Two memorable days on the island of Burhou targeting Storm Petrels ended our 2016 scheduled seabird ringing program. For me, this was definitely a case of saving the best until last. We were very lucky with the weather both nights, particularly Saturday when the light breeze dissipated along with the last light of the day leaving us with near perfect ringing conditions. Over the two overnight sessions exactly 700 Storm Petrels were processed, including 6 controls (3 UK-ringed and 3 French-ringed birds). There is little doubt that the population of this species here is underestimated, and this trip was very useful towards standardising procedures for our ongoing study to monitor the population. The nets were opened at dusk (about 9.30pm) and on both nights the first petrels emerged around 10pm. A perfect evening was crowned with half a dozen shooting stars across the ‘planetarium like’ sky.
Storm Petrel- Burhou
During the day we ringed another 8 Lesser Black-backed Gull chicks and put up a net targeting Rock Pipits, promptly catching 16! There were 4 juvenile Wheatear on the island and no shortage of Rock Pipits which have clearly had an extremely good breeding season. There was a minimum of 50 birds present and their obvious success may be due to there being no predators for this ground-nesting species on Burhou. We saw several Grey Seals (or should I say they saw us!) Other birds we saw over the island on passage were Whimbrel and Common Sandpiper. Manx Shearwaters were regularly passing this island during daylight hours and a few made their presence heard at night.
Rock Pipit – example of an adult starting full wing moult
2016 Burou ringing & research team
The observatory team are currently setting about organising a seabird program over 5 or 6 days for visiting ringers in 2017. This is likely to include Gannets, auks, gulls, Puffins, Shags, Cormorants and Storm Petrels. If interested, please email me at [email protected], as places are likely to be limited.
One late report from yesterday: 4 Little Egrets in Longis Bay.
This afternoon the Veron’s reported 5 Med Gulls at Houmet Herbé and a Willow Warbler and 3 Little Grebe at Longis Pond.
I opened just one net this afternoon for a couple of hours on Essex farm and caught 16 new birds. These included passage migrants Sedge and Willow Warblers.
Just a short blog with this mornings moth trap highlights, as we are off to Burhou today to complete the final phase of this year’s seabird ringing program, the Storm Petrels. Moths this morning included 3 more Garden Tigers and a nice opportunity for a comparison shot of two of our Hawkmoths, Privet and Pine.
The next blog entry will be on Sunday evening.
This morning I took the moth trap into our ringing room for examination as it was a bit blowy. I was surprised to see a passerine fly in through the open window and perch up on the handle of a furling stick at the other end of the room, a Rock Pipit! I caught the bird quickly in our catching net, and a few minutes later it was back out on the beach sporting a Channel Islands ring. For data inputting the ‘catching method’ perhaps best recorded as ‘visited our ringing room’!
The day of ‘birds indoors’ continued with Caroline Kay Mouet bringing into the Obs a young Blackcap that had come a cropper having flown into her greenhouse glass. Again a positive outcome as after some recovery time in a box in a quiet location the bird flew off strongly.
Early evening there were 3 Sanderling on Longis Beach, historically, the Island ony has two previous records for the month of July. There were all 3 Curlew at the same location.
The moth trap was bumper with exciting specimens this morning including our first Pine Hawkmoth and Bordered Sallow. We also had Great Dart, Grass Eggar, Rosy Minor, Brussels Lace and sharp angled Peacock.
Rock Pipit – Alderney Bird Observatory
Sharp Angled Peacock
Yesterday I received our moth trap back from a fellow AWT researcher and checking the trap this morning there were over 20 species despite the overnight rain. Below a Waved Umber Moth. I have to admit that I really enjoy the moths that posses such magnificent camouflage, if not against my egg box ! This species is considered rare on Alderney.
Little Egret numbers seem to be increasing around the island with at least 10 individuals between Braye and Longis beaches this afternoon. The Longis ones were accompanied by 2 Grey Herons and 2 Curlew. High tide roost for Oystercatchers in Longis has risen to 62 birds.
Waved Umber Moth – Alderney Bird Observatory
There is a belated report of a Redshank near Mannez lighthouse from yesterday. Today 4 Little Egrets were in Longis Bay this evening and a second pair of Swallows nesting in the German bunker opposite the Obs gates successfully fledged 4 young.
There are many and various programs set for the future – a new ringing hut, Helgoland traps, screening on the reserve and so on. Other projects taking shape are the Willow whips planted 6 weeks ago intended to offer cover from the public car park for the birds visiting the sewage works and these have all taken surprisingly well. The public works department have delivered a dozen (previously condemned) telegraph poles to us so that that we can set them up at a location where we can offer migrating birds a resting/roosting site on telegraph-type wires.
Great excitement from our Moth expert David Wedd who has recorded Shore Wainscott, a new species for Alderney, in fact 5 of them all at once on Longis Nature Reserve. The Alderney moth list is somewhere around 900 species; this blog entry reminds me I must ask him the exact species total !
Garden Tiger Moth – Obs Garden