Though we are recording birds at every opportunity, the official 2020 Alderney bird observatory census begins 1st March focusing on the designated ABO recording area. Effectively the entire north-east end of the island is checked every day, on average the census takes 3 to 4 hours to complete. Our spring census continues until mid May, then after a few weeks break the autumn daily census starts early July and continues right through to November. All 20 of the accredited British bird observatories complete this research resulting in one of Europe’s most comprehensive and long standing databases recording bird migration.
A single Greylag Goose was at Kiln Farm, the origins of these birds are always questioned as many are feral. This bird appeared very weary and easily spooked as it flew off immediately when a farm tractor entered the field some 200 meters away, at the same time large numbers of Gulls and Crows barely batted an eye-lid at the approaching farmer, there were no further sightings. A fine gaggle of 35 Dark bellied Brent Geese were in Longis Bay on the afternoon of the 5th. The single Shelduck that arrived 28th Feb was joined by a 2nd male on the 3rd Mar, both had departed by the 7th, a drake Teal was on Corbletts quarry (8th). A Black throated Diver was on the sea just off Fort Razz on the 5th, the Great Northern Diver present in Braye bay since the 17th Feb was last seen on the 2nd Mar.
Greylag Goose – Kiln Farm – Photo JH
Dark-bellied Brent Geese – Longis Bay – photo JH
On the 29th a Catte Egret was reported seen flying west up the island over arrackmasters lane, it was soon relocated at Kiln Farm from where it again flew west towards dusk. Water rail has been recorded daily with at least 4 birds present at Longis pond and 2 at Mannez quarry pond.
Western Cattle Egret – Kiln Farm – Photo JH
A single Redshank (uncommon here) was on flooded fields at Kiln farm on the 5th and Turnstone numbers peaked at 14 the same day. Whimbrels are passing through the island, 5 along the north east coast line on the 3rd the high count so far. An adult Yellow legged Gull was amongst a flock of Lesser black backed Gulls sheltering from high winds at Whitegates field on the 5th. A female Kingfisher was on Corbeltts quarry (1st ). A Water Pipit was found in Longis Bay on the 7th, present at the same spot the following day. 43 White, and 19 Pied Wagtails were recorded on the 3rd. Our first 3 Sand Martins were on the 7th. Late arriving this spring was first confirmed Northern Wheatear in the Channel Islands for this year (and only the 2nd confirmed Wheatear in the British Isles in 2020) was at Whitegates fields on the 8th. Some 31 Stonechats were seen in the Obs recording area on the 3rd. A single and vocal Fieldfare was spotted close to the lighthouse on the 6th and a Cetti’s warbler remains at Longis reserve. 2 Dartford Warblers were seen on the south cliffs path the Firecrest high count so far was 9 individuals on the 3rd. Our bird ringing got off to a good start with 2 UK ringed chiffchaffs amongst our first 20 processed.
Water Pipit – Longis Bay – Photo JH
Northern Wheatear (male) – Whitegates fields – Photo EM
Firecrest – Essex Farm – Photo – EM
Two Small White Butterflies feeding close to the observatory were confirmed by the British Butterfly Conservation Trust as the first records in the British Isles for 2020! These delicate insects are usually recorded from early May so this really is an exceptional record. A further excellent butterfly record was of a Large Tortoiseshell at Houme Herbe on the 3rd. The stormy seas have encouraged our Grey seals to seek sheltered bays, up to 4 seals frequenting cats bay included an enormous Bull Grey Seal on the 2nd.
Small White Butterfly x2 – The Nunnery – photo JH
The second half of Feb has seen continued tough conditions for birding but fieldwork efforts produced some interesting records. We are delighted to welcome Elliot Montieth our new assistant warden. Elliot has obtained valuable experience volunteering at other prominent British Bird observatories Bardsey and Fair Isle. Since arriving last week Elliot has already been working hard on our new for 2020 ‘Young Birders Camps’, taking place over two weeks this autumn. See below flyer.
The Great Northern Diver remained in Braye Bay until at least 24th. A drake Shelduck was briefly in Longis bay at first light this morning (28th). The rough seas have seen more Cormorants (generally marine here) taking to the quarry pools.
Cormorant – Waterworks quarry – photo JH
A female Peregrine Falcon rocketed past the lighthouse on 25th. At least 3 Water Rails declared there locations at dusk at Longis pond on 27th, the wintering Whimbrel still about on the 26th. Small numbers of Lesser black backed Gulls continued to appear daily with our first significant movement of 115 on the 27th. Information in this week of a colour ring being read in the field in Morrocco North Africa on 15th Feb, belonging to one of the Lesser black backed Gulls the ABO ringed on Burhou in July last year. 2 Mediterranean Gulls have been seen sporadically between Crabby and Braye Bay, Sandwich Terns have been seen in Braye Harbour (2 on 26th) and in Longis bay singles 21st & 27th. A Great Skua passed fort Razz on the 24th and on the 21st over 100 auks almost an even split between Razorbill and Guillemot, were recorded during an hours sea-watch. A very smart Barn Owl was taking full advantage of a brief let up in the weather conditions hunting in the vicinity of the target wall during the late afternoon of the 26th. A Great spotted Woodpecker ( very uncommon here) was in the conifer plantation near Blanchards on the 23rd. The Kingfisher was again at the waterworks quarry on the 20th (observe from behind the gate). A Grey Wagtail continues to frequent St.Annes High Street and there were 12 Pied Wagtails around Kiln Farm on the 27th. It was very interesting on the 26th to come across a species I’ve never seen in a flock before, with no fewer that 14 Stonechats together feeding along a single hedgerow along the west coast, the birds were all intent on feeding suggesting they were recent arrivals on the island.
Male Stonechat – west coast, photo – JH
Cettis Warbler was singing at Longis nature reserve 21st, a single Chiffchaff at the same location also that day. A Firecrest was near the football pitch on the 27th. A flock of around 60 finches, mostly Greenfinches with a few Goldfinches, is frequenting Longis common. Seals are being spotted regularly, especially along the NE coastline and in Braye Bay. Photo below 1 of 2 animals together in Cats Bay on the 26th. A bottle nose Dolphin was also seen off the NE coast on the 25th.
Atlantic Grey Seal – Cats Bay- Photo -JH
The predominantly hard weather has had any self respecting song bird sheltering in dense undergrowth. Fieldwork has involved observing birds being blown by rather than them flying by. During these storms we do tend to record more shoreline waders, numbers of Ringed Plovers, Turnstones and Grey Plovers otherwise passing us by are driven ashore seeking shelter. This is also a great time to look out for less common species avoiding the high seas seeking calmer waters, such as Divers and Grebes. A Great Northern Diver was feeding in Braye Bay (17th) diving for crabs with repeated success. Wader high counts included 30 Ringed Plovers & 5 Grey Plovers (9th) and 12 Turnstone (11th). An unseasonal and vocal Whimbrel flew by Mannez lighthouse (10th) was roosting with 92 Oystercatchers on fort Razz (11th). 2 Mediterranean Gulls were in Braye Bay (14th) and numbers of returning Lesser black backed Gulls have been slowly increasing. Island wide on the 9th crowds of huddled sheltering Herring Gulls totalled 305 birds in keeping with 44 Great black-backed Gulls. A Kingfisher was at the waterworks quarry (9th) and at Corbletts quarry (17th). 14 Rock Pipits were together tucking into insects on the seaweed left behind by the high tide at the north end of Longis bay (11th). 11 Pied Wagtails were on Kiln farm fields (12th) and a Grey Wagtail in St.Anne (17th). Crow numbers acheived the highest the obs have recorded to date with 127 at Kiln farm.
Great Northern Diver – Braye Bay photo JH
Turnstone – Longis Bay photo JH
Lesser black backed Gull – Crabby Bay
Rock Pipit – Longis Bay
As we gear up for a new season the big news is that earlier this month on the 2nd February Alderney Bird Observatory, as an independent organisation, company and locally registered charity have been awarded national accreditation status by the British Bird observatories Council. A concise report of the birds recorded by the ABO during 2019 is pictured below, visit the BOC website to read the full 3 page article along with the 2019 reports and research work of all the other accredited British Isles Bird Observatories. We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved in achieving this goal embarked upon as a pilot scheme in 2016, and look forward to hosting all of the birders, ringers and naturalists coming to stay at our wonderful bird observatory accommodation & field centre this year.
5 new bird species were added to the list of the birds of Alderney during 2019, taking the island total to over 300. All of the 2019 additions were discovered by ABO staff and our visitors. The 2019 annual total was our best yet at 183 species and once again more than 10,000 birds were ringed. The ABO team also added a never before recorded mammal species for our island, the Barbastelle Bat. 2020 see’s the launch of the ABO’s first ‘moth Weekend’ with attendees and speakers set for a ‘moth fest’ in July as we empty traps set island wide. With over 1200 moth species recorded here this focussed effort should be eventful (contact John on [email protected] for further details). Alderneys increasing reputation as a cracking location for flora and fauna sees wildlife tour operator Naturetrek increase its wildlife dedicated holidays to the Channel Isles, all lead by ABO staff, to 7 separate trips this year, including the first dedicated wildlife holiday company tour to the islands of Herm and Sark.
Having just returned to Alderney ahead of storm Ciara, and with storm Dennis is just around the corner, I’m off out to start recording the birds of Alderney for another exciting year!
Regular updates of sightings will appear on this website, our facebook page and on twitter, updated by myself and our new assistant warden Elliot Monteith.
Ending our 4th autumn monitoring migration in Alderney we have consistently seen a notable increase in new Dunnocks ringed during the month of October. This species is certainly not famous for its migrational movement records, Dunnocks wearing any kind of European scheme ring caught in the British Isles, are rare records indeed. Our initial thoughts were that we were witnessing local dispersal during the autumn months but our local retrap data has evidenced that movements across Alderney between our ringing sites are far and few between despite us ringing over 600 Dunnocks since April 2016. So some excitement 19th Oct 18′ when we caught a Dunnock sporting a French ring! It’s taken some time to obtain the original ringing data but worth the wait as we discover the bird was processed at Dunes du Fort Vert near Calais, the bird travelling just over 200 miles SW to Alderney in 7 days! This record goes some way to confirming our suspicions that in Alderney we are indeed seeing annual seasonal movements of Dunnocks heading south ahead of the colder months.