall, Chair of the Jersey Bat Group, said “Bats are fascinating and often misunderstood mammals.  We are hoping that this open meeting and volunteer drive will help both dispel the negative myths about bats and also to enthuse members of the public to help us with bat conservation and research. 

You don’t need to be a member of the group to attend but there will be some membership forms available on the night for anyone wanting to become more involved, or just to support the work we do.”


Reptilewatch event – Covid-19 update

With the current situation regarding coronavirus and advice on public gatherings we are regrettably cancelling this event (see here).

In the meantime we are happy to meet with volunteer recorders individually on a one to one basis, however please do not arrange a meeting if you are feeling unwell or have returned from an affected area or have any concerns that you may be at risk of Covid-19 exposure.

Please contact Liz Walsh, on 01534 441628 or email to make an appointment for carrying out a Reptilewatch JE survey.

Please refer to the Coronavirus information and advice leaflets: and wellbeing/ID Coronavirus-advice-A4-Poster VB.pdf

Thank you for your interest in this training event.

Wild About Jersey

Natural Environment

T: 01534 441600

Government of Jersey

Growth, Housing and Environment | Natural Environment

Howard Davis Farm | La Route de la Trinite | Trinity | JE3 5JP

Chough report: February 2020

By Liz Corry

Grey skies in the day, shepherd’s dismay…and the chough’s

Hail on the horizon at Sorel. Photo by Liz Corry.

Storms Ciara, Dennis, and Jorge all paid a visit to Jersey in February bringing hail, sleet, rain, more rain, more hail, and a non-stop supply of gale force winds. Quite a lot for our choughs to handle. They may have been lulled into a false sense of security with the mild winter; thoughts turning to nesting at the start of February. That soon changed when temperatures plummeted and soils became saturated limiting food supply.

Choughs bracing themselves in the winds by standing in the entrance to a rabbit hole. Photo by Liz Corry.

The birds were not the only ones battling the elements at Sorel. The Manx loaghtan have stoically sheltered from the storms under gorse bushes and down in the valley under the trees. They have become quite clingy of late in the false hope of food as we walk to the aviary. Probably cruel of me then to leave the aviary with the rubbish in an old pellet bag. 

Netting struggles

We have now fitted neoprene to the polytunnel poles where the netting was rubbing. Recycling wetsuits for the material attracted local media attention. BBC Jersey Radio did an interview at Sorel for their breakfast show and at the end of the month I was invited on to their Sunday Brunch show. The birds themselves seemed less impressed. I have yet to see them perch on the metal bars since we made the changes. Opting instead for the more bouncy netting (especially in storm force gales).

The choughs do not appear to like the neoprene protecting the netting opting for the bouncy netting instead. Photo by Liz Corry.

Not a great concern. The birds have plenty of other places to perch. As long as it protects the netting we are happy.

Which is why I wasn’t so happy less than a week later when I found holes ripped in the side panel. Part rodent related, part storm force winds pulling at the thread.  

Never-ending story of netting repairs. Photo by Liz Corry.

Additional aviary repairs

‘Dennis’ ripped off the top of a free-standing roost-box. No surprise considering the wood rot after six years in service. Chewbacca (affectionately known as Chewie) uses this box. She is a bit of a loner and we worried that she might struggle to find an alternative roost.

A few days passed before a temporary fix could be made – Flavio’s placement had come to an end and it took a while to find a second person to hold the ladder. Durrell’s carpenter Mick Pope set to work making a new box. He was a bit puzzled when asked him to make it then take it apart, until I pointed out I had to carry it along the cliff path. The new box will go up once the paint dries. Pleased to say, Chewie is still flying around looking as happy as a chough can look.

Choughs foraging under the gorse. Photo by Liz Corry.

New next generation home

We received a pleasant surprise as a result of last month’s report. Crespel Properties read about the new nest-boxes used in the quarry. They have generously donated funds to build another nest-box replacing Green and Black’s pied-à-terre. Hopefully we will see the next generation of choughs emerge from Crespel Cove.

Seedy Sunday in association with Wild About Jersey

Speaking of happy choughs, Birds On The Edge attended the annual Seedy Sunday event at La Rocquier school on 16th February. Cris Sellarés, Tim Liddiard, Flavio/Chough, and myself manned the stall. 

The Birds On The Edge stall at Seedy Sunday 2020. Photo by Liz Corry.

There was a great turnout as usual. Visitors were very interested in seeing the puffin nest-box and learning how they can help protect Jersey’s biodiversity. One way is by signing up to be a conservation volunteer. Deni McGowan (Natural Environment Team) was on hand to explain to people what is involved; from butterfly monitoring to tree planting and of course chough spotting! 

Conservation volunteers have been planting trees for the National Trust at Sorel (top right field). Photo by Liz Corry.

The image below was initially a mock up for promo. Deni clearly worked her magic as Flavio, sorry the chough, ended up filling in the application form! 

Feeling Wild about Jersey? then sign up to be a conservation volunteer. Photo by Liz Corry.

Cakes galore at Seedy Sunday. Photo by Liz Corry.

The event was catered for by Beresford Street Kitchen with tea and cakes provided by some very lovely ladies. Strangely, none made with mealworms so the chough settled for chocolate instead.

I immediately hightailed it down to St Andrew’s Church after the event where I gave a talk to Action for Wildlife. The group partially funded the radio-tracking project in 2015. This was a way to update members and thank them once again. Several have provided sightings and photos of choughs from around the Island and there was lots of enthusiasm to continue helping which is always encouraging.

Have you seen Caûvette?

Finally, a word about sightings. Islanders will start to see adverts going up asking if they have seen Caûvette. Don’t worry we haven’t lost any birds just a way of grabbing attention. With nesting about to start it is really important that we know where all the birds are. Hopefully we can reach out to those Islanders who don’t yet know about choughs but have seen them on walks or on their land.

Choughs can often be found at the Racecourse there are two in this photo) will they start nesting nearby? Photo by Liz Corry.

Reptilewatch training 2020

People with a passion for nature can learn how to survey and protect our native reptiles and become Wild Volunteers at a free training event on Saturday 14 March.

Reptilewatch JE 2020 (which runs from 9:45am to 4:30pm at La Moye School) will teach people about the four native reptile species that can be found in Jersey, how to survey and assess habitats as well as providing some guidance on the identification other wildlife that they may encounter along the way.

The event is organised by The Jersey Amphibian and Reptile Group, Jersey Biodiversity Centre, Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust and the Government of Jersey’s Natural Environment Team.

The event will offer two different levels of training for up to 50 volunteers. All volunteers can train for both Level 1 and Level 2, and do not need to have any previous experience:

  • Level 1 will give the volunteers the skills they need to run a 30-minute survey in their own time.
  • Level 2 will give volunteers the skills they need to run a minimum of six surveys between April and October, using more complex methods.

The data collected by volunteers will be used to monitor the health of reptiles and their habitats and record the number of animals within the survey areas.

Nina Cornish, Research Ecologist, said: “We would like to encourage anyone who is interested in finding out more about Jersey’s reptiles to come along and see how they can get involved.  The data collected from citizen science schemes like Reptilewatch is used to evaluate the future trends and action necessary to conserve these protected species.

“We rely on the kind support and commitment of Wild Volunteers, who allow us to run more surveys and gain a better understanding of the health of Jersey’s environment so that we can protect it for future generations.”

Anyone who wants to attend the event can reserve a place online or contact Liz Walsh by email: or by phone on 441628.

Please don’t forget to wear appropriate clothing and bring some boots and waterproofs to be able to participate in the field session.

March volunteer activity

Sunday 8th March 2020 –– St Clement’s Farm, La Grande Route de Saint Clement 10:00-13.00

From Jersey Conservation Volunteers

Task The Jersey Conservation Volunteers are certainly doing their bit for the Climate Emergency this season, and this Sunday, 8th March, we will be joining Jersey Trees for Life

Since 2007 Jersey Trees for Life, in partnership with the Island’s environmental and conservation community, has planted over 50,000 trees and hedgerow whips as part of their ongoing hedgerow campaign. They have been replanting and restoring Jersey’s hedgerows and farmland trees for the benefit of the Island’s biodiversity, as well as providing valuable food and wildlife corridors.

Using the latest priority tree planting routes, Island wildlife and mammal survey data, we have plotted connecting areas accordingly.

This event will focus on several of these priority planting routes, connecting directly with previous planting projects and designed to maximize food corridors as well as providing food for pollinators throughout the season.

Please meet at 10.15 am to enable us to walk the short distance (about 5 minutes) to the planting site. We will finish for 1pm.

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 Jersey phone directory Map 17, GG21 and Google maps here

Parking There is limited parking at St Clement’s Farm, La Grande Route de Saint Clement by kind permission of Mrs D. Mossop. Please car share if you can!

Tools needed Please bring a garden spade if you have one, and gloves.

Clothing needed Please dress for the weather, coats, sturdy boots/wellies and waterproofs may well be needed!

Children All are welcome, young or old although we do ask that volunteers under 16 years of age directly supervised by a parent or guardian.

Refreshments At the end of a hard morning’s work, Kim will treat everyone to her renowned home-made cake and a cuppa.

See you there!