An Ornithological Study of the Vale Marais, Guernsey, 1971-2006

This paper is dedicated to the memory of Maurice O’Rorke, in deep appreciation of his kindness and generosity in enabling and encouraging this study over three and a half decades.


My study of the Vale Marais began in 1971, when as an 11 year old boy I used to sneak across the douit from my father’s adjacent greenhouses to wander in the phragmites reed beds, flushing Common Snipe and the occasional Jack Snipe from my feet, and to walk around the lake with its exciting and colourful ducks.

Too many times when I was helping my Dad a few years later to pick his tomato crop did I spot an interesting bird flying over, and I was lost in pursuit…tomatoes forgotten in a whirr of wings. From these first casual encounters with wildlife on the marsh, my interest grew and developed. Then in 1976 the main property, including the house (known as Marais Nord) changed hands when Ruth and Maurice O’Rorke arrived from Ireland.

From the outset the O’Rorke’s gave me free access to their land and encouraged me to develop my ornithological studies. Maurice helped me to build a number of traps that would prove instrumental in my bird ringing studies, and also permitted management of the marsh that was aimed at improving the habitat for birds and other wildlife.

Ruth still lives at Marais Nord, although Maurice sadly died early in 2006. It is in recognition of Maurice’s help and friendship over some three and a half decades that I dedicate this paper to his memory.

This paper analyses the records of scarce and rare birds observed at the Vale Marais over the 36-year period from 1971 to 2006 inclusive. The vast majority of the records have accumulated from my regular visits and my extensive ringing studies operated on the marsh. However, in addition to granting me full access to the site, the O’Rorke’s also encouraged La Societe Guernesiaise to erect a hide on the site to enable other observers to enjoy the birds of the area. I have therefore supplemented my records with those taken by other ornithologists who visited the site and entered their records in the logbooks I left in the hide.

As part of my work in recording the birds of the Vale Marais, I have undertaken bird ringing studies at the site since 1976. This has primarily involved the use of mist nets set in the reed beds or along the hedges of goat willow, although a variety of wire traps have also been used to catch waterbirds around the lake and garden birds at Ty Coed.

Ringing has taken place in every year of the study since 1976, except the period 1995 to 2003 inclusive, when my attentions were focused elsewhere. To date some 27,756 birds of 97 species have been ringed at the Vale Marais, and these birds have resulted in several hundred recoveries, thus adding much useful data not only to the Channel Islands Bird Ringing database, but also to the central repository of the European Ringing Schemes.

In addition to many local recoveries of birds within the Channel Islands there have been 90 recoveries of birds ringed at the Vale Marais in Africa and Europe. A summary of recoveries outside the Channel Islands, with full details of the most remarkable movements, is included within this report.

As part of the ringing activities 56 birds have been caught bearing the rings of foreign ringing schemes. Again a summary of these “controls” is included, with full details of the most interesting movements.

Site Description & History

The recording area known as “The Vale Marais” comprises the property of the Marais Nord, along with my own house and garden at Ty Coed which is contiguous with the south-western boundary of the marsh. It also encompasses an orchid-rich field to the west, which in 2005 was donated to La Societe Guernesiaise by the Ozanne family, and is now known as the Ozanne Nature Reserve. Finally, to the south of the main site lie two seasonally wet fields which are grazed by a small dairy herd run by Meadow Farm in Rue du Closel.

The marsh is but a vestige of a once extensive wetland that covered much of the low-lying northern part of Guernsey. Drainage and development for both housing and horticulture throughout the 20th Century eventually resulted in the isolation of this remnant patch of wetland.

In 1968 a private developer dug out a two acres lake from the reed bed and built the property now known as Marais Nord. The lake is fringed with phragmites reeds and there are also other small pockets of reeds. Over the past 40 years the site has seen classic reedbed succession with areas drying out as bullrushes and willowherb, and then goat willow have invaded the phragmites beds. This natural succession has been accompanied by man-made alterations as Maurice O’Rorke and I planted several hundred native trees to provide cover and feeding for resident and migrant birds. We have also carried out extensive pruning and cutting of the goat willows to create dense hedgerows and enhance their value for wildlife.

Over the winter of 1982/83 I built my house on my father’s former greenhouse site. Since that time I have planted several hundred trees and dug several ponds on this land to enhance the area for wildlife. The results, as this report explains have exceeded my wildest dreams.


This study covers the years 1971 to 2006. Coverage has not been even over these 36 years. Initial coverage was light, but then in 1976 I began my ringing work on the site. By the following year I was visiting the area on most days during the spring and autumn migrations, although my departure to university the following year meant that coverage was more limited over the next four years.

Returning to the Island on a full time basis during the summer of 1981, coverage became more widespread and then from the spring of 1983 when I was living on the site it became possible to enhance the study even further. The ten-year period 1983 to 1992 inclusive represents the zenith of the study (to date). A change of job in 1993 required me to travel widely, and as a consequence I discovered the delights of birding the world beyond Britain’s shores. In the ensuing 12 years my principal birding focus lay beyond Guernsey, and I visited some 50 countries and saw more than 44% of the entire bird species of the planet. The results of these trips have been written up in three separate private publications entitled “Birding the Blue Planet Volumes 1 - 3”.

When my personal circumstances changed again at the end of 2004, I suspended my interest in world birding and returned to my ornithological roots by resuming my study of the Vale Marais.

Rare and Scarce Birds At The Vale Marais 1971 – 2006

The following is an annotated species list for which ten or fewer Vale Marais records can be traced to the end of 2006. A full list of all species recorded at the Vale Marais over this period is included as Appendix A.

The common names and order of this list follow the recommendations of the British Ornithologists’ Union.

Bean Goose       Anser fabalis
One record. 2nd record for Guernsey.
1985                  4th February to 24th March
Pink-footed Goose       Anser brachyrhynchus
One record. 2nd record for Guernsey.
2006/07    29th October to 13th March

Greater White-fronted Goose            Anser albifrons
      One record.
      1985         Four from 20th – 29th January 1985; one remained until 24th March

American Wigeon         Anas americana
Four over-wintering records presumably relate to the same female bird. 1st to 4th       records for the Channel Islands.
1985/86    9th October 1985 to 14th March 1986
1987                  18th January to 31st March
1987/88    10th October 1987 to 19th March 1988
1988/89    2nd October 1988 to 21st March 1989

Northern Pintail            Anas acuta
Five records, involving six birds.
1979                  One male on 3rd April
1981        One male on 11th, 12th and 29th March
1985                  Two males on 23rd/24th February
1986                  One female from 26th February to 1st March
2005                  One female on 7th January

Garganey Anas querquedula
Six records, involving nine birds  – all in spring
1973                  One male on 18th March
1982                  One pair on 13th April
1983                  One pair from 18th March – 12th April; single male on 15th May
1987                  One pair on 30th March
1992                  One male on 15th April

Greater Scaup Aythya marila
Five records, involving seven birds (all in immature/female plumage) 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th and 9th records for Guernsey.
1977                  Two on 26th September (with one found dead on 2nd October)
1979                  Two on 21st January
1981        One on 19th/20th December
1985                  Singles on 23rd January and 3rd March

Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula
Four records, involving eight birds (all in immature/female plumage).
1973/74    One from 4th December -12th March
1975/76    One from 24th December to 7th February
1976                   Two on 14th March
1985                   Four on 20th January

Smew Mergellus albellus
      Four records, involving eight birds. 3rd – 6th records for Guernsey.
      1985         Five (one adult male and four immatures/females) on 20th January; (three of these birds were seen on 21st January, with four on 26th January and two on 27th January)
1986                  One adult male on 27th February
1991                  One immature/female on 22nd December
1997                  One immature/female on 12th January

Goosander Mergus merganser
      Three records, involving eight birds.
1976                  One immature/female on 1st February
1979                  Six flew over on 6th January
1991                  One immature/female on 25th September

Common Quail Corturnix corturnix
      Two records.
1986                  One flushed from rough grass at Ty Coed on 11th May
1992         One flushed on 23rd September

Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata
One record.
1990/91    One from 22nd December to 1st January.

Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus
      One record.
      2005         One on 2nd October.

Northern Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis
      One record.
      1989         One flying over heading north-east on 20th April

European Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis
      Four records. All single birds.
1983                  17th December
1985         30th March 
1987                  25th September and 18th October

Eurasian Bittern Botaurus stellaris
      Six records.
1981        One on 25th December
1985         One on 21st January, and one on 5th April and 25th April 1985 (which was presumably the same bird). The bird seen on 5th April 1985 was mist-netted. It had been ringed in Jersey on 2nd March 1985, after having received veterinary treatment for significant damage to one of its wings. The bird was subsequently found dead on 3rd March 1986 at Heemstede, Noord Holland, Netherlands; a distance of 600 km NE.         
1993         One on 28th March and one on 28th November

Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus
One record. 8th record for Guernsey.
1988         One male on 16th May

Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax
One record. 6th record for Guernsey; 9th for the Channel Islands..
1992         One on 19th May.

Purple Heron Ardea purpurea
      One record.
      1999         One on 2nd April

Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia
      One record
      1975         One adult feeding on 6th June

Sacred Ibis Threskiornis aethiopicus
One record – presumably of a bird from the feral breeding colony in northern France. 1st record for Guernsey – although presumably this bird had previously been seen in Alderney on 10th December 2004, and then in Guernsey at several sites from 27th December 2004.
      2005         One flying south-west soon after dawn on 23rd and 25th March

      Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus
      One record. 1st for the Channel Islands
      2006         One flying west, then back out north, being mobbed by Herring Gulls and Carrion Crows on 10th June.

Eurasian Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus
Nine records.
1979          Immature/female over on 10th June
1982         One on 12th May  
1983         One on 26th April
1985         One on 28th September               
1987                  One male on 12th April
1988                  Singles on 8th and 15th April                               
1995         One immature/female on 5th May     
2002         One male on 16th March

Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus
      One record.
1983         One over heading south on 29th December

Common Buzzard Buteo buteo
      One record.
      1985         One heading west over Ty Coed on 3rd October
Osprey Pandion haliaetus
      One record. 4th record for Guernsey.
      1986         One over, being mobbed by Herring Gull, on 17th May
Merlin Falco columbarius
      Three records.
1983         One male across garden at Ty Coed on 4th April
1992                  One male on 17th April
1995                  One female from 14th – 23rd April

Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus
      Six records
      1985           Singles on 24th November and 21st December 
1987          One on 26th December
2003          One on 23rd May
2004          One on 6th April 
2006                   One on 28th February
Spotted Crake  Porzana porzana
     Three records.
1988        One on 15th August, and one found freshly killed (probably by cat) on 14th October
1995        One from 15th to 27th April

Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
Two records. 2nd and 4th records for Guernsey, 2nd and 6th records for Channel Islands.
1988        A fine male resting and feeding in the southern fields and in front of Marais Nord from 3rd to 9th April
1995                One female from 28th April to 3rd May

Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta
One record. 4th record for Guernsey.
 1978        One feeding in front of Marais Nord house for half an hour on 5th May

Little Plover Charadrius dubius
Four records.
1978         One in flooded southern fields on 9th April
1990                  One on 23rd August    
1997        One from 16th – 19th April and one on 2nd May

Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula
      Seven records involving 15 birds.
      1976         One on 12th September
      1979         Six over on 9th September
      1980         Two on 20th April
      1989         One from 15th – 19th September
      1990         Three over on 21st April
      1992         One over on 8th August
      2006         One calling at night over Ty Coed on 14th August 

Eurasian Dotterel Charadrius morinellus
      One record.
      1981         One flying over low, calling on 5th October

European Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria
      Two records involving 15 birds.
      1981         Nine low over the lake on 26th September
      1985         Six over on 3rd February
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola
      Four records involving 12 birds.
      1983         Two over on 15th and 29th January          
      1986         Six over on 16th February
      1990         Two over on 9th May           

Red Knot Calidris canutus
      One record involving two birds.
      1983         One from 8th- 11th September 1983, with a second bird on the 10th September
Little Stint Calidris minuta
      One record.
       1979        One in front of Marais Nord on 4th September

Pectoral Sandpiper Calidris melanotos
     One record.
     1980          One feeding in front of Marais Nord on 15th September

Dunlin Calidris alpina
      Four records involving 22 birds.
     1980          Three on 20th April
     1985          Nine over on 19th January and one on 16th February
     1990          Nine on 25th September

Ruff Philomachus pugnax
      Five records involving 11 birds.
      1976         One on 12th September
      1978         Two pairs from 4th – 9th April
      1981         One on 2nd September
      1985         One white collared male on 3rd February
      1996         Two pairs from 31st March to 2nd April, with three birds remaining to 6th April

Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa
      Four records involving five birds.
      1977         One on 16th/17th May                                                          
      1978         One on 4th March
      1981         Two on 27th June
      1988         One on 25th September

Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica
      One record involving three birds.
      1995         Three in western field (with 19 Whimbrel) from 26th – 29th April

Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus
      Three records.
      1976         One on 30th/31st August
      1981         One on 9th May
      1982         One on 26th April

Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola
      Three records involving four birds.
      1976         Two on 6th August
      1979         One on 21st August
      1982         One on 7th August

Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres
      Four records involving five birds.
      1976         Two birds during August 1976
      1979         One on 3rd January
      1981         One on 11th October
      1986         One on 16th February

Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus
      Two records.
      1986         One adult at Ty Coed on 23rd February and 2nd March

Black Tern Childonias niger
Three records.
      1979         One on 26th August and one on 14th October
1982         One adult feeding over lake from 25th – 31st July 1982 (on this latter date I found the bird suffering from avian botulism – having taken it into care I ringed and released it on the 7th August)

Stock Dove Columba oenas
      Two records.
1986         One in garden at Ty Coed on 9th February
1988                  One in garden at Ty Coed from 22nd – 30th August

Short-eared Owl Asio flammeus
      Four records.
      1982         One ringed at dusk on 27th November
      1987         Singles on 30th April and 6th November
      1991         One over Ty Coed on 24th October 1991

Hoopoe Upupa epops
      Three records.
      1979         One feeding by the side of Marais Nord on 12th May
      1981         One flying over south-east on 5th May
      1987         One feeding at Ty Coed on 15th April

Eurasian Wryneck Jynx torquilla
      Two records.
      1987         One ringed on 23rd August
      1997        One feeing on ants at Ty Coed from  19th to 24th April                                    

Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major
      One record.
 2005/06   One male seen on six occasions between 4th November and  19th April

Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros
Nine records.
1978         One on 3rd January
1979         One male on 14th April
1982         One female on 28th March
1983         One male on 13th March and one female on 27th March
1984         One female on 8th April
1985         Singles on 7th April and 20th October
1987         One on 24th October

Aquatic Warbler Acrocephalus paludicola
Two records. 3rd and 4th records for Guernsey.
1976         Immature birds ringed on 11th and 19th August

Marsh Warbler Acrocephalus palustris
Three records. 4th, 6th and 7th records for Guernsey.
1981         Immatures ringed on 20th and 23rd August and 9th September

Melodious Warbler Hippolais polyglotta
Two records.
1978         One immature male ringed on 5th September
1984         One feeding at Ty Coed on 10th October

Pallas’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus
One record. 13th record for Guernsey.
2005         Immature male ringed at Ty Coed on 13th November

Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus
Ten records.
1983         One on 19th October
1986         One first year female ringed on 28th September
1988         One first year male trapped on 22nd October, one first year ringed on 23rd October and one first year male ringed on 29th October
2005                  One first year female ringed at Ty Coed on 31st October and one  first year ringed at Ty Coed on 14th November 2005 (remained in the   garden until last seen on 23rd November 2005)
2006                  One first year female ringed on 21st October, with two more
trapped and ringed on 23rd October. All at Ty Coed.

Dusky Warbler Phylloscopus fuscatus
One record. 1st record for Guernsey; 2nd record for Channel Islands.
1983         One immature male ringed on 5th November

Wood Warbler Phylloscopus sibilatrix
Ten records.
1979         One male from 14th – 16th April
1983         One female on 15th May
1986         One on 8th May
1987         One on 2nd May
1988         Singles on 18th and 23rd April and 1st May
1989         One on 24th September
1990         One from 11th –14th May
1992         One on 26th April

Red-breasted Flycatcher Ficedula parva
Two records.
1988         One first year ringed on 22nd October
1992         One immature male ringed on 13th October

Bearded Tit Panurus biarmicus
Three records involving nine birds.
1972         Six from 29th – 31st October
1980         One male (originally ringed in Jersey) caught on 4th April, seen again on 11th April. This bird was retrapped again in Jersey in July 1980.
1981         One pair on 2nd April (the female was trapped and had been ringed in Jersey in April 1979)

Coal Tit Parus ater
Three records.
1985         Singles on 20th and 25th October
2005         One on 20th November

Eurasian Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus
Two records.
1984         Adult male ringed on 21st April
2005         Male singing at Ty Coed on 13th June

Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio
One record.
1988         One immature ringed on 2nd October

Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus
One record.
1984         One ringed on 28th April

Lesser Redpoll Carduelis cabaret
Eight records involving 13 birds.
1978         Immature ringed on 28th October and adult male ringed on 29th October
1981         Two on 15th November
1982         One on 14th February and one on 18th March
1984         Four on 1st November
1987         One female ringed on 5th April and two on 24th October

Common Crossbill Loxia curvirostra
One record.
1997         One bird flying over Ty Coed calling on 12th July         

Snow Bunting Plectrophenax nivalis
One record.
1982/83    One from 28th December to 2nd January

Ortolan Bunting Emberiza hortulana
One record.
1986         One drinking from pond at Ty Coed on 10th September

Summary of Bird Ringing

My ringing studies at the Vale Marais have spanned the periods 1976 – 1994 and 2004 – 2006 inclusive. Over this time a total of 27,756 birds of 97 species, has been caught, ringed and released. There is no doubt that the ringing activities have resulted in bird sightings which would have otherwise gone undetected. In fact eight species have only been seen as a result of such activities, these being: - Aquatic Warbler (2), Marsh Warbler (3), Pallas’ Leaf Warbler, Dusky Warbler, Red-breasted Flycatcher (2), Eurasian Golden Oriole, Red-backed Shrike and Eurasian Tree Sparrow.
The totals of birds ringed at the Vale Marais from 1976 – 1994 and 2004 – 2006 are included within Appendix A.

To date these birds have yielded several hundred subsequent recoveries or controls (i.e. recaptures by other bird ringers). The majority of such records fall within Guernsey or the Channel Islands. However, there have been 90 recoveries of Vale Marais ringed birds outside the Channel Islands.

In addition 56 birds ringed outside the Channel Islands have been subsequently caught at the Vale Marais.

Foreign Recoveries of Birds Ringed at the Vale Marais

A summary of the 90 foreign recoveries, involving 22 species, is included at Table 1. Some 18 different countries have been involved spread across Northern, Western, Eastern and Southern Europe, along with Western Russia and countries in both North and West Africa.

Every recovery is valuable to the Channel Islands Ringing Scheme, and the centralised European Ringing Schemes databases. There is a high degree of subjectivity to those that are of most value. However, details are included below of my personal “Top 25” Vale Marais recoveries to date.

Eurasian Bittern                             ringed on 5th April 1985, and found dead on 3rd March 1986 at Heemstede, Noord Holland, NETHERLANDS – a                                                             distance of 600 km. What makes this recovery even more remarkable is the fact that the bird had originally been ringed in                                                         Jersey on 2nd March 1985, after having received veterinary treatment for significant damage to one of its wings.

Common Moorhen                         ringed (adult male) on 4th October 1981, and found long dead on 18th April 1983 at Bjerlevhede, Jylland, DENMARK                                                         – a distance of 1,100 km.

Common Moorhen                         ringed (first winter) on 17th January 1988, and found dead on 9th May 1989 at Bogo, Sjaelland, DENMARK -  a                                                                 distance of 1,140 km.

Common Moorhen                         ringed (adult male) on 2nd March 1985, and found dead on 16th April 1985 at Emdem Ot Borssum, Wesser-Ems,                                                                 GERMANY – a distance of 800 km.

Eurasian Coot                                 ringed (adult male) on 5th December 1981, and found dead on 10th January 1984 at Ommel, Aero, Fyn, DENMARK                                                         – a distance of 1,125 km.

Eurasian Coot                                 ringed (adult male) on 3rd January 1982, and found dead with botulism on 15th August 1983 at Baarn,                                                                                     NETHERLANDS – a distance of 640 km.

Sand Martin                                   ringed (adult) on 30th April 1989, and caught by ringers on 1st April 1991 at Parc National du Djoudj,                                                                                     SENEGAL – a distance of 3,900 km.

Sand Martin                                   ringed (adult) on 20th April 1989, and caught by ringers on 1st July 1989 at Drymen, Central Region, SCOTLAND – a                                                         distance of 730 km.

Pied Wagtail                                  ringed (first year) on 13th October 1981, and killed by cat on 9th June 1983 at Low Wray, Ambleside, Cumbria,                                                                     ENGLAND – a distance of 550 km.
Common Blackbird                       ringed (adult female) on 18th October 1986, and killed by a car on 14th July 1988 at Hainmuehlen, Lueneburg,                                                                         GERMANY – a distance of 930 km.

Sedge Warbler                             ringed (first year) on 26th August 1987, and caught by ringers on 8th November 1987 at Fishponds, Navrongo, GHANA                                                     -  a distance of 4,300 km.

Sedge Warbler                                ringed (adult male) on 21st April 1988, and caught by ringers on 6th January 1992 at Parc National du Djoudj,                                                                         SENEGAL – a distance of 3,900 km.

Sedge Warbler                                ringed (adult male) on 8th May 1991, and caught by ringers on 18th December 1991 at Parc National du Djoudj,                                                                     SENEGAL – a distance of 3,900 km.

Eurasian Reed Warbler                ringed (first year) on 5th September 1982, and found dead in a trap on 21st September 1986 at Alcantarilha, Algarve,                                                             PORTUGAL – a distance of 1,500 km.

Eurasian Reed Warbler                ringed 5th August 1982 (adult female), and caught by ringers on 2nd March 1993 at Ilha Areias, GUINEA-BISSAO – a                                                         distance of 4,400 km; making this the most distant recovery to date from Vale Marais ringing.

Common Whitethroat                    ringed (adult) on 15th May 1982, and killed by car on 4th May 1983 at Foissac, Aveyron, FRANCE – a distance of 640                                                         km.

Common Chiffchaff                       ringed (adult female) on 4th May 1990, and caught on 20th May 1990 at the Fair Isle Bird Observatory, Shetland Islands,                                                         SCOTLAND – a distance of 1,120 km in 16 days, before moving on to Outer Skerries, Shetland Islands, SCOTLAND                                                         where it was also caught by bird ringers on 5th June 1990.

Common Chiffchaff                       ringed (first year female) on 7th November 1992, and caught by bird ringers at Egebaksande, Jylland, DENMARK on                                                             25th April 1993 – a distance of 1,150 km.                 

Willow Warbler                                ringed (first year male) on 8th August 1986, and found dying on 28th March 1987 at El Kelaa, Des Sraghna,                                                                         MOROCCO – a distance of 2,000 km.

Willow Warbler                                ringed (adult male) on 29th April 1989, and found dead on 1st June 1989 at Lundin Links, Fife, SCOTLAND – a                                                                 distance of 740 km.

Goldcrest                                         ringed (adult male) on 8th April 1984, and controlled on 21st April 1984 at Bardsey Bird Observatory, Gwynedd,                                                                 WALES – a distance of 380 km.

Eurasian Golden Oriole                    ringed (adult male) on 21st April 1984, and found dead on 15th June 1986 at Romagne, Vienne, FRANCE - a                                                                         distance of 425 km.

Common Starling                           ringed (adult male) in the garden at Ty Coed on 2nd March 1986, and killed by a fox on 5th April 1988 at Elblag,                                                                     POLAND – a distance of 1,650 km.

Common Starling                           ringed (second year female) in the garden at Ty Coed on 3rd March 1988, and found dead on 18th April 1989 at                                                                     Ostovertsina, Vitebsk Region, BYELORUSSIA – a distance of 2,330 km.

Chaffinch                                       ringed (first year male) in the garden at Ty Coed on 20th November 1992, and found dead on 1st October 1993                                                                     at Marieholm, Skane, SWEDEN – a distance of 1,300 km.

Controls at the Vale Marais of Birds Ringed Outside the Channel Islands

To the end of 2006 there had been 56 birds of 16 species caught at the Vale Marais which had originally been ringed outside the Channel Islands. These controls have involved 12 European territories using eight different ringing schemes. A summary of these controls is included at Table 2. Details of my personal “Top 15” controls are included below.

Water Rail                                     ringed as a nestling female on 29th July 1987 at Wolfsburg, Braunschweig, GERMANY, and caught at the Vale Marais                                                         on 10th September 1988  - a distance of 990 km.

Common Kingfisher                  ringed as a juvenile on 4th July 1981 at Rye Meads, Hertfordshire, ENGLAND, and caught at the Vale Marais on 18th                                                             October 1981 – a distance of 310 km.

Sand Martin                              ringed as a first year female on 4th August 1981 at Barnhill, Tayside, SCOTLAND, and caught at the Vale Marais on 2nd                                                         May 1982 – a distance of 770 km.

Song Thrush                             ringed as a nestling on 7th July 1984 at Berlaar, Antwerp, BELGIUM, and caught at the Vale Marais on 11th November                                                         1984 – a distance of 550 km.

Sedge Warbler                         ringed as an adult female on 2nd August 1983 at Lagoa de Sto Andre, Baixo Alentejo, PORTUGAL, and caught at the Vale                                                   Marais on 26th April 1984 – a distance of 1,360 km.

Blackcap                                  ringed as first year male on 26th September 1986 at Hamme St Anne, West Flanders, BELGIUM, and caught at the Vale                                                       Marais on 5th October 1986 – a distance of 510 km.

Blackcap                                  ringed as adult male on 31st May 1992 at Thorpe Marsh, South Yorkshire, ENGLAND, and caught at the Vale Marais on                                                     10th April 1993 – a distance of 450 km.

Yellow-browed Warbler          ringed as first year on 21st October 1988 at Portland Bill Bird Observatory, Dorset, ENGLAND, and caught the very next                                                     day at the Vale Marais – a distance of 120 km (overnight).

Common Chiffchaff               ringed as first year male on 4th August 1991 at Ballagh, Tipperary, IRELAND, and caught at the Vale Marais on 21st March                                                 1993 – a distance of 500 km.

Willow Warbler                     ringed as adult on 21st March 1981 at Rio Guadalhorce, Malaga, SPAIN, and caught at the Vale Marais on 2nd April 1981 –                                                 a distance of 1,410 km in 12 days.

Willow Warbler                     ringed as adult male on 14th July 1986 at Leveroge, Down, NORTHERN IRELAND, and caught at the Vale Marais on 7th                                                 April 1987 – a distance of 590 km.

Willow Warbler                    ringed as adult on 5th May 1990 at Carrigullian Lough, Down, NORTHERN IRELAND, and caught at the Vale Marais on                                                     8th May 1991 -  a distance of 580 km.

Goldcrest                              ringed as first year male on 12th October 1983 at Schiermonnikoog, NETHERLANDS, and caught at the Vale Marais on 23rd                                             October 1983 – a distance of 780 km.

Pied Flycatcher                    ringed as nestling male on 14th June 1985 near Llandrindod Wells, Powys, WALES, and caught at the Vale Marais on 18th                                                 August 1985 – a distance of 310 km.

Brambling                            ringed as first year female on 19th September 1986 at Fraena, More & Romsdale, NORWAY, and caught in the garden at Ty                                                  Coed on 31st January 1987 – a distance of 1,640 km.


In an era (particularly in the UK) when local “patch” studies appear to have been largely eclipsed by “twitching” birds wherever they turn up, this paper highlights the value of recording the birds of a particular area over a significant period of time. When I began to visit the site in 1971 I did not envisage that I would still be watching and recording birds there some 35 years later, although I am very pleased to be still doing this.

The wetland habitat, combined with increasing scrub and tree cover over the years, has resulted in a very respectable bird list for the site, including a fair number of rare and scarce birds.

Combined with these observations have been the hundreds of days over this period that I have caught birds to identify, age and/or sex, measure, ring and release. Quite apart from the scientific value of this work, both within Guernsey and beyond, I have gleened so much enjoyment and contentment from the privilege not only of being given free access to the site, but also in being licensed to undertake my bird ringing activities.

My time spent on the marsh has been deeply influential in kindling and developing my deep love of, and connection with, the natural world. My debt to Maurice O’Rorke, who not only permitted me to undertake this study but also encouraged and helped me, is therefore deep. It is but a small gesture, but a satisfying one nonetheless, to acknowledge Maurice’s generosity by dedicating this paper to his memory.

Paul K Veron
Channel Islands Bird Ringing Permit Number 129

1st March 2007