Chough report: July 2022

By Charlotte Dean

A successful start to the month: Catch ups!
The start of July brought more ‘catch ups’ at the Sorel aviary. Great success as we caught five ‘choughlets’ in the space of two days – we really must have found them off guard! The most recent chicks in the ‘catch up’ belonged to Lee & Caûvette (one), Percy & Icho (one), Green & Pyrrho (two) and Bo & Flieur (two). Only three were left (see below).

Bidding farewell
This month we said goodbye to our second valued team member for the chough project this year. Jane, a fellow chough enthusiast and a chough field volunteer with Durrell who has dedicated five years of her life to the chough project. It’s sad for her time to be over on the project, like the other staff and volunteers who have been involved in the past but, with time comes growth and new career opportunities. They may be relocating but I’m sure they will miss the chatter within our wild flock. If you are a chough enthusiast, don’t forget that you can help by reporting your sightings of any choughs seen around. Anthony Morin took these wonderful photos at Les Landes:

Harvest season
There are eight species of small mammal in Jersey including four rodents. The choughs’ aviary is more active with rodents in different seasons of the year. At current, it is quite clear that, with all the harvesting being carried out in the surrounding fields, there is a greater abundance of rodent activity as of late. This can pose a problem through diseases they may carry and the holes they create around the overall structure of the aviary itself. A few of the small mammals that have been spotted in Sorel are protected under the Wildlife (Jersey) Law 2021 including the Jersey bank vole Myodes (Clethrionomys) glareolus caesarius, lesser white-toothed shrew Crocidura suaveolens and Millet’s shrew Sorex coronatus. The best way for us to keep the rodents out of the aviary is by reinforcing any entry and exits by repairing aviary netting, covering over holes and, the main factor, keeping any food at the aviary out of reach and/or secured in rodent-proof containers.

Drought
This July, Jersey was officially considered to be in a drought. A drought in Jersey is confirmed by 15 consecutive days without measurable rainfall. The last measurable rainfall recorded occurred on Saturday 2nd July. Jersey is known for its limited underground reserves of water and no links to external water networks; therefore, it is important for Islanders to preserve water were possible. Anyone who is environmentally conscious will tell you that we should be using water wisely on a daily basis regardless of the weather; but it is even more important to when the Island is in a drought. There are many ways in which homeowners can reduce their water waste; here are some examples:
• If its yellow, let it mellow – resist the urge to flush a toilet unless completely necessary
• Taking shorter showers, using plugs in sinks to avoid running taps for long periods of time
• Only using the washing machine and/or dishwasher when at full capacity
• Not washing your car (including the ‘choughmobile’) or leaving sprinklers on the grass as often
• Installing ‘low-flow’ equipment to all your water outputs
• Fix your holey clothes instead of throwing them out for new plus shopping in charity shops.

Ok, scrap last month’s “hottest day of the year”
Last month in Jersey we saw soaring temperatures of 33.1°C. However, on Monday 18th July, this was beaten by a scorching temperature of 37.9°! The highest temperature recorded in Jersey previously had been 36°C; this occurred 19 years ago. As summer is still in full swing, we worry what August’s temperatures will bring as things are only getting hotter with global warming. At the Sorel aviary we usually provide just the one water source for the choughs but with these rising temperatures, more water has been provided. The choughs, adults and chicks were all seen gular fluttering at the feed of the 18th; however, it was good to see that they were lining up next to the water trays to make use of the water provided in the aviary.

The last three chicks
It was nearing to the end of the month, and we still had three more un-ringed chicks left to catch up. By this point in chick catch ups; the chicks are getting clever. The choughs know that, when two keepers come to the aviary, they need to be extra cautious, especially those that have been captured recently. But it brings me great joy to state that we caught the last three chicks all together, so now all the chicks that have fledged this year have been captured and colour ringed. We are scheduling a licensed ringer to place Jersey metal rings on the chicks sometime next month. We’ve not seen any more chicks arrive at the aviary now, so our fledged chick count for this year is a very respectable 16. Which is certainly nice as during our Ronez Quarry visit we only counted 14 chicks in the five accessible nests of our breeding pairs.

Table 1. A comparison of chicks found in nests at Ronez Quarry (plus one pair from Plémont), to the number of chicks that have fledged to the aviary this year. 

Chough report: June 2022

By Charlotte Dean

1st June

The choughs greeted the keeper closer than ever! It’s quite clear at this time of year that the choughs recognise the keepers. They spot you on the walk up the coastal path towards the aviary, circling and vocalising loudly, following you along the foot path before finding a place to land. As you can see, the closest and safest spot was the entrance gate to the National Trust’s land. The choughs wing-begged and shouted, they really do know how to welcome their food providers!

Aviary maintenance

Now is an even more important time than ever to be keeping up to date on our aviary maintenance. At this time of year, we are eagerly anticipating the arrival of ‘choughlets’ (chough fledglings) at the aviary. About four weeks after fledging, the chicks’ parents will stop feeding them so it’s essential for the chicks to watch their parents and learn how to forage for themselves. Choughs forage over coastal grasslands; they are often spotted in shorter grass fields, and this is because the insect abundance is generally higher where grass is short. Therefore, mowing the grass, strimming the hedgerows and neatening edges within and outside the aviary is important as it acts as a natural food source for the choughs and chicks that come to the aviary. Along with keeping the grass length short, we also provide ‘enrichment squares’; this is an added foraging obstacle which includes pinecones, slates and branches. These squares engage the choughs to lift and move objects to find the scattered insects – enabling them to work for their ‘free food’.

Is that a ‘choughlet’ I can see?!

Exciting news! We had our first ‘choughlet’ appearance at the Sorel aviary on 10th June! But there wasn’t just one chick, there were three! Our first sighting of the fledglings was in a field opposite the aviary – they were causing quite a stir in the flock. It wasn’t long until they flew in and landed on the aviary roof with Kevin & Wally. We assumed that these three must be theirs as they arrived together, and we had predicted this pair’s fledging dates back in May when we visited their nests to ring and age them! While monitoring the choughs at the aviary, it became clear that these three chicks were definitely from Kevin & Wally’s nest as we’ve witnessed many parent to chick feedings on top of the aviary. It wasn’t long, however, that more fledglings started arriving at the aviary. The next breeding pair’s chicks to arrive at the aviary belonged to Dusty & Chickay – four chicks on the 13th! Dusty & Chickay have always been pretty consistent with four chicks in the past; but it’s exciting to see the chicks that we saw in the nest arrive at the aviary happy and healthy!

Since those first arrivals, we’ve had Trevor & Noirmont’s chick, Manitou arrive at the aviary being very vocal, much like the majority of the chicks. It’s good to see the one chick we managed to ring at the nest arrive safely. By mid-month we started to see other breeding pairs bringing their chicks too, including Green & Pyrrho and Percy & Icho with their two chicks and Lee & Cauvette seen with one chick so far. It’s safe to say that the supplementary feeds at the aviary have been very loud and eventful this month! We may not have seen all of the chicks that were viewed at the quarry nests yet; we are still hopeful for more arrivals!

Time flies

The past few weeks have been pretty hectic, but our former colleague Paul has been very useful in helping us monitor our chough activity in Ronez Quarry. We had our estimated fledging dates but hadn’t seen all chicks arrive at the aviary. But sure, enough there were plenty of chicks flying around the Sorel Lighthouse and quarry as acknowledged by Paul. The chicks will practice their flying before they are strong enough and brave enough to join their parents at the aviary for the supplementary feeds. We greatly appreciate the many chough enthusiasts that help us with our chough project; but don’t forget that anyone can help.

Follow this link and you can do your bit by sending in public sightings of any choughs you see around Jersey Island!

Catch up time!

As the chough chicks keep arriving; it was time to take action and loosen up the hatch wires for the first chick ‘catch ups’ at the aviary. Why are we catching them up you ask? It’s to be able to identify each individual for monitoring with the use of colour-rings (which in turn allows us to know which breeding pair the chick belongs to through observations – see below), to indicate that they are owned and thrive in Jersey, to measure their bills, tarsus and weight. This is essential information we collect and keep records of for all the individuals in the wild free-flying flock. We haven’t needed to ‘catch up’ any choughs in quite some time so it took a few tries to loosen the hatch wires! But between the team, we’ve currently caught eight of the current fifteen chicks floating around with their parents.

Not something we want to see

One of Kevin & Wally’s fledglings had been limping since the first time it was seen arriving at the aviary. It was clear it had quite a large laceration to its left tarsus; but to be able to examine it properly we had to wait until the fledglings were more confident in going in and out of the aviary to carry out a ‘catch up’. We closely monitored the chick until we could catch it up within the aviary. On close examination it was clear how large the injury was but thankfully it had already scabbed over nicely and had no sign of infection, therefore, no additional action was needed. Fledglings are not always the most agile in flight and/or landing at first, something that is learnt over time. One can only assume that it crash-landed somewhere causing itself an injury. But one thing is for sure, it’s now a much better flier!

During these catch-ups we also quickly put the temporary, coloured plastic, rings on the chicks. We only have a short window of opportunity to see exactly which chick belongs to which pair of adults. After only a fairly short time, the chicks start to feed themselves, beg from their parents less and join groups of other juveniles. Groups who take great delight in begging from any passing adults (adults who aren’t fooled) and confusing the patient observer. As opportunities to catch newly arriving chicks inside the aviary are hard to predict, we do these catch-ups fairly randomly – often with long frustrating periods of watching a chick stare imploringly at their parents through the netting, through an open hatch, field etc and our sitting in the bracken or lying in a spot on a field that the sheep have only recently vacated. With everyone identified and, in a few weeks’ time, more likely to go into the aviary when we want them to, we will ask the licenced ringers from the Channel Islands Ringing Scheme to put permanent, numbered metal rings on.

Hottest day on record since 1894!

Between our catch ups, on Friday 17th June 2022, we had the highest June temperature in Jersey since records began in 1894. The temperatures hit a scorching 33.1 degrees Celsius. It’s not surprising that on this day most of the choughs were seen with their beaks wide open. This is because unlike most mammals; birds lack sweat glands and, therefore, they cool themselves down by keeping their beaks open. This is called ‘gular fluttering’ it is the avian equivalent of panting. Gular fluttering is just one of the few behaviours bird species express to stay cool in those hot weather days. Birds also submerge themselves in water either to swim and/or bathe. Sometimes you’ll catch a chough all wet and puffed up sitting on top of the aviary; this is their way of letting the breeze through their wet feathers to help them stay cool. As much as the choughs distinct jet-black plumage and striking red beak are beautiful; I do not envy them their plumage in that heat!



Chough report: April 2022

By Liz Corry

Success at Plémont!

For a second year in a row the chough pair at Plémont have successfully hatched three chicks. We discovered the happy news at the end of the month. Using a very, very, very, long lens we were able to get photos of the chicks’ heads whilst begging for food.

It is hard to give a precise age without seeing the rest of their body, but best guess is a week-old give or take a day. This would also match up with nest observations we made over April; our estimated hatch date was the 22nd.  Returning the following week further confirmed our age estimate as their little heads were still relatively bald.

Both Plémont parents are now out and about in search of food for their young. Concerns were raised when we started seeing both parents at the Sorel supplemental feed desperate for food. Choughs nesting at Plémont do not normally return to Sorel until their chicks fledge or the nest fails. This was the first time in five years. Chough chicks devour a lot of insects whilst in the nest, so chough parents tend to forage close-by to conserve their energy.

Petit Plémont and grassland above the cliff path are used by choughs searching for food. Photo by Liz Corry.

There has been a big increase in footfall at Plémont this month which could deter the choughs from foraging close-by. It has also been relatively dry so the soils around Plémont are not as favourable to soil-dwelling invertebrates. There are many other reasons why the parents might be visiting Sorel, the good news is that the chicks are still alive and begging well.

All being well the chicks should fledge at the end of May, start of June. We will be monitoring more closely this year around the fledging period. Last year we knew that two of the three chicks fledged, but don’t know what happened to the third. Then one disappeared within the first week of being out. If that happens again this year, it would be good to try and understand why.

Potential success at Ronez once again

We believe at least five of the eight nests in the quarry have chicks. This is based on behaviour of the pairs at the feeds and in the quarry. The females had been suspiciously absent. Then when they did turn up, they were very noisy. Pyrrho and Icho in particular would fly in vocalising, then follow their partner like a noisy shadow demanding food and being fed instantly. It’s quite an interesting sound they make trying to beg and swallow the food at the same time!

Ronez Quarry continues to be a successful breeding site for choughs in Jersey. Photo by Liz Corry.

At the end of the month, we were then seeing the male and female in a pair making repeat trips between aviary and nest site. This tends to be when they are feeding chicks although we have no definitive proof yet. We are trying to arrange a quarry visit for May.

Zoo chicks

Our Jersey Zoo pair also had success this month with their first chick hatching on the 28th followed by number two the next day and number three shortly after.

Nest cam footage showed the moment the first chick hatched whilst mum looked on. Photo credit Durrell.

There was a fourth egg…spoiler alert…it failed to hatch. The nest camera shows the parents still holding out hope until May 2nd. Mum took the executive decision to remove the egg from the nest around lunchtime. You can see this in the video below around 40 seconds in.

We may send the chicks over to the UK shortly after they fledge so they can become part of the release project in Kent. This is very much dependent on the Jersey and UK Government’s rulings over exports and imports of birds from a bird flu protection zone. Restrictions for indoor housing of poultry will be lifted in Jersey on May 9th.

No success in the new territories

The Trinity pair appear to have abandoned their nest and are spending more time at Sorel. They still visit the stables but the nest is now being used by doves. We had hoped that the choughs had found a more favourable site in the Parish yet their casual behaviour at the aviary suggests they’ve given up.

An article will be published in the summer edition of the Trinity Tattler magazine asking residents to report any sightings. This might shed some retrospective light on the situation. I’m not holding out hope that there will be a surprise nest discovered.

In similar circumstances, we are now seeing the ‘Corbière pair’ back at Sorel. Their suspected nest was last seen being used by pigeons. We are used to seeing choughs fail at establishing territories in the south west. Food supply, or lack thereof, may play a role in this. The cliff tops are choked with invasive sour fig (or Hottentot fig) (Carpobrotus edulis) and the exposed ground isn’t very accommodating to soil invertebrates.

Cliffs around Corbière could offer potential nest sites for choughs. Photo by Liz Corry.

Sour fig (Hottentot fig) might look pretty when flowering, but its choking Jersey’s cliff tops in the south west. Photo by Liz Corry.

Return visit to Guernsey

We have seen another report of chough posted on the Guernsey Birdwatching Facebook group. Dated 16th April, it is clear that the bird is one of ours from the red and white striped ring, but that is all we know unfortunately. They were foraging at Pleinmont again. Clearly a popular site.

A chough was spotted at Pleinmont, Guernsey this month. Photo by Chris Wilkinson/Facebook

It just so happens that Portelet and Archirondel were missing from the Sorel feed that day. Coincidence? This is very exciting news if they have made a second round trip between islands to forage.

Sark and Guernsey can be seen on the horizon from Sorel. Photo by Liz Corry.

Aviary maintenance

Boring but necessary aviary stuff. April has brought sea fog, hail, downpours of rain, but mainly sunny days perfect for grass growing which means we do lots of grass mowing; weekly almost daily depending on how much time we have spare and how long the strimmer battery lasts.

Keeping the grass short inside the aviary has multiple benefits. Photo by Liz Corry.

The holes in the netting we had repaired earlier in the year have reopened with extra wear and tear. Nothing to do with rodents just weathering and strain on the netting. We need to get the henchman ladder back up to Sorel to carry out the repairs.

We have replaced a couple of rotting hatches, rusted door bolts, replaced food stands and repaired benches for accessing hatches.

Holes have reappeared in the netting along the central pole. Photo by Liz Corry.

Random fact

Park House Thai restaurant in St. Helier, Jersey, appear to feature red-billed choughs in their interior décor…

Unexpected restaurant décor in Jersey. Photo by Liz Corry.

And finally

This will be my last chough report for Birds On The Edge and Durrell.  I’ve been with Durrell for eighteen years and worked with the choughs since they arrived in the Zoo in 2010. It was a hard decision to make as I’m leaving both my job and the island I’ve called home for the last sixteen years.

I’m not quite leaving the choughs though as I will be taking up a new role as chough release supervisor in Kent for The Wildwood Trust. No doubt I will keep popping up from time to time on Birds On The Edge or at the Inter-Island Environment meetings. Like Where’s Wally minus the red and white striped top.

I’m extremely proud of what the team has achieved over the years, and I often forget letting the day to day stresses of running the project take over. Plémont is the perfect place to remind me. When I first visited the bay in 2006, I didn’t know the Channel Islands were once home to choughs. Eight years later I remember visiting Plémont café with friends and musing over the idea of one day seeing the then recently released choughs utilise the cliff tops and caves. And now, well why don’t you find out for yourself. Head to the café (I recommend the waffles), sit outside, soak up the rays, and listen… 

 

Jersey Invasive Species Week – 16-22 May 2022

16-22 May is Jersey Invasive Species Week. There will be plenty of social media interest during the week #INNSweek #getINNSvolved and a series of events, lectures and field visits highlighting invasive species on the Island and their impact on our native species and the environment. All lectures and events are free to watch or join but you will need to book your place. There are QR codes to book the events here; however, you can also use the link here

Monday 16th May – Introduction and impacts on terrestrial environment. Lunchtime Lecture by Cris Sellares at the Société Headquarters, 12:00Introduced Terrestrial Predators in Jersey and Biosecurity Around Seabird Colonies

Tuesday 17th May – Impacts on freshwater environment. “Walk in the Park”, led by Tim Liddiard at Noirmont 14:00

Wednesday 18th May – Impacts on marine environment and small islands. Lunchtime Lecture by Chris Isaacs at the Société Headquarters, 12:00 “Marine Invasives Through the Lens

Thursday 19th May – Impacts on people and urban environment. Lunchtime Lecture by Josh Smith at the Société Headquarters, 12:00 “Double Trouble: Invasive Species and Climate Change

And: “How to use iRecord” at Hamptonne 18:30

Friday 20th May – Biosecurity. Botany Walk with Anne Haden, 18:00 at Corbière

Saturday 21st May – Activities. Invasive Species Fair – Stall Day at Francis Le Sueur Centre. 9:30 – 14:30

And: Botany Walk with Tina Hull at 14:30 from the Frances Le Sueur Centre

 

Chough report: March 2022

By Liz Corry

Archirondel went on a ‘girls’ trip’ to Guernsey at the end of March. Photo by Chris Wilkinson/Facebook.

Channel Island Choughs 

The dream finally became a reality this month when two Jersey choughs were photographed in Guernsey. We first discovered the birds had left the island through a post on social media. A post on Guernsey Birdwatching’s Facebook page showed a selection of images and video from a very excited birdwatcher. The images clearly showed the leg rings enabling us to identify Archirondel and Portelet as the two tourists. These are two young, non-breeding females and as such have the freedom to explore.

The last time we recorded  Archie and Portelet at the supplemental feed was on 22nd March. After some frantic armchair detective work we discovered that they visited Sark too on 23rd March and were then next seen on the 25th in Guernsey. 

The report from Sark is a wonderful description of what it’s like when you spot a chough in flight for the first time:

“I went out to do the mowing at 3.30 pm and thought I heard a jackdaw which we do not usually see in Sark. I looked up and saw a black bird disappearing over towards Derrible Bay (fingers on wings were visible) but it was only a fleeting sighting. A bit later at 4.45 pm when I had finished the mowing I heard the call again and two choughs flew right above me and I realised that it wasn’t a jackdaw but a chough’s call. The red bill of one could be clearly seen but because of the shaded light I could not see whether rings were present on the legs. An altogether more slender bird than the crow and smaller. They turned right and flew down the meadow as if heading off east towards the harbour in a tumbling flight and then veered abruptly and flew off towards the north but heading back towards the east coast.” 

A Jersey chough flying high in Guernsey. Photo by Dan Scott/Facebook.

The pair stayed in Guernsey over the weekend foraging around Pleinmont near Portelet Bay! Portelet, the chough, returned to Jersey along with Archirondel on Monday the 28th. Quite literally a girls weekend away in the Bailiwick of Guernsey.

Image from Google Earth.

We envisaged this could happen when we first planned the reintroduction. It’s not unheard of for UK choughs to spend time foraging on both mainland and a nearby offshore island. This trip might have been a one off, equally it could be the start of a new foraging pattern for Jersey’s choughs. 

There is certainly suitable foraging habitat on offer in Guernsey. Pleinmont looks very similar to Les Landes and Grosnez in many respects, but it is too soon to talk breeding opportunities. We need more males for that to happen. No pressure on the breeding pairs then!

Pleinmont in Guernsey appears to provide suitable foraging habitat for choughs. Image from Google Earth.

The 2022 breeding season is underway

March madness came into full force when the breeding choughs began nest building, or nest refreshing for the experienced pairs. Ex-volunteer, Neil Singleton and his wife Ali were treated to an impressive display of ‘flying wool’ when they visited Sorel towards the end of the month. Timed well with the return of the sheep.

Choughs collecting wool for their nests at Sorel. Photo by Neil Singleton

I suspect these birds were heading to the quarry although the Plémont pair could have been involved too. They tend to stay local and collect horse hair or wool for Grosnez to Grève de Lecq. It might look like easy cargo, but I have seen a fair few accidentally drop their wool between Sorel and the quarry. Usually when they get distracted by a peregrine or gull or keeper walking below carrying insects!

Blurry but the intentions are clear. Photo by Neil Singleton.

Plémont sea crows return

Minty and Rey have returned to Plémont to refresh last year’s nest before Rey begins egg laying. The sea crows (to use an old Greek nickname) can often be heard foraging around Plémont headland and seen flying to and fro in search of food. During the nesting season, French choughs are known to spend most of their time within 300 metres of the nest site. If the habitat is suitable, i.e. lots of soil and/or dung invertebrates, the chough pair will be successful.

Minty can afford to spend some time chilling out right now. Once Rey starts incubating, he has the responsibility of finding food for the both of them. Maybe that is why he was happy to do a bit of sunbathing down at Plémont.

Minty taking time out from nest building to sunbathe. Photo by Charlotte Dean.

The Troublesome Trinity Two

Pinel has returned to Trinity taking his new female, Vicq, with him. They have been visiting the same places as last year such as Peacock Farm and East Ridings Stables. They appear to have chosen to nest in the same building he used the year before with his previous partner. Maybe he sees the potential in the property to become a family home?

Last year the pair abandoned early and weeks later the female disappeared. Hopefully he will have more success this time with Vicq who hatched three chicks in 2021. Sadly, the chicks died before fledging but it shows she can do it.

We are working with the property owner to monitor the situation and see if we need to assist in any way. The owner is very wildlife-friendly which is a big bonus and we have set up a camera-trap in the building, swapping out memory cards on a weekly basis. 

Playing in the sand pits

Another chough pair we are keeping an eye on are Danny and Jaune. We had reports of choughs in Simon Sand and Gravel Ltd. down on the west coast. Choughs have also been seen around Corbière this month so the assumption is that they are looking for a suitable nest site but since they are still sub-adults it is doubtful that they will breed this year.

 

Reptilewatch 2022 training event


1300-1600, 23rd April 2022 at Frances Le Sueur Centre, La Mielle de Morville JE3 2FN

Book your free place now via Eventbrite

We are delighted to be running this training session in person again and to be joined by Dr Robert Ward, Data and GIS Officer, Amphibian and Reptile Conservation who will be presenting at this event. Rob studied our local grass snakes for his PhD. He is extremely knowledgeable on Jersey reptiles and how to get the best chance of seeing reptiles locally.


What is Reptilewatch JE?

Reptilewatch JE is the successor to the National Amphibian and Reptile Recording Scheme (NARRS) which ran in Jersey from 2007 to 2018. During this time volunteers provided a great deal of information which has been used to inform the design of Reptilewatch as well as influence efforts to protect the species.

Reptilewatch JE is a project that aims to gather sightings of Jersey’s reptiles to help assess their conservation status, distribution and habitat requirements.

By taking part in the Reptilewatch scheme, you will be contributing important data to inform the ongoing conservation of these incredible creatures and helping inform future policies.

How can you help?
There are opportunities for everyone to get involved. Depending on your interest, available time and experience you can currently get involved in two ways.
Level 1 – spend 30 minutes looking for reptiles No experience or training is required.
Level 2 Wall lizard – carry out six visual surveys, each taking 30 minutes No previous experience needed but attendance at this training session is required.

Schedule of the day (provisional):
• Welcome and Introduction
• Reptile Identification – how to identify reptiles and some of the other animals you might encounter
• How to get involved Level 1 and how to record your findings
• How to get involved Level 2 -Wall Lizard and how to record your findings
• Field Session
• Opportunity to sign up and network with other volunteers.

Light refreshments will be provided.

Find out more about Reptilewatch JE or the other Wild About Jersey initiatives on gov.je.

Book your free place now via Eventbrite

Please don’t forget to wear appropriate clothing and footwear for the field session.

If we are lucky enough to have good weather on the day, please bring a hat and appropriate sun protection and some drinking water. Also, if you have any close focusing binoculars, please bring these with you.

Please take a COVID lateral flow test before attending. Please don’t attend if you feel unwell or have a positive COVID test result.

The arrival of the puffins

Plémont 10th April 11am-1pm

From National Trust Jersey

The Arrival of the Puffins is a unique festival that highlights the plight of these wonderful birds and the key role Jersey has to play in in order to protect and save the puffins and other seabirds.

Join us to celebrate the arrival of the puffins of Jersey back to their breeding cliffs, as well as the arrival of the willow puffins to the National Trust grounds at Plémont.

There are a series of activities as well us the unveiling of the magnificent puffin – willow sculptures that have been created to highlight these challenges. This event is open to everyone so please come along and join us!

You can drop by anytime between 11am and 1pm and you will find opportunities to watch puffins and other seabirds (if they are about!), walks of the Seabird Trail, and live music to celebrate the puffins and other sea folk.

Programme:
– Between 11am and 1pm: Puffin Watch at the Stone Circle – with Alli and Neil from Birding Tours Jersey. Just drop by, scopes and binoculars will be provided.
– At 11h and at 12h: Live music next to the willow puffins, with Aureole Choir and local folk band Sonneux. Be ready to sing along, lyrics will be provided!
– At 11.30h and 12.30h: Seabird Trail taster walks with local birding expert and photographer Romano da Costa. Bring your binoculars and cameras if you have them.

See you at Plémont on Sunday, and hopefully the real puffins will be there too!

Sculptures built in partnership with Geomarine. Event kindly supported by JDC (Jersey Development Company).

Chough report: February 2022

By Liz Corry

Jersey’s annual Great Garden Bird Watch returned some interesting results this year. Held on 5th and 6th February, Islanders were asked to spend an hour in their garden and list all the birds they could see.

For the first time in its twenty-one year history, choughs were recorded. Not only that, they were spotted on a bird feeder filled with peanuts, sunflower hearts,  maize, pinhead oatmeal and millet.

A pair of choughs demonstrating how resourceful corvids can be. Photo by Robert Graiger.

After digging a little deeper, we discovered that some of the choughs have been visiting this garden since 2020. The photos submitted identified breeding pair Trevor and Noirmont, prior to that, we know a young female has also visited with the pair.

Whilst surprising, it is not unheard of for wild choughs to use bird feeders. There are a few of reports from Cornwall and Wales of chough opportunistically feeding from garden bird feeders. In each case including Jersey, the gardens are not your typical urban estate fenced-in garden. Trevor and Noir have been visiting property at Grantez which surrounded by grazed land (sheep, horses, and donkeys). From Grantez’s vantage point, you can see the entire west coast from L’Étacq to Corbière, both areas favoured by choughs.

Donkey-grazed grassland is not your typical garden view. Photo by Liz Corry.

The interesting information from this report is the type of food they are eating. Pinhead oatmeal forms part of the supplementary diet provided to Scottish choughs in Islay. Its not considered as typical wild chough diet, but does suggests there is something in the mix that the birds are looking for. We are hoping to carry out research into diet preferences in the near future. This exciting discovery is certainly food for thought.

Sorry.

Foraging further afield

As mentioned above, the choughs have been visiting Grantez. In addition to the garden report, the National Trust Rangers have seen choughs foraging near the dolmen on Grantez headland. 

Choughs are also visiting Corbière, Les Mielles dunes, and potentially back at Crabbé where a pair roosted in 2020. The gun range, sheep-grazing, and now goat-grazing, provide great habitat for choughs to find food. Farm structures and cliff faces offer ample nesting opportunity for a pair looking to setup a new territory. 

Someone looks very warm out at Crabbé on a cold February morning. Photo by Liz Corry.

We are also keeping our eyes peeled around Trinity again. There is a good chance Pinel might try to set up a territory again this time with his new female. The roost site used in 2021 is surrounded by horse paddocks which provide foraging opportunities and nesting material – choughs sometimes use horse hair!

Choughs have been visiting the dolmen at Grantez. Photo by Liz Corry.

Catch-ups with the choughs

We finally managed to trap the elusive Bo and Flieur in the aviary to replace their leg rings. I say elusive, but I could equally use stubborn/clever/annoying/uncooperative… This is the pair who always fly to the aviary with the others yet refuse to go inside when they know we are trying to catch choughs. Bo in particular keeps both eyes firmly fixed on staff. Flieur might break once in a while and tempt fate, but flees at the first inclination that the hatches might be about to close.

I struck lucky on Monday 7th when all thirty choughs turned up for the feed all showing signs they were hungry. Typically had to be the day I was working alone although maybe that is why Bo’s guard was down.

I replaced Bo’s missing plastic ring and swapped Flieur’s faded pale grey for something more obvious. It felt wrong. No one likes change. Flieur has been grey since she arrived at Sorel. Grey is her identity.

It’s also a really stupid colour to use in the wild in a climate where grey skies prevail. So out with the grey in with the mauve.

Flieur’s new mauve leg ring sets her apart from the other 2014 (blue) hatched birds. Photo by Liz Corry.

Storm damage at Sorel

The Island has seen its fair share of storms this year. February’s Storm Eunice and Franklin delivering devilishly strong winds (55-63 mph or 89-102 km/h). Yet somehow the aviary miraculously remains standing. 

Choughs arriving for the supplemental food. Photo by Liz Corry.

The winds did create new rips in the netting and annoyingly re-opened ones we had sealed last month. Another trip to Sorel with the Henchmen ladder is in the pipeline. We have budgeted for new netting to be fitted later in the year. Hopefully the current net will hold out until then.

What didn’t remain standing was the Birds On The Edge sign at Sorel car park. Cue a phone call on my morning off followed by a spot of coastal ‘carpentry’. I couldn’t unscrew the sign from the posts to fit it in the car so the logical solution…saw off the posts! In my defence, they were rotten at the base, and we reused the wood at the aviary. The sign and fencing will be replaced by the Countryside Rangers in the near future.

It was like that when I got there your honour! Photo by Liz Corry.

Grazing returns to Sorel

Very pleased to see the return of the Manx loaghtans to Sorel this month. Perfect timing for the choughs who will soon need wool to line their nests.

The sheep have returned to graze Sorel and Devil’s Hole. Photo by Liz Corry.

It also means we should hopefully see the return of dung invertebrates (aka chough food) who depend on the sheep faeces. Not sure which made me more excited, the choughs foraging in amongst the sheep or the return of mating dung flies. If you haven’t already, please checkout our article about Dung Beetles for Farmers

A pair of yellow dung fly making the most of the fresh dung. Photo by Liz Corry.

Avian influenzas confirmed in Jersey

Two wild buzzards have tested positive for avian influenza: the first confirmed cases in Jersey. This was followed shortly by the death of a red-breasted goose in the Zoo who also tested positive for the strain H5N1. 

Choughs are considered to be at low risk of infection, and we do not foresee any major changes in how we manage the supplementary feeds. To reduce the chance of transmission between field sites and the Zoo, we have set up a disinfectant foot bath at the aviary with dedicated footwear. We continue to maintain high hygiene standards at the aviary and have separate footwear for in the Zoo and out in the field.

We will of course monitor the situation and consult with the States Vet if any changes occur.

Sheep on Les Blanches Banques

Plans to return sheep to the sand dunes of Les Blanches Banques and grazing to revitalise the grasslands

By Tim Liddiard

Les Blanches Banques

The sand dunes of Les Blanches Banques, set in and around St Ouen’s Bay in St Brelade and at the heart of the Jersey National Park is recognised biologically as being one the richest sites of its kind in the Island and has been described as ‘undoubtedly one of the premier dune systems in Europe for its scientific interest’. As the most extensive area of sandy soils in Jersey, the dunes support good populations of many animals and plants on the Island that are not found elsewhere.

During the Medieval period, the dune grasslands were used for sheep grazing and stacking sea weed to dry, the latter was used as fertiliser, or was burnt on the dunes to produce potash.

In the absence of a grazing regime on the sand dunes in recent years, due to the processes of seral succession it is evident that the important grasslands habitats are being subsumed by the spread of mixed scrub.

Currently an amount of grazing is being provided by rabbits but not at a level sufficient to halt or reverse the loss of the important dune grasslands, a key habitat in the Biodiversity Strategy for Jersey 2000 and home to a number of notable plants and a host of other wildlife.

A total of over 400 plant species have been recorded on Les Blanches Banques, many being unique or special to our shores.

Some of the plants found on the sand dunes which are recognised as being of scientific interest include the lizard orchid, with its flower resembling its reptile namesake; the dwarf pansy, in Great Britain only found on the Isles of Scilly and the Channel Islands, the heath dog violet which is Near Threatened in the UK and the sand crocus with its diminutive mauve flower.

Amphibians and reptiles enjoy life on the sand dunes, which harbours five of Jersey’s seven species. Palmate newt and slow worm are present but a visitor from mainland Britain will perhaps be more excited by the exotic looking green lizard with its emerald and aquamarine colouring. Also the western toad is found here rather than the common toad of Britain and northern Europe. The grass snake can be seen here on occasion, they are one of Jersey’s rarest animals and the sand dunes remains one of their few strongholds.

The blue winged grasshopper, the firebug, the Queen of Spain fritillary butterfly, the lesser bloody-nosed beetle, exuding a minute drop of blood when alarmed and the sand bear wolf spider which ambushes its prey from the entrance of its burrow are all invertebrates of particular interest to Jersey and our sand dunes.

 

The skylark, a ground nesting bird with an enchanting song is in decline across Europe and is a local Action Plan species, as is the stonechat, a bird whose call resembles the sound of two pebbles being knocked together. The chough, one of the great successes of the Birds On The Edge partnership is known to forage on the sand dunes and the conservation of the grasslands along with the addition of dung and its associated invertebrates will help provide these wonderful birds with an ongoing food source.

Grazing Plans

It is accepted best conservation practice to graze stabilised dune systems with livestock and the purpose of this project is to trial the grazing of Manx loaghtan sheep in scrub habitats and adjacent grasslands. These habitats have an abundance of burnet rose and other plant species which are becoming dominant over the more desirable dune vegetation which includes orchids, dwarf pansies, sand crocus and much more.

The area selected for initial grazing trials is on the escarpment north of La Moye Golf Club in an area known as Le Carriere. A combination of winter and summer grazing is the ideal, providing the chance to control holm oaks and other evergreens during the winter months and stripping foliage from other target plants (including privet, blackthorn and burnet rose) during the summer. Throughout the project the sheep’s food preferences will be constantly monitored with the hope that they will target the more undesirable plant species.

The sheep are planned to be on site from late February until May 2022.

Importantly, this area currently attracts a low level of public access and will not have a large impact on where people are able to walk.

Our thanks are extended to La Moye Golf Club for allowing the fenceline to tie into their existing fence which allows for a larger area to be grazed.

Benefits to habitats

• To prevent and reverse grassland succession towards mixed scrub within areas being grazed
• To maintain and increase plant species diversity within these areas and encourage some bare ground
• To introduce and maintain age mosaics throughout gorse and scrub dominated communities
• To encourage the reinstatement of species rich grassland especially in grassland ‘islands’ which are contained within the scrub area which are being lost to scrub
• To trial which plant species the Manx loaghtans forage on the most, thereby identifying their effectiveness in the control of scrub intrusion onto dune grassland habitats.

Benefits to species

• To provide bare ground for seed germination of dune grassland associated herbs and grasses
• To provide bare ground for associated invertebrate species
• To identify the effects of Manx loaghtan foraging behaviour on particular plant species , notably burnet rose, bracken, privet and blackthorn
• This area is recognised as being important for grass snakes and the creation of grass glades amongst the scrub will provide welcome basking areas for them
• There is a strong association and reliance between foraging choughs and short grassland, especially when grazing livestock and their dunging encourage the presence of dung beetles.

Jersey’s Great Garden Bird Watch is 21 this year!

Jersey Great Garden Bird Watch – 5th & 6th February 2022

Jersey’s very own garden birdwatch, the Action for Wildlife and Birds On The Edge Great Garden Bird Watch in association with the Jersey Evening Post will be 21 this year! Which bird species will be the most recorded across the Island’s gardens this year? Will it still be the house sparrow, they have had their ups and downs over the years?

House sparrows in Jersey gardens 2002-2021

The full list of last year’s most frequently recoded birds and squirrels is (with mean number of birds per recording household):

1. House sparrow 6.6
2. Goldfinch 2.4
3. Great tit 2.1
4. Starling 2.0
5. Blue tit 1.8
6. Wood pigeon 1.6
7. Chaffinch 1.4
8. Magpie 1.42
9. Robin 1.36
10. Blackbird 1.2
11. Collared dove 1.0
12. Greenfinch 0.5
13. Pheasant 0.2
14. Blackcap 0.15
15. Song thrush 0.18
16. Great spotted woodpecker 0.19
Red squirrel 0.6 (equivalent of 12th)

Method for recording

The method of the count is very straight forward. Basically you just need to choose one of the two weekend dates (5th or 6th February), look out into the garden for a few minutes, or as long as you like (I just look out the kitchen window) and write down what birds you see and the maximum number of each species. And, of course, red squirrels count again as birds this year. Just for one weekend!

Once you’ve counted the birds (and squirrels) on your chosen day please fill out the form online here, in the JEP or, alternatively, you can download a form here and email to birdsote@gmail.com

Your observations are of great importance in our understanding of the situation with the birds that we live closest to. Don’t forget, how these birds are fairing in the 21st century says a lot about our own lives and our own environment. You can read previous results of our survey in the Jersey Garden Birdwatch Report 2002-2020 here

Keep a look out for coal tits this winter. You never know! Photo by Mick Dryden