Alderney Bird Observatory was launched in 2016. It is the newest bird observatory in the British Isles and the most southerly. Dedicated to a program of monitoring and researching bird migration never before attempted in Alderney. In February 2019 we were awarded full accreditation status by the British Bird Observatories Council, proudly becoming the British Isles 20th Bird observatory.
A concise History
THE island of Alderney has arrived on the international ornithological stage as an extremely important location for monitoring, recording, and researching bird migration thanks to the Alderney Bird Observatory. We cannot stress enough how important the island is now seen to be after four years monitoring often extraordinary and unexpected aspects of bird migration. Launched as a pilot scheme in March 2016 the ABO became a fully independent self-supporting organization in 2018 after two years of valuable support from the Alderney Wildlife Trust (AWT) who had provided back-office and banking facilities. The two organisations now complement one another in delivery of the absolute best for the conservation of Alderney’s wildlife. Throughout the process of creating the most southerly bird observatory in the British Isles we have been greatly supported by the States of Alderney government. They recognised the potential of this project in terms of showcasing the island as a leading destination for birdwatching and wildlife tourism. The States’ input included renovation of the historic Nunnery building overlooking Longis Bay. This facility situated within the walls of a Roman fort is the hub of ABO operations and now boasts self-catering accommodation for up to 10 guests with a 4-star ‘Quality in Tourism’ certificate. ABO Ltd, with its dedicated team of volunteer board members, achieved full accreditation status from the British Bird Observatory Council (BOC) in February 2019 and has been granted local charity status. From the outset the observatory has been managed by warden John Horton, a former wildlife crime investigations officer for the Metropolitan Police. He has thrown himself into the post with such enthusiasm that John was quickly appointed Island Bird Recorder for Alderney, he is also a committee member of the Channel Islands Bird Ringing Scheme and sits on the Bailiwick Rare Birds panel. John has also encouraged visiting tour groups and leads several specialist wildlife holidays to the island for Naturetrek each year. He now owns and runs Alderney Tours to supplement his income from observatory duties. We are also pleased to say that John was appointed Channel Islands ambassador for Zeiss Ltd. Zeiss support the observatory in several ways along with financial help from Naturetrek and optical company Specsavers whose co-founder Dame Mary Perkins is observatory patron. John represented the BOC and Alderney when he delivered a presentation at the International Bird Observatories Council AGM in Israel in 2019. To our members, the many sponsors who have given us invaluable support at critical points in our progress, and to all those mentioned above, thank you for playing your part. Your continued support in the ABO success-story each year allows us to deliver important ornithological data supporting conservation measures internationally and brings a welcome boost to the Alderney’s economy. The ABO Team.
ABO gets off to a cracking start!
Although only starting operations in March 2016, the ABO received a visit from the team from BBC’s Countryfile in late April. Matt Baker and the team were able to catch on film just what a spectacular place Alderney is for bird migration – in fact it surpassed all expectations with 3,500 birds ringed by the end of our first spring and over 13,000 by the end of the same year.
ABO Warden, John Horton explained how the ABO aimed to become the 20th accredited bird observatory and demonstrated to the film crew bird ringing and recording. The crew was also introduced to Alderney’s spectacular display of migrant and resident moths thanks to the ABO’s light trap and the help of local lepidopterist David Wedd.
Alderney Bird Observatory is the newest bird observatory in the British Isles. Dedicated to a program of monitoring and researching bird migration across the island, we are fortunate to be situated on one of Europes major migration flyways. The HQ and field centre accommodation sleeping 10 guests are based at ‘The Nunnery’; the oldest standing building in the Channel Islands and the best preserved coastal Roman fort in the British Isles. The building is of huge historic importance so our plan is to sensitively develop the space into an accessible heritage site for visitors to enjoy and for the benefit of Alderney. Once all the necessary permissions had been granted and funds raised, the new field centre accommodation at the observatory was completed and the Nunnery’s role has changed once again. Four years on and The Nunnery has undergone full, and sensitive, restoration with a new roof and replacement of all the main utilities.
In the past it had been refurbished as an 18th century gun battery and then served as barracks, a hospital, married quarters and a farm. Next it was converted to Resistance Nest ‘Piratenschloss’ by the Germans so there remain a network of bunkers and machine gun posts (without guns!) in the Nunnery garden. Work will continue for many years to better understand the nearly 2,000 years of occupation at this site. As a part of the current guardianship of The nunnery, ABO proudly became a Channel Islands company and registered charity in 2019. The States of Alderney continue to back the ABO project at the Nunnery recently pledging support into 2020!