Choughs claim top prize for conservation

By Liz Corry

It’s coming home. It’s coming home. It’s coming, the Insurance Corporation Conservation Awards 2018 are coming home“.

Insurance Corporation logoOK so not as catchy, but the sentiment is the same. Our work with the choughs (see earlier blog entry here) claimed top prize at this year’s Insurance Corporation Conservation Awards. And yes, we are well chuffed.

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Michelle Arundale, Chairperson of the Judging Panel and organiser of the event, said that this was the first time they had to draw up a shortlist of entries in the awards’ 28 year history. Michelle said, “we had such a fabulous response this year and we were delighted to see such a variety of projects entering.” and that judging provided “a chance to meet the inspirational people behind the projects doing their utmost to enhance our natural environment in so many different ways.”

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Michelle Arundale, Chairperson of the Judging panel and organiser of the event. Photo courtesy of Insurance Corporation

Ronez logoYou can watch an edited version of ITV News interview here. It looks at how the choughs and Ronez Quarry have been working together to improve Jersey’s biodiversity.

Angela Salmon, one of the judges this year, noted “The projects have involved many members of our community and these projects will be enjoyed by adults and children. The people leading the winning projects showed great knowledge, understanding and enthusiasm for nature conservation and they are also keen to share their knowledge by educating others.”

We will use the prize money to enable school groups visiting the quarry to learn about Jersey’s wildlife and develop field skills in bird identification. The remaining money will be used to pay for the DNA sexing of this year’s wild chicks.

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Awards ceremony held at the Pomme D’or Hotel. Photo courtesy of Insurance Corporation

There was a shared sentiment amongst the nominees that whilst we have submitted individual projects we are all working towards the same goal. And that all the projects are inter-linked in some respect. For example, Littlefeet’s beach cleans are important to the wildlife species Durrell are trying to save. Birding Tours Jersey need birds otherwise the tours would be really boring! Removing plastic waste from the beach helps Jersey’s seabird population stay afloat (literally!).

Birding Tours Jersey, was this year’s runner-up receiving £1000 towards the free birding tours given to islanders. This year they have hosted three puffin watch tours and several dawn chorus walks to highlight the wonders of Jersey wildlife. And to add to the connection to nature that our projects share, Neil was one of the first chough volunteers before leaving to start Birding Tours.

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Neil Singleton and partner Alison Caldeira receiving the runner-up prize. Photo courtesy of Insurance Corporation

Another nice link was seen with the Conservationist of the Year Award and the Peter Walpole People’s Choice Award. Both of which were awarded to Sarah Maguire for her BioBlitz project in schools. BioBlitz is run through the Jersey Biodiversity Records Centre. Sarah also works for Durrell in our Education team at the Zoo.

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Sarah Maguire (middle) won two awards for her BioBlitz project. Photo courtesy of Insurance Corporation

It is cliché to say it, but everyone is a winner in the conservation awards. Unlike a certain World Cup.

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Winners and nominees of the Insurance Corporation Conservation Awards 2018. Photo courtesy of Insurance Corporation

Painted lady’s roundtrip migratory flight is the longest recorded in butterflies

Painted lady. Photo by Mick DrydenFrom ScienceDaily

The painted lady butterfly is a migratory species in Europe, and common visitor to the Channel Islands, previously known to migrate from Europe to the Afrotropics during the autumn. Butterflies are obviously much harder to track on migration than birds and the fate of this butterfly species and its offspring remained unknown. Butterfly migration can be very different to that in birds where a bird like the swallow moves between, often very distant but well demarcated, summer and winter areas. The best known butterfly migration is perhaps that of the monarch in North America where despite there being well known and well demarcated summer and winter areas, generations of monarchs will never see the winter areas but are essential in the species life cycle (see the fascinating story of the monarch here).

Researchers were now able to demonstrate that painted lady butterflies return from the Afrotropical region to recolonise the Mediterranean in early spring, travelling an annual distance of 12,000 km across the Sahara Desert.

While the Palearctic-African migratory circuit is typically associated with birds, scientists from the Institute of Evolutionary Biology (IBE), a joint research centre of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) and Pompeu Fabra University (UPF), in Barcelona, Spain, found that the painted lady Vanessa cardui endures annual trans-Saharan circuits like some birds do.

This butterfly species travels 12,000 km and crosses the Sahara Desert twice to seasonally exploit resources and favourable climates on both sides of the desert. Few species are known to perform annual long-range trans-Saharan circuits, and that of the painted lady is the longest migratory flight known in butterflies to date.

In a previously published study, the researchers demonstrated that painted lady butterflies migrate from Europe to tropical Africa by the end of summer, crossing the Mediterranean Sea and Sahara Desert.

The fate of these migrants and that of their offspring remained unknown. “Our hypothesis was that the species initiates a reverse northward migration towards Europe in spring, thus completing a regular migratory cycle,” states Roger Vila, one of the researchers.

Painted lady (2). Photo by Mick Dryden

The answer is in the wings

With the aim of confirming this hypothesis, they studied the natal origin of the butterflies that reached the Mediterranean region in early spring. To do so, they analysed the stable hydrogen isotopes of the butterflies sampled in Morocco, Andalusia and Catalonia in Spain, Crete, Egypt and Israel.

An isotope is a form of a chemical element whose atomic nucleus contains a different number of neutrons compared to protons in the nucleus. In water, the proportion of hydrogen and its stable isotope depends on the geographical location. When absorbing water, this proportion is maintained in plants; it later remains in the caterpillars that feed on these plants, and, eventually, in adult butterflies.

By analysing the hydrogen stable isotopes found in the wings of adult butterflies, the researchers could determine where they had developed as caterpillars.

“It is difficult to study the movement of insects by means of observations, marking or radio tracking, since there are millions of individuals and they are very small. This is why finding out where a butterfly grew up before undergoing the metamorphosis by means of stable isotope analysis turns out to be extremely useful. It feels like magic,” says Gerard Talavera, who led the research.

The results show a major proportion of specimens stay in the Afrotropics during winter and that those recolonising the Mediterranean are most probably their offspring. This scenario closes the loop for the Palearctic-African migratory system of Vanessa cardui and shows that the annual distance travelled by the successive generations may reach about 12,000 km, including crossing of the Sahara Desert twice.

Whether the painted lady does regular migratory circuits similar to those of the monarch butterfly in North America was a matter of scientific debate. This research reveals the parallelisms in such a unique evolutionary adaptation.

Access the paper Round-trip across the Sahara: Afrotropical Painted Lady butterflies recolonize the Mediterranean in early spring here

Painted lady (3). Photo by Mick Dryden

2018 Inter-Island Environment Meeting

Crabbe. 9 October 2015. Photo by HGYoung (2)This year’s Inter-Island Environment Meeting (IIEM) will be held once again in Jersey, at Crabbé, St Mary on Thursday 20th and Friday 21st September.

The hosts will be National Trust Jersey and the States of Jersey Department for the Environment and the event will once again be generously supported by Insurance Corporation.

Crabbé Activity CentreCrabbe Activity Centre is a newly renovated outdoor centre belonging to Jersey’s Youth Service and ideally located on the Island’s north coast. The centre has basic accommodation for those who are visiting, giving us a friendly holiday camp feel, ideally suited to this year’s theme, with all conveniences situated on site including a wood-fired pizza oven. For those who would rather not sleep in a bunk-bed or tent, there will be hotel rooms  available nearby.

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2018 theme

This year’s theme is ‘Environmental Partnership’ – inspired by groups/organisations working towards a common goal. Current or future.

Aim and objectives

The general aim of the IIEM is to enable Government bodies, NGO’s, environmental managers and individuals to discuss the status of the islands’ environments.

The 2018 IIEM has three objectives for delegates to:-

–              Present a range of environmental topics relevant to their organisation and island, demonstrating collaboration and partnerships working, and the pros and cons and best practice therein.

–              Discuss current or future projects which could effectively be undertaken throughout the Channel Islands and other regions, such as the Isle of Man and UK.

–              Discuss the potential for a Channel Island Environmental Charter.

Common toad. Photo by Kristian Bell

Intended audience

The IIEM is aimed at ecological, conservation, environmental management bodies (government/NGO) and individuals from the Channel Islands and other regions, such as the Isle of Man and UK.

IIEM talk/poster presentation requirements

Delegates from the Channel Islands and beyond are encouraged to present on research related to the IIEM objectives on either terrestrial, ornithological or marine topics, either via talk or poster formats. Please contact Jon Parkes (JonParkes@nationaltrust.je) or Nina Cornish (N.Cornish@gov.je) to discuss and submit your presentation ideas.

Talks

Talks will normally last for 15 minutes, with 5 minutes for questions. Presenters are requested to submit a title and abstract (maximum of 300 words) to Jon Parkes by Friday 13th July.

Poster

Poster presentations will be displayed. Posters should be formatted to A1 size, either landscape/portrait. Presenters are requested to submit a title and abstract (maximum of 100 words) to Jon Parkes by Friday 13th July. Boards and attachment material will be provided.

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Field Trips

There is a Birds On The Edge guided walk on Thursday (20th September) at 13.30 to nearby Mourier Valley to talk about sheep grazing, choughs, habitat management and bird crops.

The Friday (21st) afternoon session will consist of three field trips of which delegates will be asked to choose an option and indicate their choice on the registration form. The options will be:

  1. Grève de Lecq to Plémont by Kayak: Sea Bird Conservation – Identified areas for protection and monitoring. Led by Piers Sangan and Kazz from Wild Adventures. Note: numbers are restricted for this field trip and places will be allocated on a first come first serve basis
  2. The Wetland Centre Tour: A chance to visit the National Trust for Jersey’s bird observatory and interpretation centre. Led by the Trust Rangers.
  3. Plémont Restoration Site – The story so far: See the former holiday camp site and the work the Trust and its partners have done to return the site to nature. Led by The Trust’s Land Manager and Conservation Officer.

Registration

You can use the registration form here and email the completed form to Jon Parkes at JonParkes@nationaltrust.je by Friday 29th June.

Travel

Air travel

Flybe, British Airways, easyJet and others fly from the UK

Aurigny Air Services fly to Alderney from Guernsey and from Jersey via Guernsey.

Boat travel

Condor Ferries travel from the UK and France to Jersey and between Guernsey and Jersey

Accommodation

If you don’t wish to stay at Crabbé there are accommodation options nearby including:

Prince of Wales in Grève de Lecq

Grève de Lecq barracks

Durrell Hostel and Camping

For further information on accommodation please see Visit Jersey’s website for more information

Crabbe. 9 October 2015. Photo by HGYoung (14)

Chough report: May 2018

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By Liz Corry

Spoiler alert! Ronez Quarry found the first hatched egg shell of the year on 23rd May. However, there are so many more things to report about from May that we will leave that golden nugget of information for later.

Spreading their wings

Reports continue to come in from both the south-west and north-west corners of the island. The pair roosting in St Ouen’s Bay repeatedly foraged around Corbière Lighthouse, the desalination plant, and the sand dunes. And they are just the places we know about. I suspect they have taken a cheeky gander at the golf courses that lie to the north and south of their roost.

Choughs foraging by the old radio tower at Corbiere. Photo by Liz Corry.

Mary and Bo searching for found near the lighthouse. Photo by Liz Corry.

Looking at the hard granite around Corbière you would think it slim pickings on the menu for the chough pair. However, if you watch closely they are quite adept at finding tasty morsels. Take a look at this video for example. Not entirely sure what it is they have found, but obviously in high demand.

There is plenty of food on offer closer to the release site. Thanks to a local resident sending in a photo, we found a group of choughs hanging out at a ‘secret’ spot behind Sorel Farm. A horse field currently vacant except for rabbits, pheasant, swooping house martins, and aforementioned choughs. Short pasture, dung, and very little disturbance. Idyllic. For choughs at least.

This is a video of a few in a different horse field by the quarry.

The pair at Plémont are still going strong. They abandoned their nest in a sea cave and relocated to a crevice outside. We have not seen them at Sorel for a very long time. They appear to be finding plenty of food where they are. As the swifts start their summer residency in the same area we could be in for some interesting interactions. It is certainly an impressive sight to see the acrobatic flights of both species together.

Chough exchange

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On 22nd May four choughs from Jersey Zoo were caught up and transported to Paradise Park as part of our animal collection exchange. The birds travelled by boat in the Zoo van driven by our Head of Operations and a senior mammal keeper.

None of the choughs hold a valid license.

Gwinny, one of the four, has been with us at the Zoo since the very beginning. However, she failed to find a partner who shared her chick rearing aspirations. Maybe she will find her Mr Right in Cornwall.

On the return trip the van was loaded up with four different choughs, two Namaqua doves and a Madagascar partridge (pear tree to follow). They travelled on the freight ferry which meant a 4am, repeat 4AM!!, arrival in Jersey – a fog covered Jersey to boot.

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Two new arrivals to a fog bound Jersey at sunrise (not that you can tell). Photo by Liz Corry.

Two of the choughs headed to Sorel where they will spend a month in quarantine acclimatising to life on the coast. We moved Han Solo, Jersey Zoo’s male, to the aviary the day before they arrived.

All three looked to be in good condition. We discovered Han Solo had a new claw growing through suggesting damage at an earlier date. He clearly has not been in any discomfort so no need to treat him.

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A new claw growing out after previous damage resulted in loss of the old claw. Photo by Liz Corry.

The three boys will be housed separately to the free-ranging choughs during quarantine with opportunity to socialise (between ‘bars’) at feed times. In fact the first meeting between the two groups happened within minutes of reaching Sorel. Lots of shouting and displaying from the outside group at first thought to be directed at the newbies. After ten minutes of observations it became apparent they were just after the food locked away inside!

If all goes to plan the two males from Paradise Park and Han Solo from the Zoo will be released at the start of July.

In case any of you were curious as to the names of Han’s new friends…Chewbacca and Skywalker of course.

solo

 Let the judging commence

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Judges visited Jersey’s short-listed contenders for this year’s Insurance Corporation Conservation Awards on May 23rd.

Ronez Quarry nominated our chough project for the work we do in collaboration with them to monitor and protect the wild population.

The quarry has been home to the choughs since the first soft-release back in 2013. This season we had at least eight pairs trying to raise chicks in the quarry.

Winners will be announced on 27th June. There are several awards up grabs with a total prize fund of £3,750. One of the awards is a People’s Choice Award worth £500. Social media voting will begin in June – get clicking!

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Insurance Corporation Conservation Awards judges at Ronez Quarry. 23rd May 2018. Photo by Liz Corry.

If we are fortunate enough to receive any money it would go towards providing an educational experience for school groups visiting the quarry. A chance to learn about natural resources, coastal conservation, and of course the choughs. Any remaining money would go towards covering the costs involved in ringing and DNA sexing chicks (approximately £18 per chick).

Ronez quarry viewpoint image

Ronez Quarry

Wild nest updates

If all goes well then Han Solo and the boys will be joined by several wild-hatched fledglings in July. The day the judges visited the quarry was the same day we discovered the first chicks of 2018 had hatched.

Toby Caberet had found hatched egg shell near one of the known nest sites. Using a handheld endoscope camera we were able to confirm a record number of four chicks in a single nest.

Four recently hatched chough chicks in a nest at the quarry. Photo taken under licence by Toby Caberet.

This is amazing news as this particular pair are first time parents. The chicks are very young. They have a further six weeks before leaving the nest and, as we learnt last year, that still doesn’t guarantee they will make it to Sorel. As long as the parents can find enough insects they stand a good chance.

All the more reason to rejoice in the next bit of news.

(St) Mary had a little lamb, and St John and St Peter…

This month the Manx loaghtan lambs were moved from the farm in St Catherine’s to the grazing site at Sorel. They are now old enough to roam the cliff tops. Still very vulnerable. Bleating can be heard far and wide from ‘lost’ lambs whose mothers are two feet away hidden in the gorse. Please remember to close gates and keep dogs under control. Any mountain bikers, be alert! It might not be a brown rock on the path that you are about to ride over.

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Ewes and their lambs are now out roaming free at Sorel. Photo by Liz Corry.

A new grazing site in St Peter’s Valley has become home to another flock of Manx loaghtan sheep brought in to graze the meadows and hopefully improve biodiversity in the area. You can see them if you visit Quetivel Mill, a National Trust property open every Monday and Tuesday (10am-4pm).

Lambs are now out and about at Sorel. Photo by Liz Corry.

And finally, we couldn’t sign off without including the following picture taken by Mick Dryden at Sorel Point. A rare spring migrant to the Island, a honey-buzzard, flying alongside one of our choughs. I bet that was a sight no one predicted they would see five years ago!

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Honey-buzzard and chough at Sorel Point. Photo by Mick Dryden.

Voting is open for the Insurance Corporation Conservation Awards 2018

by Liz Corry

Choosing how you vote should not be a snap verdict based on a few minutes of television.   

Simon Cowell

Somewhat ironic, but a perfect opener. Voting is now open for the Insurance Corporation Conservation Awards 2018. The Peter Walpole People’s Choice Award recognises conservation efforts of individuals and groups working in Jersey.

The Insurance Corporation’s Managing Director Mandy Hunt says “whether it is a school who enter a large project or a young individual with a tiny project on their window sill, both are making a contribution to the protection of our valuable green spaces and our local flora and fauna. We award money to our successful entrants because we believe it is important to help with the funding as well as celebrate their diligence and hard work.”

We can’t make you vote for the chough project. Gianna on the other hand…

As previously reported, Ronez Quarry nominated the chough project to try and raise funding to monitor chicks in the nest. This includes a leg ringing kit and DNA sexing tests as you cannot visually distinguish males from females.

If awarded, the money would also provide an educational package for school groups visiting the quarry. This would include child-friendly binoculars, identification cards and other educational material. The quarry is home to several species of birds not just the choughs. Instead of just learning about Jersey’s natural resources they could also learn about it’s biodiversity, develop field skills in bird observation, and learn how they can contribute to the conservation of choughs.

Each project short-listed for the award has been filmed and shown via the Insurance Corporation’s Facebook page. Watch each short clip then vote for the project of your choice at the bottom of their page.

In all fairness, I should also mention that one of our very first chough volunteers is also in the running. Since leaving the project, Neil Singleton has gone on to set up Birding Tours – Jersey. Both visitors and residents delight in Neil’s talks and walks. A very committed and passionate naturalist.

You can vote more than once! All of the applicants are deserving of this award. Just watch and vote at the bottom of their page or here.

The winner will be announced at the awards ceremony on 20th June 2018 and will receive £500 to go towards their project.

 

Chough report: April 2018

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Choughs are now frequently foraging on the southwest tip of Jersey. Photo by Dave Warncken .

by Liz Corry

There is a hashtag floating around the social media stratosphere at the moment, #conservationoptimism, which pretty much sums up this month’s chough report.

When the reintroduced choughs started breeding in the wild in 2015 there were just two males and four females. Three years later we have twelve pairs all eager to contribute to the growing population. Furthermore, two of those pairs have decided to branch out and nest in other parts of the Island.

Nesting ambitions of Jersey’s choughs

A male displaying to his female to encourage ‘sexy time’. The female reciprocating with a suitably unimpressed look. Photo by Elin Cunningham.

We have been able to identify a record number of ten nest sites this year.

Specific details of nest localities will remain guarded in order to protect the pairs. I can, however, let you in on some of the ‘highlights’ we have witnessed in April.

All of last year’s sites in Ronez Quarry are being used again with slight tweaks here and there.

There is concern for Red and Dingle as they are using the nest located on hot piping again. Ronez Quarry are helping us look into ways of raising the nest off the pipes without destroying the integrity of the nest. We wouldn’t want their eggs to overheat like last year.

Red and Dingle’s nest guarantees chicks won’t fall out – providing the eggs survive the heat from pipe work underneath. Photo by Liz Corry.

Dusty has strengthened his bond with Chickay after Egg died and continues to use the upper quarry away from the hubbub of the other nest sites. They have built a very nice nest which should be easy for us to monitor.

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Ronez Quarry with Sark in the background. Photo by Liz Corry.

The first nest located away from Sorel was discovered by one of our zoo keepers on their day off. Anyone visiting Plémont in April will more than likely have heard if not seen a chough or two. In the months leading up to the breeding season we had assumed it was the Les Landes pair. And more often than not it had been. However, on reading the leg rings of the twig-carrying choughs it was clear we had a different pair.

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Plémont Headland. Sorel Point lighthouse just about visible in the background. Photo by Liz Corry.

Finding the nest was a little trickier and not for the faint hearted. It is within the Plémont seabird protection zone which imposes public access restrictions from March to July. Plémont’s cliffs, notorious amongst Jersey’s rock climbers, are described as being ‘Weetabix’ like in structure and to be avoided at all costs. All in all there should be little human disturbance at this site adding to our growing optimism.

Not only is this the first nest discovered away from the release site, it is the first to belong to one of our foster-reared females – Xaviour! She has partnered with a male of her own age, Earl, and as such we are not expecting too much from them. At two-years old they are first timers with no knowledge of exactly what is involved in parenthood.

Regardless, this is a small victory for the project; foster-reared birds can pair up, they can build nests, and not just any nest, a truly wild nest. Fingers (and primaries) crossed for the next few weeks.

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A male chough displaying his ‘excitement’. Photo by Liz Corry.

The record-breaking didn’t stop there. The choughs added a third parish to their tick list of breeding sites. Mary and a wild-hatched male from 2016 were found to have moved roost site 7km to the parish of St Peter. They have been a fairly permanent feature of Simon Sand & Gravel Ltd since last year. Jason Simon, Managing Director, reports seeing three choughs around, but of late one had been ‘pushed out’ by the pair.

Simon Sand & Gravel Ltd located in St Ouen’s Bay is home to sand martins and now choughs too. Photo by Liz Corry.

Two choughs have taken up residence at Simon Sand & Gravel Ltd in St Ouen’s Bay. Photo by Elin Cunningham.

Twigs are visible in the location where the pair roost. It could be a red herring as the site is also used by pigeons. From observations, Mary appear’s quite faithful to that particular spot.

The pair continue making the return trip to Sorel for the supplemental feed. You would assume from this that they are not finding what they need in the wild travelling at least 14km a day for the guarantee of food.

Not so. Thanks to several public sightings, and wonderful photographs, we know that this pair are frequenting Corbière, the southwest tip of the Island.

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Wild-hatched chough hanging out at Corbière 21st April 2018. Photo by Dave Warncken.

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Mary and a wild-hatched chough have become permanent residents of the southwest corner of Jersey. Photo by Dave Warncken.

Funding for nest monitoring awarded by the Ecology Trust Fund.

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We are very proud to receive funding this month from the Ecology Trust Fund.

This is a Jersey-based  fund established in March 1991 by the States of Jersey with a sum of money received in an insurance settlement from the Amoco Cadiz oil tanker disaster of 1978. Annual interest accrued is used to finance multiple projects each year within the environmental sector.

The money will be used to purchase equipment to help the team monitor chough nests around Jersey. Increasingly important as our birds ‘leave the nest’ and set up home around the Island.

Island Insurance Corporation awards

CaptureStaying on a funding and monitoring theme, we are very honoured to hear that Ronez Quarry have nominated the chough project for the Islands Insurance Corporation Conservation Awards. The choughs have frequented the quarry since the trial release in 2013 which is now permanent residence for several pairs.

There are prizes to the value of £1000 and £500 available. If awarded, we will be able to cover the costs of monitoring, ringing, and sexing the wild-hatched chicks. DNA sexing tests, for example, cost £14 per bird.

With 10 potential clutches this year the costs could soon spiral.

Judges will visit the short-listed projects in May after which voting will open for the People’s Choice Award. We will circulate details as soon as voting opens.

Replacement rings

This chough had lost both plastic leg rings. The unique metal ring is impossible to read at a distance. Photo by Liz Corry.

As previously reported, several of the choughs have been losing their plastic rings. Or in the case of Zennor switching them around. As if the team needed more of a challenge to monitor breeding pairs!

On 26th April a group of choughs were caught up at the supplemental feed. Nine of the 25 birds arriving for food were caught up, weighed, and given new replacement rings. White was the only exception in that we had run out of white rings and given grey instead. Off-White if you like.

They all looked to be in good health. None of the females sported brood patches to suggest they had started incubating. I suspect that will have happened towards the end of the month or early May.

We still have two birds requiring replacement rings. They happen to be two of the four now living away from Sorel. Unlikely we wil get them in the aviary anytime soon.

Zoo news

Change is afoot with the Zoo choughs. We are exchanging chough pairs with Paradise Park, Cornwall, as part of our wider departmental collection plan. Paradise Park have kindly agreed to take Lucifer back after loaning him to us in 2012. Hopefully they can address his egg-smashing behaviour.

Jersey Zoo will continue to house two breeding pairs; Tristan and Issy and a new established pair. The move has been delayed until May which will disrupt the breeding season. With a quarantine period of thirty days it is unlikely the new pair will breed at Jersey this year.

Tristan and Issy remain in the Zoo’s on-show aviary and have already started nest building. Keepers found a discarded egg and the nest-liner on the floor of the aviary towards the end of April. Something obviously unsettled them, but they have started gathering wool again to repair their nest.

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Tristan and Issy collect wool to line their nest in the Zoo. Photo by Liz Corry.

Foster rearing might not be on the cards this year

Gianna is making good progress since her cataract operations. It was clear that she had regained sight post-op, but she was not her normal self. At lot was due to a knock in confidence. Living in the dark for several months and then placed in a different enclosure must be disorientating. She also behaved in a way that suggested her depth perception was a little off. Over time she has improved although it could take a couple more months to be fully adjusted.

 

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Gianna enjoying her morning preen. Photo by Liz Corry.

She is now in the off-show foster aviary allowing her to go through the motions of nest-building and such. A great deal of enthusiasm has been expressed although she still doesn’t have a complete nest. By now she would have finished and be eager to start laying.

Tristan and Issy did not need any assistance last year with raising their chick. As the only active breeding pair this year it is unlikely we will need Gianna’s help. Only time will tell.

That, and May’s monthly report!

Channel Islands Bat Conference 2018

Male Nathusius pipistrelle with ring 2From Annyctalus Ecology

The 2018 Channel Islands Bat Workshop is to be held in Guernsey on the 18th and 19th August 2018 with an optional extra night of trapping on the 17th August.

Processing kitThere will be a mixture of theory and practical workshops during the day and a research trapping session during the evening of the 18th August. The programme is still being finalised but includes bat identification, sound analysis, tree inspection and survey, use of IR and thermal cameras.

There is a very limited pool of skilled Harp Trapbat workers across the Channel Islands and consequently there is very limited knowledge of what bat species are present and their status across the islands. In Jersey we have discovered four new bat species for the island in the last three years, since we started to use advanced survey techniques and there is the potential for the same to happen in Guernsey! Species previously recorded in Guernsey are common, soprano and Nathusius pipistrelle, grey and brown long-eared bats, Natterer’s bat and greater horseshoe bat.

CI Bat Conference 2018

Tickets for the event are £35 (plus Eventbrite booking fee) and this includes all workshop sessions, refreshments and lunch on the 18th and 19th. Travel and accommodation are not included. Book tickets here

Information about Guernsey can be found here

Surveyors with mist net

Shaping positive engagements with urban birds

Robin (2). Photo by Mick DrydenFrom BTO

Some bird species provide cultural services, being aesthetically pleasing and having behaviours that people find interesting to watch. Others provide disservices (e.g. gulls, pigeons and corvids) negative for well-being. By documenting how the abundance and richness of species in these two groups correlates with human population density it was apparent that socio-economically deprived areas support low ratios of birds to people, particularly of cultural service species. These results inform management of green space, and provision of feeding and nesting sites, to promote positive interactions between birds and people within urbanised landscapes.

Herring gull (3). Photo by Mick Dryden

Working in collaboration with the University of Exeter, and funded by NERC, researchers carried out extensive bird surveys within an urban area, centred on the towns of Milton Keynes, Luton and Bedford, as part of a wider project investigating urban ecosystem services. These provided measures of the abundance and richness of bird species within both the cultural services (35 species) and disservices (nine species) groups. The research team was able to look at the human population by using data from the 2011 National Census, and to assess socio-economic status by using information published by the Office of National Statistics. Since bird diversity is strongly associated with the structure and availability of urban green space, the team also had to factor in the green space present within the study area.

Analyses revealed that the abundance of cultural service species increased with human population density but peaked at c.1,100 people per 500m x 500m grid tile. The abundance also increased with the proportion of urban green space. Interestingly, the species richness of cultural service birds decreased with human population density but increased with percentage green space. There was a positive linear relationship between the abundance and richness of cultural disservice species and both human population density and the availability of green space.

When the researchers mapped how the abundance of service and disservice birds co-varied with human population density, they found that the two groups of birds showed distinctly different spatial patterns. Service species were most abundant in areas of medium housing density – the suburbs – while disservice birds were most abundant in areas of dense housing, such as those around urban centres.

Skylark (3). Photo by Mick Dryden

While these different patterns are not a direct consequence of human population density per se, they probably result from spatial differences in urban form, the pattern and management of urban green space, levels of disturbance and the availability of resources, all of which are known to vary along socio-economic gradients. This underlines that people living in different parts of the urban landscape are likely to experience different relationships with wild birds, with the human communities in socially deprived areas exposed to more species with negative behaviours than wealthier communities. A consequence of this is that the increased frequency of negative interactions experienced by these people is likely to shape their connection with nature and support for the conservation of the natural world in a negative manner.

The study identifies opportunities to deliver management approaches to counter these unfavourable relationships. Investment in urban green space and its management for cultural service birds is one obvious option, but there are also opportunities at the householder level, through practices such as wildlife gardening. Such householder level approaches can be of wider benefit because their beneficial effects are likely to increase the abundance and richness of cultural service birds in neighbouring gardens, meaning that the actions of a small number of people can provide health benefits for the wider community.

Download the paper Covariation in urban birds providing cultural services or disservices and people here

May volunteer activity

Horticulture tunnel at Overdale Hospital. Photo by Department of the EnvironmentSunday 13th May 2018 – Overdale Hospital, Westmount Road, St Helier – 10:30-13.00

From Jersey Conservation Volunteers

Due to popular demand, and to finish the fantastic work we started last month, we are going to meet one final time at Overdale Hospital woodland before we have our summer break. Hopefully the weather will be a lot better this time!

The details The Insurance Corporation Jersey Conservation Awards 2017 was won by Karen Langlois who runs the Overdale Horticultural Group which provides social and therapeutic horticulture for patients in the grounds of the rehabilitation hospital.

Karen asked for our help to make their grounds more wildlife friendly by digging a pond, undertaking some woodland management and creating new steps on the woodland paths. This work was started by the volunteers in April.

Please contact Julia at j.meldrum@gov.je or Jon at jonparkes@nationaltrust.je or phone Julia on 441600 or Jon on 483193 before you go just case anything changes.

The site  Meet at Overdale Hospital, Westmount Road, St Helier

Jersey Phone Book map A4. Google maps here 

Approaching from the north along Westmount Road with the crematorium on your right, take the second right into Overdale Hospital, follow the road through the site towards the exit but turn right as the road takes you left to the exit.

Parking  Car park at the back of the site marked with the red marker below:

West Mount map

The task We will be making the grounds more wildlife friendly by digging a pond, undertaking some woodland management and creating new steps on the woodland paths.

We will meet at 10.20 to ensure we start at 10:30 prompt and plan to work until about 12:30

Tools needed This task is all about digging so please bring your own spade if you have one (note garden forks and trowels are not suitable for this task), we have some spades but not enough for all. As usual we have gloves for those who need them, but you may prefer to bring your own gardening gloves if you have them.

Clothing needed. It may be cold and, being Jersey, it may be wet so please dress sensibly and wellies may be absolutely essential!

Children All are welcome, young or old. Children under 16 must be supervised by a parent or guardian during the task.

Cakes We plan to work until about 12:30, when we stop for a hot drink, and as much of Kim’s cake as we can get away with!

Helping hedgehogs 

Hedgehog. Photo by Miranda collettJersey Hedgehog Preservation GroupFrom Jersey Hedgehog Preservation Group

Jersey Hedgehog Preservation Group have produced a new leaflet Helping hedgehogs 2018 which can be downloaded here

Hedgehog Highways

One of the main reasons that hedgehog populations are declining is that they often cannot get into our gardens to find food or shelter. A recent report has shown that in urban areas of the UK where people are linking their gardens the decline in numbers is slowing down. It might help our hedgehogs in Jersey if we followed their example. The first thing you can do is to make a 13 x 13cm hole in or under your fence or wall and link your garden with your neighbours to create a Hedgehog Highway. Hedgehogs really are the gardener’s friend and will eat a lot of your garden pests, like slugs and snails. Hedgehogs can roam about one mile in a night. You can register your highway and become a Hedgehog Champion.

Jacksons Fencing have hedgehog friendly gravel boards for their fences with pre-cut holes, in stock in Jersey at JF(T)U Ltd

Hedgehog gravel board. Photo by Jacksons Fencing

Hedgehog friendly garden

Hedgehogs in the Twiglets. Photo by Dru BurdonGo wild

  • Leave a wild area to encourage insects and invertebrates – great hedgehog food!
  • Build a pile of brushwood or logs for hedgehogs to nest in
  • Remove hedgehog hazards
  • Be as organic as you can. Slug pellets kill hedgehogs and other garden chemicals can harm them too
  • Compost your garden waste rather than burn it.

Never set fire to a bonfire without checking it first.  Always move it before you set it alight. A hedgehog will see your garden rubbish as a lovely place to nest, with all too often tragic consequences.

Take care with garden tools, check before you cut, strim or fork your compost heap

Water dangers

If it’s there, they will fall into it:

  • Please cover your drains.
  • Garden ponds – provide escape ramps of stones, rough wood or wire netting.
  • Swimming pools – rigid plastic mesh secured on the edge and trailed in the water makes a good ladder. Hedgehogs are very good swimmers and climbers, BUT they need to be offered a way out.

Netting, string and litter

Hedgehog in 4 pack rings. Photo by Dru BurdonNetting, garden string and other litter can all be hazards for hedgehogs.

  • Store nets safely in the shed when not in use
  • If using nets to grow peas or beans, leave a 13cm gap underneath
  • If using nets for covering low crops such as strawberries, pull taut and cut off surplus
  • Keep your garden clear of litter. Think hedgehog!

Food and water

Put out cat or dog food and water especially in dry weather. Place the food under a box with a 13cm square hole cut in the side to prevent other creatures getting to the food before the hedgehogs arrive.

Does this hedgehog need help?

Hedgehogs are nocturnal so if you see one lying out of its nest in the daytime, there may be something wrong, even if you cannot see any injury. Please pick it up with gloves and put it in a deep box and phone the Jersey Hedgehog Preservation Group on 01534 734340 as soon as you can. However, in the summer if you see a large hedgehog walking with purpose across your garden while it is still light, it may well be a mother with young, so please leave her alone and offer her some cat or dog food and water to help her produce milk to feed her babies.

Read the report The State of Britain’s Hedgehogs 2018 here 

Hedgehog Mr Payn facing front. Photo by Dru Burdon