During lockdown field observations have been somewhat limited with just Elliot and I the only observers spending our 2hrs exercise working independently completing the daily census as far as is possible. Alderney remains a virus free zone as I type this blog and it is a huge credit to the local authorities and community that this has been achieved to date.
Some interesting Gull ring reads in the field 20th March included 2 Great Black backed Gulls originally ringed at Portland Bill Bird Observatory. Other excellent research data was received from the Channel islands birds ringing scheme with news of a Dunlin ringed by a visiting Jersey ringer in Longis Bay Alderney in October 2016, re-trapped last year in Poland.
35 Dark bellied Brent Geese 5th Apr preceded a single on the 14th that may well be our last this spring. Common Shelduck peaked at 5 in Longis Bay 14th Apr. The male European Teal still present to at least the 18th Apr is looking very fine but may have to move on if he is to find a lady friend. Elliot spotted 2 Great Crested Grebes offshore on the afternoon of the 3rd Apr (an irregular and not annual visitor here – the Grebes that is, not Elliot). A movement of at least 22 Grey Herons passed over Alderney 5th April all headed NE.
European Teal – Longis pond – photo JH An amazing run of birds of prey began on 31st March when Elliot observed a heavily mobbed adult White tailed Eagle over the bird observatory, our last island record of this species was in 1908. Some 8 Merlins have been recorded during this blog reporting period and on the 15th April our first Black Kite this spring spent the afternoon with us having been seen in off the sea earlier that afternoon. It was great to see it perched in a tree on Longis reserve. The same day we had our first Hobby this year.
Black Kite Longis reserve – photo JH
Black Kite – Longis reserve – photo – JH A red letter day for birds of prey came on 16th April. A female Hobby rifled across Longis Common, a pair of Peregrines hunted the NE coastline and 2 Ospreys were spotted both headed north towards the UK. Pottering in my garden at the lighthouse during lockdown (bins always to hand), mid afternoon I noticed a bird that looked interesting offshore headed straight towards us. Lifting my bins only one option was immediately obvious, it was a spectacular Black winged Kite! First spotted about 100 meters out, it was one of those magical birding moments I will never forget. This is a first record for Alderney and a species not recorded on mainland UK. The bird came in very low and drifted (mainly gliding on long wings) across Mannez quarry where upon reaching the quarry edge it rose to overlook the plateau of low vegetation above where it stopped and hovered (Kestrel like) taking up 3 or 4 positions hunting during a tantalising minute or so before heading SW in the direction of the observatory about half a mile away. I was already on the phone to Elliot who charged into the observatory courtyard and managed a couple of record shot photos of the kite (good man) before it again headed SW and out of sight. My lasting memory of this event will be this Kite’s Owl like face looking straight at me as it approached dry land, and turning to my father (who is birder who was stood beside me) and squeaking the words ‘Black winged Kite’ with whom this became an even more priceless moment.
Black winged Kite – over the bird observatory Longis Bay – photo – Elliot Monteith Water Rail is still being recorded on Longis pond during our census work at least until the 16th Apr so high hopes of another breeding success for this species at this location. A single Redshank (uncommon here) was in Longis Bay 1st & 2nd Apr. Whimbrel numbers are picking up slowly with increasing single records and 3 on the 17th Apr. Yellow legged Gull sightings have involved at least 3 birds, the latest a 2nd Summer in Saye Bay on the 17th. On an exceptionally low tide 10th Apr there were 418 Herring Gulls in Braye Bay. A Common Tern fishing off the lighthouse in company with two Sandwich Terns 5th April pre-empted some interesting movements at sea on the 6th & 13th Apr. On the 6th, 11 Little Gulls, 6 Common, 4 Arctic & 23 Sandwich Terns and on the latter date 1 Little Gull, 6 Sandwich Terns and a Pomarine Skua. Our first Cuckoo this year was seen and heard on the golf course on the 10th Apr. Swallows and Martins have been coming through but not yet into 3 figures on any given day. 20 Tree Pipits have been recorded since 6th April and Elliot is bravely taking on the challenge of Yellow Wagtail sub species identification, recording 2 Blue-headed and several Channel so far with a single day high count so far of 28 Yellow Wagtails on the 11th Apr. Our first Common Redstart of the year were 2 on the 6th April, Black Redstarts have seen 18 records this reporting window but none since the 12th. Wheatears continue to ebb and flow with 35 on the 5th Apr including 4 ‘Greenland’ birds. Our first 2020 Pied Flycather was a fine male in Barackmasters Lane 15th Apr and the first Whinchat the day after a Whitegates. The persistent east winds brought us a fall of Song Thrushes 4th April with at least 62 birds recorded (all the nominate European birds). Sporadic records of winter thrushes were trumped on the 2nd Apr with an estimated 380 Redwings and 420 Fieldfares. 11 Ring Ouzels have been seen, the lastest 2 males on the 16th Apr. First spring records were of Garden Warbler 17th Apr, Common Whitethroat & Sedge Warbler 5th Apr, Reed Warbler 10th Apr and Grasshopper Warbler reeling on the 6th Apr. Fan-tailed Warblers have become a fixture at Longis reserve since early March and certainly 3 birds were present 8th Apr. A Rook 5th Apr was only the 2nd one since the obs launched in spring 2016. 2 female Serins were at Barrackmasters lane 5th & 6th Apr.
Yellow Wagtail – Whitegates – photo -Elliot Monteith Moth trapping has been a slow start with Powdered Quaker probably our best local record thus far as this species is scarce here unlike the UK. Also a female Emperor moth in the Obs moth trap 12th April. Our 2nd Large Tortoiseshell butterfly was on the 4th April and 1st Green Hairstreak on the 12th. Sadly with the annual spring Naturetrek holiday group visit unable to go ahead I missed the delight of showing off one particular area carpeted with the Green Winged Orchid. Somehow this Palmate newt managed to get into out bird bath that is 2ft off the ground… and just about wraps up this blog leaving me only to say stay safe everybody, we hope you enjoy the ABO blog and don’t forget for all those who live in the Bailiwick the Big Garden Birdwatch week starts on the 24th April.
Palmate Newt – Mannez Lighthouse Garden – photo JH
Green-winged Orchid – NE Alderney 16th April photo – JH
Emperor moth (female) NE Alderney – photo – JH