September 2013

Monday 30th September

August was a tremendously busy and successful month.  Very many activities and events run by the Trust staff took place, from Teddy Bears’ picnic to wildlife kayaking safaris, and much, much more, with highlights including:

  • Partial restoration of Fort Tourgis Battery No. 2 – more than 50 people turned out to help a team from the 30th Signals Regiment and AWT staff clear and restore public access to the battery and to uncover German works and tunnel underneath the Victorian wall as part of the Living Islands project
  • Grand opening of the Observation Bunker in the Alderney Community Woodland – made possible thanks to Ronez Ltd, but also due to the hard work of Phil, Paul, James, Guillaume, Scott & Charlotte and all the other volunteers
  • Alderney Summer Fayre – particular thanks to William Tate, Celia, Donald, Gabrielle, Bruce, Ken, the Carter Family, and so very many others who helped on the day to make it one of the most successful so far.

 


September has been a time to recover and catch up.  At the beginning of the month we said a sad goodbye to Juan Salado, who has been involved with the Trust since 2003 and will probably be best remembered for his seashore foraging and rock pooling forays.  He has now moved to Exeter to start a new life there and we wish him well but will miss him very much.  On the same day we welcomed Martin Batt to Alderney.  Martin has moved to the island with his wife for the next 2 years to lead the Living Islands project and we will be giving updates on this in the coming months.

 

 

On 16th and 17th September Roland, Lindsay and Tim went over to Jersey, partly to attend the fascinating Durrell Wildlife Conservation Symposium at which talks were given on conservation projects taking place on islands all over the world, but also to meet with staff from the National Trust for Jersey, to view some of their sites and projects (including the Durrell and NT joint Birds on the Edge Chough project) and to exchange news and ideas.

On 21st September Paul ran the annual Beachwatch on Braye Beach.  There was a good turnout of volunteers but not a great deal of rubbish for them to collect, particularly in the 100m transect earmarked for the survey itself, although there was more further along the beach.  After the event hot drinks were very kindly provided to volunteers courtesy of the Braye Beach Hotel.

The Trust’s boat, Sula, continues to be busy.  For the first time the Trust ran trips enabling small groups of people to land on Burhou along with a guide who could explain the Ramsar work that has been carried out on the island.  These tours help people understand the amazing balance of nature and the elements which the island experiences, as well as introducing them to the code of practice which enables visitors to leave the smallest possible impact on the island.

On Les Etacs and Ortac the young Gannets are now fledging – if you see any juveniles in the water that look as though they are having trouble, it is normal - they are just losing weight before they are able to fly.  The main bird species to look out for at the moment in terms of numbers are Wheatear and Kestrel; also around are Mediterranean Gulls, Godwits, Peregrines and Sparrowhawks.   Earlier in the month a Spotted Flycatcher was seen at Longis sewage plant and on 1st September a Nightjar was reported by Paul Richardson in the Petit Val.

During the early part of the month the tiny orchid, Autumn Lady’s-tresses, abounded in the coastal grasslands often alongside Autumn Squill.  A first record of Annual Sea Blite was recorded by Jennie Grange at Arch Bay.  It is possible that the seed was thrown up by the sea in the winter from France as there is very little of it in Guernsey the nearest site to Alderney.  Plants to look out for at the moment include Carline Thistle, Stemless Thistle, Yellow-horned Poppy, Sea Spurge, Duke of Argyll’s Tea Plant, Large-flowered Evening Primrose, Dark Mullein and many yellow compositae (daisy flowers).

The weather has still been warm with a few very hot days, but also a fair amount of mist and fog and a few days of rain and wind mid-month.  The earlier beautiful summer weather led to an abundance of insects in September, with resident species very numerous.  Many butterfly species have appeared in hundreds, and at the end of the month there are still dozens of butterflies around – look out for Speckled Woods, Small Coppers, Painted Ladies, Red Admirals, Peacocks, and Small and Large Whites feeding on the last of the summer flowers such as Buddleia, Water Mint and Common Fleabane – and now, of course, Ivy.    It was a good Clouded Yellow summer; however the one really unusual migrant butterfly was a female Bath White watched at Braye during Beachwatch.  This was only the second Alderney record.  There have also been masses of grasshoppers about and as October approaches Crane flies are appearing everywhere, inside and out!

The regular autumn moths are appearing: Feathered Ranunculus, Beautiful Gothic, L-album Wainscot, Lunar Underwing, Cypress Pug.  The Jersey Tigers have almost finished, after a remarkable season, but there are still plenty of Red Underwings coming to light.  Singles of Alderney rarities, Gold Spot, Dusky Thorn and Flame Carpet have appeared.  There have been few uncommon migrants, however and migrant moths have likewise been few in number – just five Convolvulus Hawk-moths, and disappointingly few Humming-bird Hawks.  A male Gem on 25th September was an exception and a female Vestal on 8th laid 20+ eggs which are now fast-growing caterpillars.

After the long, dry summer, fungi have emerged with the recent rains, with the edible Field and Horse Mushrooms numerous on grassy stretches, especially at Platte Saline and the Butes.  The most spectacular mushrooms, however, are the Parasols which have sprung up all over the cliffs and coastal paths.  These can grow up to 40cm high and when fresh are delicious to eat.

A Basking Shark was seen in Braye Harbour at the end of August (26th), a not very common sighting for Alderney, and there have been several sightings of Grey Seals.  Pipistrelle bats can easily be seen in the evenings and early mornings and there are a lot of hedgehogs around, both large and very tiny, blonde, brown and half & half.  They will be feeding up in readiness for their winter hibernation.

Paul is currently running a hedgehog monitoring project, using a “mark and recapture” method to estimate the population of blonde and brown hedgehogs on a number of sites on the island until the middle of October.  He has a lot of transects to monitor this year so if you would like to participate please get in touch with him on ecologist@alderneywildlife.org or telephone 822935.  He is also interested of any reports of dead hedgehogs found by roadsides.  In addition to Paul’s transects the Trust is trying to collect as much data as possible about Alderney's Hedgehog population and Deborah Etheredge (St Anne's school/Alderney Watch) is helping to organize this survey.  So far nearly 60 islanders have reported the animals in their gardens or nearby and if you haven’t already been in touch, we would be grateful if you could email her on blayecottage@cwgsy.net with details of how many and whether brown or blonde.

Conservation Volunteer work has mainly been concentrated at Longis this month with white poplar control, willow screen maintenance and reed bed cutting being carried out, the latter providing materials for a fresh cover for the popular “bird raft” which was installed in the pond earlier in the year.  This week, on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons, the volunteers will be clearing in and around tree guards on the Alderney Community Woodland.

Finally, the new Alderney/Sark Watch magazine has just come out, consisting largely of the results of the photo competition undertaken by both groups.   Alderney Watch has recently helped with Beach Watch and is currently involved in the hedgehog survey (see above), whilst the Sark Group has just completed a very successful second camp in the Seigneurie Gardens and a Beach-clean at Dixcart.