December volunteer activity

Sunday 8th December 2019 –– St Martin Village 10:00-13.00

From Jersey Conservation Volunteers 

Task Join the National Trust for Jersey’s countryside rangers this Sunday for a morning of hedge and tree planting in St Martin.

National Trust for Jersey has recently been working alongside The Jersey Royal Company in an ambitious hedge-planting scheme. Over the last couple of months, staff from Jersey Royal, ably coordinated by the NTJ’s Conrad Evans, have been busy planting on land leased and managed by Jersey Royal. The aim for this year is to plant 10 miles of hedging trees between St Catherine’s Woods and Jersey Zoo, amounting to over 20,000 hedging trees. And this is where the JCV can lend their seasoned hedge planting skills to the cause. The next link in our chain of hedgerows is a large agricultural field in St Martin, which is currently very bare and in desperate need of some ‘tree TLC’. So come along and help us continue with the planting of these vital wildlife corridors.

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

The site St Martin Village (Jersey Phone Directory Map 10, GG 11 and Google maps here )

Parking  St Martin’s village green carpark opposite the school. Please also consider car sharing or cycling.

We will meet earlier than usual at 9:45 for a 10:00 start. We will be finished by 12.30.

Tools needed As always, we can supply some tools, but if you have a pair of gardening gloves, and cutting tools (e.g. pruning saw, loppers, secateurs) it would be helpful if you could bring them along with you. Gloves and tools will be provided but please bring your own spades if you have them.

Clothing needed  As ever decent footwear and wet weather gear is recommended to cope with whatever the weather throws at us.

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

Refreshments Down tools at around 12.30 for well-earned tea and cake!

Birds in the Channel Islands: lists updated

A little later than in previous years, we are very pleased to update everyone on the Channel Islands’ birds. Two new species were added to the Islands list and unlike some of last year’s (here) they were ‘proper’ species, not those cryptic ones hiding in plain sight. Although Guernsey did add the previously ‘hidden’ Iberian chiffchaff and Caspian gull to their own list in 2018.

With some revisions (Jersey’s saker falcon, probably an escape, was demoted), the overall total for the Islands only actually went up by one so now stands at 377. I was right, last year, that Alderney would add little bunting to their total but they still haven’t reached 300. Losing a bean goose (its become two species and while Jersey can confirm records of both taiga and tundra bean, Guernsey and Alderney decided that they couldn’t retrospectively confirm the tundra version) put them back one, the little bunting brought them back up to 298. The wait for 300 goes on!    

And, in the separate islands, Guernsey added the three species above but also saw their first pallid swifts with birds seen in October and November. Offshore Guernsey birders recorded their Island and the whole CI’s third Wilson’s petrel. And, to rub it in with their southern neighbours the royal tern continued to hang around until May and still didn’t visit Jersey.

In Alderney, the impressive effort continued and besides the little bunting, long awaited second records of goosander, Iceland gull and Richard’s and tawny pipits were logged. There were also three records of great egret, a rapidly spreading species, and two of cirl bunting, a species, in contrast, considered to be in decline and exhibiting limited movements. Interestingly, Sark also saw a cirl bunting, their first since, well, a long time ago. Jersey has breeding cirl buntings but they were absent from the Island from 2004-2012 pointing to more movement in this species than had been expected (and look out for more news on this beautiful bird next year!). 

Guernsey also recorded local rarities in Canada and pink-footed goose, penduline tit and corn bunting. Sark added records of only rarely recorded red kite, nightjar and hawfinch with their cirl bunting.

In Jersey, besides the two CI firsts, above, the first Island record of Pallas’s leaf warbler meant that a gap in the CI list was finally filled in – there have been 18 previous records of this warbler across the other three islands. There were also seconds for Barolo shearwater, little crake and Caspian gull. The little crake was found in poor health and died in care.  A third common rosefinch and third dusky warbler were also notable. 

Two further wading birds made contrasting appearances in the islands in 2018 with a Kentish plover recorded in Jersey for the third time since 2000 and six black-winged stilts seen (two in Jersey and four in Alderney). Kentish plover is a former breeder in Jersey, Guernsey and Alderney (last breeding in 1974) whereas the stilt was only first seen in the islands, in Guernsey, in 1987 and has now been recorded in 13 separate years.

The full A Working List of the Birds of the Channel Islands can be downloaded here

 

Wilder Islands

By Liz Corry and Glyn Young

This year’s Inter-Island Environment Meeting (IIEM) was held in Alderney hosted by the Alderney Wildlife Trust and the States of Alderney. We had two days of presentations, participatory bioblitzs, and workshops. A new Wilder Islands conference ran on the third day bringing scientists, conservation practitioners, and policy makers together. This extra day was used to discuss the role of islands as biodiversity hot spots in a response to global environmental decline. Each day was introduced by AWT’s indefatigable Roland Gauvain.

There were over 120 delegates in attendance representing the Channel Islands, UK, British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies and France. Quite a crowd and quite a diversity of subjects.

For an island just shy of 8km2 Alderney did pretty well to accommodate us all. We took over the independent cinema and Island Hall for presentations and workshops, nipping into the Georgian House for coffee breaks and sustenance (there was also a divine three-course meal cooked by The Blonde Hedgehog staff using locally sourced products. We won’t talk about that since Glyn was only there for Day 3).

Presentations

Topics included invasive species control, citizen science, rewilding, and species monitoring. We will just mention a few to give you a flavour of the event.

Bob Tompkins talked about how Jersey is tackling the Asian hornet problem. We also heard from delegates about the Bailiwick of Guernsey’s approach. It is a daunting task; one that depends enormously on volunteers and public awareness. One take-home message, maybe unintentional, was just how amazing and socially intricate hornets are. 

Bob Tompkins explaining the intricate architecture of a late stage Asian hornet nest. Photo by Liz Corry.

Asian hornets are considered a pest because they predate honey bees; a species already in peril. As are many of our pollinating species be it bird, bat, or beetle.

At last years IIEM we heard from Barry Wells about the success of the newly created Pollinator Project. His team’s efforts (and enthusiasm) are now being replicated in Jersey in order to connect the Channel Islands together to achieve greater success.

Barry Wells talking about the success of the Pollinator Project. Photo by Liz Corry.

Barry highlighted an interesting fact – around 27% of Guernsey is designated as gardens. If you can convince homeowners to set aside just 10% of that land to pollinating plants it would be the equivalent of 200 football pitches. On one tiny island! Think how many insects that would help.

This is another example of how volunteers can be a huge benefit to biodiversity by making subtle changes. Sometimes a huge shift in public attitudes is needed and is harder to achieve. Cristina Sellarés touched upon this when she discussed the impact of dogs chasing wading birds on beaches. 

Cristina Sellarés discussed the concept of islands within islands. Photo by Liz Corry.

Some impacts are harder to notice unless you dedicate your time to monitoring them. Take eelgrass for example. It is considered a priority marine habitat in the Channel Islands due to the wonderful array of ecological functions that it has. Yet we don’t really know anything about our own eelgrass.

Pacific halibut resting on a bed of eelgrass. Photo by Adam Obaza (NOAA)

Step forward Dr Melanie Broadhurst-Allen (member of the Guernsey Seasearch team) positively glowing with passion for the sheer number of species eelgrass supports (including brent geese).

Just some of the invertebrates that rely on eelgrass.

Lack of public awareness has meant urban development, dredging, pollution, and sediment runoff has significantly degraded this habitat. A joint collaboration between partners from Guernsey and Alderney led to a citizen science project to monitor eelgrass. Data from this will hopefully be used by policy makers to apply protection and conserve eelgrass beds.

How to segway from eelgrass to choughs? Monitoring – sea eagles – reintroductions – choughs. Seamless.

Jamie Marsh, Reserves Manager for Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, talked about the white-tailed sea eagle recent release on the Isle of Wight. Three-pairs of birds were released in August as part of a reintroduction project. With an 8ft (2.5m) wingspan it is not surprising that the birds’ GPS trackers have shown some interesting results. One eagle, named Culver, excelled itself and was spotted by a father and son in London! Jamie shared the tracking data which confirmed Culver flew over Westminster at the end of August, over to Essex, before returning to Hampshire.

Movements of a reintroduced white-tailed eagle marked in red) across the south west of England. Photo by Liz Corry.

If this particular project is successful it will help pave the way for other reintroductions on the Isle of Wight; cirl bunting? beaver? chough?!

Potential reintroductions in the Isle of Wight will help boost biodiversity. Photo by Liz Corry.

Keynote speaker

Public opinion has been divided over returning sea eagles to England. Not helped by the often skewed and in some cases fake news coverage. Something Dr George McGavin raised in his lecture on the first evening.

George McGavin gave the keynote speech of the Inter-Island Meeting. Photo by Liz Corry.

George’s talk entitled Where have all the insects gone? touched upon the tendency for the media to extrapolate headline grabbing facts from reports and not consider the finer detail. Audience members were treated to a brief lesson in statistical significance and bias in survey sampling. Luckily George went about it in an engaging manner.

On the subject of insect numbers, George referenced the 2004 Big Bug Count led by the RSPB. Similar to their Big Garden Birdwatch, people were asked to count the number of insects seen on their vehicle registration plate using a ‘Splatometer’. It made people reminisce of days gone by when you would have to stop the car to wipe splattered flying insects off your windscreen.

Of course windscreens are different from number plates. Maybe the ‘splats’ are more likely on a larger, higher up surface? We won’t know unless the survey is repeated on an annual basis allowing us to see trends. We do it for birds, why not for insects? Well if you live in Kent you can! Kent Wildlife Trust reinstated the scheme this summer. What results would we get for Jersey? An island with more cars than people!

Wilder Islands

On the third day, the conference took on a new role and focused on the role islands have to play in a rapidly changing world where ecosystem collapse seems inevitable and considered how we can work together to meet this challenge. Again hosted by Dr George McGavin, each session involved a series of short presentations putting forward the speaker’s position with the speakers then forming a panel to debate the issue, with questions and input from the floor.

The keynote speaker today was Tony Juniper, Chairman of Natural England who talked on why islands and island biodiversity are so important globally and for the UK.

Session 1 looked at how we prioritise our response to the impacts of climate change on island ecosystems with Rob Stoneman (Rewilding Europe), Glyn Young (Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and Birds On The Edge) and Dr Louise Soanes (University of Roehampton).

Glyn’s talk was nattily entitled Islands: threatened engines of evolution and covered the importance of islands in the ‘creation’ of new species, current threats to the world’s islands and novel solutions looking at Durrell’s work in the Galápagos Islands. 

Session 2 looked at the role of marine protected areas within islands in securing marine biodiversity with Dr Bryce Beukers-Stewart (University of York), Dr Jean-Luc Solandt (Marine Conservation Society), Farah Mukhida (Anguilla National Trust) and Jim Masters (Fishing into the Future).

Blue Islands Charter
Political representatives at the conference stepped out to take part in the Blue Island Summit, to sign a charter committing islands to work together in their response to the environmental threats they face.

The signed Blue Islands Charter. Photo by David Nash

The natural environment knows no boundaries

Acknowledging that the natural environment has no boundaries, Ministers and other representatives from the UK family of small islands agreed the Blue Island Charter. The Charter provides a statement of principle on a number of initiatives previously discussed by the UK Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies Environment Ministers Council as well as other islands. These stressed working together on common issues which we all face.

Some key issues which the UK family of territories intend to pursue include moving towards a ban on single use plastics and, in general, controlling the impact of the Island’s activities upon the terrestrial and marine environment. Crucially, this would be facilitated by supporting each other through open communication and education.

The various territories are further actively exploring the possibility of creating a joint biodiversity fund to support inter-island work. This fund would also be open to contributions from other parties, including governmental, corporate and private sources. 

This charter demonstrates the will and intent of islands to work together for the benefit of all, to safeguard the environment and promote active collaboration on matters such as climate change. It portrays a level of commitment in promoting environmental governance in a manner rarely seen on a global scale. See the media release here

Session 3, after lunch, Hon. Claude Hogan (Minister, Montserrat), Dr Mike Pienkowski (UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum) and Dr Keith Bensusan (Gibraltar Ornithological & Natural History Society) looked at the roles NGOs and government might play in the response to climate change and biodiversity loss across our islands.

And finally, the outcome of the Blue Islands Summit was announced by delegates from Alderney (Andrew Muter, CEO) and Gibraltar (Dr Liesl Mesilio, Director of the Environment) to the room at large and attendees were asked to approve as a whole a statement of unity and a request for collaborative working.

Safe returns

And so, on a wet and very windy Sunday we returned home to Jersey, our flight home in doubt until the last minute. Thank you Aurigny. Before the flight I took time to walk down to Braye and watch the weather, to quietly thank our hosts, AWT and particularly Roland, Lindsay and Justin and listen to Wales beat Australia. What better way to end a great and productive weekend.

Tree planting morning, dust off your spade and book your place now!

In May this year, Jersey’s States Assembly declared a Climate Emergency (see subsequent report here). As you know, trees and hedgerows play a vital role in capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide as well as providing an important habitat for our local biodiversity.

To celebrate National Tree Week the Government of Jersey Natural Environment Team are joining forces with Jersey Trees For Life and Jersey Conservation Volunteers to plant as many trees and as much hedgerow as we can in one morning. We’d love to get lots of people involved so it would be fantastic if you’d join us.

Date and time: Saturday, 23 November 2019 from 9.00-13.00

Place: We are planting at the Jersey Motocross site at Sorel, St John. They have kindly allowed us use of their car park but we’d ask you to think about travelling as sustainably as possible.

Jersey Phone Directory Map 3, R2)  and Google maps here

Equipment: Please bring a garden spade if you have one, though we will have some spares.

Clothing: Good thick gloves (we can supply a pair if you don’t have them), wellies or sturdy boots, and common sense clothes to cope with the north coast elements

Children are welcome to attend this task as long as they are directly supervised by a parent or guardian.

IMPORTANT We are asking people to sign up using this Eventbrite link so that we can make sure we have enough people to supervise and enough tools.   

For more information about this event please contact Beverley Dallas-Chapman at Jersey Trees for Life. Email: beverley@jerseytreesforlife.org Mobile:  07797 713 321

Chough report: October 2019

By Liz Corry

October has seen a distinct dip in temperatures and a rise in the amount of rainfall and blustery weather. The number of choughs at the supplemental feed has been just as varied. Often the two are linked. Birds prepare for bad weather by filling up on calories. As the days get colder the choughs spend more time around the supplemental feed site. Some that have been independent all summer, like Xaviour, are now returning because wild supplies are running low out west.

On days when its constantly tipping down you might not find any choughs around the aviary – they are sheltering somewhere like the quarry or cliff crevices. Or, you arrive to find a dozen very angry choughs flying out of their aviary shelter cursing your presence, waiting to return the second you leave.

Public Sightings

On drier, calmer days, the birds are out making the most of the sunshine. We had six records sent in by the public this month. Two reports from Alison Hales, Director of Paradise Park, whilst over here on holiday. One tourist who should definitely know what a chough looks like!

Chough flying over Sorel. Photo by Shaun Gillard.

Two choughs were spotted foraging on grassland at St Ouen’s Pond and Kempt Tower. There have only been a few sightings in this latter area since the first release in 2013. Enough to suggest this small patch of land in the bay is alluring to choughs but quite how important it is we don’t know.

Spotting one or two choughs can be tricky. A dozen on the other hand… A resident near Les Ormes reported twelve noisy choughs flying overhead in a southerly direction. This is the first record for 2019 of choughs in St Brelade’s parish.

We will be adding a link on the website to the list of choughs out and about in Jersey. This is in response to a suggestion made by a local resident. If you manage to see the leg rings (quite a challenge) you will be able to identify the bird and discover a bit of. Hopefully leading to more detailed records

A chough at Grosnez reported and photographed by local resident Chris Eve.

Catching up with the choughs

One of this years juveniles, PP044, was caught up and treated for a suspected Syngamus infection this month. This naturally occurring nematode tends to cause problems every now and again even though it is probably present all year round.

Our ability to treat affected individuals has contributed to the success of the reintroduction. I am pleased to say that PP044 responded well to her worming injection and continues to fly free around Jersey.

As a side note we also caught up Black, one of the original females, when we trapped PP044. Black needed a replacement plastic leg ring. Once this was fitted she was released and flew off to rejoin her partner.

Numbers down again

Ronez staff found a dead chough in the production area of the lower quarry on 26th October. Leg rings allowed for instant identification of Lotte, a wild-hatched female just under eighteen months of age. She had not shown any signs of ill health and was seen the day before at Sorel.

A bit of a mystery for the vet carrying out the post-mortem examination. We are waiting on lab results before determining cause of death. 

Seasonal roost checks 

Evening view from Sorel cliff path with Sark on the horizon. Photo by Liz Corry.

Several roost checks were carried out at the end of October to determine which birds, if any, roost at the aviary. It is helpful to gauge how dependent the choughs are on this structure especially since the population has grown.

We also want to see if there is any significant change to numbers once the clocks fall back an hour. Historically we have seen a rise in the numbers of birds using the aviary in winter. This may be linked to certain quarry roosts being disturbed by artificial lighting and work there continuing when the sun sets before 5pm.

Getting answers has not been easy. Camera traps inside the aviary have had limited results. We only have two to start with and one mysteriously stopped working. To cover every potential location, Flavio has been re-positioning the camera each night and checking through the footage the following day. 

Combining this evidence with observational data we have managed to gain… very little knowledge. There is definitely one chough roosting by herself in a box. The jury is still out as to whether the external roost boxes are being used and if we have a few more choughs at the aviary. It does appear, however, that fewer choughs are using the aviary as a roost site than in previous years. A step in the right direction.

New pairings

The chough pairs have been at it again. With more plot twists than a daytime soap opera, we now appear to have three new pairings. Two of which are to the detriment of others.

Toby, a young male from the quarry, has been seen preening Aude a three-year old female. Hopefully this pair will make it through the winter and have their first go at breeding next year.

Rather annoyingly (from our viewpoint), Pyrrho has been seen with Betty. At first it just seemed coincidental that they were at the same feed stations. Progressing to suspicious and ending with definitely a pair when she was seen preening Betty all afternoon.

Two things to note are (1)  Betty is a male and (2) Pyrrho fledged two chicks this year with Skywalker. So where the heck is Skywalker? He hasn’t been seen at the feed for over a month. Likewise Betty’s other half has not been seen in a while. They were not a breeding pair so a little more acceptable that they have parted.

Not content with one drama, we started noticing Xaviour at the feeds and in a fairly regular fashion. She is one half of the Plémont pair. The male is unaccounted for. We have noticed Xaviour feeding from the same food bowl as Beaker a young male. Coincidence or a completely calculated move? 

Nest preparations

It might seem a little early, but we have started planning for the 2020 breeding season. Working alongside Ronez’s Toby Cabaret we have identified three nest sites in the quarry that need a little TLC in order to ensure their continued success. 

One nest-box is looking a little worse for wear. Not surprising given that it’s exposed position means it takes a battering from the winds and rain. It is now a health and safety risk to workers below and Toby’s team will replace the box with a more secure, longer lasting box.

A little lopsided, this nest-box is now a safety risk after taking another battering from the storms. Photo under license by Liz Corry.

As part of this ‘renovation’ work we are trialling a different design of nest-box. One that was brought to our attention a few years ago by a family in Ireland. 

Incorporated into their barn conversion was a novel nest-box design to accommodate a resident pair of chough. The pair successfully raised young the following season. Clearly a winning design and one that will hopefully work in the quarry.

Bespoke chough nest-box incorporated into a barn conversion in West Cork, Ireland. Photo by Oliver Nares.

And finally…

We have to mention the Go Wild Gorillas who departed the Island trail in a blaze of glory. The million dollar statues* were on display at Jersey Zoo for one last time before the auction. Without discrediting all the amazing artists, our favourites had to be Dia de la Exctincion and I-Spy for featuring a red-billed chough in their design!

*actually the auction raised more like 1.5 million given the exchange rate!

Tim Sutcliffe’s Dia de la Exctinction gorilla design (top left) included a chough as did I-Spy designed by Jersey artist Gabriella Street. Photos by Liz Corry.