Suspended Coverage…

Many of you will know that it is common practice for the UK Bird Observatories to adopt a procedure of suspended coverage during what is the quietest period of the year, or/and whilst the observatory warden is not present.
We are doing the same at the moment. The ABO will return in good time ahead of the spring migration.
We are all looking forward to another exciting year.
Kind regards
The ABO Committee
28th August – 3rd Sept

28th August – 3rd Sept

This week conditions allowed ringing most days and we returned around 500 new birds. A good week for Grasshoppers Warblers, Redstarts and Garden Warblers and an increase in Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs on Saturday. We have no similar records for last year but all week we have seen good numbers of Sandwich Terns off our various beaches. The highest numbers recorded at Houme Herbe and roosting at high tide at the north end of Longis Bay where counts reached 35. Impressive numbers of Peacock and still plenty of Holly Blue butterflies this week were added to by several reports of Painted Lady on Saturday.

28th – Red throated Diver was seen from the wildlife bunker by visiting birder/ringer Keiron Palmer. Paul and Catherine Veron had a Hawfinch fly over Barrackmasters Lane. A juvenile Water Rail showed briefly from Longis hide about 8pm. Earlier in the day Justin had a flock of 9 Redshank flying west over Longis common and a Tree Pipit was heard at the same location. 2 Pied Flycatcher were ringed at Longis pond. A Redstart and 3 Whinchats were seen at the Giffoine and 2 further Whinchats at Tourgis.

29th, 100 Swallows at Whitegates, a further 50 at the football pitch. A Grasshopper Warbler and 2 Redstarts ringed at Longis reserve. A spotted Flycatcher reported from the airport. Sandy Robertson had around 20 Linnets and a Yellow Wagtail around the Impot fields.

30th –  North winds around 20mph and rain dominated the day. An hours ringing between showers at Essex farm in the shelter of Essex Hill produced a nice run on Blue Tits. We have already ringed more Blue Tits this year than in the whole of last year ! Great Tit has done very well this year as was the case last year, but we are delighted to see a marked increase in young Blue Tits this summer. This is of course only our 2nd summer of monitoring breeding passerines so we are can’t say yet if this is a particularly good year for Blue Tits or if last year was the opposite. Continued research by the ABO will offer us a much clearer picture of this species status here, along with many other species on our island. Spotted Flycatcher again reported from the airport.


Blue Tit – Essex Farm – Photo- JCH


Spotted Flycatcher seen at Rose Farm and 2 at Essex Farm. A good influx of Wheatear with 6 a Bibettes head, 6 along the Fort Razz courzeway, 7 at fort Albert and 12 at the airport. A Firecrest was ringed at Essex Farm and on Longis nature reserve evening Swallow roost ringing included 21 Sand Martins, 1 Green Sandpiper came in to roost at dusk. A flock of 16 Ringed Plovers were in Longis Bay. 5 Arctic and 1 Great Skua were seen off Mannez lighthouse along with 26 Sandwich Terns and 33 Comic Terns. 8 Yellow Wagtails at Barrackmasters Lane.


Peacock Butterfly – Rose Farm – Photo – JHC

1st Sept – A Honey Buzzard over Corbletts quarry. 4 Stock Doves over st Annes and 2 over Essex hill. A Redstart and a Bullfinch in Mannez quarry.

2nd – Honey Buzzard over the Observatory 11am and then another over Essex Hill that was hurried along by a pair of local Common Buzzards. A reliable report has been received of 11 (eleven) Honey Buzzards in off the sea at Platte saline during the morning , these included groups of 3 and 5 birds. Also 3 Snipe on Longis pond and 16 Mallard in Longis Bay. 6 Med Gulls were seen off Mannez lighthouse.

Ringing topped 100 new birds, Willow Warbler still dominating numbers but an increase in Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps was evident. 2 Grasshopper Warblers ringed at Rose Farm was the highlight. A very vocal Firecrest was also seen at Rose Farm.

3rd – Heavy rain and winds reaching 40mph throughout the day. This didn’t stop a little birding from the car around the island. At the airport 3 Yellow Wagtails and 6 Wheatears. At crabby beach using a spotting scope,  colour ring numbers were recorded from 10 Lesser black backed Gulls, 1 Herring, 1 Great black backed and 2 Blacked headed Gulls. In Longis bay there were 4 Med Gulls, 11 Sandwich Terns, 1 Grey Plover, 1 Dunlin, 6 Ringed Plovers, 11 Turnstones, 1 Whimbrel, 3 Curlews & 50+ Oystercatchers.

Thanks to French bird ringer Michelle Leveque-Shaw who has completed her 2nd visit staying at the Obs this week, adding experience and enormous enthusiasm to our team.

Lastly a cracking shot of a Yellow Wagtail taken near Kiln Farm this week by Sandy Robertson.

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Yellow Wagatil – Kiln Farm – Photo – Sandy Robertson.


21st-27th August

21st-27th August

The ABO 2016 Annual Report has gone out to ABO members in ‘online’ format today !

This week we got back into the ringing saddle and aided by good conditions ringed around 500 new birds this week. The totals largely dominated by Willow Warblers, but towards the end of the week numbers of this species dropped off and we began to see our first signs of movements of Whitethroats, Robins, Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps. Nightingale was our most notable bird but a good supporting cast included several Redstarts, Spotted Flycatchers and Garden Warblers. Also a couple of each of Whinchat, Grasshopper Warbler, Firecrest and Pied Flycatcher. This week last year we were at the bird fair in the UK (missing migration here) so it was good to cover this period for the first time. Lots of other migrants have been passing through reported by islanders and visiting birders/naturalists.

21st – An early and short ringing session at Mannez ( pre other commitments )  20+ birds processed predominantly Willow Warblers and Whitethroats. A Spotted Flycatcher showed well but avoided the nets ! Since late summer I have been guiding/driving history and wildlife tours around the island most afternoons and this has of course got me around the island birding as I go ! Today superb views of a Cuckoo at the Giffione were enjoyed by those on the tour. At Crabby beach late on there were 14 White Wagtails. Photos below of the tails of two Whitethroats; adult (left) and first year (right) ringed at Mannez. The adult tail freshly mounted altogether broader and darker with a more conspicuous white tip to the 5th tail feather, along with a cleaner and more extensive white part on the 6th tail feather.


22nd – With the winds for us turning South-east overnight after a long period of Westerleys it looked good for a mornings ringing. Mannez quarry offers birds good shelter in these winds so this was our best option against our other sites. A good session followed with 124 new birds ringed. We also saw 2 Pied Flycatchers, a further Redstart and had a Whimbrel over. At Whitegates there were 6 Wheatears. A spotted Flycaycher was seen a longis pond and during my scheduled island tour we saw a female Marsh Harrier over Mannez lighthouse and a Pied Flycatcher at Essex Farm. A further Spotted Flycatcher was photographed at Valongis by Lois LeLaucher and a Greenshank was seen at Platte Saline beach by Sally-Townsend Smith.


Adult male Redstart (freshly moulted) – Mannez  – photo – Justin Hart.

Ringing at Essex produced Pied Flycatcher, Grasshopper Warbler and a UK control Blackcap.

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Grasshopper Warbler – Essex Farm- photo – Sharon Ngo.

24th, – Peregrine over the harbour and a Hobby seen over Barrackmasters Lane. Black Redstart at Cambridge battery and 2 Wheatears at the Giffione. 3 Sandwich Terns off Platte saline beach and a Cuckoo in off the sea at Braye. 2 Common Sandpipers at the north end of Longis Bay. The highlights of ringing at Longis were 5 Stonechats, 1 Whinchat, 1 Redstart and a Grasshopper Warbler. Early evening there were 2 Pied Flycatchers and a Sparrowhawk at Essex Farm. 1 Wheatear at Whitegates.

25th, Ringing Mannez produced 45 new birds again mostly Willow Warblers, a Redstart and 2 Spotted Flycatchers. A Pied Flycatcher showed well near to the hide and a flock of around 20 House Martin spent an hour or so around mannez lighthouse. 5 Swifts over Barrackmasters Lane (and 3 on 26th). The Obs moth trap was busy, some of its contents featured below.


Red Underwing – Obs moth trap – photo – JCH


Peach Blossom Moth – Obs moth trap – photo JCH.

26th A Pied Flycatcher was seen at Mannez quarry. 2 Grey Herons at Platte Saline. Evening ringing at Longis produced a good catch of Swallows and 3 Sand Martins. Amongst the Swallows our first ‘Control’ of this species, a UK ringed first year bird. An unusually high count for us of 33 Sandwich Terns was recorded at high tide at Houme Herbe.

27th – A female Marsh Harrier was hunting Mannez quarry at first light. 2 Snipe on Longis pond. We also had our first good influx of Swallows with around 100 around the Mannez area and 50 on power lines by the football pitch. Ringing at Mannez produced our first Firecrests of the Autumn along with Garden Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Redstart and a fine Nightingale. 10 Common Dolphin were seen 2 miles SW of Clonque Bay and a Tree Pipit was heard passing over Longis common


1st yr male Firecrest – Mannez – photo – JCH


1st yr Nightingale – Mannez – photo – JCH

Finally on the 27th some photos sent in by Sandy Roberston of a bird of prey he photographed as it passed over the bird observatory earlier in the day. A great shot of a Honey Buzzard.

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Hony Buzzard -Over the bird observatory Longis bay – photo – Sandy Robertson.


Lastly a big thanks to those donating ringing equipment to the observatory via our advert on the BTO website. So far we have received books, nets and rulers for which we are extremely grateful. We have had a couple more verbal offers of equipment so hopefully more to come. We will hold off listing those who have made donations until the the end of the autumn. Thanks again.

14th-20th August

14th-20th August

A belated report from the 11th of 20+ Bottle nose Dolphins observed from Mannez lighthouse.

This week small movements of Swifts early in the week, migrants continue to pass through the island as we begin to see the winding down of the various breeding seabird colonies. Ravens have been evident across the island this week with a maximum count of 8 together at Barrackmasters Lane on 14th & 17th.

15th – A Yellow legged Gull on Crabby beach and a Barn Owl at Barrackmasters Lane.

17th –  A Hen Harrier was seen at Barrackmasters Lane and again on the 19th at the airport. 4 Mediterranean Gulls seen of Mannez lighthouse

19th –  1 Sandwich Tern Braye Bay. A single Balearic Shearwater and 2 Kittiwake off chateau le toq. A Turtle Dove was seen over the golf course with a Wheatear at the same location.  12 House Martins were over the airfield.

Sunday 20th – At first light a Green Sandpiper was on Longis pond. An early and brief ringing session included migrant Willow, Sedge and Garden warblers moving ahead of a weather front from the North-West. Below a photo of the Garden Warbler, on its way to sub Saharan West Africa to spend the winter. At the bird observatory we monitor the condition of the birds passing through Alderney,  it is of course always good to see healthy examples. This individual (pictured below) weighed in this morning at just over 24 grams, well over the average weight for this species of around 18 grams. These robust warblers should be carrying good fat and muscle to see them through their long journey, but this one was a particularly fine ‘and heavy’ bird.



Garden Warbler – Longis Nature reserve, Photo – ABO Warden

At pm high tide:  Braye Bay 35 Black headed Gulls, 5 Mediterranean Gulls, 1 Sandwich Tern and 1 Grey Heron.  Longis Bay 1 Whimbrel, along with 3 Mediterranean Gulls and 4 Sandwich Terns.



7th-13th August

7th-13th August

This week I’ve been in England flying the flag for Alderney and the Channel Islands by attending the Sandwich Bay bird observatory ringing training course. This well established observatory on the Kent coast has excellent facilities and pedigree. It was a great honour to be asked to take part as the course as ‘ independent assessor’, particularly as our own bird Observatory develops it was also been a chance to pick up good ideas and tips to help us progress. The ABO are looking to host our own training course for bird ringers which will be a first for the Channel islands, so for several reasons this was time well spent. The course, organised and led by Ian and Sally Hunter was to my mind an enormous success. Most of the attendees were trainee ringers looking to obtain experience, with a few additional participants attending hoping for licence upgrades. I do not have final figures but I suspect we processed well over 500 birds that included 19 Garden Warblers one morning. Moult in birds was studied in detail and best practice in standards covered across a variety of aspects of ringing.  Thanks to all at Sandwich Bay for a splendid few days.


House Martin pulli, Sandwich Bay – photo JH/ABO

Whilst away I have kept in touch with developments on the home front that have included some ringing by Justin our assistant warden, sea watching by Paul and Catherine Veron  and a report from Rose Farm of a passing rarity.

A Barn Owl was seen in the Houme Herbe area.  On the 8th 2 Sandwich Tern at the Longis Bay high tide roost (one a juvenile) A Great White Egret visited the pond at Rose Farm was reported by Mark Atkinson the morning of the 9th of August, after a short stay the bird was seen flying out towards Fort Clonque. Sea-watching on the 9th produced 1 Arctic and 1 Great Skua, 7 Balearic & 1 Manx Shearwater and 4 Mediterranean Gulls. A single Green Sandpiper was on Longis pond.

Our appeal through the BTO for donations of ringing equipment continues and this week another kind offer of some ringing kit has been gratefully accepted. Full details of ringing kit donations at those who have stepped forward to help us out will appear in end of this months blog.

Lastly, recently we had a visit to the observatory from John & Sue Palmer. John & Sue had visited the Obs spring 2016 with Johns brother Colin not long after we launched the ABO. The three had soon after sent us a lovely email saying how much they had enjoyed their visit to the Obs and in particular a bird ringing demonstration. Now this return trip to the ABO by John and Sue was very specific. John explained that sadly his brother Colin had passed on; going on to tell us that because Colin had enjoyed his visit with us last year so much, he had left the ABO £2500.  Colin had apparently been very fond of Alderney for many years and was particularly keen that the new bird observatory project be a success. The fact that John and Sue went to the trouble of coming back to tell us Colins story and present the cheque in person, was both wonderful and humbling. This donation could not have come at a better time as we push to furnish and make ready the new bird observatory and field centre for a grand opening spring next year. From all of us at the ABO, thank you John and Sue, and most of all thank you Colin.


John Palmer, brother of Colin, presenting us with his brothers donation.


31st July – 6th Aug

This week has whizzed by. Meetings and paperwork have taken precidence with an ABO committee meeting this week along with preparations for the renovations of the Observatory scheduled to begin 4th September.

After the disappointment of the 2nd Petrel ringing weekend cancelled due to the weather we were delighted to get in a good Petrel session on 31st July on Alderneys NE coast, local ringers were joined by visitors Tim & Nicci. In excellent conditions Over 3hrs we processed 47 birds. These included an impressive 3 French and 1 UK Control (birds not originally ringed in the Channel Isles). Also 2 local re-traps from previous years efforts both originally ringed on Burhou island (Alderney) in July 2014.

5th Aug – At 8pm the high tide roost site at the NE end of Longis Bay held 1 Common Sandpiper, 1 Turnstone, 2 Whimbrel and 2 Sandwich Terns (one a recently fledged bird). Also a grey seal just off shore.

6th Aug – A passerine ringing session at Longis common this morning with local trainee John Weir was steady with common migrant warblers, mostly 2017 hatch birds. 61 new birds ringed included 15 Willow Warblers. On Longis bay at evening high tide 11 Ringed Plovers, 2 Dunlin and 1 Sanderling.