In 2005, a programme to monitor key sites around Jersey was initiated. Sites were initially chosen primarily as they were important for the following focal species: cirl bunting Emberiza cirlus; yellowhammer Emberiza citronella; skylark Alauda arvensis; stonechat Saxicola torquata and Dartford warbler Sylvia undata. However, the programme has developed since 2005 and now covers 14 sites covering farmland, heathland and woodland.
This project, a collaboration between Durrell, the States of Jersey Department of Environment, the Société Jersiaise and the National Trust for Jersey, aims to raise awareness in Jersey of the state of the Island’s land birds through bird monitoring and restoration programmes and to support declining species through identifying problems and recommending possible solutions.
The programme is managed by Durrell and is based on scientifically rigorous methods used in similar projects around the world. Surveys are carried out fortnightly by walking transects and birds are counted using a method known as distance sampling. Each time a bird is seen, its species and the distance from the observer is noted. This allows us to use statistical methods to estimate the total population size by accounting for the birds that we are likely to miss. Regularly recording the exact number of each bird species seen on the transects will also allow us to plot numbers at each site and combination of sites over time to see how the populations change.
The Farmland Bird Monitoring Manual can be downloaded and includes details of monitoring techniques and aerial photos of each site covered.
Over 1,700 transects have been walked since starting the monitoring in 2005. We now record birds fortnightly at:
Les Landes Les Creux/Beauport Les Blanche Banques Crabbé La Landes do Ouest (Gorselands) Noirmont Grouville Bay St Catherine’s Woods Fern Valley Grantez Durrell Wildlife Park Sorel Point/Don Paton St Ouen’s Bay St Peter’s Valley
To date 157 bird species have been recorded on the transects (gulls and birds seen out to sea are not recorded) and initial results indicate that there have been marked declines for certain birds such as turtle dove Streptopelia turtur, greenfinch Carduelis chloris and linnet C. cannabina. Of the focal species, skylark and stonechat pairs have declined each year of the survey. Yellowhammer, which nested at Crabbé in 2005, has not been seen at this site since the 2005/2006 winter and cirl bunting was only seen for the first time (at two monitored sites) in 2011 after an absence of several years. Only Dartford warbler has increased in numbers at the sites. There have been increases in marsh harrier Circus aeruginosus and peregrine Falco peregrinus, jackdaw Corvus monedula and common whitethroat Sylvia communis across the monitored sites. Water rail Rallus aquaticus, fan-tailed warbler Cisticola juncidis and firecrest Regulus ignicapilla nested for the first time inJersey at monitored sites.
Following the first few months’ monitoring at Les Mielles it was apparent that free ranging dogs (let off the lead by their owners) were likely threats to ground nesting skylarks on the dunes. The nesting territories were mapped and suitable habitat was fenced to dissuade dogs in 2006. Following further observation the fenced areas were moved and enlarged in 2007. An area of approximately 3500m2 divided into three blocks is now protected from disturbance each year. This fencing also provides an educational opportunity as it carries signage explaining the conservation efforts being made to save the island’s skylark population.
Since the initiation of the monitoring programme, Biodiversity Action Plans have been prepared for all five focal species and were published in Biodiversity Action Plans for Jersey in 2006. In 2011 the red list of Jersey’s birds, Conservation Status of Jersey’s Birds: Jersey’s bird populations in the 21st Century was published (download).
The hardest parts of the monitoring work such as getting out there on wet and windy days and looking for birds is done by a dedicated team of volunteers. There are, however, costs incurred in database management and publication of reports etc. £5,000 per annum will potentially cover this projects running costs. Seperate sums may be required for larger publications and educational material such as signs.