Gerry Griffiths, managing director of Avian Adventures, a leading UK wildlife tour operator, reports on his company’s first tour to Alderney, supported by the Living Islands team:
Day 2: Sunday, 26th April (Platte Saline >> Clonque Bay >> Giffoine >> Longis Nature Reserve >> Saye Bay)
The morning started with a look over Braye Beach from the hotel balcony, from where we located no fewer than six Whimbrel and also a few Oystercatchers – an excellent start to the day! After leaving town Martin drove us a short distance and parked near the lower coastal track in order that we could walk a reasonable section of this. We walked firstly past Platte Saline Bay Beach – World War Two site of a German Anti-Tank Wall. There was much to see and appreciate besides the birdlife – beautiful beaches, rock pools, gorse-clad hillsides and fortifications. One such fortification (with a Victorian Gun emplacements) is Fort Clonque, built in the 1850’s to protect Alderney’s new harbour from the French and also used by the Germans during the Second World War.
Connected to the mainland by a causeway, the Clonque Bay fort is now a very well designed holiday accommodation for 13 people. Amongst the bird sightings were a number of migrant shorebirds as well as resident species, including Whimbrel, Curlew, Common Sandpiper, Dunlin, Ringed Plover and Oystercatcher. Little Egrets were also noted around the rock pools. Walking away from the coast and along the hillside path were a number of warbler species, which were not only seen well but were also singing, including Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Common Whitethroat. Common Buzzard and Kestrel were the raptor species that were recorded on our walk. Our big highlight came after we had reached the clifftop path at Giffoine, with Martin taking us to an area noted for Dartford Warbler.
After searching and listening for a short while a Dartford was heard singing nearby. The bird was soon discovered and for quite a long time performed beautifully, singing from very prominent perches and performing its song display flight several times – a fine epilogue to a marvellous morning’s bird walk.
Our next venue was a second visit to the Saye Bay area to see if the Great Bustard was still present but there was no sight of it. It was now time for a well-earned lunch, so we drove to Longis Bay, the site of a Roman Fort and a defensive wall built by the Germans during the occupation. A good reason to arrive at this venue at lunchtime is the wonderful ‘Old Barn’ pub, which serves delicious food – we enjoyed our lunch immensely. Longis Nature Reserve and its pond was our next birding port-of-call. Walking to the hide, we noted quite a few Wheatears and also a pair of Stonechats and as we approached the pond there were quite a few Hirundines zipping over the water – Swallows, Sand Martins and House Martins. On the pond were a few waterbirds including Little Grebe, Moorhen and Coot, but the only duck representative was Mallard. In the reeds were one-or-two Reed Warblers, even Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers. Returning to the car park we scanned the trees and scrub and found Garden Warbler and Common Redstart.
A very pleasant and rewarding day!