The last week of 2018 ended with a new species for our observatory (Richards Pipit) and the first week of the new year added another ! Conditions have mild and until he 7th fairly low winds allowing for us to get this years ringing underway.
2 Little Grebes remain on Longis pond and we have a further bird on the waterworks quarry. On the 5th the highlight of the week, a Red-necked Grebe, the first one recorded by the ABO I picked it up on the sea just west of Fort Razz whilst scanning Longis Bay between ringing rounds, this appears to be just the 9th Record for Alderney. A male Shelduck was briefly on Crabby beach on the 1st, he tried to join a group of Herring Gulls and was quickly seen off. There were 2 female Teal on Longis pond on the 1st and 1 at Mannez reserve on the 4th. A total of 102 Mallards were recorded across the island on the 7th (62 Kiln farm pond). Water Rails have been located at more than 10 different sites and Justin ringed 1 at Longis pond on the 5th. The mild weather is likely contributing to low numbers of Snipe and just a single record of Woodcock (at Essex farm on the 5th). There were 3 Mediterranean Gulls at the north end of Longis Bay at high tide on the 4th and a single Lesser black backed Gull on Crabby beach on the 6th. 4 Razorbills on the sea just off Mannez lighthouse on the 6th. A Grey Wagtail shared the slurry pit at Kiln farm with a fine male Pied Wagatil on the 1st and some 11 Stonechats were recorded during the ABO daily census of the 4th. There have been a handful of Redwings around, 3 were ringed at Mannez on the 3rd. Cetti’s Warbler has been spotted at Longis pond on the 1st and at Mannez quarry on the 4th. A pair of Dartford Warblers showed well on the south cliffs gorse slopes on the 1st and at least 3 Chiffchaffs have taken up ownership of the Essex sewage pans where 3 were ringed on the 4th. A wintering Firecrest was caught at Mannez on the 3rd and 3 Long tailed Tits ringed at Essex farm on the 5th. There were 71 Crows and 11 Jackdaws on the inpot fields on the 7th and 4 vocal Ravens over Platte saline on the 6th. The late autumn 2018′ flock of Greenfinches has dropped in numbers but still 63 were recorded on Longis common on the 4th.
Firecrest – Mannez quarry – photo John Horton
Very few records for the 2nd half of December with Justin and I both having spells returning to the UK. Highlights being a Great Skua seen off Mannez lighthouse on the 22nd and a Reed Bunting at Longis pond on the 30th. A big finish to 2018 was a Richards Pipit found by Justin 30th Dec (present 31st) on the south cliffs area. This is only the 2nd record for Alderney, the last being very nearly 40yrs ago 29th August 1979!
And so to the end of another exciting year and into our observatory’s first full year equipped with newly renovated accommodation that we are enormously proud of. Thanks from Cathy and I on behalf of all the ABO team to everyone following, supporting and being part of our progress. There are exciting times ahead with the ABO hosting the Channel islands ringers AGM in March. Also in March we are attending and speaking at the international bird observatories conference in Israel. In the summer we should also be at the British bird watching fair. Plans are underway for the ABO to host a ringing course for spring 2020 and other progressing projects in the pipeline are likely to be announced early in the first quarter of the new year.
We hope to se you here in Alderney during 2019. Happy New Year one and all.
Great black backed Gulls – Alderney – photo Dr.S Roberstson.
Some late flurries of winter thrushes. Strong winds and rain have dominated so far this month but when opportunity presented there have been some productive ringing sessions and notable sightings.
At least 1 Little Grebe present on Corblets quarry so far this month (2 on 3rd) and 2 on Longis pond 14th probably the same birds moving between sites. The 2 Pink footed Geese were still present on the 1st along with 3 Graylag Geese at the Impot fields/Kiln farm present to 16th. A Brent Goose Longis Bay 16th. A single Teal on Longis pond 8th. A Merlin over the west coast on the 12th. Common Buzzards across the island appear to consist of 3 regularly seen over Longis Common, a solitary bird regularly at Kiln farm and a further 2 birds regularly around the Zigzag/Giffione. Water Rails now at several locations including at least 3 on Longis and Mannez reserves. A high count of 8 Moorhen on Rose farm pond 4th and 1 ringed at Longis pond on the 5th. Single Grey Plover at Braye Bay 5th and Longis Bay 16th. A Lapwing at Giffione on the 1st. Woodcock at Longis pond on the 1st and Mannez quarry on the 12th. 1 Whimbrel amongst 42 Curlew at the high tide roost Clonque Bay on the 1st. On the 4th 1 Turnstone at Mannez lighthouse and 4 on Platte Saline beach. 7 Mediterranean Gulls Braye Bay on the 5th and 2 on the 14th. A high count of 41 Black-headed Gulls Braye Bay on the 5th. Lesser black backed Gull Corblets Bay 1 on 6th and Impot Fields 2 on 9th & 1 on 16th. Some good Herring Gull counts peaking at 132 on the Impot fields 13th. Gail force winds on the 7th brought in sheltering Great black backed Gulls with 48 on Fort Les Hommeaux Florains (just off Mannez lighthouse). 6 Kittiwake were seen off Chateau a l’Etoc 3rd Dec. Several reports of single Sandwich Terns peaked at 6 around Fort Razz on the 10th. We have had 4 separate sightings of Barn Owl during the first half of the month each between Longis Common and the Mannez area. In the hard weather of the 7th there were 14 Rock pipits feeding amongst the beached seaweed at Platte saline. Single Grey Wagatils have been seen at the bird Observatory, St. Annes and Rose farm. A smart Black Redstart was feeding on sandhoppers at the north end of Longis Bay on the 10th. Winter Thrush movements continued until the 12th; Exactly 50 Redwings were ringed at Mannez quarry on the 11th and included 2 of the Icelandic race ‘coburni’. Cetti’s Warblers are being regularly recorded at both Mannez and Longis reserves and involve at least 4 different birds. A Firecrest was seen at Rose Farm on the 10th. The odd Brambling is still around, 3 Rose farm on the 4th & 1 at Mannez Quarry 11th. Also at Rose farm on the 4th 4 Sisikin.
Little Egret – Braye common – photo Dr.Sandy Robertson
Atlantic Grey Seal – Arch Bay – Photo Dr. Sandy Robertson
The second half of the month continued to see some impressive falls of thrushes, and some persistent field work paid off with new species for Alderney !
Checking the fields along the south cliffs of Alderney it not a luxury Justin and I often have time for, but with the ABO dedicated census work completed and the winds far too strong for any ringing opportunity arose to check to some this under-watched location which on the 19th produced 3 Greylag Geese ( not annually recorded here). On the 28th I headed off in search of these 3 geese again to see if they were still present. Spotting them in the distance I could see now 5 geese, two of them quite clearly smaller birds. It was soon evident that 2 Pink-footed Geese had joined the Greylags, a species never before recorded in Alderney and taking the all time Alderney island list to over 300 species. The 40mph buffeting winds were not perfect for photography, see a record shot of the birds below.
Two Pink-footed Goose (the two in flight) – South Cliffs photo JH
On the 22nd a single Dark-bellied Brent Goose flew by Mannez lighthouse, a single female Wigeon was at the Waterworks quarry on the 19th. At the same location 2 Teal on the 18th, and a further 8 on Corbletts quarry on the 19th. Also on the 19th a Merlin was sat on the dung heaps at Kiln farm carefully watching Meadow Pipits and a flock of Chaffinches. Small numbers of Ringed Plovers can be found along the coastline, the high count being 23 between Platte saline and Saye bay on the 29th. A single Grey Plover was in Saye Bay on the 19th. A movement of Lapwings on the 19th included 1 at Kiln Farm, 1 at Whitegates and 2 at Giffione. A single Dunlin was at Platte saline on the 19th. Woodcocks came in to Mannez quarry with the colder weather; 3 on the 22nd and 2 on the 23rd. 2 adult Common Gulls were in Longis Bay 19th. Single Sandwich Terns are still around, the latest in Longis Bay 30th. A Grey Wagtail was regularly between Essex farm and the observatory garden up to the 30th. A female Black Redstart was in Mannez lighthouse garden 23rd&24th and a male present at Chateau L’etoc 29th. Justin had a late moving Ring Ouzel on the golf course 23rd. There was a good movement of around 300 Redwing on the 26th following overnight NE winds, this produced 46 ringed, many of which were the Icelandic race ‘coburni ‘. Cetti’s Warblers remain on island recorded singing at Mannez 23rd and 24th and another ringed at Longis reserve 26th. A late report in from the 16th was of another Yellow-browed Warbler spotted in Barrackmasters Lane by Paul & Catherine Veron. Brambling reports have been thin on the ground compared to last year, just singles in St. Annes 19th and Rose farm 23rd to add to this blog, 2 Siskin were in Barrackmasters Lane 21st. Finally our best year for Reed Buntings was added to with another at Mannez quarry on the 23rd.
November started as October ended, busy with migrant birds on the back of north and north-east winds but this soon ended in favour of an unseasonal prolonged period of mild weather and winds predominantly from the south. The past two years has seen the ABO record huge numbers of migrant thrushes and finches and this service was resumed 16th-18th with winds from the east.
A Great Northern Diver passed Chateau L’etoc on the 10th. One Little Grebe remains on Longis pond. A single dark bellied Brent Gosse was present in Braye Bay on the 2nd and a Shelduck in Longis bay on the 1st. A Teal was present on Longis pond until the 6th and 2 more were on the waterworks quarry on the 18th. The Rough-legged Buzzard was last seen on the 6th having settled along the NE coastline it was seen several times perched on fort Houme Herbe (Photo below of the bird hovering, an identification feature of this species).
Rough-legged Buzzard, Houme Herbe- photo – David Child
3 Grey Plovers are frequenting various bays this month and 12 Dunlin were in Braye Bay on the 6th. Reports of Woodcock began early in the month and 3 were seen at Rose farm on the 16th, 3 at Mannez quarry on the 17th. Late moving migrant waders included a Bar-tailed Godwit at Longis bay on the 9th and a Whimbrel over Longis common on the 6th. The Clonque bay wader roost accommodated 38 Curlew and 92 Oysercatcher on the 2nd. Some 46 Mediterranean Gull passed chateau l’etoc on the 10th and a Little Gull was spotted from the same location on the 18th. An adult yellow-legged Gull was present with Herring Gulls at Clonque Bay on the 4th.
Yellow-legged Gull – Clonque Bay – photo – JH.
17 Kittiwake and 119 Razorbills were counted off chateau l’etoc on the 10th, a single Sandwich Tern seen here on the 12th. A Woodlark passed over mannez quarry on the 5th. Very late Swallow records were of 2 birds over Longis pond on the 1st and another over the golf course on the 6th. Black Redstart was seen in Braye harbour on the 4th and at the Corblet’s bay car park on the 18th.
Black Redstart – Corblets Bay – photo – JH
2 Mistle Thrush were seen during the ABO daily census on the 3rd and another was on the golf course on the 8th. Cetti’s Warblers remain at both Mannez and Longis reserves and look to be wintering. A Dartford warbler showed well at the Zigzag on the 2nd, a very late record and unusual sight was of a Garden Warbler feeding on a fallen apple at Rose farm on the 18th. A Yellow-browed Warbler was at Essex farm on the 3rd. Chaffinches have been migrating through in good numbers, a single grounded flock of over 150 birds were present at Rose farm on the 5th, reports of Brambling and Siskin have been sporadic in comparison to the same period last year. The Greenfinch flock often seen around Whitegates fields were counted as 116 birds on the 14th. A very good year for us here for Reed Bunting continued with 8 birds ringed at Longis pond on the 2nd.
Lastly, the mild weather into November produced records of 6 species of butterfly and on the 2nd a Hummingbird Hawkmoth.