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.

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