Spring after winter – changing of the seasons in Jersey
Posted onMay 10, 2022by|,
Jersey, Channel Islands – Spring in Jersey is beautiful! Full of warm, sunny days with daffodils blooming everywhere and chaffinches nesting in the garden.
The island of Jersey, as it is now, has existed for 6,000 years, when rising sea levels detached the Channel Islands from mainland France, which you can see from the east coast on a clear day.
Evidence of neolithic people living on the island is found throughout, mainly in the form of dolmens or stone tables, although it was inhabited long before – even by Neanderthals and mammoths! La Hougue Bie, a 6,000 year old neolithic passage grave is the oldest structure on the island, and, in fact, is one of the 10 oldest buildings in the world (it’s older than the pyramids!).
Built from stones weighing up to 20 tonnes, the passage perfectly aligns with the position of the sun on the spring equinox and was a focal point for the community, used for rituals and ceremonies. These early settler communities altered the landscape through their agricultural way of life – clearing the forest to farm and graze animals and build wood and thatch longhouses.
Entrance to the 6000 year old passage of La Hougue Bie – watch your head!
Agriculture is still a big part of life on the island, famous for Jersey cattle and Jersey royal potatoes, but agricultural practices have changed with time. Animals are no longer grazed on the steep slopes and clifftops of the coast, allowing thick bracken to take over and make the habitat unsuitable for birds like the skylark, yellowhammer, and stonechat, which have seen recent declines and losses.
In partnership with other local organizations and farmers, Durrell is reintroducing a species lost from the island for over a century, the iconic red-billed chough (pronounced ‘chuff’). Similar to WPC’s loggerhead shrike reintroduction project, the choughs are breed at the Jersey Zoo and released at an aviary in the field where they can acclimate and are provided with supplemental food after release. Choughs are now breeding in the wild, a true mark of success for reintroduction, and have been spotted on the neighbouring Channel Islands of Guernsey and Sark as well as France.
Reintroduced red-billed choughs and grazing Manx Loaghtan sheep at the restoration site.
Caring for young saplings to help restore coastal habitat.
Commonwealth Day celebration with the Lieutenant Governor.
The reintroduction of this flagship species is helping drive the restoration of the degraded heathland through bracken clearance, sheep grazing, and planting trees and conservation crops, ultimately creating a mosaic of healthy habitats and restoring biodiversity. The DESMAN students contributed to the restoration of this unique ecosystem by caring for young tree saplings.
Since neolithic times, Jersey has survived Viking raids, passed between French and British rule, and suffered through World War II along with the other Channel Islands as the only part of the British Isles to be occupied.
Although not technically part of the UK (it’s complicated, don’t ask), Jersey is part of the British Commonwealth and to commemorate Commonwealth Day, the DESMAN students were invited to Government House by the Lieutenant Governor.
The Queen’s message encouraged nations to “work together towards a healthy, sustainable and prosperous future for all”, echoing what we learned in an intensive but fun leadership workshop. Team development and improvement as well as strong relationships with partners and communities are critical for effective conservation projects.
We were treated to a visit from another important leader in Jersey, Lee Durrell, the Honorary director of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, a renowned conservation biologist, and wife of the late great Gerald Durrell.
Lee shared the inspiring history of the Trust, from how Gerry’s vision transformed zoos and ex situ conservation, to how it continues to save species from extinction (including ‘little brown jobs’ like WPC’s focal species), restore ecosystems, and reconnect people with nature.
We were lucky enough to capture a photo of a local little brown job while practicing wildlife monitoring with camera traps in the hostel garden – a wild western European hedgehog. A sure sign of spring!
Until next time,
Teamwork makes the dream work – having fun building a ball run during a leadership workshop.
A springtime visit from a Jersey hedgehog captured on a night vision camera used for monitoring.
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.