Birds eat 400 to 500 million tons of insects annually

Along with spiders, insectivorous birds play a vital role in consuming insects that would otherwise destroy forests or crops.

From ScienceDaily

Birds around the world eat 400 to 500 million metric tonnes of beetles, flies, ants, moths, aphids, grasshoppers, crickets and other anthropods per year. These numbers have been calculated in a study led by Martin Nyffeler of the University of Basel and published in The Science of Nature, highlights the important role birds play in keeping plant-eating insect populations under control.

Nyffeler and his colleagues based their figures on 103 studies that highlighted the volume of prey that insect-eating birds consume in seven of the world’s major ecological communities known as biomes. According to their estimations, this amounts to between 400 and 500 million tonnes of insects per year but is most likely to be on the lower end of the range. Their calculations are supported by a large number of experimental studies conducted by many different research teams in a variety of habitats in different parts of the world.

“The global population of insectivorous birds annually consumes as much energy as a megacity the size of New York. They get this energy by capturing billions of potentially harmful herbivorous insects and other arthropods,” says Nyffeler.

Forest-dwelling birds consume around 75 per cent of the insects eaten in total by birds which make up about 300 million tonnes of insects per year. About 100 million tonnes are eaten by birds in savanna areas, grasslands and croplands, and those living in the deserts and Arctic tundra. Birds actively hunt insects especially during the breeding season, when they need protein-rich prey to feed to their nestlings.

Further, the researchers estimated that insectivorous birds together only have a biomass of about three million tonnes. Nyffeler says the comparatively low value for the global biomass of wild birds can be partially explained through their very low production efficiency. This means that respiration takes a lot of energy and only leaves about one to two percent to be converted into biomass.

“The estimates presented in this paper emphasize the ecological and economic importance of insectivorous birds in suppressing potentially harmful insect pests on a global scale — especially in forested areas,” explains Nyffeler, who says that this is especially so for tropical, temperate and boreal forest ecosystems.

“Only a few other predator groups such as spiders and entomophagous insects (including in particular predaceous ants) can keep up with the insectivorous birds in their capacity to suppress plant-eating insect populations on a global scale,” he adds.

A study from 2017 which Nyffeler also led showed that spiders consume between 400 and 800 million tonnes of insects each year. Other predator groups like bats, primates, shrews, hedgehogs, frogs, salamanders, and lizards seem to be valuable yet less effective natural enemies of plant-eating insects. He says their influence seems to be more biome-specific rather than on a worldwide scale. For instance, lizards help to suppress insects on tropical islands, but less so on a broader scale.

“Birds are an endangered class of animals because they are heavily threatened by factors such as afforestation, intensification of agriculture, spread of systemic pesticides, predation by domestic cats, collisions with human-made structures, light pollution and climate change. If these global threats cannot soon be resolved, we must fear that the vital ecosystem services that birds provide — such as the suppression of insect pests — will be lost,” says Nyffeler.

Read the full paper Insectivorous birds consume an estimated 400–500 million tons of prey annually here

Choughs claim top prize for conservation

By Liz Corry

It’s coming home. It’s coming home. It’s coming, the Insurance Corporation Conservation Awards 2018 are coming home“.

Insurance Corporation logoOK so not as catchy, but the sentiment is the same. Our work with the choughs (see earlier blog entry here) claimed top prize at this year’s Insurance Corporation Conservation Awards. And yes, we are well chuffed.

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Michelle Arundale, Chairperson of the Judging Panel and organiser of the event, said that this was the first time they had to draw up a shortlist of entries in the awards’ 28 year history. Michelle said, “we had such a fabulous response this year and we were delighted to see such a variety of projects entering.” and that judging provided “a chance to meet the inspirational people behind the projects doing their utmost to enhance our natural environment in so many different ways.”

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Michelle Arundale, Chairperson of the Judging panel and organiser of the event. Photo courtesy of Insurance Corporation

Ronez logoYou can watch an edited version of ITV News interview here. It looks at how the choughs and Ronez Quarry have been working together to improve Jersey’s biodiversity.

Angela Salmon, one of the judges this year, noted “The projects have involved many members of our community and these projects will be enjoyed by adults and children. The people leading the winning projects showed great knowledge, understanding and enthusiasm for nature conservation and they are also keen to share their knowledge by educating others.”

We will use the prize money to enable school groups visiting the quarry to learn about Jersey’s wildlife and develop field skills in bird identification. The remaining money will be used to pay for the DNA sexing of this year’s wild chicks.

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Awards ceremony held at the Pomme D’or Hotel. Photo courtesy of Insurance Corporation

There was a shared sentiment amongst the nominees that whilst we have submitted individual projects we are all working towards the same goal. And that all the projects are inter-linked in some respect. For example, Littlefeet’s beach cleans are important to the wildlife species Durrell are trying to save. Birding Tours Jersey need birds otherwise the tours would be really boring! Removing plastic waste from the beach helps Jersey’s seabird population stay afloat (literally!).

Birding Tours Jersey, was this year’s runner-up receiving £1000 towards the free birding tours given to islanders. This year they have hosted three puffin watch tours and several dawn chorus walks to highlight the wonders of Jersey wildlife. And to add to the connection to nature that our projects share, Neil was one of the first chough volunteers before leaving to start Birding Tours.

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Neil Singleton and partner Alison Caldeira receiving the runner-up prize. Photo courtesy of Insurance Corporation

Another nice link was seen with the Conservationist of the Year Award and the Peter Walpole People’s Choice Award. Both of which were awarded to Sarah Maguire for her BioBlitz project in schools. BioBlitz is run through the Jersey Biodiversity Records Centre. Sarah also works for Durrell in our Education team at the Zoo.

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Sarah Maguire (middle) won two awards for her BioBlitz project. Photo courtesy of Insurance Corporation

It is cliché to say it, but everyone is a winner in the conservation awards. Unlike a certain World Cup.

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Winners and nominees of the Insurance Corporation Conservation Awards 2018. Photo courtesy of Insurance Corporation

Painted lady’s roundtrip migratory flight is the longest recorded in butterflies

Painted lady. Photo by Mick DrydenFrom ScienceDaily

The painted lady butterfly is a migratory species in Europe, and common visitor to the Channel Islands, previously known to migrate from Europe to the Afrotropics during the autumn. Butterflies are obviously much harder to track on migration than birds and the fate of this butterfly species and its offspring remained unknown. Butterfly migration can be very different to that in birds where a bird like the swallow moves between, often very distant but well demarcated, summer and winter areas. The best known butterfly migration is perhaps that of the monarch in North America where despite there being well known and well demarcated summer and winter areas, generations of monarchs will never see the winter areas but are essential in the species life cycle (see the fascinating story of the monarch here).

Researchers were now able to demonstrate that painted lady butterflies return from the Afrotropical region to recolonise the Mediterranean in early spring, travelling an annual distance of 12,000 km across the Sahara Desert.

While the Palearctic-African migratory circuit is typically associated with birds, scientists from the Institute of Evolutionary Biology (IBE), a joint research centre of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) and Pompeu Fabra University (UPF), in Barcelona, Spain, found that the painted lady Vanessa cardui endures annual trans-Saharan circuits like some birds do.

This butterfly species travels 12,000 km and crosses the Sahara Desert twice to seasonally exploit resources and favourable climates on both sides of the desert. Few species are known to perform annual long-range trans-Saharan circuits, and that of the painted lady is the longest migratory flight known in butterflies to date.

In a previously published study, the researchers demonstrated that painted lady butterflies migrate from Europe to tropical Africa by the end of summer, crossing the Mediterranean Sea and Sahara Desert.

The fate of these migrants and that of their offspring remained unknown. “Our hypothesis was that the species initiates a reverse northward migration towards Europe in spring, thus completing a regular migratory cycle,” states Roger Vila, one of the researchers.

Painted lady (2). Photo by Mick Dryden

The answer is in the wings

With the aim of confirming this hypothesis, they studied the natal origin of the butterflies that reached the Mediterranean region in early spring. To do so, they analysed the stable hydrogen isotopes of the butterflies sampled in Morocco, Andalusia and Catalonia in Spain, Crete, Egypt and Israel.

An isotope is a form of a chemical element whose atomic nucleus contains a different number of neutrons compared to protons in the nucleus. In water, the proportion of hydrogen and its stable isotope depends on the geographical location. When absorbing water, this proportion is maintained in plants; it later remains in the caterpillars that feed on these plants, and, eventually, in adult butterflies.

By analysing the hydrogen stable isotopes found in the wings of adult butterflies, the researchers could determine where they had developed as caterpillars.

“It is difficult to study the movement of insects by means of observations, marking or radio tracking, since there are millions of individuals and they are very small. This is why finding out where a butterfly grew up before undergoing the metamorphosis by means of stable isotope analysis turns out to be extremely useful. It feels like magic,” says Gerard Talavera, who led the research.

The results show a major proportion of specimens stay in the Afrotropics during winter and that those recolonising the Mediterranean are most probably their offspring. This scenario closes the loop for the Palearctic-African migratory system of Vanessa cardui and shows that the annual distance travelled by the successive generations may reach about 12,000 km, including crossing of the Sahara Desert twice.

Whether the painted lady does regular migratory circuits similar to those of the monarch butterfly in North America was a matter of scientific debate. This research reveals the parallelisms in such a unique evolutionary adaptation.

Access the paper Round-trip across the Sahara: Afrotropical Painted Lady butterflies recolonize the Mediterranean in early spring here

Painted lady (3). Photo by Mick Dryden

2018 Inter-Island Environment Meeting

Crabbe. 9 October 2015. Photo by HGYoung (2)This year’s Inter-Island Environment Meeting (IIEM) will be held once again in Jersey, at Crabbé, St Mary on Thursday 20th and Friday 21st September.

The hosts will be National Trust Jersey and the States of Jersey Department for the Environment and the event will once again be generously supported by Insurance Corporation.

Crabbé Activity CentreCrabbe Activity Centre is a newly renovated outdoor centre belonging to Jersey’s Youth Service and ideally located on the Island’s north coast. The centre has basic accommodation for those who are visiting, giving us a friendly holiday camp feel, ideally suited to this year’s theme, with all conveniences situated on site including a wood-fired pizza oven. For those who would rather not sleep in a bunk-bed or tent, there will be hotel rooms  available nearby.

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2018 theme

This year’s theme is ‘Environmental Partnership’ – inspired by groups/organisations working towards a common goal. Current or future.

Aim and objectives

The general aim of the IIEM is to enable Government bodies, NGO’s, environmental managers and individuals to discuss the status of the islands’ environments.

The 2018 IIEM has three objectives for delegates to:-

–              Present a range of environmental topics relevant to their organisation and island, demonstrating collaboration and partnerships working, and the pros and cons and best practice therein.

–              Discuss current or future projects which could effectively be undertaken throughout the Channel Islands and other regions, such as the Isle of Man and UK.

–              Discuss the potential for a Channel Island Environmental Charter.

Common toad. Photo by Kristian Bell

Intended audience

The IIEM is aimed at ecological, conservation, environmental management bodies (government/NGO) and individuals from the Channel Islands and other regions, such as the Isle of Man and UK.

IIEM talk/poster presentation requirements

Delegates from the Channel Islands and beyond are encouraged to present on research related to the IIEM objectives on either terrestrial, ornithological or marine topics, either via talk or poster formats. Please contact Jon Parkes (JonParkes@nationaltrust.je) or Nina Cornish (N.Cornish@gov.je) to discuss and submit your presentation ideas.

Talks

Talks will normally last for 15 minutes, with 5 minutes for questions. Presenters are requested to submit a title and abstract (maximum of 300 words) to Jon Parkes by Friday 13th July.

Poster

Poster presentations will be displayed. Posters should be formatted to A1 size, either landscape/portrait. Presenters are requested to submit a title and abstract (maximum of 100 words) to Jon Parkes by Friday 13th July. Boards and attachment material will be provided.

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Field Trips

There is a Birds On The Edge guided walk on Thursday (20th September) at 13.30 to nearby Mourier Valley to talk about sheep grazing, choughs, habitat management and bird crops.

The Friday (21st) afternoon session will consist of three field trips of which delegates will be asked to choose an option and indicate their choice on the registration form. The options will be:

  1. Grève de Lecq to Plémont by Kayak: Sea Bird Conservation – Identified areas for protection and monitoring. Led by Piers Sangan and Kazz from Wild Adventures. Note: numbers are restricted for this field trip and places will be allocated on a first come first serve basis
  2. The Wetland Centre Tour: A chance to visit the National Trust for Jersey’s bird observatory and interpretation centre. Led by the Trust Rangers.
  3. Plémont Restoration Site – The story so far: See the former holiday camp site and the work the Trust and its partners have done to return the site to nature. Led by The Trust’s Land Manager and Conservation Officer.

Registration

You can use the registration form here and email the completed form to Jon Parkes at JonParkes@nationaltrust.je by Friday 29th June.

Travel

Air travel

Flybe, British Airways, easyJet and others fly from the UK

Aurigny Air Services fly to Alderney from Guernsey and from Jersey via Guernsey.

Boat travel

Condor Ferries travel from the UK and France to Jersey and between Guernsey and Jersey

Accommodation

If you don’t wish to stay at Crabbé there are accommodation options nearby including:

Prince of Wales in Grève de Lecq

Grève de Lecq barracks

Durrell Hostel and Camping

For further information on accommodation please see Visit Jersey’s website for more information

Crabbe. 9 October 2015. Photo by HGYoung (14)

Voting is open for the Insurance Corporation Conservation Awards 2018

by Liz Corry

Choosing how you vote should not be a snap verdict based on a few minutes of television.   

Simon Cowell

Somewhat ironic, but a perfect opener. Voting is now open for the Insurance Corporation Conservation Awards 2018. The Peter Walpole People’s Choice Award recognises conservation efforts of individuals and groups working in Jersey.

The Insurance Corporation’s Managing Director Mandy Hunt says “whether it is a school who enter a large project or a young individual with a tiny project on their window sill, both are making a contribution to the protection of our valuable green spaces and our local flora and fauna. We award money to our successful entrants because we believe it is important to help with the funding as well as celebrate their diligence and hard work.”

We can’t make you vote for the chough project. Gianna on the other hand…

As previously reported, Ronez Quarry nominated the chough project to try and raise funding to monitor chicks in the nest. This includes a leg ringing kit and DNA sexing tests as you cannot visually distinguish males from females.

If awarded, the money would also provide an educational package for school groups visiting the quarry. This would include child-friendly binoculars, identification cards and other educational material. The quarry is home to several species of birds not just the choughs. Instead of just learning about Jersey’s natural resources they could also learn about it’s biodiversity, develop field skills in bird observation, and learn how they can contribute to the conservation of choughs.

Each project short-listed for the award has been filmed and shown via the Insurance Corporation’s Facebook page. Watch each short clip then vote for the project of your choice at the bottom of their page.

In all fairness, I should also mention that one of our very first chough volunteers is also in the running. Since leaving the project, Neil Singleton has gone on to set up Birding Tours – Jersey. Both visitors and residents delight in Neil’s talks and walks. A very committed and passionate naturalist.

You can vote more than once! All of the applicants are deserving of this award. Just watch and vote at the bottom of their page or here.

The winner will be announced at the awards ceremony on 20th June 2018 and will receive £500 to go towards their project.

 

Chough report: April 2018

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Choughs are now frequently foraging on the southwest tip of Jersey. Photo by Dave Warncken .

by Liz Corry

There is a hashtag floating around the social media stratosphere at the moment, #conservationoptimism, which pretty much sums up this month’s chough report.

When the reintroduced choughs started breeding in the wild in 2015 there were just two males and four females. Three years later we have twelve pairs all eager to contribute to the growing population. Furthermore, two of those pairs have decided to branch out and nest in other parts of the Island.

Nesting ambitions of Jersey’s choughs

A male displaying to his female to encourage ‘sexy time’. The female reciprocating with a suitably unimpressed look. Photo by Elin Cunningham.

We have been able to identify a record number of ten nest sites this year.

Specific details of nest localities will remain guarded in order to protect the pairs. I can, however, let you in on some of the ‘highlights’ we have witnessed in April.

All of last year’s sites in Ronez Quarry are being used again with slight tweaks here and there.

There is concern for Red and Dingle as they are using the nest located on hot piping again. Ronez Quarry are helping us look into ways of raising the nest off the pipes without destroying the integrity of the nest. We wouldn’t want their eggs to overheat like last year.

Red and Dingle’s nest guarantees chicks won’t fall out – providing the eggs survive the heat from pipe work underneath. Photo by Liz Corry.

Dusty has strengthened his bond with Chickay after Egg died and continues to use the upper quarry away from the hubbub of the other nest sites. They have built a very nice nest which should be easy for us to monitor.

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Ronez Quarry with Sark in the background. Photo by Liz Corry.

The first nest located away from Sorel was discovered by one of our zoo keepers on their day off. Anyone visiting Plémont in April will more than likely have heard if not seen a chough or two. In the months leading up to the breeding season we had assumed it was the Les Landes pair. And more often than not it had been. However, on reading the leg rings of the twig-carrying choughs it was clear we had a different pair.

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Plémont Headland. Sorel Point lighthouse just about visible in the background. Photo by Liz Corry.

Finding the nest was a little trickier and not for the faint hearted. It is within the Plémont seabird protection zone which imposes public access restrictions from March to July. Plémont’s cliffs, notorious amongst Jersey’s rock climbers, are described as being ‘Weetabix’ like in structure and to be avoided at all costs. All in all there should be little human disturbance at this site adding to our growing optimism.

Not only is this the first nest discovered away from the release site, it is the first to belong to one of our foster-reared females – Xaviour! She has partnered with a male of her own age, Earl, and as such we are not expecting too much from them. At two-years old they are first timers with no knowledge of exactly what is involved in parenthood.

Regardless, this is a small victory for the project; foster-reared birds can pair up, they can build nests, and not just any nest, a truly wild nest. Fingers (and primaries) crossed for the next few weeks.

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A male chough displaying his ‘excitement’. Photo by Liz Corry.

The record-breaking didn’t stop there. The choughs added a third parish to their tick list of breeding sites. Mary and a wild-hatched male from 2016 were found to have moved roost site 7km to the parish of St Peter. They have been a fairly permanent feature of Simon Sand & Gravel Ltd since last year. Jason Simon, Managing Director, reports seeing three choughs around, but of late one had been ‘pushed out’ by the pair.

Simon Sand & Gravel Ltd located in St Ouen’s Bay is home to sand martins and now choughs too. Photo by Liz Corry.

Two choughs have taken up residence at Simon Sand & Gravel Ltd in St Ouen’s Bay. Photo by Elin Cunningham.

Twigs are visible in the location where the pair roost. It could be a red herring as the site is also used by pigeons. From observations, Mary appear’s quite faithful to that particular spot.

The pair continue making the return trip to Sorel for the supplemental feed. You would assume from this that they are not finding what they need in the wild travelling at least 14km a day for the guarantee of food.

Not so. Thanks to several public sightings, and wonderful photographs, we know that this pair are frequenting Corbière, the southwest tip of the Island.

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Wild-hatched chough hanging out at Corbière 21st April 2018. Photo by Dave Warncken.

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Mary and a wild-hatched chough have become permanent residents of the southwest corner of Jersey. Photo by Dave Warncken.

Funding for nest monitoring awarded by the Ecology Trust Fund.

JerseyEcologicalFund

We are very proud to receive funding this month from the Ecology Trust Fund.

This is a Jersey-based  fund established in March 1991 by the States of Jersey with a sum of money received in an insurance settlement from the Amoco Cadiz oil tanker disaster of 1978. Annual interest accrued is used to finance multiple projects each year within the environmental sector.

The money will be used to purchase equipment to help the team monitor chough nests around Jersey. Increasingly important as our birds ‘leave the nest’ and set up home around the Island.

Island Insurance Corporation awards

CaptureStaying on a funding and monitoring theme, we are very honoured to hear that Ronez Quarry have nominated the chough project for the Islands Insurance Corporation Conservation Awards. The choughs have frequented the quarry since the trial release in 2013 which is now permanent residence for several pairs.

There are prizes to the value of £1000 and £500 available. If awarded, we will be able to cover the costs of monitoring, ringing, and sexing the wild-hatched chicks. DNA sexing tests, for example, cost £14 per bird.

With 10 potential clutches this year the costs could soon spiral.

Judges will visit the short-listed projects in May after which voting will open for the People’s Choice Award. We will circulate details as soon as voting opens.

Replacement rings

This chough had lost both plastic leg rings. The unique metal ring is impossible to read at a distance. Photo by Liz Corry.

As previously reported, several of the choughs have been losing their plastic rings. Or in the case of Zennor switching them around. As if the team needed more of a challenge to monitor breeding pairs!

On 26th April a group of choughs were caught up at the supplemental feed. Nine of the 25 birds arriving for food were caught up, weighed, and given new replacement rings. White was the only exception in that we had run out of white rings and given grey instead. Off-White if you like.

They all looked to be in good health. None of the females sported brood patches to suggest they had started incubating. I suspect that will have happened towards the end of the month or early May.

We still have two birds requiring replacement rings. They happen to be two of the four now living away from Sorel. Unlikely we wil get them in the aviary anytime soon.

Zoo news

Change is afoot with the Zoo choughs. We are exchanging chough pairs with Paradise Park, Cornwall, as part of our wider departmental collection plan. Paradise Park have kindly agreed to take Lucifer back after loaning him to us in 2012. Hopefully they can address his egg-smashing behaviour.

Jersey Zoo will continue to house two breeding pairs; Tristan and Issy and a new established pair. The move has been delayed until May which will disrupt the breeding season. With a quarantine period of thirty days it is unlikely the new pair will breed at Jersey this year.

Tristan and Issy remain in the Zoo’s on-show aviary and have already started nest building. Keepers found a discarded egg and the nest-liner on the floor of the aviary towards the end of April. Something obviously unsettled them, but they have started gathering wool again to repair their nest.

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Tristan and Issy collect wool to line their nest in the Zoo. Photo by Liz Corry.

Foster rearing might not be on the cards this year

Gianna is making good progress since her cataract operations. It was clear that she had regained sight post-op, but she was not her normal self. At lot was due to a knock in confidence. Living in the dark for several months and then placed in a different enclosure must be disorientating. She also behaved in a way that suggested her depth perception was a little off. Over time she has improved although it could take a couple more months to be fully adjusted.

 

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Gianna enjoying her morning preen. Photo by Liz Corry.

She is now in the off-show foster aviary allowing her to go through the motions of nest-building and such. A great deal of enthusiasm has been expressed although she still doesn’t have a complete nest. By now she would have finished and be eager to start laying.

Tristan and Issy did not need any assistance last year with raising their chick. As the only active breeding pair this year it is unlikely we will need Gianna’s help. Only time will tell.

That, and May’s monthly report!

Shaping positive engagements with urban birds

Robin (2). Photo by Mick DrydenFrom BTO

Some bird species provide cultural services, being aesthetically pleasing and having behaviours that people find interesting to watch. Others provide disservices (e.g. gulls, pigeons and corvids) negative for well-being. By documenting how the abundance and richness of species in these two groups correlates with human population density it was apparent that socio-economically deprived areas support low ratios of birds to people, particularly of cultural service species. These results inform management of green space, and provision of feeding and nesting sites, to promote positive interactions between birds and people within urbanised landscapes.

Herring gull (3). Photo by Mick Dryden

Working in collaboration with the University of Exeter, and funded by NERC, researchers carried out extensive bird surveys within an urban area, centred on the towns of Milton Keynes, Luton and Bedford, as part of a wider project investigating urban ecosystem services. These provided measures of the abundance and richness of bird species within both the cultural services (35 species) and disservices (nine species) groups. The research team was able to look at the human population by using data from the 2011 National Census, and to assess socio-economic status by using information published by the Office of National Statistics. Since bird diversity is strongly associated with the structure and availability of urban green space, the team also had to factor in the green space present within the study area.

Analyses revealed that the abundance of cultural service species increased with human population density but peaked at c.1,100 people per 500m x 500m grid tile. The abundance also increased with the proportion of urban green space. Interestingly, the species richness of cultural service birds decreased with human population density but increased with percentage green space. There was a positive linear relationship between the abundance and richness of cultural disservice species and both human population density and the availability of green space.

When the researchers mapped how the abundance of service and disservice birds co-varied with human population density, they found that the two groups of birds showed distinctly different spatial patterns. Service species were most abundant in areas of medium housing density – the suburbs – while disservice birds were most abundant in areas of dense housing, such as those around urban centres.

Skylark (3). Photo by Mick Dryden

While these different patterns are not a direct consequence of human population density per se, they probably result from spatial differences in urban form, the pattern and management of urban green space, levels of disturbance and the availability of resources, all of which are known to vary along socio-economic gradients. This underlines that people living in different parts of the urban landscape are likely to experience different relationships with wild birds, with the human communities in socially deprived areas exposed to more species with negative behaviours than wealthier communities. A consequence of this is that the increased frequency of negative interactions experienced by these people is likely to shape their connection with nature and support for the conservation of the natural world in a negative manner.

The study identifies opportunities to deliver management approaches to counter these unfavourable relationships. Investment in urban green space and its management for cultural service birds is one obvious option, but there are also opportunities at the householder level, through practices such as wildlife gardening. Such householder level approaches can be of wider benefit because their beneficial effects are likely to increase the abundance and richness of cultural service birds in neighbouring gardens, meaning that the actions of a small number of people can provide health benefits for the wider community.

Download the paper Covariation in urban birds providing cultural services or disservices and people here

Helping hedgehogs 

Hedgehog. Photo by Miranda collettJersey Hedgehog Preservation GroupFrom Jersey Hedgehog Preservation Group

Jersey Hedgehog Preservation Group have produced a new leaflet Helping hedgehogs 2018 which can be downloaded here

Hedgehog Highways

One of the main reasons that hedgehog populations are declining is that they often cannot get into our gardens to find food or shelter. A recent report has shown that in urban areas of the UK where people are linking their gardens the decline in numbers is slowing down. It might help our hedgehogs in Jersey if we followed their example. The first thing you can do is to make a 13 x 13cm hole in or under your fence or wall and link your garden with your neighbours to create a Hedgehog Highway. Hedgehogs really are the gardener’s friend and will eat a lot of your garden pests, like slugs and snails. Hedgehogs can roam about one mile in a night. You can register your highway and become a Hedgehog Champion.

Jacksons Fencing have hedgehog friendly gravel boards for their fences with pre-cut holes, in stock in Jersey at JF(T)U Ltd

Hedgehog gravel board. Photo by Jacksons Fencing

Hedgehog friendly garden

Hedgehogs in the Twiglets. Photo by Dru BurdonGo wild

  • Leave a wild area to encourage insects and invertebrates – great hedgehog food!
  • Build a pile of brushwood or logs for hedgehogs to nest in
  • Remove hedgehog hazards
  • Be as organic as you can. Slug pellets kill hedgehogs and other garden chemicals can harm them too
  • Compost your garden waste rather than burn it.

Never set fire to a bonfire without checking it first.  Always move it before you set it alight. A hedgehog will see your garden rubbish as a lovely place to nest, with all too often tragic consequences.

Take care with garden tools, check before you cut, strim or fork your compost heap

Water dangers

If it’s there, they will fall into it:

  • Please cover your drains.
  • Garden ponds – provide escape ramps of stones, rough wood or wire netting.
  • Swimming pools – rigid plastic mesh secured on the edge and trailed in the water makes a good ladder. Hedgehogs are very good swimmers and climbers, BUT they need to be offered a way out.

Netting, string and litter

Hedgehog in 4 pack rings. Photo by Dru BurdonNetting, garden string and other litter can all be hazards for hedgehogs.

  • Store nets safely in the shed when not in use
  • If using nets to grow peas or beans, leave a 13cm gap underneath
  • If using nets for covering low crops such as strawberries, pull taut and cut off surplus
  • Keep your garden clear of litter. Think hedgehog!

Food and water

Put out cat or dog food and water especially in dry weather. Place the food under a box with a 13cm square hole cut in the side to prevent other creatures getting to the food before the hedgehogs arrive.

Does this hedgehog need help?

Hedgehogs are nocturnal so if you see one lying out of its nest in the daytime, there may be something wrong, even if you cannot see any injury. Please pick it up with gloves and put it in a deep box and phone the Jersey Hedgehog Preservation Group on 01534 734340 as soon as you can. However, in the summer if you see a large hedgehog walking with purpose across your garden while it is still light, it may well be a mother with young, so please leave her alone and offer her some cat or dog food and water to help her produce milk to feed her babies.

Read the report The State of Britain’s Hedgehogs 2018 here 

Hedgehog Mr Payn facing front. Photo by Dru Burdon

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.