Stephanie Winton is WPC’s current New Noah. Stephanie’s first stop is the 3-month long Endangered Species Management course at the Durrell Conservation Academy in Jersey, UK, followed by a practical placement on the island of Mauritius.

My inspirational ‘conservation family’

Jersey, Channel Islands

Last month we went on a journey through time, this month come with me on a tour around Jersey to discover the different sights, habitats, and wildlife!

In my time here, I have been able to visit all 12 parishes and wanted to share a few highlights of places I visited as part of the DESMAN course and while helping with field projects.

Parish of Trinity

Let’s start in Trinity, where the Jersey Zoo and Durrell Conservation Academy are located, aka homebase. Jersey Zoo is different from a lot of zoos I’ve visited around the world.

Like all things in Jersey, it’s rather small and there isn’t the typical proliferation of charismatic megafauna, but lots of ‘little brown jobs’ like tamarins, lemurs, songbirds, waterfowl, bats, tortoises, and more. Durrell works to save these species in the wild through supporting conservation efforts in their countries of origin and conducting research at the zoo.

I’ve been lucky to go behind the scenes with different departments (the fruit bat enclosure is so cool!) and meet many people involved with running the zoo including keepers, researchers, and educators. I spent a day with the herpetology team and learned about the Mauritian skinks and geckos that were evacuated due to the 2020 oil spill and are now held in a biosecure facility as a genetic insurance population while the recovery of the wild populations is being monitored.

I participated in my very first breeding bird survey with the head of the bird department in Trinity. The 1-km square we surveyed was in an agricultural area near the zoo, so I was already familiar with some of the common bird species like chaffinches and tits but learned lots more new species and all about their ecology and global conservation status from my expert guide.

Measuring body condition of Mauritian orange-tailed skinks.

A lovely morning ringing birds like this reed warbler at Grouville marsh.

Parish of St. John
We’ll only briefly touch down in St. John which is home to the red-billed chough reintroduction and habitat restoration project along the north coast of the island (check out last month’s blog to learn more about this impressive conservation program).

Parish of St. Ouen
A little further west along the coast in the parish of St. Ouen is a seabird protection zone for the last remaining individuals of a once large puffin breeding colony that return annually to breed in borrows and crevices in the sea cliffs. The number of returning puffins is dwindling each year potentially due in part to declines in their preferred prey, sandeels, due to sea temperature increases.

A festival was held to mark the return of the puffins (complete with singing Irish drinking songs) as well as raise awareness about the plight of these birds.

While I didn’t see any puffins that day, there were northern fulmars, European shags, razorbills, and oystercatchers feeding in the waters or nesting on cliffs, and, most excitingly for me, green lizards sunning themselves on a grassy sand dune!

St. Ouen, the biggest parish, extends along most of the west coast of the island and contains many different habitat types. I assisted with several farmland bird surveys in heathland and coastal grassland habitats.

Fourteen sites throughout Jersey are surveyed every two weeks to track changes in the population size of farmland birds such as skylarks, meadow pipits, stonechats, and linnets and provide recommendations for conservation actions and strategies to support birds and habitat.

Parish of St. Brelade
In the southwest of the island another native species, the agile frog, is managing to hang on thanks to collaborative efforts to prevent its extirpation after being reduced to one single wetland population in the late 1980s.

Similar to WPC’s Oregon spotted frog conservation program, Durrell headstarts agile frog tadpoles at the Jersey Zoo and releases them to suitable wetland habitat just before metamorphosis to reinforce the wild population and hopefully re-establish metapopulations throughout the island.

A bird hide’s view of St. Ouen’s pond.

Fun times birding!

Sculpture of puffins billing – a behaviour where they rub their bills together to reinforce mate bonds.

The sun-loving snakelocks anemone.

Parish of St. Martin

Finally in the parish of St. Martin we find St. Catherine’s woods, one of the few mixed woodlands on the island, home to great-spotted woodpeckers, short-toed treecreepers, moorhens, and even red squirrels. A pair of knowledgeable (and hospitable) local birders taught me the songs of blackcaps and chiffchaffs on a survey of the idyllic woods (interspersed with humorous stories).

We’ll there you have it – a brief tour of Jersey. As I say farewell to this unique island, I’m going to miss all the friends I’ve made in my short time here, but I know they will continue to inspire me through the incredible work they do around the world, and I’m looking forward to the next stage of my New Noah journey.

Until next time,

Smiling faces of DESMAN 2022!

Follow Stephanie’s journey as Canada’s New Noah.

Check back often for new blog updates. In the meantime, check out the other great work being done by WPC to save some of Canada’s most endangered species.