Autumn

  • Autumn / Credit photo: Martin Batt

Autumn

February 22, 2014

A large number of waders can be seen: curlew, whimbrel, oystercatcher, black-tailed godwits, redshank, common sandpiper, dunlin, and sanderling resting over high tide at Clonque Bay. These bird species are also found dispersed all around the island at low tide. Wildlife photographers can take advantage of them feeding in the rock pools and in the sand. Sometimes, a grey heron or a little egret can be seen with them.

All around the island, bushes such as brambles, sloe, bittersweet and sea buckthorn are in fruit. They host many migrating and resident passerines (smaller perching songbirds). Indeed, as birds eat their energy-packed fruits, they are preparing to migrate or over-winter here. Whether you are experienced or amateur, bird watchers are likely to see greenfinch, chaffinch, siskin, robin, dunnock, great tit, blue tit, long-tailed tit, house sparrow, wren, blackcap, redstart, goldfinch, goldcrest, firecrest, redwing, song thrush, redstart and black redstart.  Many gardens on the island offer feeders with seeds for these birds. The feeder station at Longis hide makes it particularly easy to observe and photograph a wide number of bird species.

Raptors are also stars of the moment.  Buzzard, kestrel, and peregrine offer a wonderful show when they are hunting birds, small mammals or large insects along the Southern Cliffs or over Giffoine. If you are lucky you may also see a sparrowhawk or a hobby.

The last gannet chicks are going to fledge very soon now.  During October, they will all leave the rock stacks of Les Etacs.  So, now is the time for bird watchers to enjoy the first forays of these dark coloured and rather clumsy juveniles. Common and sandwich tern can be observed fishing along the coast.  Herring gull, greater black backed gull, lesser black backed gull, black headed gull and Mediterranean gull gather to roost on Crabby Bay.  Some of these seabirds are ringed, and that can give us precious information about their way of life.

Some gulls feed in the fields around the airport together with flocks of starlings and meadow pipits. Barn swallows and house martins re-group during their long migration south and are still visible for few weeks hunting flies everywhere, and particularly around the top of the Lighthouse and in Mannez Quarry.

During a walk on the beach, in the dunes, or on Longis Common, you might see white wagtails, stonechats and wheatears. In the wetland and particularly at Longis Pond, it is easy to see waterfowl: coot, moorhen, mallard, common teal, little grebe, and wetland birds including water rail, chiffchaff, reed warblers and sometimes the common snipe.

Migration time is also a good moment for surprises. The easterly wind might bring some rare or unusual birds; keep an eye open for ring ouzel, jack snipe and merlin.  Migrating birds may steal the headlines, but there is much more to wildlife on Alderney at this time of year. For a short-break involving wildlife watching or photography, Alderney has a great deal to offer.

As well as the famous leucistic blonde hedgehogs, we have brown and mixed colour hedgehogs on the island. They are not yet in hibernation, and nor are our bats.  After sunset and during the night, all around the island, common pipistrelle and soprano pipistrelle may be observed in mating swarms outside their roosts. They are also seen around light points, looking for food. They eat insects such as crane flies which are abundant at the moment, and moths. The best way to improve your chances of seeing these mammals, and to get information about them, is to take part to a bat walk organized by Alderney Wildlife Trust every Thursday evening.  If you catch the last flight of the day from Southampton to Alderney, you’ll have time to drop off your luggage and still get along to a bat walk.