Chough report: December 2021

By Liz Corry

Sorel in the bleak midwinter. Photo by Liz Corry.

December was wet and wild, but that didn’t stop the choughs from making the most of Jersey. We had several sightings covering the north and south of the Island.

Jersey choughs have been foraging in the fields along le Canibut. Photo by Liz Corry.

The fields around Le Canibut lane in St John provided daily sustenance for a bit. Corbière became an early morning jaunt for several birds. Eight were spotted one morning searching for insects amongst the stony ground around the headland. We were able to identify the birds as a mix of this year’s juveniles and non-breeding sub-adults.

Monvie and Jaune searching for invertebrates on the south coast. Photo by Mick Dryden.

Historically, choughs in Jersey were known to nest along the stretch of coast running from Corbière to Beauport. The coastline clearly still holds it appeal for the species although not enough to support a chough independently from Sorel and the supplemental feed.

The south west corner of Jersey was historically home to breeding pairs of chough. Image taken from Google Earth 2022.

December catch-ups

An ‘epic’ event happened this month at Sorel. I finally managed to outsmart the choughs and trap them in the aviary on the first attempt. Ok, so it’s not climbing Kilimanjaro or turning rainwater into wine. But in our books, it’s pretty impressive. Especially given the fact myself and the student shut in 14 of the 24 choughs present, hand-netted and weighed seven, replaced missing rings on three, and solved a medical mystery for one. All within an hour and time to spare before sunset. 

No, before you ask, there was no pear tree and/or partridge in sight.

Student Charlotte Dean got the rare opportunity to hold a wild chough whilst learning about ringing. Photo by Liz Corry.

Minty, our Plémont male, now has brand new green and red rings. It should make him more obvious when he is flying between Grosnez and Plémont during the breeding season. In the process of replacing Lee’s missing white ring we noticed wear along the top edge of his metal ring. This was only fitted six years ago.

 

Lee’s metal ring fitted in 2015 is showing wear and tear. Photo by Liz Corry.

The medical mystery concerned Minty who was observed limping one afternoon at Sorel. There also looked to be swelling on one of his feet. Once in the hand, it was clear to see his hind digit on the left foot was swollen. In consultation with the vet, it was decided that it was likely to be fibrous scar tissue or a cold abscess. The limping seen the week before was unrelated and has not been observed since. We will continue to monitor him as closely as we can as with all the choughs. We will take him to the vet to be X-rayed if his condition worsens.

Swelling on the hind digit looks to be scar tissue or a cold abscess. Phot by Liz Corry.

Essential Maintenance

Ever since that catch-up on the 22nd, the choughs have been on the defensive, reluctant to enter the aviary if we are present. They might hate us even more when we set up the Henchman ladder to repair the tears in the netting.

Tears in the netting are appearing once again along the metal support pole. Photo by Charlotte Dean.

We tried to do the work on 9th December with the assistance of the Government Countryside Rangers. The ladders are too big for our Dacia and the condition of the farm track called for the Rangers’ high clearance Land Rover.

After our best Chuckle Brothers impression getting the ladder into the aviary whilst being pelted with hail, the Henchman was too tall to stand upright inside. We had borrowed Site Services’ Henchman because the Bird Department’s one was in use, not realising it was a different model until it arrived at Sorel car park.

We rescheduled for the New Year and set to work repairing the holes we could reach unaided.

We also had to reschedule installing new nest boxes in Ronez Quarry. Emergencies at Ronez postponed the two planned visits in December. I’m hoping it will be a case of third time lucky in January.

We kept ourselves busy in the meantime. The student created Christmas themed enrichment for the choughs using reclaimed wood, old perching, and non-toxic paints. A well-deserved Blue Peter badge is winging its way to her.

December in Jersey…must be time for a visit to Hawai’i

I participated in two online planning workshops this month to discuss ideas for the ‘Alalā reintroduction plans (aka the Hawaiian crow). The ‘Alalā Project team and the Jersey chough team have had on and off contact over the last ten years sharing a common goal and using similar practices we can both learn from.

Hawaiian crows are tool users. Photo by Ken Bohn/San Diego Global

Release efforts between 2016 and 2019 saw captive bred ‘alalā living free in Puʻ u Makaʻ ala Natural Area Reserve on Hawai’i Island. Sadly, after several losses, the team decided to re-capture the surviving birds and return them to the safety of captivity whilst they set to work on Plan B.

‘Alalā face a very complicated situation which is why the team are looking for help and ideas from far and wide including the Mariana crow, Puerto Rican parrot projects, and the Jersey chough project. Getting all four teams in one virtual room was a challenge in itself given the time zones. The first meeting was at 10pm (GMT) the second a more respectable 6pm.

It was very motivational to hear people sharing experiences that resonated across species and countries. Often when helping others you end up learning something yourself. And it reminded me just how lucky Jersey has been to have had success so early on with a species recovery project.

               

Blue Islands flight JECH0U9H

The four juvenile choughs bred at the Zoo this year were exported on the 16th to Paradise Park via Blue Islands. It was a true team effort requiring all Bird Department staff in that day to help catch the four out of the aviary in the afternoon of the 15th. They were then held in a quarantine aviary overnight ready for a 6am wake up call. The birds were caught and crated ready for a 7am departure in the dark heading to the airport. Blue Islands flew them to Exeter where they were met by Paradise Park staff and driven on to Hayle, Cornwall.

And finally…

As we bring December and 2021 to a close, we would like to thank everyone who has been involved in the project this year and all our supporters for their generosity and enthusiasm. It’s been another hard year for choughs dodging peregrines and humans dodging COVID, but we made it. Happy New Year! Here’s to a year full of leatherjackets, dung beetles, larvae and whatever else makes you choughing happy.

Sunsetting on another year at Sorel. Photo by Charlotte Dean.

January volunteer activity

Sunday 9th January 2022 –– Devil’s Hole, St Mary 10:15-12.30

From Jersey Conservation Volunteers

Happy New Year! We hope you had a restful break and are ready to join us to work off any over indulgences….

Task We are again joining Jersey Trees for Life to help them plant a mixture of native trees to extend the new woodland on the north coast.

If you have any questions, or if you wish to be added to the Wild About Jersey email list, please contact either Julia Clively (tel: 441600; j.clively@gov.je) or Jon Parkes (tel: 483193; jon.parkes@nationaltrust.je).

The site Meet in the car park at the Devil’s Hole Priory Inn 10:15 for a 10:30 start. It will be a short walk to the planting site. We will finish at approximately 12:30 to give us the chance for a cuppa.

Jersey phone directory Map 2, N4 and Google Maps here

Parking There is parking close to the Priory Inn.

Tools needed Some equipment can be provided but please bring a spade and a pair of gardening gloves if you have them.

COVID 19 Please follow the latest guidance on www.gov.je and to help keep us all safe we ask that you perform a Lateral Flow Test before joining the task.

Clothing needed Please dress for the weather and wear sturdy footwear. We can supply a pair of gardening gloves if you don’t have them.

Children All are welcome although we do ask that volunteers under 16 years of age are accompanied by an adult.

Refreshments We are delighted to welcome back Kim who will provide us with her splendid refreshments when work is finished. *Please make sure you bring your own mug or reusable cup*

We very much look forward to seeing you on the day.

Happy holidays and best wishes for 2022 from Birds On The Edge

Happy holidays and best wishes for 2022 from Birds On The Edge to all our friends and supporters.

Click below to hear the birds ‘sing’

 

 

Chough report: November 2021

November afternoons at Sorel. Photo by Liz Corry.

By Liz Corry

At the start of November, I was still wearing shorts to work. By the end, several layers, gloves, a woolly hat, and the obligatory waterproofs. The choughs also noticed the change in weather. The entire flock are now waiting for supplemental food each afternoon. Some birds even wing-begging for food. Clearly, wild supplies of invertebrates were not meeting energy demands for birds battling winds and trying to stay warm.

The sheep left. Not necessarily related to the weather, I think they have been moved to St Ouen. This might add to the choughs’ hunger if there are less dung invertebrates around Sorel in the sheeps’ absence.

Hungry choughs waiting for the supplemental food. Photo by Liz Corry.

Storm Arwen caused more minor damaged at the aviary. Of note, the keeper door had been blown wide open when the force of the wind bent the bolt out of place!

I was quite surprised we didn’t suffer more, especially considering last month’s gale damage. Luckily, I managed to fix the damaged panelling before Storm Arwen hit.

Lily leaves the flock

Lily, a three-year old female, appears to have either perished or left the Island. She was last seen on 5th November at Sorel. She has not been reported elsewhere.

Lily is an example of how post-release management has played an important role in the project’s success. Lily hatched in the wild in 2018. We had to catch her up in December that year when we spotted her digit caught in her ring. Durrell vets had to intervene as the toe needed amputating (click here to learn more). She was released back into the wild the same day and formed a partnership with another female looking out for each other over the years.

Lily and Vicq hanging out together this summer. Photo by Liz Corry.

New partnerships

Since Lily disappeared, her ‘partner’ Vicq has been seen preening Pinel. He is a wild hatched bird from 2020. If this new partnership continues over winter, it could mean a new breeding pair. 

Likewise, Danny and Portelet are also showing promising signs of being a new pair for 2022. Both pairings will need to find a nest site and establish a new breeding territory. No doubt keeping the project team on their toes next season.

Roost monitoring

We have been without a student placement all November which has restricted certain tasks, one being the biannual roost checks. I’ve not been able to check all the known roost sites due to sunset times clashing with the supplemental feed.

I have been able to monitor the aviary and, as suspected, several of the quarry birds are roosting at the aviary again. I suspect they will switch back to the quarry once sunset times start occurring after Ronez have clocked off for the day.

Leg rings

We finally managed to trap Monvie in the aviary to fit her metal ring. This is engraved with details of Jersey Museum in case the bird is recovered by a member of the public. Also, it comes in really useful when a plastic colour ring drops off and we can’t be sure on identity. Case in point, Archirondel, who we also managed to catch the same day and replace her white ring.

Monvie having a metal leg ring fitted by a licensed ringer. Photo by Liz Corry.

Bo and Minty evaded several catch-up attempts this month. We will keep trying although, at least for now, we can still distinguish them in the flock. Then on the 29th, Lee arrived missing one of his rings so he gets added to the ‘to do’ list for December. 

French news

Our friend Yann commented on last months’ report to say he has not seen Cappy since spring. Disappointing if she has perished although not a surprise. It would be nice to think she has moved south, along the coast towards Brittany under the radar of French birders. 

And finally

Camera trap footage at Sorel often throws up a few surprises. This month it was the camera itself with the surprise. I found an orb weaver (spider) and ladybird ‘hiding’ behind the camera. The spider’s full name is Nuctenea umbratica, commonly known as a walnut orb-weaver. Apparently also known as the toad spider although I’m not sure why – a tendency to hide behind things?

I logged the find with the Jersey Biodiversity Centre using the iRecord app. Both are common species but it is still important to record when you can.

Camera traps throw up all sorts of surprises at the aviary. Photo by Liz Corry.

 

 

December volunteer activity

Sunday 12th December 2021 –– Mourier Valley 10:15-12.30

From Jersey Conservation Volunteers 

Task Join the National Trust for Jersey’s Lands team to help maintain some of the many trees planted over the last two years and see how the new woodland is progressing. There will also hopefully be an opportunity to plant some new trees as the final planting phase of the three year project is reached.

We would ask all participants to please book a space on Eventbrite by following this link

If you have any questions, or if you wish to be added to the Wild About Jersey email list, please contact either Julia Clively (tel: 441600; j.clively@gov.je) or Jon Parkes (tel: 483193; jon.parkes@nationaltrust.je).

The site Meet at Sorel Point car park at 10:15 for a 10:30 start. We will finish at approximately 12:30.

Jersey phone directory Map 3, R2 and Google Maps here

Parking There is parking close at Sorel Point.

Tools needed Equipment will be provided but if you have a pair of gardening gloves, or any garden forks, rakes, sickles or spades, it could be helpful if you could bring them along with you.

Clothing needed Please dress for the weather and wear sturdy footwear. We can supply a pair of gardening gloves if you don’t have them.

Children All are welcome although we do ask that volunteers under 16 years of age are accompanied by an adult.

Refreshments Unfortunately, Kim will not be able to join us on Sunday, but the Trust Rangers will be happy to offer a mince pie and a cuppa for the workers. Unless one of them does some baking!
*Please make sure you bring your own mug or reusable cup*

We very much look forward to seeing you on the day.

Birds of Conservation Concern

From British Trust for Ornithology, British Ornithologists’ Union and British Birds

The fifth edition of Birds of Conservation Concern (BoCC) has been published. Undertaken every five years, BoCC covers the population status of birds regularly found in the UK, Channel Islands and the Isle of Man to provide an up-to-date assessment of conservation priorities. This fifth review has assessed a total of 246 species and placed them onto one of three lists, red, amber or green, according to their level of conservation concern (see RSPB for explanation of categories). 52 species are red-listed (up from 40 at the previous review), 126 are amber-listed (previously 121) and 68 are green-listed (down from 86).

Seven quantitative criteria have been used to assess the population status of each species and to place it on the red, amber or green list: global conservation status, recent decline, historical decline, European conservation status, rare breeders, localised species and international importance.

Most of the data for these assessments are based on bird surveys undertaken by volunteers, such as those run by the British Trust for Ornithology.

A parallel exercise was undertaken to assess the extinction risk of all bird species for Great Britain (the geographical area at which all other taxa are assessed) using the criteria and protocols established globally by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This resulted in the assessment of 235 regularly occurring species (breeding or wintering or both), the total number assessed differing slightly from BOCC5 due to different rules on the inclusion of scarce breeders and colonisation patterns. The results of this second IUCN assessment (IUCN2) are provided in the same paper as BOCC5.

How the lists are decided

The BOCC assessment is based on the most up-to-date evidence available. Criteria include conservation status at global and European levels and, within the UK: historical decline, trends in population and range, rarity, localised distribution and international importance. Golden oriole (previously Red-listed but which has not bred in the UK since 2009) now joins a Black List of eight other species now considered to have ceased breeding in the UK (including serin, Temminck’s stint and the once widespread wryneck). Four new species that have more recently become sufficiently established, as well as yellow-browed warbler (no longer considered a scarce migrant), were assessed by BOCC5 – little bittern, cattle egret, great white egret and black-winged stilt – and all went onto the Amber list due to criteria related to scarcity and localisation.

The IUCN assessment process uses the same underlying data on population trends and population size but the time periods over which change is assessed differs and is linked to generation length and also population size. With their focus on extinction risk, the IUCN assessments also consider the potential for populations in Great Britain to be rescued by immigration from increasing populations in surrounding geographical areas.

The growing Red List

This update shows that the UK’s bird species are increasingly at risk, with the Red List growing from 67 to 70. By contrast, the first Red List, published in 1996, had only 36 species. Eleven species have been Red-listed for the first time in 2021, six due to worsening declines in breeding populations (greenfinch, swift, house martin, ptarmigan, purple sandpiper and Montagu’s harrier), four due to worsening declines in non-breeding wintering populations (Bewick’s  swan, goldeneye, smew and dunlin) and one (Leach’s storm-petrel) because it is assessed according to IUCN criteria as Globally Vulnerable, and due to evidence of severe declines since 2000 based on new surveys on St Kilda, which holds more than 90% of the UK’s populations. The evidence for the changes in the other species come from the UK’s key monitoring schemes such as BTO/JNCC/RSPB Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) for terrestrial birds, the BTO/RSPB/JNCC Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) for wintering populations and the Rare Breeding Bird Panel (RBBP) for scarce breeding species such as purple sandpiper.

From green to red

Two species moved directly from the Green to Red List: greenfinch and ptarmigan. Increasingly severe declines in greenfinch numbers have been reported in BBS reports for more than a decade, and the initial regional pattern of declines was associated with outbreaks of the disease Trichomonosis. This disease of the digestive tract is widespread in greenfinch populations across Europe and may also be starting to affect other species such as collared dove, sparrowhawk and chaffinch.

The IUCN assessment resulted in 108 (46%) of regularly occurring species being assessed as threatened with extinction in Great Britain, meaning that their population status was classed as Critically Endangered, Endangered, or Vulnerable, as opposed to Near Threatened or of Least Concern. Of those 108 species, 21 were considered Critically Endangered, 41 Endangered and 46 Vulnerable. There is considerable overlap between the lists but unlike the Red List in BOCC5, IUCN2 highlights the vulnerability of some stable but small and hence vulnerable populations as well as declines in species over much shorter recent time periods, as seen for chaffinch and swallow.

What kinds of birds are in the most trouble?

How does the Red List break down across habitats or taxonomic groupings? Unlike previous BOCC assessments, where there was a clearer pattern of influx to the Red List, with upland and woodland species joining the already listed farmland species, this update is more of a mixed bag. However, the worsening status of Afro-Palearctic migrants continues with two aerial insectivores – swift and house martin – joining other migrants such as cuckoo and nightingale on the Red List. Although deteriorating conditions on the wintering grounds and on stopover sites are likely factors, the reliance of many long-distance migrants on insects and other invertebrates suggests that declines in those could also play a role.

The other group joining the Red List also encompasses migrants, in this case, wintering wildfowl and waders that breed at higher latitudes and to the east, but winter in the UK. Climate change and milder winters in regions such as the Baltic Sea have resulted in many of these species being less likely to migrate as far west and south as the UK, in a pattern termed ‘short-stopping’. This is likely the case for Red List newcomers dunlin and smew, but can be further complicated by broader declines in populations, as is known for the Eastern flyway populations of Bewick’s swan.

Can conservation action work?

There is also better news. In addition to white-tailed eagle, which no longer qualifies for ‘historical decline’ thanks to further recovery of the breeding population and intense conservation efforts, five previously Red-listed species (pied flycatcher, song thrush, black redstart, grey wagtail and redwing) have shown modest but sufficient improvements in breeding population status to have moved from Red to Amber. Red grouse, mute swan and kingfisher also move from the Amber to Green. Overall, the Amber List has increased from 96 in BOCC4 to 103 in BOCC5, this difference reflecting both negative (moves to the Red List) and positive changes (moves to the Green List). The Green list, now 72 species long, includes a range of common garden species such as blue tit, blackbird and robin, and saw a net loss of nine species since BOCC4.

The full lists are available in the Birds of Conservation Concern 5 – Summary leaflet here and the full paper The status of our bird populations: the fifth Birds of Conservation Concern in the United Kingdom, Channel Islands and Isle of Man and second IUCN Red List assessment of extinction risk for Great Britain here

600 million breeding birds have been lost in Europe since 1980

From Rare Bird Alert

A new study on breeding birds in the EU and UK shows one out of every six birds over nearly a 40 -year period has been lost. Overall, we have lost around 600 million breeding birds since 1980.

The study authors, a team of European collaborators from RSPB, BirdLife International and the Czech Society for Ornithology analysed data for 378 out of 445 bird species native to countries in the EU and UK.

Between 1980 to 2017, the authors estimate an overall population decline between 17% and 19%, equating to a loss of between 560 and 620 million individual birds. In fact, some 900 million birds have been lost during that period, however, this is set against an increase of around 340 million in certain species. Very large declines in a small number of common species account for a large proportion of these losses and the same is true of the increases.

The study was compiled using data from the European Bird Census Council’s Pan European Common Bird Monitoring Scheme, and mandatory reporting by EU Members States to the European Commission under the EU Birds Directive.

The once ubiquitous house sparrow has been the worst hit. It has lost 50% of its population since 1980, a total of 247 million birds. Its close relative, the tree sparrow, has also lost 30 million birds. Both have been affected by changes in agricultural policy and management, however, house sparrows in cities have also declined. The reasons for these urban declines are not clear but may be linked to food shortage, the spread of avian malaria or the effects of air pollution.

When comparing populations by habitat, the highest total losses were seen amongst farmland and grassland birds. It is widely recognised that changes in farming practices driven by policy are responsible for a precipitous decline in wildlife. As a group, long-distance migrants such as willow warbler and yellow wagtail have also declined proportionally more than other groups, as have shorebirds such as lapwing and dotterel.

Whilst much of the decline in bird numbers occurred during the 1980s and 1990s, in the last decade the rate has slowed. In the EU, the Birds Directive and the Habitats Directive provide legal protection to priority species and habitats and have been shown to benefit bird species, as well as enhancing habitat protection.

As an example, seven species of birds of prey have increased in recent decades following increased protection and reductions in pesticides and persecution, as well as from the introduction of targeted recovery projects. Without the introduction of these directives, there is little doubt that declines in many species would have been much worse.

However, this work supports previous research showing substantial recent biodiversity loss. The decline of common and abundant birds shows that further broader scale conservation work is still required. There is an urgent need to conserve birds associated with agriculture, as well as long distance migrant birds across their migratory journeys.

Importantly, the loss of common and abundant species is a concern because it implies damage to our ecosystems and their function, and potentially to the delivery of ecosystem services upon which humanity depends. The dominance of common species means that changes in their populations may have large implications for the health our of our ecosystems.

Fiona Burns, RSPB Senior Conservation Scientist and lead author of the study said: “Next year the United Nations Convention of Biological Diversity will be meeting to discuss the future of our global biodiversity, and create a framework which calls for increasing conservation efforts to be targeted towards preventing extinctions and recovering species abundance. Our study is a wake-up call to the very real threat of extinctions and of a Silent Spring, and we are fully supportive of ensuring a strong framework which puts conservation front and centre of any global plans.

“We need transformative action across society to tackle the nature and climate crises together. That means increasing the scale and ambition of nature-friendly farming, species protection, sustainable forestry and fisheries, and rapidly expanding the protected area network.”

Anna Staneva, BirdLife Europe Interim Head of Conservation said: “This report loudly and clearly shows that nature is sounding the alarm. While protecting birds that are already rare or endangered has resulted in some successful recoveries, this doesn’t seem to be enough to sustain the populations of abundant species.

“Common birds are becoming less and less common, largely because the spaces they depend on are being wiped out by humans. Nature has been eradicated from our farmland, sea and cities. Governments across all of Europe must establish legally binding targets for nature restoration, otherwise, the consequences will be severe, including for our own species.”

Read the paper Abundance decline in the avifauna of the European Union reveals cross-continental similarities in biodiversity change here

Climate change and the UK’s birds

From BirdGuides

A newly published study from the British Trust for Ornithology indicates that many of the UK’s seabird populations including that of the Atlantic puffin could plunge by as much as 90% by 2050 because of changes in the marine environment caused by rising temperatures, if global warming is not checked.

“This could represent a loss of over a million birds,” warned the BTO’s CEO, Professor Juliet Vickery. 

Increasing water temperatures are having a negative impact on sandeel numbers in British waters, the small fish which are the puffin’s main prey species – meaning that the breeding productivity of the puffins themselves is being adversely affected.

According to the BTO report, this is also affecting other seabirds, such as kittiwake; in all, 11 of our 20 breeding seabird species are regarded as being highly vulnerable to future climate change. The seabird numbers that the UK holds are internationally important.

Professor Vickery added: “If we are to hold onto our important bird populations then we need governments to make the right decisions for nature and the climate after COP26, and to invest in real action towards meeting these commitments. We will also need to continue to monitor the results of our actions – to evaluate what works and what doesn’t.”

Dr James Pearce-Higgins, Director of Science at BTO and author of the report, explained: “This new analysis reveals that, overall, one in five UK bird species will be affected by climate change. It is not just our seabirds that will be impacted; we will lose some of our best-loved summer visitors too. Once familiar migrants, such as common cuckoo and spotted flycatcher, have already seen their breeding populations more than halved during the last 25 years.”

Pearce-Higgins added: “Changing conditions here in the UK may have some impact, but the effects of changing weather patterns on the wintering grounds in Africa and along the migration routes used by these migrant birds may also be important. Projecting the future fortunes of these and other migrant birds is challenging given their complicated lives that cross continents. Securing their future will require international collaboration right along their flyway.”

Importantly, the report highlights those species that could be impacted by attempts to mitigate climate change, such as increased development of offshore renewables and widespread tree planting on upland habitats. Knowledge of bird numbers and distributions, gathered by BTO’s network of 60,000 citizen scientists, can help to inform how and where these approaches can be used in ways that minimise any potentially damaging impacts on declining species. We need to maintain our efforts to safeguard our seabirds, like the puffins, and other birds to ensure that they get as much support as we can give them.

The full report, Climate Change and the UK’s Birds, can be read here.

Chough report: October 2021

Do choughs need a Corvid-19 passport to leave Jersey? Photo by Liz Corry.

Report by Liz Corry

Out of sight but not out of mind

A year ago we had our first-ever confirmed sighting of a chough off-island when a juvenile flew over France. Has it happened again?! 

Rocky, a juvenile male from Ronez Quarry, is missing from the flock. He has bright pink and yellow leg rings making it theoretically easy for the team to pick him out in a crowd.  He has not been at the supplemental feed. That alone doesn’t mean much these days; however, on one occasion he was the only one not to turn up. This suggests he is either dead or has left the Island effectively reducing the population to 31 choughs.

It would be good if we can start raising our profile across the Channel Islands, Brittany, and Normandy to enable the public to report chough sightings if indeed the birds have flown further afield.

Rocky is not the only one to leave Sorel. Aaron spent a busy weekend transporting sheep off-site to another location for livestock management reasons. I’ve no one to talk to now when I’m cleaning the aviary!

Hello Dolly. Photo by Liz Corry.

Storm damage

The sheep were still out at Sorel when the storms hit this month. We had a couple of weeks where we were strongly reminded that winter is approaching.

The gales managed to break a food stand, break signposts, dislodge a water butt (it was empty to be fair), and pop several rivets. All easily fixed and looking like new. Or, in the case of signage, actually new thanks to the Government Countryside Rangers.

A few small tears have appeared in the netting and fixing points in need of attention. This will require some extra hands and a sturdy ladder. 

What’s wrong with this picture? Photo by Glyn Young.

Minor damage inflicted by October’s stormy weather. Photos by Liz Corry.

The sudden downpours turned walking to the aviary into a game of will I or won’t I end up like a drowned rat? Should I leave the dishes out or condense them down to put under cover? The latter confusing the choughs for a split second when they didn’t find a food dish where it normally would be.

New nest boxes for 2022

We have built two new nest boxes with a grant from the Jersey Ecology Trust Fund. These will replace two existing nest boxes which need to come out for different reasons. Percy and Icho’s box currently requires the hiring of a cherry picker to ring their chicks. The new nest design will allow access from inside the building. Plus, the current one became lopsided back in 2019 and is increasingly at risk of falling down. Not ideal for quarry staff least of all the choughs.

Percy and Icho’s nest box will undergo a Changing Rooms special this winter. Photo by Liz Corry.

Ronez Quarry will be installing the boxes before Christmas ready for the next breeding season.

The grant provided by the Jersey Ecology Trust Fund included several other items such as DNA sexing kits and leg rings. For various reasons, we came in under budget. The Trustees kindly permitted us to use the remainder of the budget to purchase new binoculars. For which I am very grateful – I was beginning to think it was just my eyesight!

Celtic cousins 

Regular readers might remember that the new design of nest box came from the owners of a renovated barn in Ireland. In fact, it was the October 2019 report where we featured the same nest box needs (thanks a lot COVID-19!).

Ireland is home to a population of almost 850 breeding pairs. This is more than Cornwall, Wales, Scotland, and Jersey’s numbers combined. Yet this still makes it a scarce species in Ireland restricted to the western Atlantic coastline.

View overlooking Beginish and Doulus Head from Valentia Island on Iveragh, Ireland. Photo by Norman McCloskey.

One conservation initiative involved with Irish choughs is LIVE (Llŷn Iveragh Eco-museums). The overall aim of LIVE  is to enable coastal communities to promote their natural and cultural assets, creating opportunities for sustainable tourism, especially outside of the traditional peak tourist seasons. LIVE uses the Ecomuseum model of co-operative marketing to create a powerful suite of digital and non-digital resources for eco and educational tourism. These resources are underpinned by knowledge of the local environments of the Llŷn Peninsula in Gwynedd and the Iveragh Peninsula in Kerry.

As part of this, Fiach Byrne, University College Cork, has has been investigating winter habitat use of choughs around the Iveragh peninsula, County Kerry. He recently presented his findings online; the YouTube video is below.

To find out more got to www.ecomuseumlive.eu or follow them on social media (@ecomuseumslive).

We hope to be hearing more from Fiach and the LIVE team in the future. There are lessons we can learn from our Celtic cousins to help the Jersey choughs thrive.

And finally…

Reviewing camera-trap footage can often be monotonous especially when it is just a blade of grass that sets off the trigger. Occasionally you come across a real gem. This month we managed to capture a series of images showing the barn owl hunting at the aviary.

A barn owl hunting outside the chough aviary. Photo by Liz Corry.

Channel Islands birds – the new list is out

We have great pleasure in circulating the updated Channel Islands bird list.
It may be a little late (blame shortages, difficulties in the supply chain, lack of lorry drivers etc, etc) but it’s well worth it. We have new birds, unexpected birds and some unclear changes to our songbird list (i.e. subalpine warblers). Jersey lost a species while Guernsey’s increase of one came through the sighting of an African species, Egyptian goose, that through human intervention is fast developing a population close to us (and in London’s city parks).

Besides the new species on the list, we always get to see the way our avifauna is changing. Glossy ibis? Black-winged stilts? We almost doubled the total number of dusky warblers in the islands’ history in one year too.

Oh, and there have been the annual changes to the list order and some new scientifics. If a species isn’t where you expect it, keep looking! 

An unexpected colonist
In the Channel Islands, nightjars have long been considered rare passage migrants. Few hung around for very long, many were only recorded after being flushed off the ground. Occasionally one was seen flying around at dusk or the distinctive churring call was heard.

As our bird fauna changes, with old favourites disappearing and new, often long-legged waterbirds, colonising, who had nightjar down as a breeder? Nightjars are relatively specialised in their habitat choice and diet and have suffered bad years in the north of their range as insect populations decline. However, in the last few years, they have been found more regularly in the islands and in 2020, not one but two territories were held in Jersey. Of these, while the birds were carefully monitored to avoid any disturbance, and to protect from misuse of the sites, one pair definitely raised young. Will they return, will numbers increase? Will the other islands see more? Well, you’ll need to wait until the next list update – spoiler alert, it’s worth waiting for!

You saw what? Alderney’s list continues to increase

Since the establishment of the Alderney Bird Observatory we’ve begun to expect new additions to theirs and the CI List. The black-winged kites were good, but followed increasing reports in NW France and one in Jersey. While they haven’t reached the UK, we might expect to see them more often here.

The first white-rumped sandpiper for the islands was another good bird but it will take a while to surpass the bearded vulture. Bearded vultures, formerly known as lammergeier, are big birds and block out daylight. They are spreading through some successful reintroduction projects in several places in Europe. As young are joining the new populations, dispersal is to be expected but the sudden sight of one flying by when you aren’t expecting it will long live in the memory. As the Alderney bird was watched leaving over the coast, I was one of several people on Jersey’s north coast hoping, just hoping!

But of course, our quest to identify the birds that live here is never, in any way competitive. Which is why we are so pleased to see Alderney catching up. And we won’t begrudge them that vulture! And we don’t want something even more impressive on our island! 

Download the Working List of the Birds of the Channel Islands 2020 here