Chough report: March 2022

By Liz Corry

Archirondel went on a ‘girls’ trip’ to Guernsey at the end of March. Photo by Chris Wilkinson/Facebook.

Channel Island Choughs 

The dream finally became a reality this month when two Jersey choughs were photographed in Guernsey. We first discovered the birds had left the island through a post on social media. A post on Guernsey Birdwatching’s Facebook page showed a selection of images and video from a very excited birdwatcher. The images clearly showed the leg rings enabling us to identify Archirondel and Portelet as the two tourists. These are two young, non-breeding females and as such have the freedom to explore.

The last time we recorded  Archie and Portelet at the supplemental feed was on 22nd March. After some frantic armchair detective work we discovered that they visited Sark too on 23rd March and were then next seen on the 25th in Guernsey. 

The report from Sark is a wonderful description of what it’s like when you spot a chough in flight for the first time:

“I went out to do the mowing at 3.30 pm and thought I heard a jackdaw which we do not usually see in Sark. I looked up and saw a black bird disappearing over towards Derrible Bay (fingers on wings were visible) but it was only a fleeting sighting. A bit later at 4.45 pm when I had finished the mowing I heard the call again and two choughs flew right above me and I realised that it wasn’t a jackdaw but a chough’s call. The red bill of one could be clearly seen but because of the shaded light I could not see whether rings were present on the legs. An altogether more slender bird than the crow and smaller. They turned right and flew down the meadow as if heading off east towards the harbour in a tumbling flight and then veered abruptly and flew off towards the north but heading back towards the east coast.” 

A Jersey chough flying high in Guernsey. Photo by Dan Scott/Facebook.

The pair stayed in Guernsey over the weekend foraging around Pleinmont near Portelet Bay! Portelet, the chough, returned to Jersey along with Archirondel on Monday the 28th. Quite literally a girls weekend away in the Bailiwick of Guernsey.

Image from Google Earth.

We envisaged this could happen when we first planned the reintroduction. It’s not unheard of for UK choughs to spend time foraging on both mainland and a nearby offshore island. This trip might have been a one off, equally it could be the start of a new foraging pattern for Jersey’s choughs. 

There is certainly suitable foraging habitat on offer in Guernsey. Pleinmont looks very similar to Les Landes and Grosnez in many respects, but it is too soon to talk breeding opportunities. We need more males for that to happen. No pressure on the breeding pairs then!

Pleinmont in Guernsey appears to provide suitable foraging habitat for choughs. Image from Google Earth.

The 2022 breeding season is underway

March madness came into full force when the breeding choughs began nest building, or nest refreshing for the experienced pairs. Ex-volunteer, Neil Singleton and his wife Ali were treated to an impressive display of ‘flying wool’ when they visited Sorel towards the end of the month. Timed well with the return of the sheep.

Choughs collecting wool for their nests at Sorel. Photo by Neil Singleton

I suspect these birds were heading to the quarry although the Plémont pair could have been involved too. They tend to stay local and collect horse hair or wool for Grosnez to Grève de Lecq. It might look like easy cargo, but I have seen a fair few accidentally drop their wool between Sorel and the quarry. Usually when they get distracted by a peregrine or gull or keeper walking below carrying insects!

Blurry but the intentions are clear. Photo by Neil Singleton.

Plémont sea crows return

Minty and Rey have returned to Plémont to refresh last year’s nest before Rey begins egg laying. The sea crows (to use an old Greek nickname) can often be heard foraging around Plémont headland and seen flying to and fro in search of food. During the nesting season, French choughs are known to spend most of their time within 300 metres of the nest site. If the habitat is suitable, i.e. lots of soil and/or dung invertebrates, the chough pair will be successful.

Minty can afford to spend some time chilling out right now. Once Rey starts incubating, he has the responsibility of finding food for the both of them. Maybe that is why he was happy to do a bit of sunbathing down at Plémont.

Minty taking time out from nest building to sunbathe. Photo by Charlotte Dean.

The Troublesome Trinity Two

Pinel has returned to Trinity taking his new female, Vicq, with him. They have been visiting the same places as last year such as Peacock Farm and East Ridings Stables. They appear to have chosen to nest in the same building he used the year before with his previous partner. Maybe he sees the potential in the property to become a family home?

Last year the pair abandoned early and weeks later the female disappeared. Hopefully he will have more success this time with Vicq who hatched three chicks in 2021. Sadly, the chicks died before fledging but it shows she can do it.

We are working with the property owner to monitor the situation and see if we need to assist in any way. The owner is very wildlife-friendly which is a big bonus and we have set up a camera-trap in the building, swapping out memory cards on a weekly basis. 

Playing in the sand pits

Another chough pair we are keeping an eye on are Danny and Jaune. We had reports of choughs in Simon Sand and Gravel Ltd. down on the west coast. Choughs have also been seen around Corbière this month so the assumption is that they are looking for a suitable nest site but since they are still sub-adults it is doubtful that they will breed this year.

 

Reptilewatch 2022 training event


1300-1600, 23rd April 2022 at Frances Le Sueur Centre, La Mielle de Morville JE3 2FN

Book your free place now via Eventbrite

We are delighted to be running this training session in person again and to be joined by Dr Robert Ward, Data and GIS Officer, Amphibian and Reptile Conservation who will be presenting at this event. Rob studied our local grass snakes for his PhD. He is extremely knowledgeable on Jersey reptiles and how to get the best chance of seeing reptiles locally.


What is Reptilewatch JE?

Reptilewatch JE is the successor to the National Amphibian and Reptile Recording Scheme (NARRS) which ran in Jersey from 2007 to 2018. During this time volunteers provided a great deal of information which has been used to inform the design of Reptilewatch as well as influence efforts to protect the species.

Reptilewatch JE is a project that aims to gather sightings of Jersey’s reptiles to help assess their conservation status, distribution and habitat requirements.

By taking part in the Reptilewatch scheme, you will be contributing important data to inform the ongoing conservation of these incredible creatures and helping inform future policies.

How can you help?
There are opportunities for everyone to get involved. Depending on your interest, available time and experience you can currently get involved in two ways.
Level 1 – spend 30 minutes looking for reptiles No experience or training is required.
Level 2 Wall lizard – carry out six visual surveys, each taking 30 minutes No previous experience needed but attendance at this training session is required.

Schedule of the day (provisional):
• Welcome and Introduction
• Reptile Identification – how to identify reptiles and some of the other animals you might encounter
• How to get involved Level 1 and how to record your findings
• How to get involved Level 2 -Wall Lizard and how to record your findings
• Field Session
• Opportunity to sign up and network with other volunteers.

Light refreshments will be provided.

Find out more about Reptilewatch JE or the other Wild About Jersey initiatives on gov.je.

Book your free place now via Eventbrite

Please don’t forget to wear appropriate clothing and footwear for the field session.

If we are lucky enough to have good weather on the day, please bring a hat and appropriate sun protection and some drinking water. Also, if you have any close focusing binoculars, please bring these with you.

Please take a COVID lateral flow test before attending. Please don’t attend if you feel unwell or have a positive COVID test result.

The arrival of the puffins

Plémont 10th April 11am-1pm

From National Trust Jersey

The Arrival of the Puffins is a unique festival that highlights the plight of these wonderful birds and the key role Jersey has to play in in order to protect and save the puffins and other seabirds.

Join us to celebrate the arrival of the puffins of Jersey back to their breeding cliffs, as well as the arrival of the willow puffins to the National Trust grounds at Plémont.

There are a series of activities as well us the unveiling of the magnificent puffin – willow sculptures that have been created to highlight these challenges. This event is open to everyone so please come along and join us!

You can drop by anytime between 11am and 1pm and you will find opportunities to watch puffins and other seabirds (if they are about!), walks of the Seabird Trail, and live music to celebrate the puffins and other sea folk.

Programme:
– Between 11am and 1pm: Puffin Watch at the Stone Circle – with Alli and Neil from Birding Tours Jersey. Just drop by, scopes and binoculars will be provided.
– At 11h and at 12h: Live music next to the willow puffins, with Aureole Choir and local folk band Sonneux. Be ready to sing along, lyrics will be provided!
– At 11.30h and 12.30h: Seabird Trail taster walks with local birding expert and photographer Romano da Costa. Bring your binoculars and cameras if you have them.

See you at Plémont on Sunday, and hopefully the real puffins will be there too!

Sculptures built in partnership with Geomarine. Event kindly supported by JDC (Jersey Development Company).

Chough report: February 2022

By Liz Corry

Jersey’s annual Great Garden Bird Watch returned some interesting results this year. Held on 5th and 6th February, Islanders were asked to spend an hour in their garden and list all the birds they could see.

For the first time in its twenty-one year history, choughs were recorded. Not only that, they were spotted on a bird feeder filled with peanuts, sunflower hearts,  maize, pinhead oatmeal and millet.

A pair of choughs demonstrating how resourceful corvids can be. Photo by Robert Graiger.

After digging a little deeper, we discovered that some of the choughs have been visiting this garden since 2020. The photos submitted identified breeding pair Trevor and Noirmont, prior to that, we know a young female has also visited with the pair.

Whilst surprising, it is not unheard of for wild choughs to use bird feeders. There are a few of reports from Cornwall and Wales of chough opportunistically feeding from garden bird feeders. In each case including Jersey, the gardens are not your typical urban estate fenced-in garden. Trevor and Noir have been visiting property at Grantez which surrounded by grazed land (sheep, horses, and donkeys). From Grantez’s vantage point, you can see the entire west coast from L’Étacq to Corbière, both areas favoured by choughs.

Donkey-grazed grassland is not your typical garden view. Photo by Liz Corry.

The interesting information from this report is the type of food they are eating. Pinhead oatmeal forms part of the supplementary diet provided to Scottish choughs in Islay. Its not considered as typical wild chough diet, but does suggests there is something in the mix that the birds are looking for. We are hoping to carry out research into diet preferences in the near future. This exciting discovery is certainly food for thought.

Sorry.

Foraging further afield

As mentioned above, the choughs have been visiting Grantez. In addition to the garden report, the National Trust Rangers have seen choughs foraging near the dolmen on Grantez headland. 

Choughs are also visiting Corbière, Les Mielles dunes, and potentially back at Crabbé where a pair roosted in 2020. The gun range, sheep-grazing, and now goat-grazing, provide great habitat for choughs to find food. Farm structures and cliff faces offer ample nesting opportunity for a pair looking to setup a new territory. 

Someone looks very warm out at Crabbé on a cold February morning. Photo by Liz Corry.

We are also keeping our eyes peeled around Trinity again. There is a good chance Pinel might try to set up a territory again this time with his new female. The roost site used in 2021 is surrounded by horse paddocks which provide foraging opportunities and nesting material – choughs sometimes use horse hair!

Choughs have been visiting the dolmen at Grantez. Photo by Liz Corry.

Catch-ups with the choughs

We finally managed to trap the elusive Bo and Flieur in the aviary to replace their leg rings. I say elusive, but I could equally use stubborn/clever/annoying/uncooperative… This is the pair who always fly to the aviary with the others yet refuse to go inside when they know we are trying to catch choughs. Bo in particular keeps both eyes firmly fixed on staff. Flieur might break once in a while and tempt fate, but flees at the first inclination that the hatches might be about to close.

I struck lucky on Monday 7th when all thirty choughs turned up for the feed all showing signs they were hungry. Typically had to be the day I was working alone although maybe that is why Bo’s guard was down.

I replaced Bo’s missing plastic ring and swapped Flieur’s faded pale grey for something more obvious. It felt wrong. No one likes change. Flieur has been grey since she arrived at Sorel. Grey is her identity.

It’s also a really stupid colour to use in the wild in a climate where grey skies prevail. So out with the grey in with the mauve.

Flieur’s new mauve leg ring sets her apart from the other 2014 (blue) hatched birds. Photo by Liz Corry.

Storm damage at Sorel

The Island has seen its fair share of storms this year. February’s Storm Eunice and Franklin delivering devilishly strong winds (55-63 mph or 89-102 km/h). Yet somehow the aviary miraculously remains standing. 

Choughs arriving for the supplemental food. Photo by Liz Corry.

The winds did create new rips in the netting and annoyingly re-opened ones we had sealed last month. Another trip to Sorel with the Henchmen ladder is in the pipeline. We have budgeted for new netting to be fitted later in the year. Hopefully the current net will hold out until then.

What didn’t remain standing was the Birds On The Edge sign at Sorel car park. Cue a phone call on my morning off followed by a spot of coastal ‘carpentry’. I couldn’t unscrew the sign from the posts to fit it in the car so the logical solution…saw off the posts! In my defence, they were rotten at the base, and we reused the wood at the aviary. The sign and fencing will be replaced by the Countryside Rangers in the near future.

It was like that when I got there your honour! Photo by Liz Corry.

Grazing returns to Sorel

Very pleased to see the return of the Manx loaghtans to Sorel this month. Perfect timing for the choughs who will soon need wool to line their nests.

The sheep have returned to graze Sorel and Devil’s Hole. Photo by Liz Corry.

It also means we should hopefully see the return of dung invertebrates (aka chough food) who depend on the sheep faeces. Not sure which made me more excited, the choughs foraging in amongst the sheep or the return of mating dung flies. If you haven’t already, please checkout our article about Dung Beetles for Farmers

A pair of yellow dung fly making the most of the fresh dung. Photo by Liz Corry.

Avian influenzas confirmed in Jersey

Two wild buzzards have tested positive for avian influenza: the first confirmed cases in Jersey. This was followed shortly by the death of a red-breasted goose in the Zoo who also tested positive for the strain H5N1. 

Choughs are considered to be at low risk of infection, and we do not foresee any major changes in how we manage the supplementary feeds. To reduce the chance of transmission between field sites and the Zoo, we have set up a disinfectant foot bath at the aviary with dedicated footwear. We continue to maintain high hygiene standards at the aviary and have separate footwear for in the Zoo and out in the field.

We will of course monitor the situation and consult with the States Vet if any changes occur.

Five new species of bat for Guernsey

First year of a four-year survey discovers five new species of bat for the Bailiwick of Guernsey

From Phil Atkinson and BTO

The most extensive bat survey carried out by citizen scientists in the Bailiwick of Guernsey using remote automated recorders has found several new species of bat and a new species of bush-cricket for the islands of Guernsey, Alderney, Herm and Sark, as well as collecting almost three-quarters of a million sound recordings of bats, small terrestrial mammals, bush-crickets and audible moth species.

Bats are a poorly understood component of the Bailiwick of Guernsey’s fauna, despite making up more than half of the terrestrial mammal species. Guernsey’s Strategy for Nature provides a clear direction to establish baselines for key biodiversity groups to provide government, other policy makers and practitioners the information required for good decision making. Learning more about the numbers and species of bats locally contributes to this, as they are key species for indicating the condition of the islands’ environment.

This research is being carried out through the Bailiwick Bat Survey: a four-year partnership project between the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and the States of Guernsey’s Agriculture, Countryside and Land Management Services (ACLMS) with coordination by La Société for the 2021 survey. Over 200 volunteers signed up to survey one or more of the 360 500 x 500m survey squares and borrow a detector for 4-6 nights from one of our Bat Centres. Working with this network, static acoustic bat detectors were deployed during 2021 over a long survey season (April to October). A total of 2,221 complete nights of recording effort was achieved across 611 different locations, providing the first extensive baseline data for bats for the islands. The Alderney Wildlife Trust and La Société Serquaise organised the surveys in Alderney and Sark, and the Guernsey Biological Records Centre hosted the website and will be the repository of the data.

Over 1.5 million sound recording files were collected by volunteers. These were initially fed into the BTO’s Acoustic Pipeline, where they were automatically identified to species using machine learning. Following an additional process of manual verification, these were found to include 710,260 bat recordings, and 8,211 small terrestrial mammal recordings. In addition, several species of bush-crickets and audible moth species were recorded, revealing the presence of 11 bat, five small mammal, six bush-cricket and two audible moth species.

Five of the 11 species of bat had not been recorded previously in Guernsey, and included serotine, whiskered or Brandt’s bat, Leisler’s bat, common noctule and lesser horseshoe bat. Serotine was also new for Alderney and Sark. A new species of bush-cricket, large conehead, was also found on Guernsey, Alderney and Lihou, which is the first record of this species in the Channel Islands.

Sarah Allez, the Bailiwick Bat Survey Coordinator at La Société said, “Undertaking such a large survey of the islands was only possible because of the large numbers of volunteers who put out detectors for us. The enthusiasm shown by volunteers has been amazing and the survey has really highlighted how some species rely on buildings for safe roosting areas and natural habitats for feeding.”

Julia Henney, Biodiversity Officer at ACLMS said, “Such a widescale survey has given us an insight into how this often overlooked group of nocturnal mammals uses Guernsey’s built and natural environment. With three more years to go we will have a comprehensive understanding of the habitats that are important for all the bat species that occur in the islands.”

Dr Phil Atkinson, lead scientist on the project, said, “The current dataset of 710,260 bat recordings has been very valuable in adding to our understanding of patterns of occurrence and activity of bats across the Bailiwick of Guernsey, but it also adds to our understanding of some other species groups that were recorded as ‘by-catch’ during bat surveys, and shows the power of citizen science. My thanks go to the 200+ volunteers who dedicatedly deployed the detectors, without which this project would be extremely difficult to carry out. I look forward to seeing what we might discover next year.”

Download the report Bailiwick Bat Survey: 2021 season report here 

Sheep on Les Blanches Banques

Plans to return sheep to the sand dunes of Les Blanches Banques and grazing to revitalise the grasslands

By Tim Liddiard

Les Blanches Banques

The sand dunes of Les Blanches Banques, set in and around St Ouen’s Bay in St Brelade and at the heart of the Jersey National Park is recognised biologically as being one the richest sites of its kind in the Island and has been described as ‘undoubtedly one of the premier dune systems in Europe for its scientific interest’. As the most extensive area of sandy soils in Jersey, the dunes support good populations of many animals and plants on the Island that are not found elsewhere.

During the Medieval period, the dune grasslands were used for sheep grazing and stacking sea weed to dry, the latter was used as fertiliser, or was burnt on the dunes to produce potash.

In the absence of a grazing regime on the sand dunes in recent years, due to the processes of seral succession it is evident that the important grasslands habitats are being subsumed by the spread of mixed scrub.

Currently an amount of grazing is being provided by rabbits but not at a level sufficient to halt or reverse the loss of the important dune grasslands, a key habitat in the Biodiversity Strategy for Jersey 2000 and home to a number of notable plants and a host of other wildlife.

A total of over 400 plant species have been recorded on Les Blanches Banques, many being unique or special to our shores.

Some of the plants found on the sand dunes which are recognised as being of scientific interest include the lizard orchid, with its flower resembling its reptile namesake; the dwarf pansy, in Great Britain only found on the Isles of Scilly and the Channel Islands, the heath dog violet which is Near Threatened in the UK and the sand crocus with its diminutive mauve flower.

Amphibians and reptiles enjoy life on the sand dunes, which harbours five of Jersey’s seven species. Palmate newt and slow worm are present but a visitor from mainland Britain will perhaps be more excited by the exotic looking green lizard with its emerald and aquamarine colouring. Also the western toad is found here rather than the common toad of Britain and northern Europe. The grass snake can be seen here on occasion, they are one of Jersey’s rarest animals and the sand dunes remains one of their few strongholds.

The blue winged grasshopper, the firebug, the Queen of Spain fritillary butterfly, the lesser bloody-nosed beetle, exuding a minute drop of blood when alarmed and the sand bear wolf spider which ambushes its prey from the entrance of its burrow are all invertebrates of particular interest to Jersey and our sand dunes.

 

The skylark, a ground nesting bird with an enchanting song is in decline across Europe and is a local Action Plan species, as is the stonechat, a bird whose call resembles the sound of two pebbles being knocked together. The chough, one of the great successes of the Birds On The Edge partnership is known to forage on the sand dunes and the conservation of the grasslands along with the addition of dung and its associated invertebrates will help provide these wonderful birds with an ongoing food source.

Grazing Plans

It is accepted best conservation practice to graze stabilised dune systems with livestock and the purpose of this project is to trial the grazing of Manx loaghtan sheep in scrub habitats and adjacent grasslands. These habitats have an abundance of burnet rose and other plant species which are becoming dominant over the more desirable dune vegetation which includes orchids, dwarf pansies, sand crocus and much more.

The area selected for initial grazing trials is on the escarpment north of La Moye Golf Club in an area known as Le Carriere. A combination of winter and summer grazing is the ideal, providing the chance to control holm oaks and other evergreens during the winter months and stripping foliage from other target plants (including privet, blackthorn and burnet rose) during the summer. Throughout the project the sheep’s food preferences will be constantly monitored with the hope that they will target the more undesirable plant species.

The sheep are planned to be on site from late February until May 2022.

Importantly, this area currently attracts a low level of public access and will not have a large impact on where people are able to walk.

Our thanks are extended to La Moye Golf Club for allowing the fenceline to tie into their existing fence which allows for a larger area to be grazed.

Benefits to habitats

• To prevent and reverse grassland succession towards mixed scrub within areas being grazed
• To maintain and increase plant species diversity within these areas and encourage some bare ground
• To introduce and maintain age mosaics throughout gorse and scrub dominated communities
• To encourage the reinstatement of species rich grassland especially in grassland ‘islands’ which are contained within the scrub area which are being lost to scrub
• To trial which plant species the Manx loaghtans forage on the most, thereby identifying their effectiveness in the control of scrub intrusion onto dune grassland habitats.

Benefits to species

• To provide bare ground for seed germination of dune grassland associated herbs and grasses
• To provide bare ground for associated invertebrate species
• To identify the effects of Manx loaghtan foraging behaviour on particular plant species , notably burnet rose, bracken, privet and blackthorn
• This area is recognised as being important for grass snakes and the creation of grass glades amongst the scrub will provide welcome basking areas for them
• There is a strong association and reliance between foraging choughs and short grassland, especially when grazing livestock and their dunging encourage the presence of dung beetles.

Jersey’s Great Garden Bird Watch is 21 this year!

Jersey Great Garden Bird Watch – 5th & 6th February 2022

Jersey’s very own garden birdwatch, the Action for Wildlife and Birds On The Edge Great Garden Bird Watch in association with the Jersey Evening Post will be 21 this year! Which bird species will be the most recorded across the Island’s gardens this year? Will it still be the house sparrow, they have had their ups and downs over the years?

House sparrows in Jersey gardens 2002-2021

The full list of last year’s most frequently recoded birds and squirrels is (with mean number of birds per recording household):

1. House sparrow 6.6
2. Goldfinch 2.4
3. Great tit 2.1
4. Starling 2.0
5. Blue tit 1.8
6. Wood pigeon 1.6
7. Chaffinch 1.4
8. Magpie 1.42
9. Robin 1.36
10. Blackbird 1.2
11. Collared dove 1.0
12. Greenfinch 0.5
13. Pheasant 0.2
14. Blackcap 0.15
15. Song thrush 0.18
16. Great spotted woodpecker 0.19
Red squirrel 0.6 (equivalent of 12th)

Method for recording

The method of the count is very straight forward. Basically you just need to choose one of the two weekend dates (5th or 6th February), look out into the garden for a few minutes, or as long as you like (I just look out the kitchen window) and write down what birds you see and the maximum number of each species. And, of course, red squirrels count again as birds this year. Just for one weekend!

Once you’ve counted the birds (and squirrels) on your chosen day please fill out the form online here, in the JEP or, alternatively, you can download a form here and email to birdsote@gmail.com

Your observations are of great importance in our understanding of the situation with the birds that we live closest to. Don’t forget, how these birds are fairing in the 21st century says a lot about our own lives and our own environment. You can read previous results of our survey in the Jersey Garden Birdwatch Report 2002-2020 here

Keep a look out for coal tits this winter. You never know! Photo by Mick Dryden

Les Landes footpath closures

By Liz Corry

There are changes afoot, or should I say under your foot, at Les Landes this month! The Government of Jersey has closed some of the footpaths around Les Landes to help protect Jersey’s rare Crapaud.

Jersey’s crapaud aka the western toad. Photo by John Wilkinson

For those not in the know, the crapaud is not a mythical beast but the Jèrriais name given to the western toad (Bufo spinosus). Les Landes is a very important breeding site for the toad. Seasonal ponds and puddles scattered around the site, often across public footpaths, are used for spawning. With adult toads on the move to reach these water bodies it is important we remove as many threats as possible and protect spawn, hence the closures.

Seasonal water bodies like this one at Les Landes are spawning sites for toads.

The toad is one of Jersey’s most abundant amphibian species and possibly most surveyed. However, there is still a lot we don’t know, especially when it comes to urban environments and coastal heathland. Particularly the importance of connectivity between sites. There is little point in protecting a spawning site if the adults get squished before reaching it. “Build it and they will come” isn’t always applicable!

If you find yourself out and about at Les Landes, please respect the area, follow the rules sign-posted on the footpaths…and report any choughs you see (ok so the last bit is not mandatory).  Click here to see the public countryside access map and learn about the codes of conduct.

If you want to know more or way you can help Jersey’s crapaud and other amphibian islanders, then head to PondwatchJE. There will also be an in-person training event on the 12th of February at the Frances Le Sueur Centre, St. Ouen. Islanders can register via Eventbrite using the link below.

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/pondwatch-je-training-2022-tickets-239982924387.

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