Catching up: We are delighted to have gotten underway a small area sewn with Wild flower bird friendly winter seed crop aimed at attracting finches and Buntings this autumn/winter. Thanks to the all who came and helped out but in particular to land owner Bruno Kay-Mouat for supporting the project on his property and to Jamie Hooper (Environmental Guernsey LTD) who brought the seed crop over from Guernsey and advised best practice moving the project forwards.
Jamie Hooper (left) with John Horton (Obs warden) at winter seed crop site Essex Farm
Assistant warden Justin and I have now both recently caught photographers standing in front of the viewing side the new Naturetrek bird hide (between the hide and the pond). Whilst photographers can get all of 15ft closer by walking out in front of the hide and standing at the edge of the pond, it is highly likely that there will be nothing to photograph by this stage as the behaviour has frightened everything away ! So our ask is for all photographers to put the wildlife and others enjoyment of it ahead of a slightly better photo.
As set out in the states approved Alderney Wildlife Trust 5yr conservation plan, the path at the rear of Longis reserve pond has now been temporarily closed. This will vastly reduce disturbance to nesting birds and other wildlife during a crucial period during the breeding season. Access across the front of the pond is unchanged. Thanks in advance for your co-operation in this matter.
22nd – A Siskin was seen at the community woodland and a Nightingale heard singing at Newtown. At Houme Herbe singles of Curlew, Whimbrel and Grey Plover along with Small Copper and Glanville fritillary butterflies. Green Hairstreak butterfly (males) have been seen at Giffoine, Cambridge battery and near to fort clonque.
Green Hiarstreak Butterfly – Giffoine – photo – ABO
Little Grebe with chicks – Longis pond – photo – Justin Hart
23rd -Wheatear Longis Common, Sanderling and a Black headed Gull Braye Beach (unseasonal record). 2 White Wagtails on and a Peregrine over Saye beach. Sparrowhawk at Rose Farm.
24th -Hobby over the golf course
Swallow – Whitegates – photo – Sandy Robertson
25th – Male Shoveler Longis pond
26th – Visiting amateur naturalists Brenda,Bernard Pat and Pam had a Cuckoo at Clonque and our first Pyramidal Orchid spotted along Longis road.
27th -Common Sandpiper Longis Bay, 20 House Martins Barrackmasters Lane, immature Buzzard Kiln Farm.
28th – Some ringing at Essex farm ahead of the storm produced Reed Warbler and Chiffchaff along with recently fledged Blackbird, Robin and Greenfinch. At 0815 local birder and ringing trainee John Weir spotted a Red Kite flying over the bird observatory. The Kite headed NE towards Mannez and an hour later came back over the obs in the opposite direction heading over Essex Hill. The bird was seen again over telegraph by Paul and Catherine Veron just after 10am. In Longis Bay 2 Whimbrel, 2 Turnstone and a Grey seal. PM the Kite was showing well over Whitegates fields, Justin and I had a male Wheatear at Tourgis and on Crabby beach 185 Lesser black backed Gulls, 90 Herring Gulls and a single Yellow legged Gull.
Red Kite over the observatory (record shot)
Grey seal – Longis Bay
An exciting week with records including another first for Alderney ! The Serin continued singing at Barrackmaster Lane all week but is becoming elusive. A pair of Wheatear remained on Longis common all week and may be establishing a territory, our single pair of Shelduck look to be nesting somewhere in the vicinity of Longis bay. The two Ravens in the nest at Giffione are still in situ but look to be close to fledging.
15th – A slow day with a big finish ! After the staff meeting ended at 5pm there was time for some birding with Justin but a single Wheatear and 3 White Wagtails at Tourgis was our only return. Driving up Braye road towards Whitegates we spotted a large Tern heading in the direction of Longis. Pulling over we got brief views of the bird as it headed towards Longis Bay but best guess was that it was very likely the long staying Royal Tern that has been in Guernsey since early February. We hurried (just within the speed limit of course) down to the Observatory where we soon picked up the Tern again in Longis Bay. Our views confirmed that this was indeed a Royal Tern (apparently not seen in Guernsey since 10th May). A great addition to the Alderney bird list.
Royal Tern – Photo Andy Marquis
We ended the day at Longis reserve ringing roosting Swallows and to our surprise amongst our 23 Swallows and 1 Sand Martin were 2 Juvenile Swallows. Swallows have not been in Alderney long enough this spring for these to have bred here and be anything like this advanced fueling further speculation that Swallows are nesting during the winter moths somewhere between South Africa and the Mediterranean. The theory being that these young birds have fledged and been caught up in the migration north of the usual wintering birds returning to breeding grounds during the spring. A further surprise in our ringing nets was a bat. Justin got a photo of it and we decided to extract it after removing all the birds. Returning to the bat a few minutes later it had managed to free itself and was gone. We thought it a Pippistrelle, happy to be directed on this.
16th – First thing this morning we found a Hummingbird Hawkmoth in the ringing room, after catching it we released it in the wild flower section of the Obs garden. Today whilst taking a group of tourists on a general interest tour of the island my attention was drawn to a large group of Shag feeding in a tight group just off Houmet Herbe. This group was 23 birds strong. Having heard that good numers of Mackerel are just off shore here at the moment I wondered if this was a combined effort by the birds targeting such a showel. My enjoyment of the behaviour of the Shags however was overtaken by the by the appearance over them of the Royal Tern, its attention was the same area as the Shags and I was able to watch it fishing for a few minutes whilst explaining to the tourists the significance of the bird !
Hummingbird Hawkmoth – Obs ringing room – photo – Justin Hart
17th, RAIN – All day.
18th, Cuckoo over the community woodland, 1 Yellow Wagatil Longis Common. Spotted Flycatcher, Reed and Sedge Warblers were ringed at Longis pond.
19th, Good numbers of Common Blue Butterfly, in excess of 50 on Longis Common.
20th, A Cuckoo was seen by Mark Atkinson at Rose Farm first thing and in the evening Mark also reported a Nightingale singing late into the night. Another good passage of Swallows House and Sand Martins inlcluded a mixed group in excess of 50 birds with 2 Swifts over Longis pond, these were enjoyed by the visiting Naturetrek group who also managed to see the last of the Green winged Orchids near the Odeon.
21st, Our day bagan with 22 Species of moth in the Observatory trap including our first Small elephant Hawkmoth of the year. Naturetrek had 7 Sandlerling at Platte Saline beach, Raven, Peregrine Buzzard, Kestrel, 2 Hummingbird Hawkmoths and a Holly Blue butterfly at Clonque. The group also had a cracking Green Hairstreak butterfly and Purple Broomrape at Cambridge battery. David Child reported 2 Yellow Wagtails at the airfield.
Purple Broomrape – Cambridge Battery – photo – ABO
Evidence of the late migration of many species continued this week as we ringed more Redstarts and saw good numbers of Sand Martins. Wheatears were reported from several locations (mostly singles) to the week-end, well beyond last springs dates. Though we’ve not been swamped with volumes of birds, again some more unusual records this week and a very strong passage of House Martins. The Serin in Barrackmasters lane has been present and singing all week. Two of the Little Grebe chicks have come on very well on Longis pond and it looks like a pair of Kestrels have taken up residence in Fort Tourgis. Some late records from last week (6th May) included 6 Common Scoter and a dozen Manx Shearwaters seen off Clonque Bay and Giffione by a team of visiting Guernsey birders, the same crew had a Great Spotted Woodpecker ( a species only occasional on Alderney/not annually recorded) in Barrackmasters Lane and a Wood Warbler at Bonne Terre on the 7th. The same day a Grey Partridge was seen on the airfield.
8th – 8 Ringed Plover in Saye Bay. A female Whinchat on Longis Common
9th – 8 Yellow Wagtails at Longis pond and a pair of Whinchat on the Common.
10th – Justin had 2 Sanderling and 5 Dunlin at Saye Bay, 1 Whimbrel in Longis Bay and a Tree Pipit over Bibette head. There were at least 10 Whitethroats on Essex Hill and a male Dartford Warbler was spotted at one of the known territories. Sinlge Spotted Flycatcher at Barrackmaters Lane and another at Telegraph.
11th – Just after 9am John Wier and I got wonderful views from the observatory fort wall ramparts of a Black Kite as it loafed its way down and across Essex Hill and out across Longis bay and over Fort Razz towards France. I later discovered that Paul and Catherine Veron had also had a Black Kite around the same time over Mannez headed towards Fort Albert so we very likely had the same bird. Spotted Flycatcher, Redstart and Garden Warbler were all ringed at Mannez where a Cuckoo also showed well. A Hobby over Barrackmasters Lane was also seen over the golf course. 2 Whimbrel were in Longis bay ahead of the late high tide, Mark Atkinson saw a Turtle Dove at Rose Farm, our first of the spring. 3 Skylarks were reported by the Verons’ from Telegraph tower and 23 House Martins were feeding over At Longis bay in the evening, 1 Yellow Wagatil on the Common.
12th – 1 Bar-tailed Godwit in Braye Bay, 1 Whimbrel in Longis Bay. In Mannez quarry Justin and I watched a Turtle Dove chased by a pair of Collared Doves. There was a single Whinchat at the edge of the horse field at Sur La ville. In the afternoon the Hooded Crow was at the pig pens at the Giffoine. Some 200+ House Martins on passage through today.
13th – 60 House Martins over Barrackmasters Lane. 3 Yellow Wagtails on Longis Common. A Spotted Flycatcher at the top of the 9th fairway on the golf course
14th – Early morning there was a Marsh Harrier hunting over the airport and as we opened up the ringing nets at Rose farm we put up a Nightjar. There were 3 Ringed Plovers on Longis beach and 1 Sanderling at Platte Saline. Our first Black-tailed Godwit of the year was spotted in Clonque Bay by Abbi Ferear. Again there was a single Yellow Wagtail at Longis common.
Our first Glanville Fritillary butterfly are being reported and there are plenty of caterpillars of the same at Giffoine.
Glanville Fritillary caterpillar – Giffione – photo – ABO
Another variable week concerning both weather and birds. May began wet and windy. NE winds dominated the early part of the week until a strong SW blow brought us a full day of more much needed rain. This week the ringing has focused around Swallow roosts at Longis and Mannez, sightings have included a new bird for Alderney and other sightings include species rarely recorded here.
Firstly, a photo of some passage waders, part of the Godwit and Whimbrel flock on Platte Saline beach the evening of the 28th April
Whimbrel and Bar-tialed Godwits – Platte Saline – photo – David Wedd
1st – Despite wall to wall rain until 4pm Mark Atkinson had a Cuckoo at Rose Farm and 3 Swifts were seen over Longis pond. After the weather cleared there was a late afternoon opportunity for some ringing at Mannez which produced a variety of migrants including Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Garden Warbler, Sedge Warbler and Tree Pipit. Justin had 3 Whimbrel in Longis bay and 3 Manx Shearwaters off chateau le l’etoc. Top spot of the day was by Lois Le Lacheur who saw an Osprey over Clonque bay.
Garden Warbler – Mannez quarry reserve -photo -ABO
2nd – NE Winds overnight and once again no cloud cover. Ringing at Mannez produced a nice variety of migrants again lead by a male Redstart. A further male Redstart was seen on the golf course and mid afternoon two Marsh Harriers passed over the island headed north. A male Serin was singing in Barrackmasters lane and it remained present until at least the 6th. Dartford Warbler was seen at Essex Hill and there were 8 Yellow Wagtails on Longis common.
3rd – A Marsh Harrier was seen over fort Albert. 200+ Swallows over Essex hill. Ringing at Mannez saw a nice variety of migrants which included:White 9, Sedge 4, Redst 1, Leswh 2, Spofl 1, Garwa 1, Blaca 1, Swall 1, Reewa 2, Wilwa 13, Chiff 4 & Piefl 1.
4th – 2 Bar-tailed Godwits on longis beach first thing and a dozen Yellow Wagtails. 15 Wheatears and 1 Whinchat on Longis Common. 15 Yellow Wagtails were reported from fort Albert. During the morning a good passage of Swifts involed over 200 birds over Giffoine over 3 hours, 200+ also reported from Mannez. Today also saw our first major House Martin passage, whilst they have been coming through in dribs and drabs there were around 500 through today. PM and another Golden Oriole (ABO), this one a much duller and greener bird than the one recently ringed so either a female or immature male. The bird flew along the track towards the odeon perching briefly before heading down into Mannez quarry and out of sight. An evening session ringing at Mannez produced a female Redstart and a good roost catch of Swallows and Sand Martins.
5th – A Hooded Crow (ABO) was spotted over the golf course headed south, the bird was relocated about an hour later a Kiln Farm, this is the first one reported on Alderney since 25th April 1973. A very good hirundine and Swift passage again, Paul and Catherine Veron reporting 100 of the latter over Essex Hill. A Spotted Flycatcher in Barrackmasters lane and a single Bar-tailed Godwit on Longis beach. The Little Grebes whose nest has taken centre stage in front of the new hide on Longis reserve is now boasting 3 chicks. Wheatears are still coming through, 3 on Longis Common.
6th – A very wet and windy day saw the visit of a National Geographic journalist to the observatory, the Obs may appear in their publications later in the year. Amidst the rain some 30 Yellow Wagtails were an impressive sight on Longis common. A male Black headed Yellow Wagtail (ABO) stood out even amongst some impressive competitors. I can’t find any previous records for this sub-species ‘feldegg’ for Alderney so potentially a first for us here and I understand only the 2nd record for the Channel Islands. Another good passage of Swifts and House Martins continued throughout the day, one single flock of 60 House Martins over Barrackmaster lane stood out. The evening held more surprises, whilst experience was gained of Swallow roosts by one of our ringing trainees, between net rounds we had 1 Snipe and 1 Water Rail on Longis pond, and passing over, 2 Marsh Harriers and a Black Kite (ABO). Visiting Guernsey birders (details when received) found another rarely recorded species for Alderney, a Great Spotted Woodpecker at Barrackmasters Lane.
7th – A Lesser Whitethroat singing at Rose farm. The Alderney Bird club members saw 2 Redshank, 1 Turnstone and 1 Whimbrel at Clonque. There were only a handful of Swifts but a substantial number of House Martins (1000+) and to a lesser extent Swallows and still Sand Martins on passage. A skylark was seen near the airport.
In the interests of collating correct and up to date records the blog will be updated on Monday eve detailing the previous week’s sightings from here on.