Insurance Corporation

The Alderney Bird Observatory Project

After taking away the top prize at this year’s Insurance Corporation Conservation Awards in Guernsey, we spoke to John Horton from the Alderney Bird Observatory to find out a little more detail about the project…

Q: Tell us briefly about who’s in the Alderney Bird Observatory team

A: The Observatory Team consists of a small committee: Paul Veron, Catherine Veron, Tim Earl, Phil Atkinson, Roland Gauvain, Cathy Hanlon and me. The 2017 Assistant Warden is Justin Hart. There are several further volunteers here on the island, but it would be a fair reflection to say that all those with a membership of the ABO are part of the team.

Q: How long has the project been running?

A: The project began 1st March 2016. 

Q: What are the main purposes of the Alderney Bird Observatory?

A: The main purposes of a bird observatory are research, conservation, and education. The ABO is at the cutting edge of avian research, monitoring vast movements of birds through the island as well as compiling in-depth information of individual species. There is still a lot to learn about the science of birds, importantly our studies help to identify conservation issues that birds face, and provide invaluable data for guiding conservation policies that help our feathered friends. Traditionally bird observatories encourage volunteers to participate in scientific studies of birds and the environment. They are a hub for ornithologists to visit and stay at, and in recent years some observatories (Alderney included)  have Field centres attracting other specialist naturalists and anyone wanting to take part in, experience and enjoy conservation. Situated at The Nunnery within the walls of a Roman fort overlooking Longis Bay, the ABO project has and continues to work closely with Guernsey heritage to manage, protect and renovate this incredible venue steeped in history. 

Q: How important is the Alderney Bird Observatory to the Channel Islands and further afield?

A: Alderney bird observatory is the first new bird observatory in the British Isles for over 40 years and should very soon deliver the first accredited bird observatory in Channel Islands history. The extraordinary numbers of birds we recorded during our first year of operation (Ringing more birds in our first 10 months than any other British bird observatory has in over 100 years!) attracted a lot of international TV and other media attention bringing Alderney into the living rooms of millions of people in the UK, many of whom will likely have discovered the Channel Islands and in particular the existence of Alderney for the first time. Our website weekly blog is followed in over 120 countries worldwide. The knock on effect has already seen a welcome boost in tourism to Alderney, particularly in the shoulder months, and the development of specialist wildlife tourism companies who are increasingly bringing groups to visit the island. The bird observatory has inked Alderney onto the map of premier locations to experience bird migration in Europe. There has been interest from Sark and Guernsey by way of following the Alderney model to develop observatories on these islands. I see no reason why these could not be a success. Across the Bailiwick the diversity and volume of birdlife (and wildlife in general) is very special indeed, with careful conservation management, there is huge potential for the Channel Islands to be part of the colossal and growing market that is eco-tourism. 

Q: We’re delighted to have awarded you £1500 for the development of the Alderney Bird Observatory. What does winning the Award mean to you and the team?

A: The £1500 award provided to us by the Insurance Corporation is being used for essential equipment including bird rings. It is wonderful to be recognised for our efforts and the award a great incentive for all those involved whose dream it is to see the ABO become established and self-sustaining. The awards have pride of place in the bird observatory.

Q: How do you think this will impact the projects future targets?

A: The ABO project has been developed by a dedicated team all of whom are unpaid volunteers. Our first two years are critical in terms of funds obtained from ABO membership, donations, fund raising events, talks, and tours. The impact of this award has allowed us another step towards a secure future.

Q: How do you see the project developing within the next year?

A: Our main objective is the renovation of the Nunnery where we are based making ready the Observatory and field centre to be open to the public and staying visitors (providing a core income) starting spring 2018. We are on track but hope to achieve full bird observatory accreditation status before our opening date.

Q: What advice would you have for keen conservationists of all ages in the Channel Islands?

A: We often take for granted what is on our doorstep and wherever you live in the Channel Islands; marvelous wildlife experiences are close by. Giving talks outside of Alderney over the last year has shown me that there is a real passion for conservation across the Channel Islands, there are several organisations and numerous individuals doing magnificent work. Enjoying wildlife has no boundaries and is something we can all share. Keep up the good work, the Channel Islands reputation for excellence in wildlife is growing!

The Alderney Bird Observatory won the top prize in this year’s Insurance Corporation Conservation Awards in the Bailiwick. The project which aspires to be the newest and most southerly observatory in the British Isles was awarded £1500 which will be spent on the purchase of vital bird-ringing equipment including replacement ringing nets, poles and rings.


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