The T.A.G. project is now in its third year, using GPS tags to transmit live data on the Ortac Gannets’ foraging habits. The data will help AWT and the ABO to learn more about the health of Alderney’s waters and to advise on planned developments in the Channel. This year we will be deploying 12 of these tags.
New this year are 10 geolocators. These smaller tags do not transmit live but last up to 2 years, giving us a better picture of where the gannets go on migration and if colonial groups migrate and then stay together over winter. Projects like this are necessary with any migratory species as conservation groups work together to protect species over their whole range. Each geolocator is £100 and we have some still available for sponsorship.
You can read more about the project at www.teachingthroughnature.co.uk/t-a-g
Over a week after we had intended (due to poor sea conditions) we completed our first seabird ringing trip of the year, this one to Coque Lihou. Most auk chicks appeared to have fledged as we found plenty of evidence of auk egg shells from which chicks had hatched. It occurs to me you may just read the last and be thinking ‘how can he tell they had hatched ok’. Well some years ago as a zoo curator I lectured on and ran courses in avian artificial incubation techniques, and I remain an anorak on the subject ! We did manage to ring 2 Guillemots and 2 Razorbills but this total is well down on last year (16 & 7). However, our later than anticipated expedition did present the opportunity to ring a lot more Shags, some 21 against 9 last year. We also came across 3 Great-black backed Gull chicks but they were too young to be ringed. So next year we will schedule this trip for late May to focus our research on the auk colony. We were also lucky enough to obtain magnificent views of around 20 Bottlenose Dolphins passing very close by Coque Lihou. Thanks to all of the ringing team, your input ensured an incident free job well done. And thanks to AWT manager Roland Gauvain and ‘Bugsey’ for getting us to and fro safely. From the boat we saw in excess of 100 Guillemots and 100 Razorbills rafting on the sea, also a couple of Manx Shearwaters and our first Balearic Shearwater of the year.
Coque Lihou ringing team – Justin Hart, Paul Veron, Catherine Veron, Anne-Isabelle Boulon, & John Horton.
The end of the day saw the latest group Naturetrek arrive. Alderney is gathering pace and attention as being a first class destination for specialist wildlife tour groups. The across the board variety of wildlife on Alderney really is terrific and wildlife tourism a very welcome boost to the island economy. This will be the third Naturetrek tour I have led here this year with two more to come in the autumn. This latest one is the first ever summer wildlife tour !
20th, David Child reports seeing a pair of Dartford Warblers at the south end of the airfield.
21st , Justin had a Hobby over Telegraph. Naturetrek had 14 Curlew and a very unseasonal record of Lapwing in Clonque bay at high tide, an adult Mediterranean Gull and 2 Swifts over Braye bay, and a sub adult Yellow legged Gull on Crabby beach.
22nd, A male Black Redstart in the Obs garden. The Naturetrek boat trip saw at close quarters a variety of our breeding seabirds including 200+Puffins. Also Peregrine, Kittiwake, Common Tern and an Adult Yellow legged Herring Gull which was sat on the lower rocks of the Les Etacs Gannet colony.
A brief summary of the tour group: 63 species of birds included Puffins,the highlight of the tour for many, but also 2 Yellow Legged Gulls which were a new species for most. 15 Species of Butterfly (many in abundance) but 20+ Glanville Fritillary. For those targeting flora some 107 species of wild flowers included such rarities as Hairy Birds foot Trefoil and Alderney Sea Lavender along with numerous Pyramidal Orchids. The ever popular Blonde Hedgehogs played their usual starring role. An incredible 84 species of moths included Kent Black Arches and several Hawk moth species (20+ Hummingbird Hawkmoths) and Tiger moth species. Other wildlife recorded on this trip saw some unexpected and exciting additions, in particular Scilly Bee and a Sun Fish !
Alderney Sea Lavender – Houme Herbe
This week has been swallowed up leading a Naturetrek tour. Instead of a rushed blog put together this evening I’ll complete a comprehensive one in the morning. Thanks for your patience.
A huge week for Alderney bird observatory. States members (local MP’s) gathered on Wednesday evening at the local government chambers to decide on whether to pass a motion to renovate the Nunnery, home of the newly established bird observatory & Field centre. We are delighted to announce that the motion was passed and extensive works will begin later this summer with a view to opening the bird observatory and field centre to staying guests Spring 2018. A big thank you to all the states members who have supported the ABO project and to the army of volunteers who are the engine room of our efforts. Also to all of those who have added crucial financial support during our first year of operations by becoming members of the ABO. It has been extremely frustrating in trying to properly deal with enquiries from people wanting to stay this year, as we have been in limbo as to when or if the building works was being undertaken, if at all. The States decision does now mean that the bird observatory itself will not be able to accommodate any visitors this autumn but there are plenty of other excellent places to stay at (see the visit Alderney website) Some establishments are offering discounts for guests booking via the ABO and we have also secured a good discount on local car hire. On the back of last autumns deluge of birds we will still be looking for ringers/birders to assist with our recording program. If you are interested please contact [email protected] for a list of discounted accommodations.
As if the week could not get any better, the ABO then swooped the top award at the Insurance Corporation Conservation Awards 2017 held in Guernsey. The award of ‘Best Conservation Project’ was accepted by Catherine Hanlon from the ABO HQ at The Nunnery. She was accompanied by Chris Mourant, Tim Earl and Richmond & Margaret Austin all important contributors to the success story that is Britain’s newest bird observatory. Thanks also to Catherine Veron for putting together our application which brought about the judges visiting the ABO in person.
Mandy Hunt, Managing Director from Insurance Corporation, said ” Awarding the top prize of £1,500 to the Alderney Bird Observatory was a unanimous decision. Alderney is an incredible place to view a wide variety of birds, especially sea birds. It is also one of the least well studied so the observatory is a much-needed resource. The island sits on several major flyways and sees large numbers of birds from Britain and the Continent. Alderney can make an important contribution to scientific studies of bird populations and provide data to help protect them. We feel this is an extremely worthy project and a well-deserved winner of our funding.”
I would like to add here that the Insurance corporation has been holding this conservation award for nearly 30 years. I thought it very impressive that they actually go and visit each project in the field to see it operating. We were delighted to host the representatives from the insurance corporation at the ABO and over the moon to win this prestigious award. It was particularly gratifying to see my partner Cathy attend the awards ceremony to receive the award. Thank you to all who made this possible but especially to Cathy who holds down a full time job and does a tremendous amount of work at, and for the observatory behind the scenes as our team strive to get the ABO on its feet.
14th, Justin saw a dark phase Pomarine Skua from one of the AWT seabird tourist boat trips. This is the first spring record for Alderney for this species.
15th, A Cuckoo was singing at Essex Hill around 0545hrs. Later in the day David Child reported a Hobby hunting over trois vaux and a Swift in the same area. This is an opportunity to thank David for donating a ‘sightings board’ to the ABO. The board is updated daily and is placed in front of the Nunnery gates. The Obs moth trap contained a Bordered Sallow (pictured) which occurs in Alderney but not the other Channel Islands. Monitoring of shorebird nests continues, 5 Ringed Plover nets now located thanks to a lot of patience from Justin !
Bordered Sallow – ABO moth trap – photo – ABO
Ringed Plover eggs – Alderney – photo Justin Hart
16th, Quite a day for cetaceans. A large pod of around 40 Bottlenose Dolphins entered Braye harbour mid morning and remained until just after mid day. They headed around Bibette Head and were observed passing Longis Bay at 1230. From here they headed along the south cliffs just off shore. As they passed Longis a Grey seal put in an appearance just north of the causeway.
Bottlenose Dolphin- Braye harbour – photo Grant Le Marchant
17th – Amongst 31 species in the Obs moth trap this morning was our first Garden Tiger moth of the year. Ringing produced plenty of recently fledged birds and a male Blackbird that we first processed during the ABO’s first ever ringing session in March 2016. There was a Mediterranean Gull over Braye harbour at lunch time. Paul Verin reported seeing a Little Egret and Grey seal in Corbletts bay along with a distant pod of at least 10 dolphins. David Child saw 5 Swifts over Little street. Justin had 2 Grey Herons over Longis bay.
Garden Tiger Moth – ABO garden – photo – Justin Hart
An unusual find by Paul and Catherine Veron, who whilst walking to the chippy came across a Manx Shearwater sheltering between two boats in the boat yard ! Probably having crash landed overnight, the bird was in excellent condition but rather vulnerable so transported to the Observatory. Only hours earlier Justin and I were discussing the potential of how we might facilitate a sea-bird rescue and rehabilitation area. This bird thankfully only needed a rescue and being a nocturnal species, it was later released off fort Razz at dusk, flying strongly out to sea. Always nice to have a happy ending.
Manx Shearwater- Braye Harbour – photo Catherine Veron
18th – 22 Bottlenose Dolphins were seen off the south cliffs headed towards clonque. Justin and I checked several Swallow nests during late afternoon, most contained chicks but only about half were old enough to ring. The Swallows find the abandonned WW11 german bunkers ideal for nesting, many bunkers are beyond the footpaths and largely undisturbed. Finally, this evening 29 Oystercatcher on Longis beach.
A late record from last week of 6 White Storks in off the sea over Mannez lighthouse, the lucky observer was Nigel Clarke AWT board member who watched the impressive spectacle with a group of visiting french birders.
A single Grey Heron has been around all week reported from several locations including Clonque bay and Longis Nature reserve. On longis pond the two Little Grebe chicks are going strong, and the parents are nesting building again for round 2. It has been a very windy week offering no opportunity for bird ringing; gales from the west reaching in excess of 60mph overnight on the 6th. Swifts have been observed heading south but the best bird news of the week is from Paul and Catherine Veron reporting finally seeing a female Serin accompanying the long staying singing male ! High hopes that they are indeed nesting.
6th – There were 4 Whimbrels in Longis Bay.
7th – The bad weather continued into today winds not dropping below 40mph. The westerly wind assisted huge waves smashing against the Les Etacs Gannet colony, surely destroying a good number of nests on the lower ledges. A Grey Plover, probably the same bird from the 5th was a Platte Saline beach along with 3 Sanderling.
Les Etacs Gannet colony – Photo – Justin Hart
8th – Oystercatchers and Ringed Plovers are sitting at several locations that Justin and I found this week. This one pictured below an Oystercather hatching today. A good variety of moths in the obs trap again included Cream spot Tiger, Small Elephant and Poplar Hawk Moths enyjoyed by ‘Prestige Tours’ group visiting the observatory. At the end of the day a Whimbrel in Longis bay and a Hummingbird Hawkmoth rescued from the ringing room.
Oystercatcher chick – Alderney – photo – ABO
9th – Mark Atkinson reported a Cuckoo singing in the Bonne Terre Valley.
10th -Another brimming moth trap with over 20 species including a new species for our trap pictured below. A Turtle Dove was reported from Fontaine David.
Grey Arches Moth – polia nebulosa- photo ABO
11th, First thing there were 7 Swift flying hard SW no sign of stopping, returning south already ! Paul Veron also reports small groups of Swifts headed south this week with four on 9th, two on 10th and 3 11th along with a Cuckoo 10th and 11th at Barrackmasters Lane. Meadow Brown butterflies are now out in force on Longis Common. In the evening a small wader flock on Braye beach was made up of 14 fine summer plumage Sanderling and a single Ringed Plover.
This week we welcomed Simon Barnes to Alderney and the ABO. Simon is an established and successful author and journalist producing books, columns and articles on a range of conservation and the environment matters. We are delighted that he has accepted the role of honorary president of the ABO.
Moths have featured heavily this week with over forty species in the Obs trap on Friday and almost 100 species recorded this week. More common species have been in abundance, we are also seeing rare migrants from as far as North Africa. At Bibetts head today in excess of 50 Glanville Fritillary butterflies. Pyramidal Orchids are now flowering in several locations across the island. Migrant birds are still passing through with Cuckoo at Rose farm (1st June) 2 Yellow Wagtails at Longis common (29th May), Anne Isabelle Boulon had a Swfit over St. Annes 1st June. 4 Sanderling were seen at Platte Saline 30th & 31st May and there were 2 Wheatears at Tourgis (30th). The Little Grebe chicks are developing well on Longis Pond, Paul and Catherine Veron reported finding 4 separate Dartford Warbler territories, a recently fledged Buzzard was seen over Kiln Farm. Late morning 30th May Simon Barnes and I spotted from the observatory ramparts a distant large flock of 18 Terns passing beyond Fort Razz. Our island Common Tern colony had as yet not arrived at Bibette head this year (the traditional breeding colony site) and this late arrival has been a growing concern this spring as the days have passed, the colony remaining bereft of these majestic birds. In the afternoon whilst working with Aldeney tours we took in the magnificent views of the island from Fort Albert, from here I could see Terns at Bibette head, funnily enough about 18 of them, lets hope they are successful this year. 6th June the Tern colony had increased to around 50 birds and whilst making several attempts to count them I had a rare sighting for Alderney in the shape of 7 Greylag Geese in off the sea, the skein headed over Longis Bay and then high towards the airport. The Aldeney Wildlife Trust completed their annual ‘Wildlife Week’ this week. This was supported by the ABO leading a dawn chorus walk and a Lighthouse sea-watch. Over 70 people attended a talk at the bird Observatory (1st June) on the first year of operations of the ABO. This was followed by an excellent talk by Simon Barnes on his experiences and perceptions of the natural world.
Striped Hawk Moth – Hyles livornica
Burnished Brass moth – Diachrysia chrysitis (juncta form)
Two Ringed Plover chicks were located by the keen eye of Sandy Robertson this week and subsequently Justin and I ringed them. These are the first individuals of this species to be ringed on Alderney since 1960 ! Most of the beaches here have now been closed to dogs from 1st June to September, this should offer these little chaps (pictured below) less disturbance along with the majority of our nesting and visiting shorebirds.
Two ringed Plover chicks – Alderney – photo – Justin Hart
Simon Barnes taking at the The Nunnery Bird Observatory & Field centre.