ABO Spring 2019 review
This spring was probably the best one we have had so far in terms of field observations. The daily migration census research maintained 100% coverage 1st March to 31st May, a marked improvement on last year. Along-side helping us to continue our work building a picture of Alderneys role as a major flyway, a number of species rarely recorded in Alderney were seen, including two species added to the expanding birds of Alderney list. The spring effort owes much to the enthusiasm and birding skills of the 2019 spring migration assistant Joe England, who whilst not birding was ringing, and whilst not ringing was birding!
This spring of course saw us become an independent organisation; Alderney Bird Observatory Trust Ltd. Whilst updates and features have been regular on both our facebook and Twitter blog pages, the recovery and updating of our website has taken some time, but we are delighted to be back!
The following is an overview of the spring highlights, a comprehensive compilation of 2019 will of course appear in the annual report.
When perfect conditions overnight presented themselves we took a punt at catching Storm Petrels along the NE coastline of Alderney, we were delighted to land 5 individuals on the 22nd May. The annual ringing effort for this species traditionally takes place on the last weekend of July on the islet of Burhou. This year we are set to be joined by a strong team of qualified UK ringers for our dedicated Petrel ringing expedition. So long as the weather is with us we are set for a couple of cracking nights monitoring of these otherwise hard to see birds.
It was a good winter for Divers and the last Great Northern Diver, a summer plumage bird was seen from the observatory across Longis Bay 1 on 25th Apr. A Black-throated Diver on 24th March was a fly-by observed from Chateau L’etoc. Great Crested Grebe is not annual for us here and very likely the only record for the year was of a winter plumage bird in Saye Bay on 27th March. Visiting Guernsey birders Jamie Hooper et al found a Cattle Egret in Longs Bay 26th April. Great White Egret was seen on 16th April & 29th May, both over Longis Common. A visiting Hampshire ringing group were delighted to see a Black Stork passing over Essex Hill 13th April. A White Stork was observed from a fishing boat off our West coast and on the 5th May. Also joining us on E & NE winds from the nearby French coast each spring are Birds of prey. Some are heading due north but it seems many of these records are of individuals that drift across on the late morning thermals, traversing the Alderney south facing coast they then drift back to the continent again. Three Ospreys were spotted this spring, 5th April, 8th & 13th May. We get a lot more Black Kites here than we do Red’ and this spring sightings involved at least 4 individuals during April; 1 on 8th, 1 on 15th, 1 on 20th into 21st and 1 on 23rd. The latter in off sea spotted by visiting ringer Katie Ford). There were also 4 Honey Buzzards all in May; 5th, 16th, 19th & 22nd. Goshawks was reported 13th April & 19th May. Our first Hobby was 19th April, one of 6 April and 10 May records. Below photos Joe England Black Kite (left) Honey Buzzard (right).
A Common Crane drifted over Longis Common 24th Mar. With little habitat for waders, records of fresh water waders are particularly hard to come by. We had a Jack Snipe on Longis nature reserve 2nd Apr
and a fly over record of a passing Wood Sandpiper on 13th May. A single Great Skua was seen off Mannez lighthouse 13th March. Turtle Doves records here are becoming far and few between as with mainland UK, just 2 birds this spring, 24th & 26th April of likely the same bird in Barrackmasters Lane, then 1 further bird at Mannez 5th May. Our first Cuckoo made itself heard 16th April and we had a good spring here on with 7 further April records and May recording up to 24 birds, the increase in Cuckoos saw the unusual opportunity of one caught and ringed 1st May.
Cuckoo – Photo John Horton
A single Short eared Owl was seen at Giffoine 18th April and then the mesmorising sight of one in off the sea a Houme Herbe took place on the 31st May. A rare Nightjar record was stumbled upon by Joe England when he went into the observatory courtyard for a late evening cigarette on 27th April only to find Nightjar swooping around above his head! Our first Swift was over Barrackmaster’s Lane 29th April. A fine Hoopoe was found by visiting ringer Phil Clay on 17th April, Phil also took the photo in this review.
Hoopoe, photo Phil Clay
We recorded Wrynecks into double figures last August but spring records are far less common. One was found by visiting Guernsey birders Mark Guppy and Wayne Turner on 23rd Apr at Mannez Garrenne, the bird was present at the same spot on 24th, photo Mark Guppy.
Wryneck – Photo Mark Guppy
Great Spotted Woodpecker is becoming annual with one at Barrackmaster’s Lane 2nd-23rd March and a different individual 9th – 11th Apr. Our first 3 Sand Martins arrived 19th March and on the same day our first spring Swallow. We went on to experience a very poor year for Swallows, something echoed by many this year. House Martin however was considerably earlier with one present at Corblett’s quarry 4th-6th March. On 16th April Joe found the first new species for Alderney of the year, a cracking Olive backed Pipit in Mannez quarry at the green waste site. Joe managed the below record shot. A UK rarity most often seen during the late autum, only a tiny percentage of British Isles records of this species occur in spring. This one appears to be the first spring record for The Channel Isles.
Olive-backed Pipit – Photo Joe England
Tree Pipit had an impressive spring with over 50 recorded, 16 of which were ringed between 9th Apr-1st May. Water Pipit records were 1st March and 7th May. A Blue headed Yellow Wagtail (Blue-headed) was at Whitegates fields amongst some 30 Yellow Wagtails on 16th May. Our first Wheatear of the spring was on Longis Common 6th Mar. 1st May brought our 2nd first for Alderney of the year when we caught and ringed a Thrush Nightingale at Mannez quarry. I must admit had I not been present for the ringing of 20+ Nightingales in Israel in March, several of which I had extracted, I may not have immediately got the impression that this bird was far less contrasting in colour between the upperparts and tail, prompting me to look much more closely at the possibility of a Thrush Nightingale. Retreating to the ringers bible and more recent French ringers guide, we were soon identifying a number of features that left us in no doubt.
Thrush Nightingale – photo John Horton
The first incoming Common Redstart was 3rd April, a species we annually do very well with, 22nd were ringed before the last migrant record on 5th May. The last moving Redwing record was 3 on 19th Apr. The last Fieldfare 24th April. An amazing run of Ring Ouzels began with 1 on 24th March, over 70 individuals were recorded during April, I was lucky enough to be present when a single flock of 5 flew over mannez quarry and soon after present for a memorable 26 that came in off the sea a Mannez, the whole chattering flock landing and feeing amongst Blackthorn. The last Ring Ouzel of the sping was on the 9th of May, a first year female located by a visiting Naturetrek wildlife holiday group. First spring Garden Warbler was on 18th April , Lesser Whitethroat was 24th Apr, ahead of both species the first Common Whitethroat on the 9th April. First Sedge Warbler 6th April, Reed Warbler 16th April respectively. We are seeing increasing records of Fan-tailed Warbler with a single was displaying at Longis reserve 28th & 29th April. Grasshopper Warbler saw a dip in records this spring with a single singing near the airport 29th of April one of only two birds reported. Willow Warbler arrived 21st Mar at Essex sewage pans and was recorded through to 31st May. Wood Warbler is never common, this year records of 3 birds (2 ringed) 28th April, 4th and 20th May.
Wood Warbler – photo Joe England
Spotted Flycatcher was first observed by Lee Sanders along the South Coast Cliffs 19th Apr, the popular Pied Flycatcher 1st of April near to the airport and last seen 14th May in the bonne Terre valley. Our first
Woodchat Shrike, surprisingly since 1996 was found at Mannez Garrenne 30th April and last seen 3rd May
Woodchat Shrike – photo Joe England
Two very vocal but elusive Golden Orioles were in the Bonne Terre valley 12th May. A male Serin was seen near Essex farm 8th May, and two unusual local records were of 2 Lesser Repolls 29th April. Hawfinch was reported from two separate locations 3rd. 7th, 14th & 16th April. Probably my spring highlight was this wonderful male Common/Scarlet Rosefinch ringed at Longis nature reserve 27th May. And finally, one lucky observer saw a singing male Cirl Bunting at Giffione 26th March, sadly the bird did not hang around.
IMPORTANT NOTICE. This message goes out to all ABO members. You should by now have received an email from the AWT explaining that the bird observatory is now a separate and independent organisation (ABO Ltd). The ABO retains the same committee, the same warden and of course continues to operate from The Nunnery, the home of the observatory. But we need you to act if you wish to continue to support the bird observatory.
PLEASE NOTE: Because of the new GDPR legislation, unless you respond to the AWT email confirming that you are happy to continue your membership of Alderney bird observatory, your membership will lapse. If you have not received notice from the AWT re the above please contact the ABO membership secretary Hilary Partridge (yes real name) on email@example.com or myself John Horton on firstname.lastname@example.org. Please also use these contact details for all future membership, bookings or any other bird observatory enquiries.
This is a very important and exciting time for us, the ABO achieving its original aim of becoming independent and self supporting, with thanks to the AWT for their assistance in achieving our goals we look forward to a positive relationship that benefits both organisations and ultimately the wildlife of this amazing island.
We look forward to your continued support as members, without which we would simply not be where we are today.
Coming soon details of an open evening at the observatory, and for all our members a copy of the latest ABO annual report.
John Horton. Warden.
Please note my new ‘warden’ email address is email@example.com for bookings and enquiries.
After prolonged fierce weather from the West during mid/early March, some welcome South and East winds over the last few days have seen migrant birds pouring in keeping our new assistant warden Joe England and I on our toes recording and ringing. Joe has returned to us having previously been our assistant warden during the autumn migration of 2016. 300+ Chiffchaffs have been ringed over the last 4 days along with our first few Willow Warblers, Blackcaps and Swallow. This morning a Hummingbird Hawkmoth visited our ringing room at the observatory but the stand out recent highlight was an unexpected migrating bat species. Joe spotted the bat flying around outside the observatory gates at about 4pm on the afternoon of the 19th March, after landing for a few minutes high up on the obs gable end it took flight again landing in a nearby tree where Joe was able to get the rather unorthodox photo (below). The bat was left alone to rest and was later seen briefly at dusk, again flying around the obs. Examining the photo that evening we felt sure the bat was a Barbastelle Bat (one of the British Isles rarest species found in ancient woodlands). By the following day two prominent UK bat experts had verified our identification as correct. An amazing record, the first ever for Alderney.
It’s an extremely exciting and busy time for us. The ABO is attending and delivering a presentation at the International Bird Observatories conference in Israel next week. We also feature in the April issue of ‘Birdwatching magazine’. More about these and a full round up of our spring migration (to the end of March) will be included in our next blog going out early April.
John Horton , Warden, Alderney Bird observatory.
Huge seas at Mannez lighthouse Mid March – photo John Horton
2nd calendar year female Grey Wagtail – Essex farm 21st March – Photo John Horton
Barbastelle Bat– Longis car park- photo Joe England
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.
Another very busy period of recording through ringing, our daily census and island wide birding produced its share of exciting records and several ringing days involving over 100 birds. Some excellent and important records thrown up by the bird ringing also came in this week; news of a Blackbird first ringed at Longis reserve Alderney in November 2016 was re-trapped by bird ringers in Hallenberg Germany 24th October 2018. A Blackcap first ringed here at Essex farm in May 2016 was found by ringers at Portland Bill Dorset in April this year. Also this week our local ringing produced a French ringed Dunnock (a species rarely recorded as migratory) and a Goldfinch first ringed in the UK (further details are awaited concerning both birds from their respective ringing schemes). These latest records continue to solidly evidence the importance of Alderney as a stopover for birds during migration.
8 Brent Geese passed Chateau L’etoc on the 28th, there were two along the NE coastline on the 29th and a single bird on the 31st. A single Shelduck was on Longis pond 29th & 30th. Teal at the same location peaking at 3 on the 28th. There was a Marsh Harrier over Longis reserve on the 27th and on the 30th a superb Rough Legged Buzzard showed very well along the NE coast where it was photographed on one of the cottages near to the lighthouse. The bird favoured the chimney pot (see below photo) from which it kept dropping down into the cottage back garden then back up onto the building roof again. This was the first record for our new observatory, last recorded in Alderney in 2009.
Rough-legged Buzzard – Mannez – Photos – John Horton/ABO
Merlin was seen at the Giffoine 28th and Barrackmasters Lane 29th. A high count of Oystercatchers at high tide in Clonque Bay was 142 birds. 3 Grey Plovers were in Saye bay 31st. A flock of 18 Lapwings were in the fields towards Vallee des Trois Vaux on the 28th. Snipe numbers reached 8 on Longis pond on the 25th and two Woodcocks were put up whilst the ringing nets were opened at Mannez on the 29th. The last Bar-tailed Godwit record was one at Longis bay on the 22nd and the high count of Curlews was 32 at Clonque Bay on the 28th. Sea watches brought us a record of Great Skua on the 27th and 3 more on the 28th. Mediterranean Gull numbers suggest up to 30 Individuals are present between Houme Herbe and Clonque. A single Lesser black backed Gull was between Clonque and Crabby bays 27th & 28th. An impressive 166 Herring Gulls were grounded in Clonque bay in the hard weather on the 28th. Kittiwakes 27th(31) & 28th(22) were seen off Chateau a l’Etoc. There are still one or two Sandwich Terns about the coastline. Surprised and delighted islander and trainee bird ringer Heike Peck had a Short eared Owl drop into her back garden which she promptly photographed with her phone ! (see below).
Short eared Owl – St.Annes – photo Heike Peck
Between the 29th & 31st 6 Woodlarks have been spotted passing over on migration. A big influx of various migrant songbirds included 100+ Skylarks on the 28th. Grey Wagtails were still being reported in one’s and two’s island wide until the 25th, the latest record one at Essex sewage works on the 30th. 4 Black Redstarts have been reported including 2 together on Mannez lighthouse wall on the 25th. There was an island wide influx of Blackbirds on the 30th along with good numbers of Song Thrushes. Redwing and Fieldfare flocks have been evident, 101 Redwings were ringed at Mannez on the 29th. Cetti’s Warblers appear to be settling in for the winter for the first time ever here in Alderney, likely down to the extended area of Lesser Reedmace covering Mannez reserve.
Mannez nature reserve at first light this week; a blanket of undisturbed Lesser Reedmace providing, security, warmth, shelter and a wealth of food for numerous migrant birds. Photo JH/ABO
Other unusual warbler records involved a probable migrant Dartford Warbler ringed at Mannez reserve 25th.
Dartford Warbler – Mannez reserve – Photo JH/ABO
The following day a very late moving Lesser Whitethroat ringed at Essex farm adjacent to the observatory. Single Yellow-browed Warblers were spotted at different locations on the 25th, 26th, 29th & 30th, the former ringed at Essex farm.
Yellow Browed Warbler – Essex farm – photo JH/ABO
Goldcrest numbers have increased towards the month end along with Chaffinches, Goldfinches and Starlings in many hundreds. Brambling records are starting to come in with 3 feeding amongst Chaffinches in St. Annes on the 28th and single birds from various locations reported daily for the last 3 days of the month. A female Bullfinch was ringed at Mannez on the 22nd and Reed Bunting records for this last reporting period of October have involved at least 5 individuals.
Unseasonal S & SE blows brought in some interesting bird records ahead of some NE winds that brought in our first influxes of winter thrushes and finches. The strong winds restricted the bird ringing for several days but gave the Obs team and its visiting guests opportunity to enjoy some first class autumn migration birding. The period since the last blog has seen 1 and possibly 2 new species of birds found never before recorded on this island. Ringing has been very busy with over 500 birds ringed over the last 4 days.
A single Manx Shearwater was seen off chateau L’etoc on the 11th, The Great White Egret first seen on the 8th was seen daily until the 11th, on each occasion flying over the observatory towards dusk. 7 Brent Geese passed Mannez lighthouse on the 18th and a single further bird was in Longis bay on the 20th. 2 Wigeon were on Longis pond on the 11th and possibly a 3rd birds was seen along the NE coast the same day. A Honey Buzzard was harassed by one of our local pairs of Common Buzzards over Whitegates fields on the 10th. Merlin has been seen on the 10th,12th & 16th, on the latter date one came in over Longis pond and took a Swallow in the air before going to bed on a full stomach. A Knot (first of the year) and Curlew Sandpiper were together at the wader roost NE end of Longis bay on the 10th. A single Bar-tailed Godwit has been present in Longis bay 17th-20th, our last Whimbrel record was one at Chateau L’etoc 11th. Peak Mediterranean Gull count was 11 at Braye bay on the 13th. 4 Sandwich Terns were off Huome Herbe 16th. On the 11th Assistant warden Justin and the visiting resident birders/ringers picked up a Swift species over the observatory and Essex Hill. The bird subsequently stayed in the same area for over an hour and visitor Paul James managed some half decent shots of it despite the 30mph winds. One of Pauls shots is below, after some deliberation the bird is being submitted as a Pallid Swift, which if accepted by the rare birds committee would be a first for Alderney. Interestingly over a 3 day period incorporating our date, 3 more potential sighting of this rare bird were made in Sussex, Kent and in Guernsey. Kingfisher has been seen along the NE coastline 13th,16th & 17th. Swallows and House Martins are still passing through with around 120 of the former roosting at Longis on the 16th and on the same day 60 of the latter of Alderney golf course. Only the 2nd record for Alderney of Tawny Pipit was found at Whitegates fields on the 10th, the bird, a very fine adult did not hang around more than 20 minutes. An influx of Meadow Pipits on the 18th consisted of around 140 birds. Regular reports of migrant Grey Wagtails have come from across the island and up to 25 White Wagtails have been roosting in Longis reedbed. Over 50 Robins were ringed 17th-20th, Wheatears are still being recorded along the NE coastline with records on the 1th,12th,13th 16th(2) and 20th. Our first large Fieldfare movements were on the 20th with individual flocks of 60+ and some 500 birds island wide. Redwing have been arriving in good numbers and over 200 ringed 15th-20th. 2 Mistle Thrushes were spotted on the 16th. 11th-18th 6 Cetti’s Warbler were ringed at Longis(4), Mannez(2). A Fan-tailed Warbler, likely another result of the strong south winds and warm weather, showed well at Telegraph on the 10th. A Yellow-browed Warbler was ringed at Rose Farm on the 19th. The first Goldcrest have been arriving the last few days and 14 Firecrests ringed since the 10th. Starling are moving in large numbers and good migrating Chaffinch numbers peaked at around 800 on the 18th. Passage Goldfinches numbers have also been good and 140 ringed these last 3 days. 15 Siskin were at Rose farm on the 15th. Capping off an exciting period of birding I had flights views only of what I felt was a Little Bunting on the evening of the 15th, only for Justin to find a Little Bunting near the target wall on the morning of the 16th. Probably the same bird was later at Mannez quarry. Reed Bunting, a surprisingly unusual bird here historically, have been present with 1 to 2 at Longis and up to 3 at Mannez between the 16th and 20th.
Late butterfly records include a Painted Lady and 3 Clouded Yellow on the 10th.
Thanks to visiting birding/ringing team Paul, Sue, Pippa, Lloyd and Rackie staying at the newly refurbished observatory, for your records and enthusiasm.
Dunlin (1st winter) Saye Bay – photo: Paul James
Pallid Swift (we think)- Over Alderney bird observatory Longis Bay, photo Paul James
Visiting birders and ringers watching Curlew Sandpiper and Great White Egret from the observatory Roman ramparts.