3rd-9th April

As migrants continued to be slow off the blocks this week our obvious highlight was a new species for not just Alderney but for the Channel Islands. Another surprise was a Rook at Giffoine. Furter additions to this years bird list this week were Cuckoo and Common Redstart and Ring Ouzel as migrants begin to come through.

3rd – Prolonged fog dominated the day so Justin and I got on with making ready the Observatory for the visiting ringers/birders visiting this spring.

4th – Despite only a handful of migrant Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers around Essex farm one bird captured our attention. Appearing at first glance to be a Willow Warbler but proving to be much more..  Not presenting the olives and browns we see generally on the upper parts of Chiffchaffs this bird was very close in appearance to a Willow Warbler but the routine emargination check revealed that the 6th primary did have an emargination  which for want of a better word was rather ‘marginal’ but non the less present. I have read recently about hybridisation between these species and I put forward that indeed we may be dealing with such a bird. Of all of our early Willow Warblers this spring none have been under 68mm wing length with males coming through first and our mystery bird had a wing of 61mm. This wing length does not rule out Willow Warbler entirely (we had just 2 of over 1500 ringed Willow Warblers with 61mm wing last year) but favoured Chiffchaff type, of course the 6th primary emargination ruling out Willow Warbler. So onwards to take a series of measurements that complemented entirely the more obvious visual identification charateristics of Iberian Chiffchaff. Our bird presenting E=6, S1-WP=14, P1-P2=26, P2=6/7, P2-WP=6.5. The photos below don’t do justice to the yellow supercillium in front of the eye, but does a illustrate the thin bill and paler lower mandible, yellow undertail coverts and paler brown legs. Having taken all the relevant details the next big moment was ‘would it call on release’! I have an abysmal track record of birds not performing when I hope for this simple act on thier release, to the extent I had begun to wonder if I have hearing issues ! So, we all stood in a line on the observatory roman fort wall remparts in anticipation… off it went with a single rather weak and apologetically descending ‘siu’, spot on. Additionally assistant warden Justin joined the ‘wall of fame’ list on the wall in the observatory, having processed a species never before ringed on this island. Further, it transpired this is the first record for the channel islands.

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Iberian Chiffchaff – Essex Farm – Photos – Justin Hart

Also on the 4th 2 Swallows over Longis Bay, 4 Wheatears at Tourgis. At Sur la Ville a cracking male Black Redstart, 1 Wheatear,  4 Sand Martins 5 White Wagtails and a Snipe. At the Giffione a 2nd new species on Alderney for me in the same day, a rare (not annual) visitor here, a Rook amongst 50+ Crows.  A pair of Peregrine were displaying over Giffione. Mark Atkinson had a Redstart at Rose Farm.

5th – A slow day with little movement of Migrants, 6 Swallows at Mannez reserve along with the still present male Garganey. Moth trapping last night added Clouded drab and Spotted Border to this years Obs list.

6th – Again a handful of Blackcaps, Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs present. PM saw 8 Swallows and 20 Sand Martins over Longis pond. Paul and Catherine Veron had a pair of Shelduck over Mannez and presumably the same birds were present in Lonigs bay daily up today the 9th.

7th – Mark Atkinson had a Fieldfare at Rose farm and mid morning two Whimbrel passed over Longis common calling.

British Bird watcher Sally Townsend-Smith made an excellent contribution to our records during her 4 day stay at the Obs. These included our highest Turnstone count for several years with 10 together at the north end of Longis Bay and our first Emperor moth of the spring, Sally located this beauty (below) at Mannez nature reserve and while out birding with me managed to get a good record shot of a Rook at the Giffoine.

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Emperor moth – Mannez – photo Sally Townsend-Smith

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Rook  (middle bird) – Giffoine – photo Sally Townsend-Smith

8th –  John & Jenny Richardson and Paul & Catherine Veron had a Cuckoo at Barrackmasters lane and there was a single Wheatear at Tourgis.

Today the 9th April and Mark Atkinson reported a Ring Ouzel at Rose farm. There were 2 Wheatears at Sur la Ville and another at Tourgis. A group of a dozen day tripping French birders visited the bird observatory where they observed some bird ringing before hearing a talk about our bird observatory and field centre project. (see photo below)

And finally, those travelling on the Alderney -Guernsey boat service this morning were treated to the company of a pod of 10 Bottlenose Dolphins.

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