Good ringing conditions made for a really good session on Longis Nature Reserve. A total of 66 birds from 14 species were processed and allowed our trainees to experience things getting a little busier. New birds ringed included a Black Redstart and 3 Stonechat.
A Grey Heron passed over Longis during the morning as did a Sparrowhawk and Peregrine. There were also half a dozen House Martins over the pond.
It has transpired that we do not appear to have Sedge Warblers breeding here on Alderney. Despite plenty of suitable habitat and over 150 individuals ringed on passage this spring, none have been recorded by ringers or birders here for over a month. Reed Warbler, in contrast, is not only common in our reed beds but also present and singing in many other areas of habitat where we might not expect to see them. Yesterday saw our first 2016 fledged Reed Warblers ringed and also one adult Sedge Warbler. I was keen to see if the Sedge we ringed showed any visible evidence of breeding and was surprised to see that, instead, the bird had a very healthy fat and muscle score. This suggests the more likely possibility that this individual may be a migrant already on its way back south. Sedge Warblers normally pass through the CIs in late July, through August and into the first week in September. They are a species that begin to moves south very early (and who could blame them).
This does appear to be an exceptionally early record. However, as the most southerly bird observatory in the British Isles we are ideally placed to record extreme bird migration arrival and departure dates. Local knowledge is that certainly by mid-July Willow Warblers are returning south and moving through Alderney and this ties in with my experience of Willow Warblers migrating through SE England from August, well in advance of most other species returning to warmer climes.
Black Redstart is recorded in The Birds of Alderney as ‘Occasionally seen on spring and autumn passage, a few in winter. The same reference goes on to say that there are no records between beyond April until September. Paul Veron spotted a female this May at Mannez lighthouse sparking consideration of them breeding and we had a cracking male in the Obs garden the same month. This morning a very young bird was caught on Longis reserve, its plumage strongly suggesting it had not long fledged. There are lots of very good breeding locations for Black Redstarts around Alderney and I suspect that, as we get more birders and ringers visiting us, these super birds will be pinned down as resident breeders, allbeit in very small numbers.