In the last five years, CS Conservation has gone from strength to strength. Amongst other things we manage numerous sites all over the island for compassionate land owners. As Agents for Kings Seeds, we import literally tonnes of conservation seed each year. We also bring in over 10,000 hedging trees each year to improve Jersey’s network of hedgerows and woodland and make, supply and install all types of nest boxes, from swallow casts to barn owl boxes.
People may think that the conservation of our island is not important, that sites like the wonderful London Wetlands are more important, or that preserving the rare Black Rhino is a higher priority. While it is not our place to prioritise conservation concerns worldwide, we can explain a little about Jersey’s unique ecology and maybe people will see why it is so important to protect.
Jersey was the last channel island to become an island, which happened over 6,000 years ago. This means that ecologically speaking Jersey (and in fact all the Channel Islands) is incredibly unique. It has some mainland species, some continental species and some that have evolved so distinctly on our unique islands that they are completely unique species. So, in essence, it would not be out of place to consider Jersey as our very own little Madagascar. There are many other points that make Jersey so special. The diversity of habitat over such a small area is not commonly found in most parts of the world. Whilst the large intertidal zone re-inforces what we see on the land, sustaining tonnes of ecological biomass. The climate on Jersey is also unique, the island effect and our position making the most of the gulf-stream both soften our climate. As such Jersey is often a final northerly refuge for many species that are susceptible to severe frosts or prolonged dry spells.
The Ornithology Section of the Société Jersiaise monitors the main sites to record the number and variety of species visiting, thus also allowing an evaluation of the overall performance of these sites over the initial five year period. A scheme for trapping and ringing, by licensed ringers is also undertaken at some of the key sites.
Jersey is also lucky geographically, our position in the Channel means the island acts as a valuable pitstop for migratory birds of all types. I am convinced, having spent time in some of our conservation sites, that the end result is worth the effort which we put in.
With the constantly increasing population and infrastructure on the island, the importance of countryside management and stewardship becomes ever more important. There are very few relatively undisturbed sites left on the island, and those that remain must be protected to ensure that our Island retainssome of its natural character.
Thankfully an increasing number of individuals and companies are realising the importance of our Island’s beautiful ecological backdrop. Without these people to fund the work that we do it would be impossible to carry on.
Conservation crops have been grown in Jersey for the best part of a decade. In 2007 we imported over 30 different seed mixes. The main two groups that these fall into are ‘grassland’ and ‘supplementary provisions’. There are many different types of grassland. In general we will try and encourage the existing grass sward to develop the way we want. This can be from creating a thick dense sward to act as an overwintering invertebrate habitat, to reducing grassland thatch and timing cuttings to encourage spring flowering broadleaved plants for flying insects. It all depends on factors such as site location, size and proximity to specific habitats.
Grass field sown by CS Conservation
There are however many problems to face. We manage grassland without pesticide or fertiliser, and generally the grasses that we sow are weaker less dominant grasses. These issues combined means it may take a long time and potentially a lot of effort and man hours to establish the ideal ‘weed’ free grassland. We have and continue to develop techniques involving timing and new machinery to reduce the problems with competing weeds, but as with so many aspects of conservation, it is still a work in progress.
Supplementary feeding is a loose term that covers a broad range of ‘conservation crops’ that we sow. One of the most popular is the Wild Songbird Seed. This mix was originally developed by the RSPB specifically to provide a boost to winter seed food sources. Another popular mix is the ‘Pollen & Nectar’ crops. These include a few finer grasses with a lot of legumes that give the mix it’s deserved title.
One of the biggest benefits to the island has been the support of the staff at Kings. (www.kingscrops.co.uk) Being agents for a grass roots company such as Kings, who design, source and constantly improve their mixes gives us access to a vast bank of knowledge. In 2007 Kings started packaging our very own Channel Island Wildflower Mix. This is designed to specifically limit the potential damage to Jersey’s ecology caused by importing alien wild seeds. A problem that cannot be over emphasised. (e.g. Japanese Knotweed). The fact that Kings were willing to spend the time, effort and outlay to turn this ‘wish list’ project into reality shows their commitment to the islands, to the true conservation issues and for that we should all be very thankful.
Since taking a less frontline role with CS Conservation, Malcolm Smith (Of Barn Owl fame) has become conservation consultant for Jersey Royal Ltd. Amongst the many great sites Island wide is an area of Les Landes belonging to the Skinner Family. This has been under sympathetic management for a number of years, and this year will receive special attention to try to attract Skylarks to the area. With the correct species of grass, sward density and grassland management this area is hoped to act as a valuable nesting habitat as well as a feeding site. Watch this space!
Field Boundary Improvement
Although they are not the most important habitat, field margins offer possibly the biggest chance we have of improving our island’s ecological footprint. Being a predominantly arable island, we have mile upon mile of field boundary. The Occupation (when many trees were felled out of necessity), the Great Storm and Dutch Elm disease have all contributed to a decline in the value of many of our field margins. This is slowly being addressed as thousands of trees are planted each year. It is however important that people plant only native trees in the rural setting. Things like Sycamore are of extremely low value compared to our natives such as Oak (Quercus robur). There are also other things can be done, for example, sowing a grass margin around the field. Although this reduces the field size to some degree, this land is not as productive as the remaining land and will dramatically decrease pesticide penetration of the hedge and provide a valuable area that will become part of the field boundary habitat, more valuable still, if you can sow conservation specific grasses such as a beetle bank or arable reversion grasses.
Cider apple saplings planted near Vinchelez, St Ouen
We import trees directly from our trusted supplier in the UK, in 2005 and 2006 we averaged over 10,000 native tree whips per year. We can provide both trees and accessories such as bamboos and rabbit guards at very low prices. We can even plant the trees for you, using proven BTCV techniques. If you would like to improve your field boundary by planting it, or restoring it, give us a call and we will happily visit the site and give you our advice.
Another prong of our conservation assault is bird boxes. We make and place over a dozen different types of specially designed bird boxes. The boxes are made to last with design features such as unexposed hinges, and the use of the best material like exterior ply which is further preserved after being built.
A Barn Owl Nestbox
The design of each box is carefully considered and brings together guidance from the BTO, RSPB and all important local knowledge. It is important to clean out nest boxes each winter. Therefore all our boxes come with removable lids that allow easy cleaning, as well as pre drilled holes for direct mounting or tie mounting.
A small range is supplied to some local Garden Centres, normally consisting of squirrel feeders and tit boxes, however many of the boxes we sell directly. We prefer this method when it comes to the more ‘complicated’ species, as it allows us to survey a site and advise on the best positioning and types of box.
A range of boxes, on display at the Planet Jersey Exhibition
The Bird Hide
We have a Bird Hide which mimics an RSPB wild bird mixture, summer on the front and winter on the back. It is intended as an educational tool for the children of the Island and overlooks one of our seeded fields. It is visited by school children as part of their normal curriculum and education is also given, in the classroom situation.
The Bird Hide is set on a trailer and can be moved to any field or school area in the Island.
Our future objective is to place a number of such hides, in conservation fields, for the benefit of school education.
Find Out More
If you have any questions, We are always more than happy to come for a site visit and a chat. You can contact us on the details below:
Mont de la Mare de St.Catherines,
Mobile: 07797 740202
Email: Aaron Le Couteur