Author Archives: RayHales

CCTV Image of the five chough nests at Paradise Park

Choughs are go…

Spring has finally sprung, and the choughs at Paradise Park are starting to build their nests.

CCTV Image of the five chough nests at Paradise Park

CCTV Image of the five chough nests at Paradise Park

Our breeding choughs have now been installed in the seclusion aviaries ready for the 2016 breeding season. The birds were put into the aviaries in the first week of March, and all immediately started exploring the nest boxes and gathering twigs.

This year we have five breeding pairs. Four of the pairs are the same as last year – nest two has the same female, but a new male. Sadly the male in nest two died in the winter months.

Similar pairings means we should know what to expect from each pair in terms of nest-building, and the timing of egg-laying. Already the odd-numbered pairs (1, 3 & 5) are away to an early start with pairs 2 and 4 taking their time.

The webcam will be going live shortly, on the site and the main Paradise Park site.

Frosty morning for the released birds.

Birds on the Edge January Update

The new year brings stormy weather and winter frosts, making life tougher for the Jersey choughs.

Frosty morning for the released birds.

Frosty morning for the released birds. (Picture Liz Corry).

The choughs are now foraging in different locations, possibly due to less insects being available in their regular haunts.

The report features some more video footage showing the birds feeding in the release aviary. There is also footage of the birds enjoying a clear winter sky, with males showing a keen interest in the females in the group.

Blue and her partner in the release aviary. (Picture Liz Corry).

Blue and her partner in the release aviary. (Picture Liz Corry).

So far all the released choughs have done well over the winter months, and survival rates have exceeded expectations. However, the report does end with the news that Blue has gone missing. Blue is one of the first wild choughs to breed on Jersey – raising her son Dusty last summer.

The full Birds on the Edge post can be found here…

The Jersey choughs admiring their Christmas tree.

Birds on the Edge December Update

Seasonal news from the Birds on the Edge team.

The Jersey choughs admiring their Christmas tree.

The Jersey choughs admiring their Christmas tree.

The choughs decide to make life more interesting and visit a local shooting range!

There is also some wonderful video footage of the birds riding early morning thermal air currents, and a video of some bill trimming (don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt)

A Christmas wreath. The white decoration is not frost or snow.

A Christmas wreath. The white decoration is not frost or snow.

The full Birds on the Edge post can be found here…

Seasons Greetings from Operation Chough

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from Operation Chough!

Seasons Greetings from Operation Chough

Seasons Greetings from Operation Chough

We wish for another great year for choughs, more choughs breeding and flying free, and more friends and partners working together to achieve many future generations of our favourite red-billed birds.

(Please note : No choughs or Photoshops were harmed in the making of this image.)

With Best Wishes,

Ray & Alison Hales

Lawrence Sampson with Ray Hales and friends at Paradise Park (A Hales)

Welcome Lawrence

We were pleased to meet Lawrence Sampson, the student chosen for a three-year PhD study with the title ‘The Restoration of an Extinct Kentish Icon: Feasibility of Reintroducing the Chough to Kent’. This will be at the University of Kent, in Canterbury – a city which features three choughs on its coat of arms.

Lawrence Sampson with Ray Hales and friends at Paradise Park (A Hales)

Lawrence Sampson with Ray Hales and friends at Paradise Park (A Hales)

This project builds on the experience of Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust which has pioneered bird reintroductions in Mauritius as well as the Chough reintroduction to Jersey through the Birds on the Edge project. The project will also partner with Operation Chough, based at Paradise Park in Cornwall, which has led the ex situ components of the reintroduction programme; Kent Wildlife Trust, which owns and manages a network of Local Wildlife Sites in the county; and Wildwood Trust in Kent, a leading centre for the conservation and rewilding of British Wildlife.

Canterbury Coat of Arms by Dan Escott

Canterbury Coat of Arms by Dan Escott

Supervisors for the study are Dr Dave Roberts, Dr Jim Groombridge, Dr Bob Smith, Professor Richard A. Griffiths, with Professor Carl Jones MBE as advisor.

Lawrence is from Cornwall, has a background in studying birds, and was chosen from a shortlist of excellent candidates. We will be happy to give him every assistance with his work and hoping that he finds a positive way forward towards the reintroduction of the chough to Kent.

Read more here: https://www.kent.ac.uk/dice/news/index.html?view=1852

 

 

 

Chough making the most of a large beetle (Liz Corry)

Birds on the Edge November Update

November’s update from Jersey.

Chough making the most of a large beetle (Liz Corry)

Chough making the most of a large beetle (Liz Corry)

The winter weather is now setting in, causing more difficulties for the monitoring team than for the choughs themselves.

There are some great videos, showing how the birds cope with the changing weather conditions – some even decide to find shelter “indoors”.

The full Birds on the Edge post can be found here…

Choughs flying by moonlight (Liz Corry)

Birds on the Edge October Update

Here is the latest news from Jersey posted by Liz Corry on the Birds on the Edge blog.

Choughs flying by moonlight (Liz Corry)

Choughs flying by moonlight (Liz Corry)

All twenty two choughs are still doing well, and coping with the shortening days, and autumnal weather.

The update has some beautiful large resolution images, and video clips, and shows interesting behaviour as the choughs adapt to the changing conditions.

We’re not going to spill all the beans, so check out the full report on the Birds on the Edge blog here…

Ray Hales and hand-reared chough Ruby (A Hales)

Finished at Last!

Welcome to the new Operation Chough website – a site for all dedicated Pyrrhomaniacs.

Ray Hales and hand-reared chough Ruby (A Hales)

Ray Hales “Pyrrhomaniac” and hand-reared chough Ruby (A Hales)

Pyrrhomaniac

Noun: A person who loves all things related to, or appertaining to, the Red-Billed Chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax).

Defn: “These people are known to spend hours standing out in all weathers on the coast, waiting for the slightest glimpse of their favourite bird. In the breeding season they will sit on the cliffs and get sunstroke while watching over nest sites, or will spend hours collecting ants for the birds they are breeding.

They are also known to show a keen interest in bugs, and places where bugs live. They are not averse to flipping over cow-pats in search of bugs. They have even been found collecting cow-pats in buckets to examine the bug treasure within. They are not to be pitied – they are merely enthralled by this fabulous creature”

I welcome all my fellow Pyrrhomaniacs.

Cornish Chough "Piran" (A Hales)

Farewell Piran

We are very sad that one of our favourite choughs, ‘Piran’, has died. He was an exuberant –  even boisterous – fellow, who often featured in the Free-Flying Bird Show here at Paradise Park.

Cornish Chough "Piran" (A Hales)

Red-billed Chough ‘Piran’ (A Hales)

Piran was hand-reared at Paignton Zoo, and as such was extremely tame. He was introduced to another friendly chough “Oggie” who was reared at Paradise Park, and they became good companions.

Piran in the Free-Flying Bird Show at Paradise Park (A Hales)

Piran in the Free-Flying Bird Show at Paradise Park (A Hales)

Having friendly choughs at Paradise Park has always been an important way for us to show how wonderful this species is. They are very popular with our visitors – to see them close up, flying free, and even to give them a tickle, is a unique experience.

Piran died suddenly and without any indication of ill health, but a post mortem showed that he had a kidney problem. He will be greatly missed by all at Paradise Park.

 

Choughs feeding in fields near release site

Jersey Visit

In September, we set off once again to see how the released birds from Paradise Park were doing on their new island home. The weather was set fair for our three day visit, and we spent most of the time around the coast at Sorel Point.

Choughs feeding in fields near release site

Choughs feeding in fields near the release site, with Sark in the distance. (A Hales)

The birds themselves were behaving just like any other choughs we have seen in the wild, spending most of the time heads-down foraging. Each bird has a combination of coloured leg rings, making it possible to identify individuals. The newly-released birds can also be picked out as they have a small tracker aerial attached to their tails.

2015 Female "Noir" with blue and white rings following a 2013 male "White" ring number 2A10

Bred at Paradise Park in 2015: The blue and while leg rings show this is ‘Noir’. (A Hales)

It was quite an emotional experience, seeing the birds again. Back in May and June these were the birds we were supplementary feeding in their nests at Paradise Park. Some of these youngsters weighed less than twenty grams when we were rearing them, and now here they were learning about life in the wild.

Friends and Enemies

Their flying skills were truly remarkable –  one moment the birds would be on the ground feeding, the next they would be hundreds of feet up in the air. They had become experts at riding thermals, and could move great distances with very little effort. They were also becoming well acquainted with their neighbours – namely Peregrine Falcons and Ravens…

A Peregrine Falcon on patrol - a major hazard to the inexperienced.

A Peregrine Falcon on patrol – a possible hazard to inexperienced birds. (A Hales)

The choughs also have one or two friends – actually more like one or two hundred. The flock of Manx loaghtan sheep has now grown to about two hundred, and they spend most of the time browsing the vegetation and trampling down the ever-growing bracken. They have even provided some of the lining material for the breeding birds’ nests. In some of the hotter days in the summer the choughs have also taken advantage of their water bowser to quench their thirst.

Me and my sheep - a chough following one of the Manx loaghtan flock. (A Hales)

Me and my sheep – a chough following one of the Manx loaghtan flock. (A Hales)

We were so impressed with the dedication of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust staff and volunteers working with the choughs. The time we spent on the cliffs was truly splendid, the last few days of an Indian summer surrounded by some incredible wildlife – I even got a glimpse of a Dartford Warbler – a bird I have been wanting to see for forty years! (Well worth the wait).

 

Ray Hales