Shearwaters were passing the island this week, a couple of mornings equipped with NW winds also brought increased numbers of Kittiwakes and Mediterranean Gulls. Little Egret numbers are slowly rising with a peak count of 6 in Longis Bay. Whimbrels and Common Sandpipers also reported on several days from various locations. Returning migrants picked up towards the end of the week with 91 birds ringed at Mannez quarry over 3 hours between weather fronts. Passage House Martin numbers increased towards the end of the week. Surprise of the week; the returning Royal Tern that has been in the vicinity of the Channel Islands and french coast for several months now. Sadly further gale force winds and rain prevented our 2nd Petrel ringing expedition to Burhou Island from going ahead, but we managed to ring a few from the Alderney coast. These posed us some interesting questions concerning the moult strategy adopted by this species here. Gatekeeper butterfly numbers have been phenomenal, and outside of the areas where the plant is removed, it was clear this species enjoys Ragwort. (Oxford Ragwort was also seen) Several sightings of Clouded Yellow this week.
24th, One Grey seal in Longis bay. The return of the Royal Tern to our shores was a little unexpected, the bird is now in primary moult (see photo) and was associating with a group of ‘larger’ Gulls on Longis beach late afternoon where there was also 2 Turnstone, 2 Ringed Plovers, 5 Dunlin and a Redshank. A Wheatear and a Snipe were seen on Longis common. At least 5 Jersey Tiger moths reported from various locations. 3 Balearic Shearwaters were seen off Chateau le toq
Royal Tern – Longis Bay – photo – JH ABO
25th, During the morning a juvenile Hen Harrier (possibly the same bird seen on the 22nd) and a Honey Buzzard were both seen over Rose Farm. The harrier over the Barley fields and the Buzzard initially low over the valley before gaining great height before heading with some purpose NW ! A handful of Willow Warblers were ringed at Rose Farm and Longis Nature reserve. Green Sandpiper was spotted on Longis pond first thing and it was still present early evening. Black-headed Gulls had increased to 50 in Braye Bay.
26th – Petrel ringing on Alderney Island (not the smaller off islands) has been historically sporadically successful and could provide some very useful data. We tried a quiet and sheltered spot along the NE coast which produced 7 birds over about 2hrs.
Comparing a freshly moulted (above) and unmoulted (below) Storm Petrel wings.
26th – The Royal Tern was back in Longis Bay resting on rocks beside the Fort Razz causeway at 1330hrs. 11 Turnstone and 2 Sanderling were on the rocks beside fort Razz. We had 3 Jersey Tiger moths in the Obs garden this morning including this one (below) in the overnight moth trap. A sea-watch off chatteau le toq produced 8 Manx Shearwater, 22 Balearic Shearwaters, 14 Mediterranean Gulls and 8 Kittiwakes.
Jersey Tiger moth – ABO Moth Trap – Photo – JH ABO
27th – Visiting ringer/birder Jenny Wallace saw a juvenile Water Rail at Longis pond. A Green Sandpiper was seen at the same location. 4 Common Sandpipers were reported from the coastline at Mannez lighthouse. 1 Sandwich Tern and 16 Mediterranean Gulls in Braye Bay, and 6 more Med in Crabby Bay along with a Yellow Legged Gull.
28th – 9 Ringed Plovers, 2 Sanderlings and 2 Turnstones at Platte Saline beach. 2 Dunlin on Longis beach towards high tide late afternoon. 4 Swifts and 6 Sand Martins in Mannez Quarry. A busy ringing session produced 91 birds using just 3 nets. Migrant Sedge and Willow Warblers (neither breed here) now coming through along with Whitethroats and Blackcaps the more common species recorded.
30th – 1 Dunlin Corblets bay.
Finally, great news that the mystery wader found on Longis pond 26th April has been after some considerable deliberation verified to be a Marsh Sandpiper. This record is not only another first record for Alderney (our 4th new species for the island this year) but it is also the first record for the Channel Islands.
Marsh Sandpiper – Longis Pond – photo – Paul James
A combination of gales and driving rain put pay our first of this years two Petrel ringing weekends on Burhou Island. The week was dominated by weather fronts hitting us from the West, North-west and South. On the 18th an amazing electrical storm produced a light show for over an hour. Some local photographers caught some of the spectacular action (See below). Evidence of migrant birds heading south continues, amongst others we had Willow Warbler, Wheatear and Hen Harrier passing through. Grayling, Wall and Common Blue butterflies remain in abundance. It has also been a very good week for spotting Grey Seals!
Photo Sally Smith
Photo – Sandy Robertson (from the clonque road looking out towards Burhou).
19th – A Wheatear at Giffione, Grey Seal at Saye Bay and Longis Bay. Single Whimbrels at Longis bay and Crabby Bay. 2 Redshank in Saye Bay. 4 Swift heading south over longis common.
20th – An early sea-watch saw a few birds moving including 2 Mediterranean Gull, 3 Kittiwake and 1 Balearic Shearwater. 13 Black-headed Gulls sheltered in Saye Bay. Little Egret and Grey Heron in Longis Bay.
Alderney School children get a tour of the historic Nunnery, home of the Bird Observatory
3 Swift over the Obs. 2 Med Gull Longis bay. A Whimbrel and a Common Sandpiper in Saye Bay. A flock of 33 Curlew over Rose Farm.
Red Admiral – Obs ringing room – photo – ABO
22nd, A single Balearic Shearwater past Chateau Le Toq. Justin had a juvenile Hen Harrier over the south cliffs fields heading towards the airfield. A Whimbrel in Bray Bay.
23rd, Visiting ringers had 42 birds at Essex farm, including our first migrating Willow Warbler. A single Sand Martin flew across Longis Bay.
Willow Warbler – Essex Farm – photo – ABO
The next blog should include ringing starting up again at Mannez nature reserve as we begin to focus more attention on return migration. Also so long as the weather holds, a team off to Burhou island to monitor/research the Storm Petrel colony.
A late report from last week of 2 Siskin in Barrackmasters Lane on the 9th.
The week has seen a steady increase in Black headed Gulls and Mediterranean Gulls. Swallows are fledging from bunkers across the island and one of the pairs of Stonechats we are monitoring are rearing thier 3rd clutch ! Our passerine ringing sessions are beginning to provide us with evidence that our songbirds have so far had a good breeding season. With no historical data available, we can now begin to form comparisons against our first year and start to form ideas on how common or otherwise our local and garden birds are. I am delighted to report that our songbirds are having a very good year, in particular we are seeing good numbers of fledged Greenfinches, Chaffinches, Great Tits and Chiffchaffs. Last year was surprisingly good for Song Thrushes, this year is equal to it. While young Blue Tits were thin on the ground last year we are already well ahead of last years total. Wrens, Robins, Dunnocks and Blackbirds are all holding their own. At the end of the season our first year to year comparisons will be available, and a more accurate status of many of our breeding birds better established. No sign of the Fan-tailed Warblers at Longis or at Telegraph.
10th, A third calendar yr Yellow Legged Gull and Crabby Bay. Also a Swift over Barrackmasters Lane.
11th, 7 Mediterranean Gulls Corbletts Bay
12th, A single Swift over Longis common.
14th, At first light a Bull seal was close in to shore at high tide in Longis bay observed from the Obs ringing room.A young Cuckoo showed well sitting on a footpath sign post for a bus load of tourists at Giffione. Today another chance to fit the rest of the Geo-tags to adult Gannets. Though conditions appeared favourable on a sunny day with low winds and a calm sea, the swell around Ortac was far from ideal. Our advanced party chanced a landing and just got on the rock before conditions got even worse. About an hour later we managed to get one more researcher landed. The tagging team got the job done and a further 50 chicks were ringed. We’ve not been very fortunate with conditions for seabird ringing teams this year, just the Storm Petrels to go now, we are due a break…
15th – An adult Yellow Legged Gull in Crabby Bay. North-West and West winds warranted a Sea watch producing; 11 Common Scoters, 3 Kittiwakes, 1 Manx Shearwater, 24 Balearic Shearwater and 4 Mediterranean Gull.
16th – 3 Balearic Shearwaters from Mannez lighthouse.
This chap was in the Obs garden this morning ! I only saw one of these magnificent creatures last year and was delighted to come across another. They are a good indicator of a diverse local ecosystem and flourishing natural habitat.
Great Green Bush Cricket
Moths in abundance again this week, pictured; Bordered Beauty and Pine Hawkmoth.
An itinerary packed week was dominated by seabird ringing but also held a few surprises !
The island is awash with butterflies and wild flowers, Pyramidal orchids in particular have done very well this year and baby hedgehogs are now out and about. The week focused on 3 separate seabird ringing operations but between times some unusual migrant birds dropped in.
Pyramidal Orchid, Targets – Photo – Trevor Doleman
3rd, Our Gannet ringing team headed out to Ortac to begin this years Geo/satellite tagging of adult Gannets following the enormous success of this same project last year. We were accompanied by a French TV documentary team following the exploits of one of Alderneys French residents; Anne- Isabelle Boulon who happens to be one of the ABO trainee ringers. After a good start, about an hour in some not forecast scrawls of rain were upon us and we had to retreat as the rock quickly became too slippery to safely continue on. 4 Tags were fitted to Gannets with the rest set to be deployed this coming weekend. We had 5 Kittiwake and 7 Manx Shearwaters from the boat on our return. In the afternoon a pair of Peregrines were teaching a recently fledged chick some aerial acrobatics over the Giffione.
4th, The annual Les Etacs Gannet Ringing program (not for the faint hearted). A job well done by led by Chris Mourant with Phil Atkinson, Justin Hart, Jason Moss and Oliver Padget. Some 310 Gannet chicks were ringed during a short window of opportunity to land on the rock between difficult sea conditions.
During the late afternoon Justin Hart went to check on our breeding pairs of Skylarks up at Telegraph, he was surprised and delighted to come across a Fan-tailed Warbler, as local birders assembled (a number easily counted on one hand) it transpired that there were 2 Fan-tailed Warblers at the location.
5th. The highlight of another busy day was a fantastic Honey Buzzard over the Obs late in the afternoon, the bird, our first of this year, passed over very low and was harassed by crows.
Honey Buzzard over the Obs – photo (record shot with my mobile) – ABO
6th, The day began live a with BBC radio Guernsey interview, catching up on the news that the states of Alderney are supporting the ABO project by renovating the home of the ABO at the Nunnery, bringing the Channel Islands first accredited bird observatory a big step closer. On the way back to the Obs a routine check in Bray Bay at a site for roosting ‘smaller Gulls’ revealed a ringed Mediterranean gull and 2 ringed Black headed Gulls, ring details were taken and passed on to the ‘grand masters’ of Channel Islands ringing; Richmond and Margaret Austin. A further Fan tailed Warbler was found by Paul and Catherine Veron near the target wall and early in the evening Catherine saw a Great Spotted Woodpecker in Barrackmasters lane. David Child saw two juvenile Peregrines on the cliffs at Val du Saou.
7th A Fan tailed Warbler showed well on Longis Common (presumably the bird found near to this location yesterday). Surprise of the week was a cracking freshly moulted adult male Hawfinch ringed at Essex Farm. For good measure Justin saw 3 Sand Martins and added Great White Egret to the island annual bird list (now 154 species) he and visiting researcher Teri seeing one flying over Longis Common.
Male Hawfinch – Essex Farm – photo Justin Hart
7th July, A bumper moth trap held 48 species: 4 Large Yellow Underwing, 4 Rosy Minor, 7 Uncertain, 1 Sycamore, 2 Pine Carpet, 1 Willow Beauty, 1 Orange Footman, 1 Lappet, 4 Small Elephant Hawkmoth, 1 Swallow tail moth, 5 Scarce Footman, 6 Silver Y, 9 Heart & Dart, 13 Dark Arches, 1 Barrats Marbled Coronet, 1 Coronet, 2 Lesser Yellow Underwing, 7 Buff Ermine, 1 Cloaked Minor, 1 Small Magpie, 1 Ruby Tiger, 5 Clay, 3 Common Footman, 1 Wormwood Pug, 1 Smokey Wainscott, 1 Bussells Lace, 1 Rosy Footman, 2 Buff Arches, 1 Orache, 1 Least Minor (4th ever record for Alderney), 1 Flame Shoulder, 1 Lychnis, 1 Dingey Footman, 1 White Point, 1 Ni Moth (2nd ever record for Alderney), 3 Heart & Club, 2 Shuttle shaped Dart, 1 Peppered Moth, 1 Blood Vain, 1 Drinker, 1 Campion, 2 Kent Black Arches, 1 Yellow (Golden) tail, 1 Brown tail, 1 Snout, 1 Ear Moth, 1 Common Rustic and 1 Shoulder striped Wainscott.
8th, Burhou Gull ringing day – maintaining the long-term research program monitoring the Lesser black backed Gull colony on Burhou island. This year two of our Alderney trainee ringers were on board. We had a very hot day but everyone played their part in getting the job done. We managed to ring 115 Lesser black backed Gulls, 5 Herring Gulls, 3 Great Black backed Gulls and 1 Shag. All together we fitted 117 colour rings.
A sea of Sea Campion – Burhou Island – photo – ABO
9th, The fan-tailed Warbler on Longis common was on good form this morning very vocal. In Braye Bay 9 Black-headed Gulls and 5 Mediterranean Gull. Late morning Justin and I ringed 3 young Skylark in a nest that Justin has been staking out for weeks. This is the first ringing record for Skylark on Alderney. We have preciuos few pairs of Skylarks on Alderney, it may be that the introduction of the Pheasant in 1986 (and current growing large population of them) to the island are affecting the success rate of some of our ground nesting songbirds by eating thier eggs.
Finally in todays Observatory moth trap amongst another huge range of moths, a female Four spotted Footman and Privet Hawk moth. Flying around the Obs garden this afternoon 2 Hummingbird Hawkmoths and a Jersey Tiger moth.
Some moths recorded this week. Left – Langmaid’s Yellow Underwing – Top Right- Orache, Bottom right – Four-Spotted Footman.
Thanks to all the visiting ringers and all those involved in making the successes of this week possible.
Thanks also to Justin Hart, Oliver Padget, Jason Moss, Geoff Saunders and Trevor Doleman for some excellent photos used in this weeks blog.
Joint Press Release from the Alderney Wildlife Trust (AWT) and the Alderney Bird Observatory (ABO)
With the thrilling news of the recent approval by the States of Alderney of the restoration of the Nunnery, the Alderney Bird Observatory Committee has considered how best to move forward with the implementation plan for the ABO once the building is back in use.
The Committee Members have unanimously agreed the most beneficial way forward. As a result the Committee will shortly make appropriate recommendations on the principles of its implementation plan to the AWT Board as its parent body (bearing in mind that the ABO is a sub-committee of the AWT with no legal or separate governance status).
Once it has considered the recommendations from the ABO Committee, the AWT Board will in turn liaise with the General Services Committee over the proposed lease and covenant for the Nunnery, which will remain compliant with the recent States’ decisions which should now enable the ABO to become established on Alderney.
Both the ABO and the AWT are working to secure the best possible result for Alderney in terms of developing an implementation plan that will:-
- conserve and, over time, provide further income to continue restoration of the Nunnery as one of the most important Roman archaeological sites in Western Europe;
- enable continued appropriate public access, enhancing both the archaeology and the ornithological attractions there; and
- provide a long-term home for the fledgling Alderney Bird Observatory, which we fully expect will have achieved its status as the first new Accredited Bird Observatory in Britain for very many years, while also being the most southerly Observatory in the whole network.
John Horton, Alderney Bird Observatory Warden said:
“Cathy and I are very pleased with the recent developments and we are looking forward to managing the on going success of the bird observatory at the Nunnery. The project will undoubtedly continue to bring a lot of positive publicity and tourism to the island.”
Finally both the AWT and the ABO should like to take the opportunity to thank everyone on and off island, not least the States Members themselves, for the overwhelming support given to both organisations to enable the Observatory to achieve so much success so quickly.
Ian Carter Paul K Veron
Alderney Wildlife Trust Alderney Bird Observatory
04 July 2017