December 2020 has been our quietest month to date. Partly pandemic-related as staff and student make a desperate bid to use up annual leave. A 10-day stint of isolation was thrown in for festive ‘fun’ (direct contact with a positive case).
Moreover, the choughs kept themselves to themselves. No injuries to report. No births, deaths, or marriages. Travel to France on hold – no more chough flights and no human travel either. Condor Ferries cancelled its service until April 2021. Pleased to say Cappy the Carteret chough is still alive! We will have to wait until next year to go visit.
As December draws to a close and we say good riddance 2020, it just leaves me to say a big thank you to the project volunteers for their time and support this year.
The Jersey chough is still doing well in France. Photo by Yann Mouchel.
Vive la France!
Happy to report that the chough who found her way to France is still there. We will call her Cappy from now on as she appears to be enjoying life at the Cap Carteret. Yann is trying to get a photo of the metal ring in case we can read the number to confirm her identity. She has definitely not been at the November supplemental feeds back here in Jersey.
The other choughs were still travelling around the Island to places such as Noirmont, Corbière, and Les Landes. No reports from Trinity or St Martin’s parish.
As November drew to a close, we were seeing more choughs at the supplemental feed. It made the observations fairly challenging for our student, David, with thirty plus birds to ID in the howling winds.
Whilst we still believe the total population size is in the forties there are concerns for a couple of individuals we haven’t clocked in a while. In particular the female from the Corbière pair.
Honeydew has not been seen at the supplemental feeds, yet her partner Minty has. When David has visited Corbière in the mornings he has been seeing two choughs. One is definitely Minty. Eventually he discovered that the second chough was not Honeydew but another female Yarila.
It seems history has repeated itself and whilst the individuals are different the scenario is the same. A pair spend their summer in the southwest then, as autumn turns to winter, the female is lost and the male spends more time at Sorel. This time round, however, the male is still visiting and possibly even roosting in the south along with a new female.
Honeydew (foreground) disappeared this month and Yarila (behind) has snatched up her man. Photo by Liz Corry.
David has seen two pairs fly west over Devil’s Hole at roost time. One is likely to be the Plémont pair. He thinks the Crabbé site has been abandoned so the other pair could be the Corbière birds.
Connecting islands 10,000km apart.
More damage to report at the Sorel aviary. Rodents again but also tears in the netting higher up likely to be weather related. The Zoo’s Site Services team came up to help with repairs. Frustratingly a day later the rodents had chewed back through.
I have been in contact with the team behind the RSPB Gough Island Restoration work. Their aviaries have to be resistant to killer mice! They shared photos and drawings of their rail aviaries with suggestions of what we could do in Jersey.
Rodent-proof aviary on Gough island. Photo by Richard Switzer.
Fun fact: they based their design on the chough release aviary! Richard Switzer, RSPB aviculturalist, used to teach at the Durrell Academy. Richard also worked for San Diego Zoo’s Conservation team with birds such as the Hawaiian crow, another species linked to the chough project. He has followed the chough reintroduction from the start and visited Sorel which is where he got the idea for the rail aviary.
From discussing ideas, it looks like we need to strip our aviary of the ineffective upturned guttering and replace it with aluminium flashing. If they can get it delivered to an island in the middle of the Atlantic and fit it themselves, it must be super easy to do here in Jersey. Right?!
To find out more about the Gough Island restoration work click here. I must warn you there is graphic content of predation on their website from the get go.
Gorilla on the loose in Jersey!
One unusual visitor to the supplemental feed site this month was a Jersey Gorilla. Don’t worry not a zoo escapee, rather Will Highfield the fundraising legend that is ‘Jersey Gorilla‘. Will has been setting himself crazy challenges since 2019 initially raising funds for the new Jersey Zoo Gorilla enclosure. He surpassed everyone’s expectations, even his own, and smashed his target. With the onset of the pandemic, Will continued his gallant/insane efforts (you decide) and started raising funds to support all the work the Zoo do including the chough project.
On 28th November Will set himself a challenge worthy of being committed – run 100 miles in under 24 hours! On a 9 x 5 mile island! Starting at 4am in St Aubin’s, he ran anticlockwise around the Island’s roads, trails and cliff paths almost two and a half times. And he wasn’t alone, more lunatics, sorry runners, joined him along the way for support.
Speaking of support, when Will reached Sorel he was joined by Fiona Robertson of Performance Physiotherapy Jersey for what has to be the most picturesque clinic setting.
Physio on the go for the Jersey Gorilla. Photo by Fiona Robertson.
Will finally finished the challenge at 9am the next morning after 29 hours and 53 seconds of running. This is a phenomenal achievement. It might not have been within 24 hours, but considering all the miles he has run for charity over the past year and the subsequent injuries that plagued him along the way, 29 hours is equally bonkers.
A huge thank you to Will for his support. Now please go and put your feet up!