Jersey’s birdwatching and bird photography code of conduct updated

By Romano da Costa and Glyn Young

Many bird species in Jersey are endangered locally or globally. Their survival depends on their chances to feed and breed safely. Birdwatching and bird photography may cause disturbance to birds, and, in certain circumstances, this disturbance might cause them harm or even death. The following is a simple good practice code of conduct that puts the interest of birds first and offers simple advice on how to enjoy birdwatching and bird photography whilst minimising the disturbance to the birds or their habitats:

  1. Avoid getting too close to birds, if a bird flies away you’re too close! Do not be tempted to keep chasing the bird (some birds will freeze when approached). If a bird is making repeated alarm calls you are also too close
  2. Stay on roads, footpaths or in bird hides to avoid going too close to birds or walking through their habitats. Disturbing habitats is just as bad as disturbing the bird itself
  3. Think about your fieldcraft. Disturbance is not just about going too close – a flock of wading birds on the foreshore can be disturbed from a distance if you stand on the seawall or walk directly towards them while a bird of prey on a kill will abandon it if you get too close!
  4. DO NOT use playback or birdsong recordings to lure out hidden birds or to make them sing at any time of year. Provoking this behaviour may cause unnecessary stress to the bird, make it waste vital energy, keep it from feeding its mate or young, and put it at increased risk from predators. You may also be breaking the Law
  5. DO NOT use flash when photographing birds at night. This might distract the birds or daze them, making them more vulnerable to predators
  6. Know the law: Disturbing a wild bird feeding, roosting or at its nest or nesting area is an offence under the Conservation of Wildlife (Jersey) Law 2000
  7. Make your sightings count: Report your observations in the records book at the hides or
  8. If you witness anyone who you suspect may be illegally disturbing or destroying wildlife or its habitat, phone the Police on 01534 612612 or the Department of the Environment on 01534 441600.

A copy of the code can be downloaded here

Jersey’s cirl buntings in spring 2020

 
When cirl buntings returned to Jersey after an 8-year absence in 2011, we waited anxiously to see whether they could fully recolonise (see update). We knew that there was adequate nesting habitat available, not least as their hosts, Royal Jersey Golf Club, were happy to help them. The limiting factor seemed to be the availability of adequate food in the winter when the buntings live out in the fields. We sought advice, not least from the RSPB’s Cath Jeffs, developed a plan for the buntings and it was suggested that we provide grain for them in winter and have done this each year (many thanks to Richard Perchard), the buntings quickly learning to use the special feeders. 
 
 
So, how are our buntings doing now? A good walk around the golf-less golf course by Mick Dryden on 3rd May found buntings at six sites. Our recording of the sites is easy as golf clubs, unsurprisingly, number and map their course. However, while the buntings’ presence on the course is widely known, to avoid disturbance we have removed those numbers and replaced with sites (below). Please respect the Royal Jersey Golf Club’s course, the neighbours and, of course, these rare birds who’s foothold in the Channel Islands is still very vulnerable. Here are Mick’s findings: 
  • Site 1. A pair of cirls at the northern end of the gorse, on the road side both feeding together (female above and male at bottom of page)
  • Site 2. A pair at the usual area, both feeding together
  • Site 3. A second male in the large trees, close to the Site 2, singing strongly and flying out to the centre of the course to sing again
  • Site 4. A third pair together on their usual area
  • Site 5 A fourth pair together in the tree. These flew down to the cut down area
  • Site 6. A male singing strongly and holding territory. I didn’t see a female with this one.
So, four pairs plus two additional males = 10 birds. This is at the start of the breeding season and Mick’s survey in 2016 found 17 birds including eight young from three pairs in July, after they’d bred that year.  So, 10 years on from their return, our cirl buntings are still here and, while still vulnerable, they are definitely hanging on. 
 
 

Guernsey invites you to Inter Island Environmental Meeting (IIEM) 2020

From States of Guernsey

Venue: Les Cotils, St Peter Port, Guernsey

Dates: 17th and 18th September 2020

The theme for this year’s meeting will be Review & Restore

Day 1: The UN Decade of Biodiversity is coming to an end in 2020 and Day 1 of the meeting will look back at the projects that have taken place over the last decade. This is an opportunity for speakers to review what has been learnt about our islands biodiversity and assess the progress made in the last 10 years. The afternoon of Day 1 will include a choice of three workshops; two around the Lihou Ramsar site looking at either the intertidal zone or the nearby species-rich grasslands, and the third will be in St Peter Port looking at urban biodiversity. There will be an informal dinner in the evening for those who wish to attend.

Day 2: 2020 is also the start of the UN’s Decade of Ecosystem Restoration and Day 2 will be themed around planning for the future. We would like to hear from speakers advising ways to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems within our islands.

We will also be holding a public talk on the evening of Wednesday 17th, the speaker for which will be announced at a later date.

Cost: At this stage we are looking to cover the cost of IIEM2020 with sponsorship. However, we may need to make a small charge per ticket to cover the costs of food & refreshments. This would be no more than £40 per ticket including Thursday evening meal (£30 meeting only).

Please note – we are continuing with plans to stage the event but we will monitor the advice regarding COVID-19. Cancellation is regarded as a last resort and we are looking into options for remote conferencing should the situation require it.

To book your place, please email IIEM2020@gov.gg specifying:

  • how many tickets you will need
  • what days you will be attending
  • if you would like to attend the evening meal on Thursday please also advise of any dietary requirements

If you would like to present at the meeting, please reply to this email by 30th April with a brief outline of your proposed talk. Talks will either be 10 or 20 minutes so please include your preference.

Accommodation

Finding accommodation is the responsibility of attendees; however, rooms have been set aside at the following hotels (room availability and costs may change). To book a room please contact the hotel directly and quote IIEM 2020.

Les Cotils – 9 Rooms available – £55 – £90
La Collinette – 10 rooms available – £65-£82
Les Rocquettes – 22 rooms available – £95 – £155.

Insect declines and why they matter

Bumble bee. Photo by Mick DrydenInsects in trouble

From The Wildlife Trusts

We’re facing a global biodiversity crisis, with many species declining at an alarming rate. Animals and plants that were once common are now scarce, and insects are no exception. Recent evidence suggests that insect abundance may have declined by 50% or more since 1970, but insect declines are not as well studied as those in larger animals, like birds and mammals. The best data we have in the UK and Channel Islands is for butterflies and moths (see Jersey here and report 2004-2013), which show a broad decline. You can read more in The Wildlife Trusts’ new report about our disappearing insects Insect declines and why they matter.

The bulk of all animal life, whether measured by biomass, numerical abundance or numbers of species, is comprised of invertebrates such as insects, spiders, worms and so on. These innumerable little creatures are far more important for the functioning of ecosystems than the large animals that tend to attract most of our attention. Insects are food for numerous larger animals including birds, bats, reptiles, amphibians and fish, and they perform vital roles such as pollination of crops and wildflowers, pest control and nutrient recycling.

There have been several recent scientific reports describing the rapid decline of insects at a global scale, and these should be a cause of the gravest concern (summarised here). These studies suggest that, in some places, insects may be in a state of catastrophic population collapse. We do not know for sure whether similar reductions in overall insect abundance have happened in the UK. The best UK data are for butterflies and moths which are broadly in decline, particularly in farmland and in the south. UK bees and hoverflies have also shown marked range contractions. The causes of insect declines are much debated, but almost certainly include habitat loss, chronic exposure to mixtures of pesticides, and climate change. The consequences are clear; if insect declines are not halted, terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems will collapse, with profound consequences for human wellbeing.

The good news is that it is not too late; few insects have gone extinct so far, and populations can rapidly recover.

We urgently need to stop all routine and unnecessary use of pesticides and start to build a nature recovery network by creating more and better connected, insect friendly habitat in our gardens, towns, cities and countryside.

Only by working together can we address the causes of insect decline, halt and reverse them, and secure a sustainable future for insect life and for ourselves.

This report summarises some of the best available evidence of insect declines and proposes a comprehensive series of actions that can be taken at all levels of society to recover their diversity and abundance.

But it’s not too late. Insect populations can recover rapidly if given the chance. To bring about this recovery, we have to make more space for insects. Gardens can be a haven for wildlife, helping connect up wild places in our wider landscape, creating a Nature Recovery Network that enables nature to live alongside us. Examples of how you can help can be found here and Jersey and Guernsey’s Pollinator Project.

The full Wildlife Trusts report Insect declines and why they matter can be downloaded here

 

Wild about Jersey activities suspended until review at end of April

From Wild about Jersey

Wild about Jersey volunteer monitoring and survey activities are suspended until review at the end of April

This includes participation in our monitoring schemes and surveys  (e.g. Jersey Butterfly Monitoring Scheme, PondWatch JE and Reptilewatch JE, National Plant Monitoring Scheme, Jersey Bat Survey).

In the current challenging situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic we hope that everyone is coping and keeping well. In these difficult times the health and well-being of our wild volunteers is our priority. It is vital that we follow the latest government instructions ‘Stay at Home’: Advice for Islanders. All islanders are instructed to ‘stay at home’ this means, everyone in Jersey is ordered to stay at home at all times except for a limited number of reasons. Doing this will, protect our health workers and save lives.

We appreciate and value all those who expressed an interest in helping with surveys and counts and we hope that all who expressed a desire to take part will, in time, get to do that. Please be reassured that reduced survey coverage in any one year is not detrimental to the long-term value of the surveys you participate in. Thank you for your continued commitment.

During this time why not consider what you can do in your garden, yard, balcony or window boxes. Use this time to encourage appreciate the wildlife there and please don’t forget at any point you can still record any wildlife encounters you have using iRecord or the Jersey Biodiversity Centre website.

Wild about Jersey will have information about online training support and surveys you can do in your garden later this month. Any questions please get in contact.

Please stay safe.

Best Wishes

Wild about Jersey

Natural Environment

 T: 01534 441600

Government of Jersey

Growth, Housing and Environment | Natural Environment

Howard Davis Farm | La Route de la Trinite | Trinity | JE3 5JP

Restoring farmland ponds attracts more farmland birds

From Rare Bird Alert

Less than 70 years ago, ponds were a common feature of the farmland landscape, and were routinely managed just like hedgerows. Since the 1950s, many ponds have been filled in to reclaim more land for farming; however, a large number have been left unmanaged, meaning they have become overgrown with trees and bushes, making them dark and uninhabitable to many species.

Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust has been working with the Natural History Museum and University College London on research that shows reinstating traditional pond management methods, of tree and mud removal, can benefit not only pond species, but also farmland birds.

Ponds restored by the Norfolk Ponds Project, were compared to neighbouring unmanaged and overgrown ponds; restored ponds contained twice as many bird species and almost three times as many birds, as the overgrown ponds.

Bird species at the restored ponds included skylark, linnet, yellowhammer and starling, all species that are Red Listed in the UK because they have declined drastically in recent years.

There were 95 sightings of these four species in and around the restored ponds, which compared to just two sightings of yellowhammer and none of skylark, starling or linnet at the unrestored ponds.

The total number of birds visiting was also greater at restored ponds with almost three times as many birds attracted to the restored ponds. This was shown to be linked to the abundant insect food resources emerging from restored ponds.

According to lead researcher, Jonathan Lewis-Phillips of UCL’s Pond Restoration Research Group:

“Restored ponds are teeming with insects, and because different ponds have insect peaks on different days, birds can move from pond to pond, and get the food that they need. A network of high-quality ponds is, therefore, brilliant for birds in the breeding season.”

With a network of restored ponds across the landscape, birds were able to move between insect emergence events, providing an ongoing insect food resource during the breeding season.

The research comes at a time when farmland birds are under huge threat, having declined by 55 per cent in the last 50 years, largely due to changes in agricultural management to increase food production, according to the recent State of Nature 2019 report.

As well as providing a beneficial habitat for woodland birds, farmland ponds also provide an important landscape feature, and act as stepping-stones for other wildlife including frogs and dragonflies.

Despite their importance, according to a report published by the RSPB, WWF and the Wildlife Trusts, there are no plans to protect them included in the UK’s new Agriculture Bill.

“Our research shows how important it is to restore and manage ponds in farmland. Here in Gloucestershire, preliminary evidence suggests we have lost around two-thirds of our farmland ponds since 1900. That’s why we have been working with Farming & Wildlife Advisory group (FWAG SouthWest) and local farmers to restore a number of ponds across different farms on the Severn Vale.”

“Even following long periods of dormancy, overgrown farmland ponds can quickly come back to life, with plants, amphibians and insects starting to colonise them in a matter of months. That is why this research could be an important pointer of where the UK’s environmental and agricultural policy should focus post Brexit.”

Carl Sayer of University College London Pond Restoration Group said: “The research on birds was inspired by Norfolk farmer Richard Waddingham. His constant belief has always been that farming and wildlife can co-exist and with wildlife declining at an alarming rate, at no time in history do we need to make this work more than now. Restoring farmland ponds is clearly part of a positive way forward.”

 

A Shire for Jersey’s puffins

By Cristina Sellarés

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit puffin. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit puffin-hole, and that means comfort.”

And so the story begins for the puffins, I mean the hobbits, according to J.R.R. Tolkien, of course. I could be forgiven for hoping that J.R.R.Tolkien was inspired by puffins when he devised the short, wobbly, round-bellied, food-loving, funny-looking creatures that live in a hole in the ground, which he named hobbits. Even his own fictional etymology traces the word to ‘holbytla’, which he created by combining the two real Old English words ‘hol’ (hole) and ‘bytland’ (to build) – a name that would be not completely unfit for the puffins either.

Like hobbits, Atlantic puffins build their homes underground, digging holes using their bills and powerful claws, to create a tunnel that leads to a larger inner chamber for the nest. And also like hobbits, puffins like their home comforts and line their nests with soft grasses and feathers, to keep the egg and later the chick safe and warm. They are very tidy too, and manage to keep the chick clean by using a toilet chamber located in a bend before the main room.

And finally, like hobbits again, they do not like unexpected visitors, defending their burrows from envious neighbours, fighting food thieves like gulls, and avoiding, however they can, attacks from invasive predators such as rats, cats and ferrets.

Knowing all this, Birds On The Edge has been trying to improve the homes and breeding grounds of our Jersey puffins, especially in view of he precarious state of the population – down to four pairs from more than a hundred in the space of a century. Sadly, this follows the trend of many other puffin colonies around the world, which have declined or collapsed due to causes ranging from loss of habitat, predation from invasive species and human-caused disturbance, amongst others.

Over the last year we have been monitoring the puffins and other seabirds in their breeding cliffs of the north coast, studying the potential predators in the area and noting the presence of people for leisure and commercial purposes too.

We have also built and installed puffin nest-boxes in some cliffs in the north coast, so that they can be used as artificial burrows by prospecting new pairs. Our breeding puffins, all four pairs of them, already go back to the same burrow each year, so with the boxes we are hoping to attract new pairs recruiting into Jersey’s population, especially ones who were born here and are ready to settle (puffins take 5-6 years to be mature).

As for the boxes themselves, there have been various designs, all following the concept of a tunnel leading to a main chamber. We have stuck to this, building a closed box with a roof, which is completely buried. The access to the chamber is via a 1m-long pipe which is buried too, so that the entrance from outside looks like a hole in the ground. The box is almost one metre long and has a small partition near the entrance, to create the illusion of the toilet chamber, should they like to use it for this purpose. As finishing touches to the installation we packed a layer of mud and soil against the back wall, to give the puffins the chance to dig a bit if they wanted to, without going too far, and for the same reason the boxes have no floor, but a good layer of soil so that the puffins can shift the ground about and decorate their nest as they please.

Digging and burying the boxes in the cliffs wasn’t an easy task; Geomarine sent their “rope team” to assist the rangers of the National Trust and Natural Environment for the job. The team successfully installed some of the boxes in an otherwise inaccessible slope, which was deemed suitable for the artificial burrows.

With the breeding season upon us and our puffin pairs due to arrive anytime now, we will be keeping a close eye on the seas around Plémont, hoping to see the faithful locals come back to their usual spots, and even better to see new pairs flying into the cliffs, their purpose-built homes waiting for them.

The boxes might be a bit too small for a hobbit, but we hope our puffins will approve of their very own Puffin Shire.

 

The Pollinator Project has launched

By Sarah Maguire, Jersey Biodiversity Centre, Education and Outreach Officer

The Pollinator Project.JE has launched in Jersey which aims to help Jersey’s pollinators and their habitats. Pollinators move pollen from the flower to another flower, this results in fertilization that produces fruit and seeds. Without pollinators we would not get the reproduction of plants that create food and habitats for humans and other animal species. Pollinators are key for our survival with food security relying on their pollinating skills, so protecting them and helping to improve their environment is vital. Guernsey launched their pollinator project in 2017 and Jersey’s team are working alongside Guernsey and the other Channel Islands to replicate their success bringing together a variety of organisations to help.

Pollinator is a term that encompasses a wide range of species. Our focus is on pollinating insects and they may include many different species of insects such as hoverflies, beetles, flies, butterflies and moths. The decline in pollinating insects has also resulted in a decline in the number of birds across the UK with an 8% decline since 1970. The Pollinator Project will work to address a number of risks associated by disease and invasive species, such as Asian hornets. We will work together in partnership with other groups to support pollinators across the island.

The pollinator project will involve educational work in schools, habitat management and monitoring to help identify our species and habitats so that we can begin to enhance what is already in existence.

Through 2019 we will be sharing information, advice and top tips. So, if you’re into gardening you could plant native pollinator friendly plants such as Lavender (Lavandula munstead), save a space for pollinator native plants in your garden. Soon enough you will see patches dedicated to pollinators popping up over our Island; in schools, parks and gardens, work places and the countryside.

Let us know what pollinators you have spotted by sending a record to the Jersey Biodiversity Centre. This information will be added to a pollinator map for the island. We will also be running dedicated surveys of pollinators in the newly created pollinator patches. For the time being let us know what you’ve seen and add photos to your record to help with the verification of the species.

For more information on the project and how you can get involved please visit pollinatorproject.gg

#PollinatorProjectJE        #Pollinators        #WildFlowers

February volunteer activity postponed

JCV February volunteer activity at Sorel

Sunday 9th task postponed until 23rd February.

Due to the prospect of storm Ciara hitting on Sunday, we have decided to postpone the event until Sunday 23rd February at the same time of 10.15am for a 10.30am start.

We apologise for any disappointment, but the Met Office has advised that they are expecting gusts of 60mph and driving rain, which is not suitable conditions for the task and does pose issues regarding safety.

Thanks for your understanding and see you on 23rd February.

The NTJ Lands Team

Wild About Jersey

Natural Environment

Garden bird time!

This weekend, 1st and 2nd February sees the 19th annual Jersey Great Garden Bird Survey (we started in 2002) in conjunction with Action for Wildlife Jersey and the Jersey Evening Post. There goes the weather! Remember the Beast From the East? Apparently (so the UK’s tabloids would have us believe) expect the Pest From the West! Whatever the weather, please count the birds in your garden (instructions below) and use the form which you can download here.

This annual count of the birds in the Island’s gardens has proven invaluable to our understanding of what is happening with many of our favourite species, the ones we often share our daily lives with and cherish. After all, and this may bypass the occasional world leader, what is happening in the birds’ world is happening in ours! 

Method

The method of the count is very straight forward. Basically you just need to look out into the garden for a few minutes (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 (here) and email to BOTE at birdsote@gmail.com or drop off at the JEP office. Alternatively you can fill out the form in the JEP or pick up a form from one of the Island’s garden centres (Ransoms, St Peters, Animal Kingdom or Pet Cabin at Le Quesne’s) and leave it with them.

During last year’s count (read more here) the Top 16 birds recorded were (average per reporting garden):

  1. House sparrow 6.9
  2. Chaffinch 1.8
  3. Wood pigeon 1.77
  4. Starling 1.75
  5. Great tit 1.6
  6. Blue tit 1.6
  7. Collared dove 1.4
  8. Magpie 1.4
  9. Robin 1.3
  10. Blackbird 1.0
  11. Greenfinch 0.33
  12. Song thrush 0.26
  13. Pheasant 0.22
  14. Blackcap 0.16
  15. Great spotted woodpecker 0.12
  16. Jay 0.12.

Our honorary bird, the red squirrel, at 0.4 per garden, would have been 11th.

So, please take part this weekend, enjoy the birds (and squirrels) and consider yourself citizen scientists!