Brighter future for seabirds as Shiants declared rat free

Shiant Isles 2018. Photo by Ian Buxton (1)From Rare Bird Alert and Ian Buxton

The Shiant Isles have been officially declared rat-free, thanks to a four-year partnership project to restore them as a secure haven for nesting seabirds. A month-long intensive monitoring check in February found no sign of rats. This means that none has been recorded there for two years, the internationally agreed criterion for rat-free status.

The EU LIFE+ funded Shiants seabird recovery project started in 2014 and is a partnership between the Nicolson family, custodians of the islands for three generations, Scottish Natural Heritage and RSPB Scotland. It has benefited from the help of many volunteers, and significant private donations.

Ian Buxton and puffin. Shiant Isles 2009Jersey ornithologist and bird ringer, Ian Buxton, first visited the Shiant Isles in 1977, returning in 1980. Since then Ian has made a further five trips during the last 10 years, until this year, his visits have been for two weeks during the summer to survey and monitor the breeding seabirds. In 2009 Ian retrapped a puffin he had ringed there in 1977. Ian’s most recent visit was this February, for four weeks to assist in the completion of the rat eradication programme.

Over the last four years the recovery project has focused on making the islands a safe place for seabirds to raise their chicks by removing the invasive, non-native black rats that were found there. It has been a huge success and played an important role in developing future island restoration and biosecurity work in the UK.

Another key part of the project is a programme of research monitoring the response of the ecosystem to the removal of rats. It is anticipated that seabirds such as puffins, razorbills, and guillemots will see improved breeding successes which could eventually support population increases in these long lived seabirds breeding on the Shiants. It is hoped that Manx shearwaters and storm petrels will begin to nest on the islands as well.

Shiants 2018. Photo by Ian Buxton (3)An operation to eradicate the rats was carried out over the winter of 2015/16, led by a New Zealand-based company Wildlife Management International Limited (WMIL), with the help of fifteen volunteers. This stage was incredibly challenging due to the rugged terrain and steep cliffs that make up the islands, and the Hebridean weather conditions including severe storms. Since then regular monitoring for signs of rats has been carried out with none recorded.

As well as the seabirds currently found on the islands, the Shiants offer suitable nesting habitat for European storm petrels and Manx shearwaters, two species of seabirds that are not generally found on islands with rats. Over the last two summers, the project has been working to encourage the storm petrels and Manx shearwaters to nest on the islands. The calling storm petrels, recorded on the islands last summer for the first time, gave a strong sign that the Shiants were free of rats ahead of this recent check.

Storm petrel (3). Photo by Mick Dryden

In order to ensure that the islands remain free of rats, and other mammalian predators, visitors are being asked to follow simple biosecurity measures to help keep the islands rat free. This includes checking boats and all kit for signs of rats prior to departing for the Shiants, and looking out for signs of them when on the islands. Local boat operators along with SNH and RSPB Scotland staff have been trained in biosecurity measures by the project.

Dr Charlie Main, Senior Project Manager for the Shiant Isles Recovery Project said: “This is an absolutely fantastic moment for the Shiant Isles and everyone involved in the project is delighted that they are now officially rat free. With so many of Scotland’s seabird populations in decline it’s vital that we do all we can to help them. Making these islands a secure place for them to breed is really important.

“Over the next few years we’re really looking forward to seeing the full impact of the islands’ restoration flourish with the seabirds enjoying improved breeding successes, and other species beginning to breed there as well. We’ll also continue to work with the local community to ensure this special place remains free of rats. This project has paved the way for more island restorations to take place around Scotland and give our threatened seabirds the best possible chance for the future.”

Andy Douse, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) ornithologist, said: “It’s wonderful news that this project has helped to protect the internationally important seabird colony on the Shiant Islands. The partnership between RSPB Scotland, WMIL, the Nicolson family and SNH has been a great success, particularly considering the complexity of the project, and we’d like to thank everyone involved. It was a great team effort, and we can now take the knowledge gained from this project into other work to protect Scotland’s special species and habitats.”

Tom Nicolson said: “”Obviously this is a tremendous story of success on so many levels. When the idea was presented to us six years ago, the pure logistics of the project seemed hugely ambitious. Now, knowing that new species are beginning to thrive on the islands, so soon after the project has finished, there are no limits to what the Shiants could become over the next five, ten, twenty years.

“It has been an immense pleasure working with such a talented and dedicated group of people from the RSPB and Scottish Natural Heritage – everyone involved should be thoroughly proud of themselves.”

Read more about the work of the Shiant Isles Recovery Project

Shiants 2018. Photo by Ian Buxton (4)

Chough report: March 2018

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A chough collecting nest material for the 2018 breeding season. Photo by Liz Corry.

By Liz Corry

Nesting underway with the wild choughs

The choughs started nest-building this month. Established pairs returning to their faithful nest sites and younger pairs setting up in new locations. Green and Black were the first pair seen taking wool and dry grass from Sorel across into the Quarry. Rather apt at Easter time. Yes Green & Blacks we will accept sponsorship. Yes payment can be in the form of chocolate (sustainable/palm oil free).

Whilst we have only witnessed a few individuals carrying nesting material we suspect all twelve males will attempt to breed. Some may simply carry twigs following the lead of the female. We hope the majority will go all the way and raise chicks. A lot of the success is dependent on age; three-years old being the average age females start laying eggs.

Trying to follow twelve males around Jersey is proving challenging for myself and our student Elin. We are being helped by Ronez Quarry staff and reports from the public (including zoo keepers on their days off – no rest for the wicked). We do suspect a small group of choughs are flying under the radar exploring new parts of the island.

We had our first confirmed sighting of choughs over the Zoo. Five were spotted by our Conservation Learning manager flying in a westerly direction over the car park. This was the same week we had an unconfirmed sighting by a member of the public of two choughs sat on a roof top in Gorey.

It definitely looks set to be an interesting breeding season. As always please do send in your sightings to bote@gmail.com or phone 01534 860059.

Gianna undergoes her cataract operation

Gianna, our ‘foster mum’ for the captive breeding programme, had developed cataracts in both eyes. We called in specialists from the UK to assess Gianna’s condition with the view to operate. Ophthalmologist Claudia Hartley and nurse Kelly Shackleton from Langford Vets, Bristol, flew over at the end of February. Claudia has previously helped Jersey Zoo to save the sight of one of our lemurs so we knew Gianna was in good hands.

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Operating theatre at Jersey Zoo. Photo by Liz Corry.

As you can imagine cataract removal is a very delicate operation. The delivery and maintenance of anaesthetic in a patient weighing less than 300g is equally sensitive. The operation had to be aborted on the first two attempts due to equipment malfunctions in the operating theatre. Understandably staff did not want to chance anything. The operation was postponed until March.

Langford Vets and the Durrell vet team attempt to remove cataracts from Gianna’s eyes. Photo by Liz Corry.

They say “third time lucky”, but luck had nothing to do with it. Perseverance, dedication, and immense skill meant that the third attempt was successful. Gianna’s operation took nearly three hours from ‘knockdown’ (going under anaesthetic) to stitching and waking up.

Now for the technical bit…Durrell Vet Alberto Barbon who assisted with the op said that Gianna underwent a bilateral phacoemulsification to remove cataracts. Surgery and anaesthesia went well, although she developed a hyphaema in the right eye following the surgery, we are hoping that this will resolve over the next two weeks”. In simple terms she has a sore eye, but it will heal and she will regain full sight.

Bird Department staff have taken good care of her providing medication and much needed TLC. Hester Whitehead, Senior Keeper, reports that Gianna is “clearly able to see much better already – in fact her demeanour was different as soon as she was returned to her aviary. She is on a course of daily anti-inflammatories, and really appreciates the extra attention the team has been giving her during her recovery.”

We are very grateful to Claudia and Kelly for helping Jersey Zoo once again. They also found time to perform sight-saving surgery on seven dogs and two horses at New Era vets before they left Jersey!

****WARNING: Image from Gianna’s operation below. Scroll down to ‘Rodent proofing at Sorel’ if you are squeamish about eyes and needles*****

 

Cataract removal in a chough at Jersey Zoo. Photo by Alberto Barbon.

Rodent proofing at Sorel

Upturned guttering fixed to the polytunnel to deter rodents climbing up and chewing holes in the netting. Photo by Liz Corry.

Up-turned guttering has been fitted around the edges of the netting at the release aviary. In theory, the slippy plastic and angle of guttering prevents rodents from reaching the net.

We have already noticed a difference and are now working on making sure there are no rodents trapped inside the aviary through adding this.

We are very grateful to the Royal Bank of Canada who provided funding for the guttering and fixtures.

The enclosed food tray mentioned in last month’s report has not met with approval from the choughs. This would have alleviated the rodent problem by preventing food spillage. We will have to come up with another design.

Ecological restoration expert visits Sorel and the Birds On The Edge project

Dr Robert Pal, director of restoration at Montana Tech of the University of Montana recently visited Jersey as part of his whirlwind tour of the UK. He was invited over by his friend Lee Durrell and kindly gave a talk to staff and volunteers at Jersey Zoo.

Dr Pal’s main research focus has always been the study of the flora and vegetation of disturbed habitats, including agricultural and urban areas. Terrestrial restoration to native communities and ecosystems is often hampered by exotic invasive species. The talk entitled “Exotic invasions and restoration – parallel paths in ecology” explained how fundamental ecology, restoration, and exotic invasion can be jointly interpreted and merged into an integrated framework.

The Manx Loaghtans contribute to the ecological restoration of Jersey. Photo by Robert Pal.

Naturally he was inquisitive about the Birds On The Edge project and managed to squeeze in a visit to Sorel before his flight left. Dr Pal said “It was fantastic to see this project and have first hand experiences on it, congratulations.

Dr Robert Pal with Durrell student Elin Cunningham. Photo by Judit Nyulasi.

Student Research
We always encourage students to consider the Birds On The Edge project when they are deciding on their dissertation projects both undergraduate and postgraduate. This year has seen quite a bit of attention with three projects either underway or in the pipeline.
The current chough placement student, Elin Cunningham, is studying Bioveterinary science at Harper Adams University. Whilst she assists with day-to-day management of the chough project she is also collecting and analysing faecal samples from captive and wild choughs to assess parasite levels. More to follow when she writes her blog for this site.
Miriam Lord, from Oxford University, visited this month to do some scoping work for her dissertation. Miriam will be assessing public awareness and attitudes to the chough reintroduction. She plans to return in summer to conduct questionnaires with people in the Zoo and in St Helier town centre.
A similar project will be undertaken by Catherine Firth, Nottingham Trent University. Her focal group will be primary schools. As well as gathering information Catherine hopes to provide educational talks to schools willing to participate. This will commence in June before schools break for summer.

Cauvette the chough will be making an appearance this summer – which lucky student will get the privilege? Photo by Tiffany Lang.

Cornish choughs, Channel Island choughs, and Kentish choughs?

Canterbury coat of arms circa 1925. From www.Heraldry-wiki.com

Continuing the student theme, we had a visit from Jack Slattery who has started his PhD looking into the feasibility of reintroducing choughs to Kent. This is with the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE) based in Canterbury, Kent.
As a bird enthusiast Jack was impressed with the project in Jersey. His interest, as part of the study, is less about how we reintroduced the choughs and more about stakeholders involvement and attitudes. Stakeholders include a wide range of people such as our project partners, landowners, and the general public. We have been quite fortunate in Jersey to receive a lot of positive support. Jack has to predict whether or not Kent will see the same.

Feed the birds, but be aware of risks – especially if you feed the gulls in Jersey!

Blue tit (2). Photo by Mick DrydenFrom The BBC

Scientists are warning of the risks of wild birds spreading diseases when they gather at feeders in gardens. Experts led by the Zoological Society of London say people should continue to feed birds, especially in winter, but should be aware of the risks.

A newly published review of 25 years’ worth of data has identified emerging threats to garden birds. Finches, doves and pigeons are vulnerable to a parasite infection and form of bird pox is becoming more common, causing warty-like lumps on the bodies of great tits and other birds while other disease threats, such as salmonella, appear to be declining. If birds look sick, food should be withdrawn temporarily, the authors say.

Chaffinch 2. Photo by Mick Dryden

“Our study shows how three of the most common diseases that affect British garden birds have changed both dramatically and unpredictably over the past decade, both in terms of the species they affect and their patterns of occurrence,” said Dr Becki Lawson from ZSL’s Institute of Zoology.

Common signs that a wild bird is ill include unusually fluffed-up plumage and lethargy. Diseases can be spread through droppings or regurgitated food around bird feeders.

Finding out more about the changing pattern of diseases will help to ensure that garden birds can be fed safely, say the researchers. ZSL, working with experts from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), say people who notice sick birds should:

  • take practical steps to minimise risks
  • report your observations to the Garden Wildlife Health Project
  • seek advice from a vet
  • withdraw food for a while to let birds disperse over a wider area
  • Feed birds in moderation, clean bird feeders regularly, and rotate feeding sites.

Co-researcher Kate Risely from the BTO (BTO News) said anyone who feeds wild birds should be aware of their responsibilities for preventing disease.

She told BBC News: “Be very vigilant – enjoy feeding the birds but educate yourself about what the risks are and what to do if you see signs of disease.”

It was important to continue to feed wild birds, especially in winter, when they need lots of food to survive, she said.

The review found that patterns of infection in wild birds are changing. This may be influenced by wild birds congregating at bird feeders and coming into contact with species they don’t encounter naturally in the wild.

Download the full review Health hazards to wild birds and risk factors associated with anthropogenic food provisioning here

Meanwhile, in Jersey

Herring gull (2). Photo by Mick DrydenChanges to a law to try to reduce problems with seagulls and other wild birds are now in place (see update here). Under the Statutory Nuisances (Jersey) Regulations 2017, it’s against the law to feed wild birds or other creatures in a way that means they become a nuisance or harmful to health. Some birds and rodents carry diseases which can be harmful to human health.

Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said (BBC 13 March 1256):

  • Don’t scatter food on the ground where it is an easy source of food for rodents
  • Bird tables can be accessible to rodents. Don’t overstock them or provide large quantities or unsuitable foods
  • Use bird feeders with a catch tray to reduce debris falling on the ground
  • Site your feeders with care. Suspending them from a metal wire is the only way to be certain rodents won’t get into them
  • Ideally, place a small amount of food in feeders daily to ensure they are emptied daily
  • Don’t use your garden as a dump for unwanted food waste, the birds may not want it but rats and mice probably will
  • Seagulls are protected under the Jersey wildlife law and can only be moved by licensed pest controllers.

The Department said it had taken the action as some birds and rodents carry diseases that can be “very harmful to human health” and gulls were beginning to build their nests and are attracted to places with easily available food.

Anyone found to be feeding (the gulls) illegally would be served with an abatement notice to either stop or restrict their activity. If ignored it would be an offence and the person responsible could be prosecuted.

Herring gull. Photo by Mick Dryden

 

Another first for Jersey – Lesser horseshoe bat

Lesser horseshoe bat (Jersey). Photo by Ani BinetFrom Annyctalus Ecology

We are delighted to announce that we have confirmed another new bat species for Jersey. A single Rhinolophus hipposideros, or Lesser horseshoe bat, was spotted during our final hibernation survey of the winter on Sunday 4th March 2018. This bat species can be found on the nearby Cherbourg Peninsula, as well as in south west England, and Wales, but it is a first for Jersey.

Lesser horseshoe bat (UK). Photo by Daniel Whitby

Lesser horseshoe bats are notoriously difficult to record on bat detectors due to having a very high frequency, directional call. A single file containing echolocation calls which appeared to be of this species was previously recorded at the same site in September 2016, but despite numerous surveys of the site, both visual and using capture techniques and almost constant deployment of static bat detectors at the site since June 2017 no further records of the species were made, until now.

Horseshoe bats are listed under Annex II of the Habitat Directive due to their rarity and specific habitat requirements. In most areas horseshoe bat summer colonies are usually found in the roofs of larger rural houses and stable blocks offering a range of roof spaces. They are very shy and require dark vegetated corridors in which to travel as well as woodland areas in which to feed.

Horseshoe bats are very distinctive in appearance and are the only UK bat species which hang freely when roosting. If you have seen horseshoe bats within your property, or elsewhere in the Island we would love to hear from you in order to allow us to learn more about this species. We would also welcome any information about other bat roosts! Please send your roost information to us at ani@jerseybatgirl.co.uk or to the Jersey Bat Group on enquiries@jerseybatgroup.org

Chough report: February 2018

By Liz Corry

Chough update

February – the shortest month of the year and the shortest report to date. The chough population has remained at 35 birds. None have shown signs of being sick. We have not witnessed any fights within the group or with any other species.

Not all are present for the afternoon feeds, but that is not unusual. The breeding season is upon us and pairs are starting to spend more time away from the group. A breakaway pair at Les Landes feed there during the day, returning to Sorel to roost.

Choughs at Les Landes. February 2018 (2). Photo by Liz Corry

Birds in foreground are choughs foraging at Les Landes (see below). February 2018. Photo by Liz Corry

Cauvette with (we suspect) Lee foraging at Les Landes Racecourse. Photo by Liz Corry.

There has also been an unconfirmed report of four choughs over Gorey Village. This is the east side of the Island and, while it’s uncommon to see choughs there, it’s not impossible.

The one afternoon when we did have all 35 choughs at the feed was the coldest of the month. The wind chill factor brought the temperatures down to -10°C and not surprisingly the birds wanted to stock up their energy stores with free food.

So all in all February was underwhelming.

I have now seriously jinxed March.

Planning Permission

As we reported here in November, permission was sought from Jersey’s Department of the Environment Planning and Building Services to extend the life of the Sorel aviary for another five years. We received approval for this extension on 6th February and are grateful to Planning for this. You can see details of the application and approval here.

DIY rodent control

With a further five years of the aviary we have been kept busy trying to rodent proof as best as possible. Guttering has been fitted along the edges of he aviary where the netting meets the timber. Rats are good climbers and we suspect they have been climbing the half-inch weldmesh along the polytunnel to get to the netting, chew holes, and enter the aviary. The slippy surface of the half round guttering should be of suitable size and shape to deter the rats. This technique is successful with our polytunnel aviaries at the zoo. The question is, will it work with the Sorel rats?

Upturned half-round guttering added to the aviary as a rodent deterrent. Photo by Liz Corry.

The inner partition dividing the tunnel into two sections has also been modified. There are several holes running along the ground where the rats have tunnelled or chewed through once inside. We have sunk half inch mesh into the ground and added plastic panels.

There are new food stands to replace the picnic tables which finally broke after five years. The stands have covers around the bases to deter rodents.

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The best way to deter the rodents is to remove the food source they are seeking inside the aviary. Choughs are messy eaters when it comes to the supplemental feed. They flick pellet around looking for mealworms first, before going back to the pellet.

We are trying out a new enclosed feeder intended for chickens. If the choughs take to it we can look at adapting the existing feeders.

Are you interested in joining the ranks of Jersey’s butterfly recording volunteers?

Gatekeeper. Photo by Mick DrydenThe Jersey Butterfly Monitoring Scheme is a Department of the Environment initiative set up in 2004. The scheme depends on volunteer recorders who make a weekly count of butterflies at around 35 locations across the Island. Butterflies are an important indicator of the general health of the countryside, so this information helps the department to monitor the Island’s ecosystems and countryside. See previous BOTE reports here and here and read the report The State of Jersey’s Butterflies: Jersey Butterfly Monitoring Scheme 2004 to 2013 here

JBMS

Training will be held at Howard Davis Farm (Committee Room, upstairs) (location here) at 10am until 1pm on Saturday 24th March and everyone is welcome, whether you are an experienced volunteer or a complete novice.

You will be taught how to walk a transect and also butterfly identification.  If you have been part of the volunteer team for a while and feel you do not need further training, you may wish to come anyway and share your experiences or provide some feedback.

To find out more or to book a place please contact Denise McGowan Tel: +44 (0)1534 441606 (after 14th March) or Email: d.mcgowan@gov.je

Clouded yellow. Photo by Mick Dryden

 

 

 

Alderney becomes Britain’s 20th Bird Observatory

The Alderney Bird Observatory. Alderney ABO conference 8-9 October 2016. Photo by HGYoung (46)From Rare Bird Alert and Alderney Bird Observatory

Britain’s birds are amongst the best monitored animals in the world, and it’s just about to get even better as a brand new bird observatory joins the nineteen others that are scattered around our coast.

Alderney Bird Observatory (ABO) received official accreditation at a recent meeting of the Bird Observatories Council (BOC), a gathering of all of the bird observatories, making it the twentieth in the country. Ranging from Fair Isle, Shetland, in the north to Alderney, Channel Islands, in the south, Britain’s bird observatories have kept an eye on the comings and goings of our birds since the first observatory Skokholm, Wales, opened in 1933 – these unbroken observations make them amongst the largest bird datasets in the world.

Alderney Bird Observatory

CI bird ringers in action. Alderney ABO conference 8-9 October 2016. Photo by HGYoung (23)

Many firsts for Britain have been found and documented at Bird Observatories but it is the day-to day observations of birds on the move that are the most important, birds making their way in and out of Britain on their migrations from far-flung destinations. Since the 1960s several of these have changed the timing of their migration as a response to a changing climate. The swallow now arrives back in the UK on average fifteen days earlier than it did in the 60s, and the sand martin over twenty days earlier, whilst for the cuckoo the timing hasn’t really changed. It is vital that we keep an eye out for changing patterns in the future if we are to fully understand the pressures that many of our birds might face and how we might help those that are showing declines.

Royal tern. Photo by Mick Dryden

John Horton, Warden at Alderney Bird Observatory, said, “It is such a privilege to be the first Warden of Alderney Bird Observatory and to know that the work we carry out here will make a real difference to our understanding of the birds that both live here, or pass through on migration. I look forward to ABO adding to the long-term observations gathered by my colleagues around Britain and Ireland. It is testament to the hard work of lots of volunteers that we have got this far and to them a huge thank you.”

John continues the story on the ABO Blog

Firecrest (2). Photo by Mick DrydenHaving got to where we are, many have asked; How has this all come about ? Well, in the autumn of 2015 The Alderney Wildlife Trust advertised a job vacancy for a Bird Recorder. The job description and requirements, however, went some way towards those required for a Bird Observatory warden. After doing a little homework and with particular consideration to Alderney’s geographical location that appeared ideally situated for attracting migrating birds, during an initial enquiry phone call with the Trust manager I suggested Alderney might consider setting up a bird observatory.  The immediate response was that an island resident and native Channel Islander Paul Veron was very much in tune with this idea and would be delighted to hear this.  I was asked to come back to the Trust with a proposal of how this might progress. It transpired that Paul (our observatory chairman) and I had a lot in common, both mad keen birders from our formative years, we both grew up visiting and staying at established British Bird Observatories and we are both experienced bird ringers.

Meeting Paul and his partner Catherine who accommodated Cathy and I for a longAlderney ABO conference 8-9 October 2016. Photo by HGYoung (41) weekend first island visit in November 2015, was a major factor in Cathy and I deciding to move to Alderney from Kent in March 2016. These early discussions brought about a 2-year observatory establishing pilot project supported by the Wildlife Trust, its primary remit to try and achieve bird observatory accreditation status from the Bird Observatories Council. Local interest and support for this project from the outset was exceptional and largely through Paul’s contacts we soon had a very experienced and capable bird observatory committee driving things forward.

We won’t pretend it has been plain sailing over the last two years, but thanks to the States of Alderney and to too many people to mention here (and of course to the phenomenal numbers of birds we have recorded) Alderney is now officially positioned amongst the ornithological elite. Such is international interest in birds and in this project that the ABO blog is now read by people in over 100 countries worldwide. We are delighted that the opportunity is now open to you all to visit us and stay at our bird observatory, itself situated in a cracking spot for observing visual migration, all within the unique location of the walls of a 1,900 year old roman fort. Alderney Bird Observatory opens on 1st April 2018, bookings to stay with us can be made on this site. Thank you to all those involved in getting us so far so quickly, and in particular to all those who believed in this project taking up Alderney Bird Observatory membership, your continued support has made the difference and remains invaluable.  We hope to see you all soon.

Alderney ABO conference 8-9 October 2016. Photo by HGYoung (31)

Job vacancy at Sorel!

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From The Reserve

A position has opened up in the small team managing the largest flock of sheep on the Island, the wonderful Manx loaghtan sheep which form the basis for our conservation grazing project.

Animal husbandry experience would obviously be beneficial, but the right candidate would more importantly be hard working, self-motivated, willing to learn and above all share our passion for what we (The Reserve) are doing.

For the right candidate this position provides an excellent opportunity to take on further responsibilities, and develop their skills within the role and the total number of hours worked. Hours can be flexible for the right candidate, although some weekend work is necessary.

Training will be given and salary is dependent on experience.

If you are motivated, conscientious and have a great deal of pride in your work, we would love to hear from you. Read on.

Job Description: Stockperson

Manx loaghtan sheep at Sorel. Photo by Harriet Clark

Title: Stockperson
Employer: The Reserve
Date: 19.02.18
Closing Date: 09.03.18
Contract: Permanent
Hours: Part Time
Salary: Negotiable
Core skills required: The ability to speak English & a clean driving licence are essential. As are physical fitness, the ability to use your own initiative to solve problems and the drive to ensure work is completed to a high standard.

Tending stock means being out in all weather, and being able to get the job done in challenging situations. The role is not for the faint of heart. We are looking for someone who is motivated and ideally enthused by the same passion for our stock and wildlife conservation that we are.

The most important part of the role consists of animal welfare checks of our sheep at different locations. This includes ensuring that water and feed are plentiful and ensuring that the animals are stress free and in good condition, ensuring the best levels of animal welfare in line with the five freedoms. Animal welfare is our highest priority and as such you must be willing to go to get efforts to ensure our stock are cared for.

The role involves a high degree of lone working and the stockperson must be able to use their initiative to solve problems efficiently and work hard and to a high standard whilst unsupervised. Occasionally the position may also require responding to out of hours emergency situations such as welfare issues and escaped stock if Aaron the shepherd is off island.

In addition to this, the job involves assisting with working the sheep during regular tasks such as the administration of veterinary medications, stock movements, shearing and lambing.

The role will include additional tasks necessary for the management of the project, these may include erecting and taking down electric fencing, branchage, hay making, cleaning and disinfecting equipment and tool and equipment maintenance.

A vehicle for use whilst working, along with all the necessary equipment will be provided. The role will develop, in line with the development of the skills and knowledge of the right candidate. The timing of the role can be flexible for the right candidate, as well as the total hours per week.

For an informal chat or if you have any questions, call, text or email Aaron on 07797 789202 or enquiries@thereservejersey.com

The Reserve, La Fevrerie, Route de Maufant, St Saviour, JE2 7HR

Sorel 17 November 2017. HGYoung (2)

UPDATE: Manx loaghtan roaming free at Sorel once again

by Liz Corry

imagesThe grazing flock of Manx loaghtan sheep at Sorel have been confined to National Trust fields for the past few months.

The shepherds have been busy preparing for the lambing season, moving rams and ewes around Jersey.

Lambing season is now upon us.

P1640687As of last week, a large number have been allowed back out to roam freely between Sorel Point and Devil’s Hole. A reminder to our Jersey readers and anyone visiting, please remember to close gates behind you whilst on site. As you will see from the video below, sheep will be sheep. We don’t want them following you back to the car park.

Sheep flock to see staff from Birds On The Edge on Vimeo.

Please also remember that all dogs must be kept under control by law. Last year saw a record year for dog-related injuries and fatalities. No doubt the owners had no intentions of harming the conservation flock; however, a playful dog can be just as detrimental to a sheep as an aggressive one if it is running off the lead.

And one last plea – do go and visit them at Sorel. Not only are they endearing, you get to see conservation in action too. Plus the science boffins have proof: Sorel sheep are good for the soul! Trust me, read these:

How does nature impact our wellbeing?

Finding Nature blog

Happiness comes naturally: Engagement with nature as a route to positive subjective wellbeing

 

Chough report: January 2018

Flieur (grey over blue leg rings) a four year old female chough. Photo by Elin Cunningham

by Liz Corry

It was a wet and windy start to 2018 with storms Eleanor, Fionn, David, and Georgina all battering Jersey within a span of 24 days. Not surprisingly then, there is little to report in terms of chough antics. Even less in the way of photos since cameras were kept locked away in the dry.

Storm damage

Wind speeds, rarely falling below F8 throughout January, took their toll on the aviary. The poly-tunnel netting suffered the most. Constant rubbing along the metal poles wore down the threads and cable ties snapped. In some areas joins in the netting opened up or came away from the wooden frame and overnight a large split in the middle of the poly-tunnel appeared. Obviously reducing the effectiveness of trapping birds in the aviary if we had a need to do so. An ostrich could escape from that, never mind a chough!

Netting ripped open and posts broken as storm after storm pounded the aviary. Photo by Liz Corry.

Easily rectified by sewing and patching with extra netting, the tricky part was finding a day when weather conditions permitted use of a ladder for the harder to reach areas. Other damage has or will take longer to repair. Again this is because we are reliant on weather conditions favouring truck access to the site to take new timber and scaffolding.

As exemplified by this little incident on the one day it didn’t rain…

Toby from Ronez Quarry answered the chough SOS after the student’s 4WD failed miserably. Photo by Elin Cunningham.

Yes we did have 4WD on. No it obviously wasn’t working and we are eternally grateful to staff at Ronez Quarry.

My aviary and other animals

The aviary still functions as a supplemental feed station and roost site. As mentioned in past monthlies it is favoured by other wildlife. We probably have the complete compliment of Jersey’s small mammals visiting the aviary. This has pros and cons depending on your viewpoint. The owls and kestrels are very much in the ‘pro’ camp.

One afternoon our volunteer was shocked to find an owl flying around inside the aviary. As were the choughs! Normally we just find pellets. Earlier this month we thought we had stumbled upon a lost Damien Hirst masterpiece. Turns out it was just the neatly displayed insides of a rat.

We have also managed to film the culprit responsible for the defecation and destruction found in the keeper porch. Measures are underway to deter this behaviour.

We are experiencing problems using camera traps. A lot of the time they failed to even record chough activity. Fingers crossed we get more footage of the owl(s) if it or they return.

Camera trap photo taken at dawn of the choughs who chose to roost at the aviary.

Sign of the times

Despite the wind and rain the chough pairings are still clear to see. We are not far away from the time of year that the pairs start nesting. We are keeping a close eye on the existing pairs as well as the blossoming ones. Our two trios from last year will or have changed.

The death of Egg has forced Dusty to consider whether he becomes closer with Chickay or ditches her and starts afresh. Our young trio of Pyrrho and two wild siblings remains a close friendship. Pyrrho wants more. Will the young male feel the same this year now he is a year older with his hormones beginning to kick in?

Pyrrho (right) with her young male. Photo by Elin Cunningham

Who ewe looking at?

Apologies, but how else to entitle this section? The sheep are still confined to the field adjacent to the aviary. They started to take a keen interest in the grass surrounding the aviary but weren’t invited in! They have now been partitioned off to the next field. The choughs, however, make the most of the sheep’s field and the soil, dung, and hay there teeming with invertebrates.

The grass IS greener. Photo by Liz Corry.

The field gates are currently padlocked if you are to go and visit. Please be respectful of the sheep whilst they are up there: they are very friendly, but spook easily which tends to result in Usain Bolt sprints in all directions.

Advances in aviary design

Finally this month we have to thank John Corder, a follower of the monthly report, who answered a plea in December’s report. I had asked if anyone had suggestions for a more efficient way of building and operating release hatches. John linked us to a presentation made at the Association of Zoos and Aquariums 2016 conference describing the use of remote bird traps. These homemade traps incorporate remote central-locking systems used in cars and run off a 12v battery. A quick visit to eBay and a local hardware store soon had me set up to finally put my A-level in Technology to good use. The kit cost around £30. All that is needed now is to find a way of making it weather-proof and workable at Sorel. We hope to test this out in our zoo aviary first. Many thanks to John once again.

Efficient release hatches? We think not! Photo by Elin Cunningham