Chough report: October 2020

Sacré bleu!

“Sacré bleu, c’est crave à bec rouge!”…Is what I imagined the Frenchman exclaimed on the morning on the 23rd when a red-billed chough appeared in the skies of Normandy. Why so alarmed? Choughs are only found in three locations in France: the Alps, the Pyrenees, and a tiny population on the north west corner of Brittany. This was a first! Well, a first for a long time.

The man in question is Yann Mouchel a park ranger for the Conservatoire du Littoral, La Manche, based at Cap de Carteret. Yann has followed Birds On The Edge for the last few years after meeting a group of visiting Jersey Botanists. So, whilst surprised by the sight he wasn’t overly shocked. In fact Yann had been dreaming of this moment…and so had we.

For the chough in question was none other than a Jersey chough! Unmistakable from the leg rings adorning the bird. Our first confirmed report of a Jersey chough dispersing off-Island. In France no less. 

Yann first noticed the bird around 10am at the Nez de Carteret. It had lost one of its plastic colour rings which hampered identification. With the remaining rings we could narrow it down to just a few options. We set to work trying to dwindle it down further by confirming which birds were still flying around Jersey.

I think the chough in Carteret is one of this year’s chicks. We had not got round to naming her other than by her ring combo dark blue over mauve.  She has been absent at the Sorel supplemental feed since the 21st.

The alternative option is Bean who went missing over a year ago. Whilst I would love it if our little hand-reared Bean was still alive, it seems more likely that a youngster has dispersed off-Island.

The other news Yann shared was that the chough was lame. He speculated that the resident peregrine pair might be to blame. Having looked after these birds for so long, my initial reaction was a desire to rush over to Carteret with a vet.

Two things put a stop to this: COVID and reality. Travel restrictions and impractical 14-day quarantining (impractical for zookeepers at least) prevent me from leaving the Island. Then of course is the reality. We want the choughs to disperse. It is natural.

For now I’m resigned to stare longingly across the waters and rely on Yann monitoring her progress.

If you want to travel virtually from Jersey to Carteret and learn more about where the chough is choosing to hang out then visit Google Earth. I have put together a presentation which you can access here and click on Presentation. Please be aware you may be asked to download Google Earth if viewing on a tablet or smartphone. 

Domestic flights

The rest of our October news seems relatively boring now. Although at the time it wasn’t as the following happened before the 23rd. In fact, think of it as the prelude to the Carteret story as the flock were well and truly on the move this month.

We had our first Airport sighting. Two birds had been checking out one of the hangers. An interesting choice of residence. Think they might need to find a new estate agent. Airport staff have not seen them since. 

These two could be the same birds we reported on last month flying below the runway. We also know a pair are using the dunes and the sand pits both in close proximity to the airport.

Moving away from the Airport, the pair at Corbière are still doing well. This month they were joined by other choughs who made daily visits to Corbière. One of Durrell’s long term volunteers lives near the lighthouse and kept seeing small groups of four or six flying over her garden.

Another first has been sightings of choughs foraging in the horse fields near the Portlet Inn. Portlet adjoins Noirmont, an area we have seen choughs visit before.

In fact our second release in spring 2014 saw one radio-tracked bird end up by Noirmont Manor. Sadly never seen again, but over the years other choughs have been reported flying around. This month a small group seemed to be targeting the area and clearly finding food.

10 thoughts on “Chough report: October 2020

  1. Wonderful Google Earth display of Carteret, Liz, this brings back great memories of botanising with Yann in the sand dunes when we visited for the day.
    A very discerning Chough to make the same journey.
    Anne

  2. Fantastic to hear this latest news….and they didn’t even self-isolate! Oh to have wings! Thanks again for your informative report Liz.

  3. Wonderful news, a great moment for proactive conservation and a Jersey/France re-wilding success. Congratulations everyone, especially Liz!

  4. Great news that the chough is still in Carteret. Glad that we were able to put Yann in touch with Birds on the Edge when we visited on our botany trip in 2016. Interesting presentation Liz. Joyeux Noel à Yann et le crave à bec rouge.
    Caroline

  5. Yesterday saw my first Red Billed Chough at Sucy-en-Brie , Coulée Verte, in Val De Marne. It surprised me, being an American retired here 15+ years. How did it fly here away from usual area? Big mystery.

    • Dear Gary. Many thanks for the report. This is near to Paris? That one would be a long way from home whichever population it came from! Did you see whether it had any rings (bands)?

      Best wishes

      Glyn Young

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