Jersey National Park is home to many of our local bats and a new awareness campaign to educate children and the general public about the importance of these protected species, The Jersey Bat Project, was launched on Monday 15th May.
Hugh the Batis the face of the campaign. He is named after the late Hugh Forshaw, who was a long standing member of the Jersey Bat Group. You can see Hugh the Bat on video here
Leading up to the launch a number of events have taken place:
The Jersey Bat Group delivered an assembly at Les Landes School (located in the JNP) all about bats
Les Landes school took part in a bat box building workshop at led by Chris Wilson, Workshop Manager at the States of Jersey Prison
Bat box installation (made by the children) in the Jersey National Park
Bat moonlight walk for the Scouts, at Val de la Mare, led by the Jersey Bat Group.
Jim Hopley, Honorary Chairman, Jersey National Park commented: “Jersey National Park is delighted to work with eco-active and Jersey Bat Group with fantastic support from the Co-op and significant help from the States of Jersey Prison Joinery Workshop to bring the story of Jersey’s 15 bat species to children’s attention, explaining to them how important they are to the island. If we can also ignite their imagination in respect of the opportunities for education the National Park offers them then this is a bonus”.
Dr Amy Louise Hall, Chair – Jersey Bat Group said: “We hope that this campaign will enable us to engage with all areas of the community and teach them more about bats and the wider environment in which they live. We hope to highlight the benefits bats provide to the environment, the pressures they face in an ever changing world and how people can help them thrive.”
Nina Cornish, Research Ecologist, Department of the Environment commented: “Bat species make up 40 per cent of the land mammals in Jersey, and aside from being amazing creatures which fly in the dark and find their way around with echolocation, they also provide crucial environmental services to us. For example, they eat thousands of mosquitoes every night, they help to pollinate plants and they’re an important indicator species – when their populations are healthy, we know that Jersey’s environment is also healthy – so it’s vital to conserve and protect them. That’s why we’re pleased to be supporting ‘The Jersey Bat Project’ working closely in partnership with the Jersey Bat Group and the Jersey National Park.”
Greg Yeoman, Chief Marketing Officer for The Channel Islands Co-operative Society, said: “Funding from The Channel Islands Co-operative Society came from our EcoFund initiative, which has given more than £280,000 to environmental causes across the Channel Islands. The Jersey Bat Project celebrates the importance of this protected species and it’s fantastic that islanders will have the chance to learn and understand more about them.”
We see lots of nasty injuries caused by cutting equipment. Every year many hedgehogs are put to sleep because their wounds are too severe to be treated. Hedgehogs will not run away when they hear your cutting or mowing machine, their instinct is to roll up more tightly and stay put, so they often get sliced top and bottom. If there is a mother with babies she will not abandon them but will protect them with her body, getting killed in the process. Our experience is with hedgehogs, but there will be other creatures nesting under the cover of vegetation you will be cutting down, which also need care and protection.
We are asking you to check before you cut, please watch out with piles of sticks, bonfire heaps and well established brambles – if the area is very overgrown – please cut to knee height first, then check for wildlife before you cut lower if required. Should you discover an injured hedgehog, please pick it up with gloves, put it in a bucket/dustbin/box and ring the Jersey Hedgehog Group on 01534 734340 for immediate help or take it to a vet. If you find other injured wildlife please phone the JSPCA on 01534 724331 or your vet – you should not be charged for wildlife.
If you disturb a nest with a mother and baby hedgehogs:
1. The best thing is to leave it alone, cover it over with the material you have cut away and leave the area.
2. If this is not possible because work has to continue, cover the whole nest with a dustbin/bucket with a stone on top, making sure Mum doesn’t escape and ring 01534 734340 for immediate help.
3. If work has to continue at once, make sure you are wearing gloves, gently pick Mum up first and place her in a dustbin/bucket/box, then pick up all the babies (they usually have about five but there can be more) and cover them all with as much original nest material as you can and ring 01534 734340 for immediate help. If you touch the young with your bare hands, your human smell can make the mother reject her babies.
If you discover a nest of another wildlife species please phone the JSPCA for advice on 01534 724331.
You can download campaign leaflet hereor a poster in three languages here
For the last task before our well-earned summer break, join the National Trust Rangers at Hamptonne meadow on to undertake wet meadow restoration management.
The flora in the meadow has responded well to management since the Trust acquired it in 2011. That said, hemlock water dropwort is still abundant. This native plant is invasive in many of Jersey’s wet meadows, especially those that have suffered from a lack of management in the past. This task will entail walking through the meadow and selectively cutting and removing hemlock water dropwort in order to speed up the restoration of the meadow to a favourable condition.
We will meet in the Hamptonne Country Life Museum car park, Rue de la Patente, St Lawrence
Parking Parking is at the site
(Jersey Phone Directory Map 8, U10) Google maps here
The task Cutting and removing hemlock water dropwort
Tools needed Tools will be provided but if you have a sickle/scythe it would be helpful if you could bring it along with you.
Clothing needed. A note of caution, hemlock water dropwort is the most toxic plant in Britain so please ensure that you wear long-sleeved clothing regardless of the weather. The roots are the most toxic part of the plant so we will only be handling the stems and leaves. We will provide protective gloves as well as hand washing facilities and ask that all attendees kindly use them.
Wellies are very highly advisable, as we are working in a wet meadow!
Children All are welcome, young or old. Children under 16 must be supervised by a parent or guardian during the task.
Work will finish by 12:30 when cake and refreshments will be served by our super talented baker Kim the Kake.
Thank you to all of you for your hard work this season. Your enthusiasm and commitment makes a huge difference to Jersey’s wild areas, we are really appreciative of your efforts, no matter how much or little you are able to contribute.
The Jersey Conservation Volunteers will be back in October, watch this space…
April started on a tragic low note progressing, the only way it could, into a steady crescendo to a high and hopeful cadence. In fact, April started as it always does with April Fool’s Day. So when an email entitled ‘chough vs. peregrine’ was opened on the 2nd, wishful thinking wanted to dismiss this as a delayed prank.
The email was from Mick Dryden and Romano da Costa, two of Jersey’s top birders, who had been out at Sorel Point doing a migration count.
Mick described observing “an immature peregrine fly onto the cliff with a black bird in its talons. We both thought it was the remains of a chough. The peregrine was hassled by gulls and flew off west, but dropped the bird in the sea where a greater black-backed gull performed the last rites. I had the scope on it distantly and think I could see red legs very briefly, possibly also a ring which may have been green. So if you are short of a chough, you know why!”
For legal reasons we would like to state that the peregrine flying over Sorel in this photo is innocent until proven guilty. Photo by Liz Corry.
The email was read at home after spending the day out at Sorel monitoring seemingly very content choughs. In fact, it was the first day the choughs had been seen carrying nesting material. Not only that, but the first bird spotted carrying material was Pyrrho, a female of only two years of age. A potential new breeder!
Pyrrho carrying nesting material, but to where? Photo by Liz Corry
Added excitement had come when a large group of choughs spent the day hanging out around the section of cliffs where we fitted a nest-box in 2014. Birds were seen to come and go from the box. Could one of them be adding nesting material?
The acrobatic aerial displays they were putting on, launching themselves off the cliff face were a joy to watch.
Acrobatic choughs at Sorel. Photo by Liz Corry.
To get home and find out that one of them had most likely been skewered by talons, plucked apart, and unceremoniously dropped in the sea, only to be further shredded into oblivion, was a little disorientating to say the least.
The choughs have started changing their daily patterns most likely as a result of the breeding season. Pairs have been spending less time near the aviary, some turning up late. In the case of Lee and Caûvette, the notorious absentees, they did the opposite and started turning up for both morning and afternoon feeds.
Lee and Caûvette (centre) have started returning for the supplemental feeds suggesting they might be nesting nearby. Photo by Liz Corry.
Once the choughs had grabbed their free handouts they would swiftly return to their business of either nest-building and/or wild foraging. There has been an abundance of leatherjackets and other grubs in the fields this month keeping them fuelled for the day. It, therefore, didn’t raise alarm bells when only 32 of the 35 choughs were counted on the morning Mick described the attack.
A leatherjacket larvae unearthed and being tenderised before adding to the chough menu of the day. Photo by Liz Corry.
The following day was spent staking out Sorel ticking names off the chough register. Mick’s description of a green ring turned out to be a red herring when, after a few hours, all the choughs sporting green rings were alive and well. This is included a breeding male, Pale Green, a wild-hatched chick, and hand-reared Bean. Never believe parents when they say they don’t have a favourite!
Ticking off the chough register each day isn’t easy with birds like Helier whose broken green ring has slipped over the blue one. Photo by Liz Corry.
By the end of the day the identity of two birds still remained unconfirmed. Hayle and Yarila, both hatched at Paradise Park last year, and wearing almost identical leg rings. One blue and white striped. One black and white striped. Out in the field with the glare of the sun, the white-out of the fog (we had both), and the desperation in your mind, it is very difficult to determine the difference between the two rings.
Attempts to get a clearer view of leg rings by feeding choughs outside of the aviary failed when the sea fog rolled in. Photo by Liz Corry.
Even when Hayle’s radio transmitter was tracked down to the cliff face where the peregrine attack occurred your mind wants to add the element of doubt. What if she just shed the transmitter there and is merrily foraging in the fields? Sea fog and sheer cliffs prevented the recovery of the transmitter.
Somewhere beyond the gorse lies a cliff face and a lost radio transmitter. Photo by Liz Corry.
Not that it would have told us anything other than Hayle was no longer attached to it. Three days later, with a total count of 34 birds, none of which wore a blue and white striped ring, we reluctantly concluded Hayle wasn’t attached to anything in this world.
And now for the steady crescendo…
Breeding season update
The chough group did not spend long mourning the loss of their friend. Priorities were focused around breeding and collecting nest-liner courtesy of the sheep. We were able to ascertain a few new potential breeding pairs thanks to this. We have also noticed a few unexpected couplings based on mutual preening and feeding behaviour.
The most intriguing of which is a new trio. Pyrrho has teamed up with one of last year’s wild-hatched chicks. At only 11 months old (someone call Social Services) he would seem a bit young for Pyrrho. The young male is still very close to his sister and the three are often spotted flying to the quarry together. It would be unusual if this trio were to produce anything other than a nest this year.
Wild-hatched siblings Pink-Orange (male) and Black-Orange (female) have teamed up with Pyrrho this breeding season. Photo by Liz Corry.
We already have a trio of Dusty, the original wild-hatched chick, and two females Egg and Chickay. Both females have been building nests; however, Dusty pays more attention to Egg and we believe she has started incubating. Last year, when this trio formed, they did not get beyond the nest-building stage so Egg’s behaviour is very encouraging.
Egg collecting nesting material from the quarry for her nest with Dusty. Photo by Liz Corry.
Chickay, a hand-reared chick, collecting nesting material from the quarry. Photo by Liz Corry.
These were not the only choughs to be busy nest building. We have seen five pairs visiting the sheep pens to collect wool. Not straight from the sheep’s backs I hasten to add.
Choughs busy collecting wool to line their nests at Sorel. Photo by Liz Corry.
The choughs have been making the most of the sheep’s confinement to the aviary field this month. Photo by Liz Corry.
We have struggled to assign each pair to a nest site. With so many choughs using the quarry now simply for recreation it is difficult to know who is who and what they are up to. Working with quarry staff, we believe we have double the number of nest sites compared to last year.
A tell-tale clue as to where this pair has chosen to nest is in the fact that they are covered in quarry rock dust. Photo by Liz Corry.
We started to notice behaviour in the last two week’s of April that suggested some of the females had started incubating. It has not been as clear-cut as in previous years making it trickier to predict hatch dates. Bets aside it is certain that May will be a productive month.
Health updates and post-release care
Monthly faecal screenings showed the parasite count in the flock to be lower than last month. It would be a statistical miracle to assume that the entire flock was represented equally within a sample. However, taking into account fewer observations of sneezing birds it appears to be a fair reflection of the group’s general parasite loads. The reduction was possibly helped by the absence of Hayle who had been seen sneezing and wheezing a few days before she encountered the peregrine.
One of the wild-hatched choughs was seen to have something wrapped around her foot on 17th April. We monitored her closely and it soon became clear the offending material was not going to come off unaided. We are permitted to catch up and handle wild-hatched choughs for welfare reasons under our license granted by the States of Jersey. Therefore, to avoid any potential problems with blood circulation in the future, we caught her up and snipped the thread free.
PP003 had to be caught up in the release aviary to remove tangled thread from her foot. Photo by Glyn Young.
At the same time as attempting to catch this bird (it took several days) we noticed Bean had managed to wedge one of her digits up into her plastic rings. We had hoped that she might manage to wiggle it free or break the plastic since the rings are now quite old. She didn’t comply so she too was caught up.
We had to be very careful with Bean and the rest of the group when it came to entrapment. Not for legal reasons. We did not want to inflict any unnecessary stress on any of the egg-laying females. We had suspected Bean could be one such female since her and her partner have collected nesting material. Once in the hand her brood patch was a big giveaway. Her foot was quickly freed, replacement rings fitted, and she was allowed to return to her nest within minutes of being trapped in the aviary.
Yarila preened out her broken tail feather this month complete with radio transmitter. Photo by Liz Corry.
Yarila conveniently preened out her radio-transmitter on 24th April whilst sat on the aviary roof. At the start of the month one of her middle tail feathers was sticking up at a right angle to the other eleven. Obviously loose, but hanging on to something. In fact we noticed it the day after the peregrine incident. Coincidence?
Looking at the recovered transmitter it is clear that the loose feather was still holding on by a thread to the base of the transmitter. The other central tail feather, which gets glued to the transmitter, has snapped off and detached from the base of the transmitter hence the tag falling off. This is the first time we have seen this with our choughs.
Jersey Zoo breeding pairs
CI Fire & Security Ltd kindly installed a new wireless system at the chough breeding aviaries this month to allow staff to monitor all three nests. CI Fire & Security Ltd have previously installed cameras at Durrell in the bear and orang enclosures. Whilst seemingly not as challenging as designing an orang-utan-proof camera, the chough-cams proved trickier than expected. Two of the three cameras were up and running in March. The third, in Issy and Tristan’s aviary where we hope the pair will parent rear took a bit longer, but finally went online on 13th April. At which point we discovered she was sitting on three eggs!
Keepers had found an egg on the floor near to the nest-box earlier in the week. We don’t know why it was on the floor. We do know that she has not laid anymore eggs since the day the camera went online. An unusually low clutch number for Issy, but at least she has eggs and is looking after them.
Now we have the nest-camera we can closely monitor the progress of these eggs, any subsequent chicks and support the parents along the way if needed. We expect the eggs to hatch at the start of May with a view to release healthy fledged chicks in the summer.
Simon Inman’s fundraising last month has managed to raise £140.73. This has help pay for the new wireless nest-camera in Issy and Tristan‘s aviary. Simon’s sponsored skydive is in summer so there is still time to donate.
Our other two breeding pairs appear to be dawdling. It took them a while to start building nests and now they just don’t want to stop. This footage of Denzel and his partner was captured on 25th April…
It is a little harder to tell what Gwinny and Lucifer are up to thanks to Gwinny inadvertently repositioning the camera.
For our tame bird Gianna she has to sit and wait for the likes of Gwinny to start egg-laying. We can then give Gianna a dummy egg to stimulate her to start laying her own (infertile) eggs. When the time is right we can swap eggs or chicks for foster rearing purposes. Timing is partly influenced by the behaviour of the pairs especially Lucifer who has a tendency to dislike eggs appearing in his nest box. We’re not exactly sure what he expects to use the nest for.
Gianna taking nesting material for her foster nest. Photo by Liz Corry.
Gianna completed her nest and is now waiting for the cue from keepers to start laying eggs. Photo by Liz Corry.
Preparations for the breeding season were well under way this month both at the Zoo and out on the coast. The breeding pairs at the Zoo moved into their seasonal accommodation ready to begin nesting. For Issy and Tristan that meant staying put and keeping a watchful eye on the visitors to the Zoo. Our other two pairs headed off show. Last year Issy and Tristan successfully reared two chicks who were later released onto the north coast. We are hoping for the same success this year. Maybe even more as keepers can now monitor activity in the nest from their computers thanks to a new wireless CCTV installation in their aviary.
One of the off-show breeding aviaries at Jersey Zoo. Photo by Liz Corry.
The off-show aviaries had a spruce up before the other two pairs moved in. The birds had a quick health check by the vets prior to moving. All appeared physically OK. Mentally? We will have to wait and see.
We are hoping that Lucifer learnt his lesson last year and allows Gwinny to incubate her eggs in peace.
In case he does live up to his namesake, we have set up the artificial incubation room at the Bird Department. We also have foster-mum Gianna on standby.
Gianna is on standby to help foster-rear chicks with the Zoo keepers. Photo by Liz Corry.
To ensure that she is in sync with the pairs we moved her into her own ‘breeding’ aviary when the others moved into theirs.
Nesting material was provided over several days by keepers. Each pair received material at the same time to encourage the pairs to nest in sync.
For some the prospect of a new nest is way too exciting…
By the end of the month Gianna had pretty much completed her nest. Material could be seen sticking out of Issy and Tristan‘s nest. The other two pairs were a bit slower on the uptake. From watching this video taken from Gwinny and Lucifer‘s nest camera you will understand why.
Our cameras are not online for public viewing. However, over in Cornwall, our partners at Paradise Park have their nest cameras up and running. You can follow their progress by clicking here.
Back on the north coast the free-living choughs were also busy with nesting material. The established breeding pairs started turning-up late to the feeds and not foraging as much around Sorel as the others.They were spending their time in the quarry trying to keep what they were up to under wraps. However, thanks to the new chough nest-box cameras in the quarry they could not keep it a secret for long.
To everyone’s relief Green and Black decided to use the nest-box Ronez fitted to encourage them away from working machinery. Within a week of the box being up, the birds were adding twigs. This will provide extremely valuable information to the team if the pair complete their nest.
Chough CCTV in the quarry providing evidence that nest building began in early March. Photo by Mark de Carteret.
The other nest camera is located in the building used by Dingle and Red. The monitor showed an empty nest-box, but we know from their antics they were up to something. It will be a case of wait and see.
The trickier detective work this month focused on trying to determine if Lee and Caûvette would attempt to nest for the first time? If so would it be away from Sorel? And will there be any other first timers now that the birds coming of age?
We know Lee and Caûvette like hanging out at Les Landes in the morning. Towards the end of March they also started missing out on the afternoon supplemental feed. They would arrive 20-40 minutes later than everyone else. We delayed the afternoon feeds by 30 minutes to give them a shot of getting some food before all the others scoffed it. This worked out well for a bit. Then the clocks changed and the birds gained at least an extra hour of daylight to frolic in before roost.
Lee and Caûvette seemed quite content without the aviary feed. They were obviously finding plenty of wild food. Probably because they had added Plémont to their list of daily foraging sites. From the aerial images below, courtesy of Chris Brookes Aerial Photography, you can understand why.
Plémont Bay. Photo by Chris Brookes Aerial Photography.
A view of Plémont café with Sorel Point visible on the horizon (top left). Photo by Chris Brookes Aerial Photography.
Headland at Plémont at high tide. Choughs have been seen foraging in this area. Photo by Chris Brookes Aerial Photography.
I am personally indebted to Tony Paintin for his feeding observations from Plémont since they reaffirmed my sanity as, on the 25th March, I looked up from my lunch plate at Plémont cafe and watched as two chough-like birds flew across the panoramic window view towards the headland. It meant that when I ran down the steps to the beach like a crazy lady I knew I would be rewarded with the site of Lee and Caûvette exploring the nooks and crannies of Plémont’s coves and crevices.
They didn’t stay for long. Minutes later they were off exploring Grand Becquet and Grève de Lecq. They probably wanted to get a look at the black guillemot reported there to see what all the fuss was about.
No sign of them collecting nesting material, but then again we only get to see them for about an hour each day. The radio-tracking study stopped at the end of this month allowing the team to spend more time observing behviour. Only five of the original eleven birds were still wearing their transmitters. Besides, apart from two birds, the flock was staying put at Sorel.
Project student Simon monitoring the choughs at Sorel. Photo by Liz Corry.
During this time we discovered a shift in one of the non-breeding couplings. Q has ditched Pyrrho in favour of Flieur who is a month shy of her 3rd birthday and prime age to start breeding.
We also noticed a few of the youngsters sneezing. The monthly faecal screening showed presence of Syngamus and Coccidia within the group. The condition of the birds was not as severe as on previous occasions so there was no urgent need to catch them for worming injections. Instead we focused on repairing the aviary so that we could catch birds and continued to monitor the group as closely as we could.
The aviary finally had a spring clean. More like overhaul with new hatch wires, in some cases new hinges. The hatches themselves were cleaned and painted and the broken central beam was replaced and, thanks to Trevor’s trusty truck, the partitions were hauled back into place.
Maintenance staff came up with a novel idea to operate the release hatches. Photo by Liz Corry.
At the same time the National Trust for Jersey were up replacing the sheep fencing a Sorel. The sheep are still confined to the aviary field and adjacent field. Once the lambs at St Catherine’s are old enough they will move up and roam free at Sorel and Devil’s Hole.
Not content with their wool, their dung larvae, their drinking water, and their feed, the choughs found another way to exploit the grazing flock…a shelter box. Photo by Liz Corry.
Other activities this month included a visit by Allen Moore from the Isle of Man. Allen is pretty much chough aficionado and not just in the Isle of Man. In fact he flew to Jersey from Las Palma (indirectly sadly) where he had just spent a two week ‘holiday’ studying the choughs and the other birds of La Palma. The La Palma chough is a bit of an oddball of the chough family (there is always one). It can be found in a wide range of habitats, including pine forest, and eats olives!
Part of the chough flying display at Sorel put on for the DESMAN students. Photo by Anna Chouler.
Durrell Training Academy is hosting the annual DESMAN course at present. Running from February until May. Participants spent time this month learning about the Birds On The Edge project via lectures and site visits. They also received training in radio-tracking techniques. For the tour of Sorel they were joined by a visiting course group from Nottingham Trent University. Despite the number of visitors and disturbance caused by maintenance work, the groups got to see the choughs in action.
The video below shows project student Simon feeding the choughs. Sometimes you don’t need to worry about whether or not the choughs will hear the whistle and come for food.
Due to ‘unnatural’ weather conditions at one point this month (i.e. no wind!), staff at Ronez Quarry tried to see if an alternative to a whistle cue would work…
if you want to read the moving story behind the first ever chough at Jersey Zoo then grab yourself a copy of Dingleby Marie Marchand. It has a introduction by Gerald Durrell who was responsible for bringing the original Dingle to Jersey.
Published in 1961, hard-copies are few and far between. We got hold of one through the good folks at Cotswold Internet Books Ltd. However, if you prefer a digital copy then register for free with www.archive.org, an online lending library.
DICE are seeking applications for a PhD in Biodiversity Management supported by the University of Kent’s Vice Chancellor’s Research Scholarship Fund. Applicants need to be versatile with a demonstrable aptitude for conservation science, interdisciplinary research and quantitative analysis, together with an interest in bird conservation and/or reintroduction biology.
Supervisors: Dr Bob Smith, Prof Richard Griffiths, Prof Jim Groombridge & Dr Dave Roberts
Advisor: Professor Carl Jones MBE.
The science of reintroducing species back into the wild has evolved into a distinct branch of conservation science. The Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology has been working at the forefront of species conservation and reintroduction biology with partners around the world for over two decades. An opportunity has now arisen to apply this experience and expertise locally, with an analysis of the feasibility of bringing back the iconic red-billed chough to Kent. The chough population has become highly fragmented with several isolated populations around the coast of Britain. The chough was once more widespread and formerly occurred as far east as Kent where it became extinct c. 160 years ago. However, it still lives on in the Coat of Arms of Canterbury City and the University of Kent, and potential habitat remains in Kent, with large areas of nature reserves and farmland across the Dover area.
Partners This project builds on the experience of Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust who lead the chough reintroduction to Jersey through the Birds On The Edge project. The project will also partner with Operation Chough, based at Paradise Park in Cornwall, who have led the ex situ components of the reintroduction programme; and Wildwood Trust in Kent, a leading centre for the conservation and rewilding of British Wildlife.
Aims & Objectives
1. Habitat suitability analysis: this will involve combining an ecological assessment of potential release sites with an impact and risk assessment of a potential reintroduction. This will require spatial analysis and species distribution modelling using GIS;
2. Assessment of local attitudes to a proposed reintroduction: this will use social science methods to gather quantitative and qualitative data on awareness, attitudes, and knowledge of the chough and broader conservation issues among the wider local community;
3. Systematic conservation planning assessment: This will involve working with local NGO and government groups to map the different protected areas and management activities in the focal area, and identify sites where habitat management would support chough conservation;
4. Flagship species potential: this will use choice experiments and other social science methods to identify whether the chough would make a suitable flagship species for different target audience groups, including neighbouring communities and visiting tourists.
Training The project will require a versatile student who will be trained in both social science and natural science survey methods, GIS and species distribution modelling. The student will be required to take forward dialogue with local organisations, identifying potential release sites with them through applying the research, and help produce a reintroduction plan in conjunction with IUCN/SSC (2013) guidelines. The student will be expected to undertake some teaching as a Graduate Teaching Assistant on undergraduate programmes.
Applications Applicants should have at least a 2:1 Honours degree and a good MSc in a relevant subject. Graduates who can demonstrate equivalent relevant experience to MSc level through professional work, research and publications may also be considered.
Applications should comprise of a covering letter (1 page) and CV (2 pages max including the names and contact details of two referees) and should be sent to Dr Bob Smith (R.J.Smith@kent.ac.uk) by midnight on May 8th 2017.
The main theme of The State of the UK’s Birds report (SUKB) 2016 is the latest Birds of Conservation Concern 4 list – BoCC4 published in 2015 (read and download here) – and the species whose status has changed. The increase in the UK’s Red list by 15 species is due to problems in all habitats including farmland, woodland and coasts but most notably in uplands with five new upland species moving onto the red list. One of these is curlew. The UK supports 27% of the global population, and the long-term trend shows a 64% decline from 1970 to 2014. This, combined with the bird’s global status of Near Threatened, suggests that the curlew is one of the most pressing bird conservation priorities in the UK (read more about the curlew here).
“The BTO is working with others on a programme of research to understand the causes of curlew decline and guide potential management solutions. This involves analyses of long-term data collected by thousands of volunteers, using novel tracking technology to study the needs of individual birds, and working with local enthusiasts to inform the recovery of local populations”
– James Pearce-Higgins, Director of Science, BTO
Whinchat, another largely upland species monitored by the UK and Channel Islands BBS Survey shows a 53% decline during the last two decades. As an Afro-Palearctic migrant, this species is part of another group for which there is particular concern. Threats and pressures during migration and on the wintering grounds need to be considered alongside the impact of changes in upland habitats in the UK.
More unexpected perhaps, is that grey wagtail has moved from the Amber list to the Red list. Alongside declines in common sandpiper and dipper, this raises wider concerns about species associated with upland streams and rivers. The other two upland species to show marked declines are merlin and dotterel, the latter a montane species likely to affected negatively by climate change and grazing pressure.
Of the 91 species reported on in the most recent RBBP report covering 2014, 71 were assessed by BoCC4. Eight species showed an improvement in status (including woodlark, bearded tit and chough, which joined the Green list), with conservation action to maintain suitable reed beds helping the populations of species such as bittern recover. Five species, common pochard, Slavonian grebe, merlin, dotterel and black redstart moved onto the Red list. The remaining 20 of the 91, not assessed by BoCC4, are those which are not considered to be a regular component of the UK’s avifauna. This may be because they breed only occasionally (e.g. European bee-eater), or indeed have never bred, but from time-to-time visiting individuals exhibit breeding behaviour (e.g. great reed warbler). The RBBP logs such occurrences, as it may be that they represent a precursor to future colonisation, such as the first little egrets that displayed to each other in the early 1990s, before first breeding in 1996 and the subsequent population explosion.
The importance of volunteer data
Thousands of dedicated volunteers contributed to the data used throughout most of this report. Data used to calculate UK population trends and related research. Over 2,600 volunteers participated in the Breeding Bird Survey in 2016 alone, one of many surveys highlighted in the report. This particular survey provides annual population trends for 111 species, including upland species such as curlew, whinchat and grey wagtail.
At a smaller, but equally as important scale, the 258 volunteers who contribute to the Waterways Breeding Bird Survey allow monitoring on those species specific to waterways, such as common sandpiper and dipper and cover almost 300 sites annually.
Who produces the report
SUKB is produced by a coalition of three non-governmental organisations (NGOs) – the RSPB, BTO and the WWT – and the UK Government’s statutory nature conservation agencies – Natural Resources Wales (NRW), Natural England (NE), the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Northern Ireland (DAERA), Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC).
Download the full report The State of the UK’s Birds 2016 here
The (Guernsey) Conservation Herd have been invited to graze L’Ancresse Common and were moved to the common on Sunday 2nd April.
La Société Conservation Herd were invited to graze the Common by Vale Commons Council as a trial to re-introduce grazing. This initiative has been set up under its new management regime which aims to protect the area as an important recreational and cultural site whilst also enhancing the internationally important grasslands.
L’Ancresse Common was historically grazed by inhabitants of Braye du Valle, who have rights to graze their animals there. As fewer households kept their own cows and it became less economically viable for dairy farms to graze theirs on the common, the number of grazing animals there reduced. Today, no inhabitants exercise their right to graze.
This loss of grazing has had a significant impact on the ecology of the common – the grassland has become tall and rank and areas have become established by gorse and brambles. The delicate wildflowers which require short, grazed grassland no longer have access to light and so are being lost from the common. This, in turn, leads to a loss of the insects, small mammals, bats and birds which rely on them.
La Société Conservation Herd
The Conservation Herd is a herd of eight Guernsey steers whose job is to manage grasslands to protect and enhance their diversity. La Société was approached by VCC to graze the common for several weeks, starting from April 2nd. This initiative is a trial of a longer-termed project which aims to see more grazing animals return to the common.
Julia Henney, the Conservation Herd’s manager, said, “We were delighted to be approached by VCC and asked to graze L’Ancresse Common. It is a vitally important site for Guernsey’s biodiversity and we hope that re-introducing grazing will help preserve it for many years to come. We have experience grazing common land, with the introduction of Operation Skylark at Port Soif Common. The local community offered so much support and the herd were well received and accepted onto Port Soif Common and we hope to replicate this success at L’Ancresse.”
Peter Blake, President of the Vales Commons Council said “Myself and my committee wish you and the herd a great stay on the Common and hope that this will encourage more of the inhabitants to do the same.”
The Conservation Herd will be grazing within electric fencing for several weeks around The Doyle area and will be checked daily by the team which cares for them. La Société and the Vale Commons Council would welcome assistance from regular dog walkers and people who walk or exercise around L’Ancresse. ‘Watchers’ are sought to keep an eye on the cattle when they’re passing and report any problems or concerns to the Conservation Herd team.
Temporary signs are placed around the site to explain the project and give information on who to contact in the event of an emergency.
Anyone who would like more information on the Conservation Herd is welcome to contact Julia Henneyat email@example.com and visit our online map here to track where they are grazing.
Spring is definitely in the air but there are still two events to go before we break for summer so come and join us on the dunes for the penultimate task.
Holm oaks are evergreen trees that originate from the Mediterranean but grow very successfully in Jersey. These fast growing trees can reach 20m high and shade out the small duneland plants if left unchecked. They spread easily and so this task will involve digging up the numerous small saplings across the dunes before they start to get problematic!
The site We will meet in the car park on Mont a la Brune (see below) at 10:20 for a 10:30 start to scour the dunes for saplings.
Parking Parking is in the upper car park on Mont a la Brune (Le Chemin des Basses des Mielles). Jersey phone directory Map 6, G15. Google mapshere
The task Digging up and removing the numerous small holm oak saplings across the dunes.
Tools needed The only tool suitable for this job will be a spade, which we have limited numbers of, so please bring your own if you have one.
Clothing needed. Bring gardening gloves (though we can supply a pair if you don’t have them), wellies or sturdy boots, (it won’t be muddy but the vegetation may be wet it and it may be rough underfoot) and common sense clothes to cope with the elements, we go ahead whatever the weather!
Children All are welcome, young or old. Children under 16 must be supervised by a parent or guardian during the task.
Work will finish by 12:30 and we’ll be away by 13.00. VIV (Very Important Volunteer) Kim will be supplying hot drinks and her famous homemade cakes before everyone leaves at the end of the morning.
Considering February is the shortest month, Mother Nature managed to fit in pretty much every weather type bar drought. The choughs faced blinding fog, F10 gales, hailstorms, thunder, and glorious sunshine.
Rolling sea fog to the west of Mourier Valley (left) glorious sunshine to the east at the same time. Photos by Liz Corry.
This might explain why Lee and Caûvette failed to turn up for supplemental feeds four days in a row. In fact they were not sighted anywhere for almost five days. We are not entirely sure if they stayed out at Les Landes the whole time or just waited until sunset to reach their regular roost site at Sorel. Staff attempted to find the answer by stalking the pair around Les Landes and staking out the roost site. Both of which failed because they were either nowhere to be seen to stalk or the roost site was shrouded in fog.
Just as panic set in with the sighting of peregrines hunting at Les Landes the pair were spotted. Both completely fine, behaving as normal feeding around the parade ring at the racecourse.
There was the slight twinge of excitement about their absence if we went with the train of thought that they had chosen to roost at Les Landes. Would this be a clue about where they will attempt to nest?
Chough nest-site prospecting with the Channel Island Occupation Society
Choughs will nest in man-made structures and down mine shafts as well as sea caves and crevices. We know Jersey’s choughs have been hanging around the German observation tower at Les Landes so we decided to investigate the various structures built during the German Occupation in the 1940s. We met with Tony Pike from the Channel Island Occupation Society (CIOS) and his dog Sal who very kindly gave us a guided tour of the site.
Tony Pike kindly allowed access to several German military structures to assess feasibility of chough’s nesting. Sal, his dog, was also keen to show us around as long as it wasn’t underground. Photo by Liz Corry.
We started at the tower, known as the Kriegsmarine Marine Peilstand 3 tower. This was originally built by the German Navy for observing targets at sea. There are seven floors to it, five of which look out to sea and take a fierce battering from the sea winds. Birds cannot enter the tower from this side as the openings have been blocked off with perspex to preserve the interior.
View of the MP3 tower at Les Landes. Photo by Liz Corry.
There is one opening on the land side left open by CIOS members for bats to access if needed. Theoretically, the choughs can use this to access the tower. The walls of the tower are two metres thick providing a convenient shelter ledge for choughs at the opening. Despite the depth it might still be too exposed for choughs to choose to nest on.
Looking inland from inside the tower. Photo by Liz Corry
Once inside there are just flat walls, no ledges to build a nest on with the exception of the concrete spiral staircase. When it rains the floors can become very wet and although they dry out fast I imagine that a smart bird like a chough will quickly realise that this is not a suitable place to raise young.
There are two ‘brother’ towers of Bt Steinbruch on Guernsey and Bt Annes on Alderney allowing the Germans to pass semaphore messages throughout the Channel Islands. The mobile network of its day. Maybe that is what the choughs are doing? Trying to scope out the other islands to decide whether its worth the flight across?
Choughs practising semaphore in an attempt to communicate with Guernsey. Photo by Liz Corry.
As a side note Tony pointed out two sites along the cliffs which the Germans had blasted square holes into the rock face to provide sheltered artillery positions for a soldier to sit in. This side note turned out to be extremely relevant as one is positioned a metre below where we have stationed ourselves several times in the past two months watching the choughs. If only we had known we could have saved ourselves a lot of earache and a few less head colds.
View from a rifleman’s lookout position blasted out of the cliff face. Photo by Liz Corry.
A chough foraging on a cliff face the profile of which was changed when the Germans blasted rock and dumped rubble when building the bunkers. Photo by Liz Corry.
The other structures we were interested in are to be found below ground. There is an extensive complex of passage-linked personnel and ammunition bunkers at Battery Moltke. Precision engineering by the Germans meant that the bunkers had heating and ventilation through a series of shafts and underground piping. None of which look accessible by choughs. Most of the public entrance ways to the bunkers and passageways are behind locked metal-sheeted doors to stop vandalism. If the choughs did find their way in I would like to think they would appreciate what is hidden away underground as much as we did.
Battery Moltke under the ground. Photo courtesy of the Channel Islands Occupation Society
One particular bunker was unearthed by Tony and a team of volunteers last year several decades after the States of Jersey had back-filled it with rubble for health and safety reasons. The ‘flower bunker’ as Tony called it, is an anti-aircraft bunker with a decontamination unit in case of a gas attack. On the walls inside you can see the original artwork by German officers of flowers in what one assumes is an attempt to brighten up the doom and gloom one would face being locked away in an air raid.
Original artwork by German officers on the walls of an anti-aircraft bunker at Les Landes. Photo by Liz Corry.
Original artwork by German officers on the walls of an anti-aircraft bunker at Les Landes. Photo by Liz Corry.
From what we observed it looks unlikely that choughs would nest successfully in any of these places. We are very grateful to Tony nonetheless and now have a greater appreciation of Les Landes when we go out radio-tracking. The choughs still have the option of sea caves and crevices along that stretch of coastline. They may look to the farm buildings behind the racecourse. We will keep a close eye on Lee and Caûvette in March. At the first sign of twig carrying we will be on them like…falcons (in a non-aggressive way).
Big brother is watching you
Simon visiting the dusty nest sites at Ronez Quarry. Photo by Glyn Young
Ronez Quarry very kindly agreed to fund nest cameras in the quarry this year. With help from quarry staff nest-boxes have been installed to try and encourage two particular pairs to nest away from active machinery.
We cannot be sure that the pairs will use the boxes, but if they do we will be able to follow their progress closer than ever before. Using equipment supplied by Handykam we will be able to record what goes on inside the box and hopefully learn more about clutch size, hatch rates, and general day to day activities of nesting choughs.
We do not currently have the option to view live footage. This incurs a greater cost and would be a gamble since we are not even sure if the birds will use the boxes.
The set up also includes monitors at each site to allow quarry staff to check the nests whenever they like without disturbing the birds. Their attentiveness over the past two breeding seasons has been invaluable to the success of the choughs. In the past we have had to wait for a scissor lift or something similar to be brought into the quarry to look in a nest if staff alert us to a situation. Now we just flick a switch.
Highly sophisticated calibration techniques for setting up nest cameras. Photo by Liz Corry.
If the pairs decide not to use the boxes we may be able to reposition the cameras and still capture nesting activities. However, it all depends on timing as we do not want to disturb the choughs unnecessarily. We are very grateful to Ronez Quarry for funding and supporting this project. In particular Mark de Carteret and Andy Paranthoen for co-ordinating and fitting the cameras.
Last, but not least
A future chough diet?
Orlux Remiline granules, a complete food for song thrushes, is being gradually added to the supplemental diet this month. We are trying to see if we can switch from an egg-based diet which can spoil relatively quickly to a dry pelleted diet.
If successful we will then look into automated feed stations similar to those used in Mauritius and New Zealand.