Birds of Guernsey Informative Summary

Overview:

This book, “Birds of Guernsey (1879)” by Cecil Smith, provides a detailed overview of the birdlife present on the island of Guernsey and its neighboring islands: Alderney, Sark, Jethou, and Herm. The author, a frequent visitor to the Channel Islands for over thirty years, compiled the list based on his own observations, specimens in his collection, and information gathered from locals and other ornithologists. He details the presence of each bird, its breeding habits, preferred habitat, and seasonal variations in its occurrence. Smith also emphasizes the impact of human activity, particularly changes in agriculture, quarries, and the introduction of guns, on the local avifauna. The book highlights the importance of protecting birds, especially seabirds, from over-exploitation and suggests a gun-tax as a possible solution.

Smith provides extensive insights into the history of birds in Guernsey, highlighting the changes that have occurred over time due to human activity and the potential decline of some species. He also addresses the issue of bird protection and its effectiveness in the context of the local environment.

Key Findings:

  • The avifauna of Guernsey and its neighboring islands is diverse, with many species of birds present.
  • The presence and abundance of certain birds have been impacted by changes in agricultural practices and the increased use of guns.
  • Despite bird protection laws, some species, such as the Lesser Black-backed Gull and Puffin, continue to experience egg-theft and decline.
  • The author proposes a gun-tax as a more effective way to protect both seabirds and inland birds than the current Sea-bird Protection Act.

Learning:

  • The Importance of Bird Protection: The text underscores the need to protect bird species, especially in areas with limited space and resources, like the Channel Islands. The author highlights the detrimental effects of hunting and egg-theft on bird populations.
  • Impact of Human Activity on Birdlife: The book provides a detailed account of how agricultural changes, quarrying, and the increased use of guns have affected the distribution and abundance of birds on Guernsey.
  • Seasonal Variations in Bird Occurrence: Smith provides a comprehensive overview of the seasonal variations in bird presence and highlights the migratory patterns of various species.
  • The Importance of Detailed Records: The book highlights the importance of detailed records and documentation of birdlife for understanding population changes and trends.
  • Nesting Habits and Adaptations of Birds: Smith provides information about the nesting habits and adaptations of various bird species, including their preferred habitats and strategies for raising young.

Historical Context:

The text is written in 1879, a period marked by significant agricultural and industrial changes in Guernsey. The author describes the shift from traditional farming practices to more intensive cultivation for early market crops, the expansion of granite quarries, and the increasing popularity of gin as a drink. These changes had a direct impact on the local landscape and birdlife, with some species declining due to habitat loss and others benefiting from the newly created environments.

Facts:

  • The White-tailed Eagle is an occasional but uncommon visitor to all the Islands.
  • The Osprey is considered rare in the Channel Islands.
  • The Greenland Falcon was shot in Alderney in 1876-77.
  • An Iceland Falcon was killed on Herm in April 1876.
  • The Peregrine Falcon is an autumnal visitor, and there is no evidence of it breeding in the Islands currently.
  • The Hobby is a rare occasional visitor to the Islands.
  • The Merlin is a more frequent autumnal visitor than the Hobby, and it occasionally visits the Islands in the spring.
  • The Kestrel is the commonest hawk in the Islands and breeds in all of them.
  • The Sparrowhawk is a resident species but less common than the Kestrel.
  • The Common Buzzard is a tolerably regular autumnal visitor.
  • The Rough-legged Buzzard is a rare occasional straggler.
  • The Marsh Harrier is the least common of the Harriers in the Channel Islands.
  • Montagu’s Harrier is more frequent than the Hen or Marsh Harrier.
  • The Long-eared Owl is a rare and accidental visitor.
  • The Short-eared Owl is a regular autumnal visitor.
  • The Barn Owl is a resident species, found in Guernsey and Sark.
  • The Red-backed Shrike is a tolerably regular summer visitor to the Channel Islands.
  • The Spotted Flycatcher is a regular and numerous summer visitor, found in all the Islands.
  • The Golden Oriole is a rare visitor and may have bred in Guernsey in the past.
  • The Dipper is a resident species, found in Guernsey and Alderney.
  • The Mistletoe Thrush is common and has increased in numbers in recent years.
  • The Song Thrush is a common resident and destroys a large number of snails.
  • The Redwing is a regular and numerous winter visitor to all the Islands.
  • The Fieldfare is a regular and numerous winter visitor to all the Islands.
  • The Blackbird is a common and numerous resident in all the Islands.
  • The Ring Ouzel is not as common as in South Devon but is found in all the Islands.
  • The Hedgesparrow is a common resident in all the Islands.
  • The Robin is a common resident in all the Islands.
  • The Redstart is a rare visitor, possibly seen in Guernsey.
  • The Black Redstart is a regular and uncommon autumnal visitor to Guernsey.
  • The Stonechat is a numerous and regular summer visitor.
  • The Whinchat is less numerous than the Stonechat and is more local in its distribution.
  • The Wheatear is a very common summer visitor.
  • The Reed Warbler is a rather numerous but very local summer visitor.
  • The Sedge Warbler is not as common as the Reed Warbler.
  • The Dartford Warbler is rare, with only one record of its occurrence in Guernsey.
  • The Whitethroat is less common in the Channel Islands than in England.
  • The Lesser Whitethroat is a regular but not numerous summer visitor to Guernsey.
  • The Blackcap is a regular, though not numerous, summer visitor.
  • The Willow Wren is a tolerably numerous summer visitor.
  • The Chiffchaff is more common in Guernsey than the Willow Wren.
  • The Golden-crested Wren is resident in the Islands.
  • The Fire-crested Wren is a rare occasional straggler.
  • The Wren is common and resident in all the Islands.
  • The Tree-creeper is resident in all the Islands but Alderney.
  • The Great Tit is moderately common and resident in Guernsey.
  • The Blue Tit is resident in all the Islands but not numerous.
  • The Long-tailed Tit is far from common in Guernsey.
  • The Waxwing is an occasional straggler.
  • The Pied Wagtail is becoming rarer in Guernsey.
  • The White Wagtail is even scarcer than the Pied Wagtail.
  • The Grey Wagtail is not common in the Islands.
  • The Yellow Wagtail is an occasional visitor on migration and may occasionally remain to breed.
  • The Tree Pipit is a very numerous summer visitor.
  • The Meadow Pipit is resident and breeds in all the Islands.
  • The Rock Pipit is resident and numerous, breeding on the coast.
  • The Sky Lark is common and resident in all the Islands.
  • The Snow Bunting is a regular, though not very numerous, autumnal visitor.
  • The Bunting is resident in Guernsey but breeds in very small numbers.
  • The Yellow Hammer is resident in all the Islands but not as common as in England.
  • The Chaffinch is resident and tolerably common in all the Islands.
  • The Brambling is an occasional autumn and winter visitor.
  • The Tree Sparrow is probably resident but not common in Guernsey.
  • The House Sparrow is very numerous in all the Islands.
  • The Hawfinch is not common in Guernsey.
  • The Greenfinch is a common resident in all the Islands.
  • The Goldfinch is resident in all the Islands and is increasing in numbers.
  • The Siskin is a rare occasional visitor.
  • The Linnet is the most numerous bird in the Islands.
  • The Bullfinch is not common in Guernsey.
  • The Common Crossbill is an occasional visitant to all the Islands.
  • The Common Starling is sometimes very numerous in the autumn.
  • The Chough is a common resident in Guernsey, Sark, and Herm.
  • The Jackdaw is resident in Alderney, Sark, Jethou, and Herm.
  • The Raven is an occasional straggler, not breeding in any of the Islands currently.
  • The Crow is common and breeds in all the Islands.
  • The Hooded Crow is an occasional autumnal and winter visitor.
  • The Rook is rare and has not successfully colonized the Islands.
  • The Magpie is resident and tolerably common in Guernsey and Sark.
  • The Lesser Spotted Woodpecker is the only Woodpecker recorded in the Islands.
  • The Wryneck is a numerous summer visitor, known locally as the “Mackerel Bird.”
  • The Hoopoe is an occasional visitor on both spring and autumn migration.
  • The Cuckoo is one of the commonest and most numerous summer visitors.
  • The Kingfisher is a resident and breeds in Guernsey.
  • The Nightjar is a regular autumnal visitor.
  • The Swift is a tolerably numerous summer visitor.
  • The Swallow is a common summer visitor.
  • The Martin is a numerous summer visitor, more local than the Swallow.
  • The Sand Martin is a spring visitor and does not remain to breed.
  • The Wood Pigeon is resident and breeds in Guernsey.
  • The Rock Dove is not numerous in Alderney and Sark.
  • The Turtle Dove is a regular summer visitor.
  • The Quail is an occasional straggler, sometimes breeding in the Islands.
  • The Water Rail is not very common in Guernsey and may occasionally breed.
  • The Spotted Crake is an occasional visitor.
  • The Landrail is a common summer visitor.
  • The Moorhen is not common in Guernsey and may occasionally breed.
  • The Common Coot is an occasional autumnal visitor.
  • The Little Bustard is a very rare occasional visitor.
  • The Thick-knee is not uncommon in winter.
  • The Peewit is a common autumn and winter visitor.
  • The Grey Plover is a regular but not numerous winter visitor.
  • The Golden Plover is a common winter visitor to all the Islands.
  • The Dotterel is a rare occasional visitor.
  • The Ring Dotterel is common in all the Islands.
  • The Kentish Plover is a summer visitor and breeds in the Islands.
  • The Turnstone is resident in all the Islands.
  • The Curlew is resident but does not breed in the Islands.
  • The Whimbrel is a regular spring visitor, with some staying on into the summer.
  • The Redshank is an occasional visitor on both spring and autumn migration.
  • The Green Sandpiper is an irregular, scarce visitor on both spring and autumn migration.
  • The Common Sandpiper is a spring and autumn visitor, sometimes remaining to breed.
  • The Bar-tailed Godwit is a regular spring and autumn visitor.
  • The Greenshank is a rare occasional visitor.
  • The Ruff is an occasional visitor.
  • The Woodcock is a regular and tolerably common autumnal visitor.
  • The Solitary Snipe is an occasional visitor.
  • The Common Snipe is a regular and numerous autumnal visitor.
  • The Jack Snipe is a regular autumnal visitor.
  • The Knot is not as common as on the south and west coast of England.
  • The Curlew Sandpiper is a rare occasional visitor.
  • The Purre is resident in all the Islands.
  • The Little Stint is an occasional visitor.
  • The Sanderling is a regular and early autumn visitor to all the Islands.
  • The Grey Phalarope is a regular and occasionally numerous autumnal visitor.
  • The Heron is common in the Islands but does not breed there.
  • The Purple Heron is an occasional accidental wanderer.
  • The Squacco Heron is a rare visitor.
  • The Bittern was once more common but is now an occasional autumn and winter visitor.
  • The American Bittern is a rare straggler.
  • The Little Bittern is an occasional visitor to the Channel Islands.
  • The Spoonbill is an occasional visitor.
  • The White-fronted Goose is a rare visitor.
  • The Brent Goose is a regular winter visitor.
  • The Mute Swan has not been seen in the wild in the Channel Islands.
  • The Hooper is an occasional visitor in hard winters.
  • Bewick’s Swan is a rare visitor, possibly occurring more often than is suspected.
  • The Wild Duck is an occasional autumn and winter visitor, no longer breeding in the Islands.
  • The Pintail is an occasional autumn and winter visitor.
  • The Teal is a regular but not numerous visitor to all the Islands.
  • The Eider Duck is an occasional straggler.
  • The Common Scoter is a common autumn and winter visitor.
  • The Goosander is a regular and tolerably numerous autumn and winter visitor.
  • The Red-breasted Merganser is a regular and uncommon visitor.
  • The Smew is an occasional accidental autumnal visitor.
  • The Little Grebe is an occasional autumn or winter visitor.
  • The Eared Grebe is an occasional autumnal visitor.
  • The Sclavonian Grebe is a regular and rather numerous autumn and winter visitor.
  • The Red-necked Grebe is a regular autumn and winter visitor.
  • The Great-crested Grebe is a regular visitor.
  • The Great Northern Diver is a common autumn and winter visitor.
  • The Black-throated Diver is a less common visitor than the Great Northern or Red-throated Diver.
  • The Red-throated Diver is a regular autumn and winter visitor.
  • The Guillemot is very common in the Islands in autumn and winter, breeding in a small station on Alderney.
  • The Little Auk is a rare occasional visitor.
  • The Puffin is a regular and numerous summer visitor, breeding on several islands.
  • The Razorbill is not numerous in the Islands but breeds on Ortack and Alderney.
  • The Cormorant is not common in the Islands and breeds only on Burhou.
  • The Shag is the most numerous seabird in the Islands, breeding in all of them.
  • The Gannet is a regular autumn and winter visitor.
  • The Common Tern is a regular visitor, breeding in Guernsey and Herm.
  • The Arctic Tern is a rare visitor, occurring in the autumn.
  • The Black Tern is a rare autumnal visitor.
  • The Kittiwake is a regular and numerous autumn and winter visitor.
  • The Herring Gull is the commonest Gull and is resident in all the Islands.
  • The Lesser Black-backed Gull is common in the Islands and breeds in Sark and Herm.
  • The Common Gull is a regular winter visitor, not breeding in the Islands.
  • The Great Black-backed Gull is a rare visitor and breeds in Ortack, Sark, and Herm.
  • The Brown-headed Gull is a common autumn and winter visitor.
  • The Little Gull is a rare visitor.
  • The Great Shearwater is an occasional wanderer.
  • The Manx Shearwater is an occasional visitor.
  • The Fulmar Petrel is a very rare visitor.
  • The Storm Petrel is a regular visitor, breeding on Burhou, Le Tas, and Herm.

Statistics:

  • 1870: A Squacco Heron was shot in the Vale Parish on May 14th.
  • 1871: Large flocks of Starlings were seen in Guernsey in November.
  • 1871: 40 Wood Pigeons were shot in Guernsey in October.
  • 1873: Mr. Couch recorded a small flock of Hooded Crows in Guernsey in November.
  • 1875: Mr. Couch records a Long-eared Owl shot on November 9th in Guernsey.
  • 1876: Two young Hen Harriers were shot in Herm, one in April and one in June.
  • 1876: 40 birds were counted flying about the Gull Cliff in Guernsey.
  • 1877: Two Common Terns were shot in Herm, both in full breeding plumage.
  • 1878: A large flock of Golden-crested Wrens were seen on L’Ancresse Common.
  • 1878: A Purple Heron was shot in Alderney in June.
  • 1878: A pair of Scoters were killed in the last week in April off the Esplanade.
  • 1878: A flock of four or five Great Shearwaters were seen near the Caskets in July.
  • 1878: A pair of Black-tailed Godwits were killed in Herm in May.
  • 1879: A Woodcock and a Teal were shot by a friend of the author in November.
  • 1879: A Wild Swan was shot in Guernsey in January.
  • 1879: A Common Sandpiper was killed in Guernsey on October 3rd.
  • 1879: 40 pairs of Sand Martins were nesting in a quarry in Somerset.
  • 1879: A flock of 630 Mute Swans were seen at the Abbotsbury Swannery.
  • 1879: A young bird of the year of the Red-breasted Merganser was shot in Guernsey.
  • 1879: A Little Bittern was caught alive in the Vale Road.

Terms:

  • Avifauna: The birdlife of a particular region or period.
  • Bailiwick: A small territory, especially a Channel Island.
  • Billet d’Etat: A state document.
  • Clos du Valle: A term referring to the Vale, a large valley in Guernsey.
  • Coupée: A steep, narrow passage on the island of Sark.
  • Druids’ Altars: Ancient stone structures used for religious purposes, sometimes found in Guernsey.
  • Flappers: Young birds that are learning to fly.
  • Furze: A type of thorny, evergreen shrub.
  • Gorse: Another name for furze.
  • Guano: Bird droppings, a valuable fertilizer.
  • Heronry: A nesting colony of Herons.
  • Ilex: A type of evergreen oak.
  • L’Ancresse Common: A large area of open land in Guernsey.
  • Le Cheminant: A local Guernsey family.
  • L’Eree: A bay on Guernsey.
  • L’Hyvreuse: A piece of land in Guernsey, now known as the New Ground.
  • Marais: A marshy area.
  • Métivier: A local Guernsey poet and author.
  • Moulin Huet: A bay on Guernsey.
  • Ortack Rock: A rock between Burhou and the Caskets.
  • Petit Bo Bay: A bay on Guernsey.
  • Pleimont: A point on the south coast of Guernsey.
  • Protégés: Birds raised by foster parents.
  • Purres: A type of shorebird.
  • Queen’s Tower: A historical tower in Guernsey.
  • Rousaileries: A farm in Guernsey.
  • Swinge: A channel between Guernsey and Alderney.
  • Tas: A heap of stones, a term referring to a small island near Sark.
  • Tuppe: Guernsey-French word for Hoopoe.
  • Vallon: The name of a garden and house in Guernsey.
  • Vazon Bay: A bay on Guernsey.
  • Vraic: A term for seaweed used as fertilizer in Guernsey.
  • Woodlands: A wooded area in Guernsey.

Examples:

  • The author describes a pair of Iceland Falcons who had taken up residence on Herm and were preying on Pheasants.
  • The author describes how a Merlin caught and killed a Water Rail.
  • The author details a case of a Blackbird with unusual grey markings that had been observed for four years.
  • The author recounts a story of a farmer who mistook a Barn Owl for a cherubim after shooting it in a churchyard.
  • A story is shared of a Red-backed Shrike’s egg found in a Guernsey collection that had a reddish tinge.
  • The author describes how Spotted Flycatchers use croquet hoops as vantage points for hunting insects.
  • The author recounts the discovery of a Reed Warbler’s nest by himself and Colonel l’Estrange.
  • The author explains how the noise of a large flock of Wrynecks disrupted a croquet game at Fort George.
  • The author recounts the discovery of a Cuckoo’s egg in a nest with Meadow Pipit eggs, supporting his argument against Cuckoos selecting nests with similar-colored eggs.
  • The author tells a story of a brother clergyman who believed that Cuckoos turned into Sparrowhawks during the winter.

Conclusion:

“Birds of Guernsey (1879)” is a valuable resource for anyone interested in the history of birdlife in the Channel Islands. The book not only provides a comprehensive list of the birds observed in the area, but also reveals insights into the challenges faced by bird populations due to human activities and underscores the importance of conservation efforts. The text highlights the impact of agricultural changes, quarrying, and the introduction of guns on the local avifauna and stresses the need for more effective measures to protect both seabirds and inland birds. By documenting the occurrence and habits of birds in 1879, Smith provides a valuable baseline for understanding how birdlife has evolved over time in response to environmental changes.

Learn more

What is the best quiz for you business?

Quizzes are super effective for lead generation and selling products. Find the best quiz for your business by answering a few questions.

Take the quiz