The summer season is approaching!

Ahoy! I have had a busy week and have a nice restful day of bellringing on Guernsey to look forward to tomorrow so it’s time to relax and write an Alderney update.

So, what have I been up to in the last month?!

Pretty much everything really: exploring Alderney, butterfly and bumblebee surveying, reserves jobs including finishing off the new Longis Birdhide and maintaining footpaths, tractor cutting, a few bat and hedgehog walks, beach cleans, more ormer hunting, helping set up for puffin season and for the first time today, leading a cycle tour of the island.

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Sharing the white sands and azure seas of the Mediterranean Channel with visitors on a cycle tour this afternoon.

The weather for the last few weeks has been glorious. It’s been sunny almost every day although often the air and wind have been pretty cold. I’ve had my first sunburn of the year and have got out exploring and being shown new places with fellow AWT staff members 🙂 There are two new secret places which we visited in particular which I loved – The ruined Cachliere pier and Bluestone beach. Bluestone is the islands “nudist” beach as it is hidden from view and again hard to find unless you know how. The blue/grey pebbles get lovely and warm in the sun and there and huge wave smoothed boulders of sandy coloured stone to sunbathe on. It’s a lovely swimming beach and the beach drops off steeply so it gets very deep quickly. I had my first swim on 2017 here a couple of weeks ago – it was very cold! We warmed up in the sun afterwards with a hot cup of tea before heading off to lead a beach clean in the afternoon.

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The ruins of Cachliere pier viewed from the approach above
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It’s great to explore and hard to find unless you know the way down!
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We enjoyed a classy glass of prosecco and enjoyed the warm evening and the different view
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The descent to Bluestone beach.

 

Survey season has well and truly begun, I have two weekly butterfly transects to walk and a monthly bumblebee transect. Ideally these should be done on warm, sunny and calm days, we’ve definitely had the sunny but not necessarily the warm and calm!

Here is one of my survey sites a couple of weeks ago – not may butterflies there!

I also see some other interesting things along my transects like this:

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Mucilago crustacea also charmingly known as Dog’s Vomit slime mould

I do love a slime mould! They are a bizarre single celled organism that most of the time live freely and independently. When conditions are right and they meet mating partners, they grow into a ‘plasmodium stage’ of a mobile slimy mass of interconnecting strands. This mass moves over the food source until it runs out which triggers spores to be produced. The plasmodium stage of many species can be very distinctive but is ephemeral and you will only usually see it for a day or so before if darkens, produces spores and the remains dry up.

I’ve encountered a fair number of different insect species in the last few weeks so I have a separate post coming on those – sorry, like the moths this will be more for my benefit than yours!

In the meantime have some photos of Alderney sunrises and sunsets:

 

Sunny winter days

The last week has been glorious! The perfect kind of sunny bright and cold days that make you forget what it’s like to be wet and miserable. That make it impossible to go outside without a huge grin on your face from the sheer loveliness of it all. A few snaps from getting out and about this week:

One of my big projects at the moment is the refurbishment of the bird hide at Longis pond. The Longis Nature Reserve was the first reserve to be established after the Alderney Wildlife Trust formed in 2002. The hide pre-dates the Trust and was built in 2001 by the Alderney Conservation Volunteers so has done pretty well for nearly 16 years of service!

The new hide is planned to be much bigger with improved access for wheelchair users. With the formation of the Alderney Bird Observatory last year, Alderney has become a new and exciting destination for birders and bird ringers and hopefully these improvements will give visitors a more comfortable experience.

With any luck, the hide will be ready and open by 1st March but there’s a lot of work to do before then!

I’ve also been making the most of the wild food opportunities here. Coastal locations are great for all kinds of edibles and it’s hard to walk out the door without stumbling on something good to eat. I’ve been using garlic chive (three-corner leek, Allium triquetrum), sorrel (Rumex acetosa) and wild rocket (Diplotaxis tenuifolia) regularly  and have been sampling some seaweeds recently as well as trying limpets and cooking outdoors over an open fire. Hopefully much more of these kind of adventures to come!

Some cooking adventures:

  • Chicken roasted with garlic chive and sea beet veg
  • Limpets cooked Japanese style with dulse and garlic chive
  • Vegetable curry  and quick breads cooked over a fire in the garden using my new dutch oven

So, I think that’ll do for now… I do think once a week might turn out not to be often enough but we’ll see how it goes. Till next time then!

A new start

And yet again, I’ve failed to keep this blog going. Let’s see if 2017 will be my year…

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Looking at the Les Etacs gannetry

So, I finished my MSc at Leeds and am now working for the Alderney Wildlife Trust as Conservation Officer on a full time voluntary placement. I’ve been here since the end of September and am nearly 4 months into my 12 month placement.

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The east end of Alderney from the air

Alderney is the third largest Channel Island and the closest in proximity to both France and the UK. At only 3 miles long by 1 1/2 miles wide it’s not big but manages to squeeze a surprising amount in. It has a fascinating array of wildlife featuring species that are present in the UK and continental Europe as well as some endemic species. There is a long military history as its position in the English Channel just off the Cherbourg peninsula means its ideally situated to keep an eye on the French! In the 19th Century a dozen or so defensive forts were strung around the coastline, now in varying states of repair. During the Second World War the Channel Islands were occupied by German forces and Alderney was completely evacuated from 1940 until 1945. The evidence of this occupation is clearly evident all over the island in the form of hundreds of concrete bunkers, gun emplacements and fortifications. These things add up to make Alderney a great place to explore!

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Fort Tourgis – one of the biggest Victorian forts on the island

As Conservation Officer here I’m responsible for the conservation planning for the terrestrial reserves and our other sites and the development of the annual conservation work programme. In the absence of a Reserves Officer for the last 4 months I have also been responsible for delivering the practical conservation management work and leading the twice weekly sessions with our conservation volunteers.

Finally a few Alderney views, enjoy!