Guernsey Wader Counts


Over half of Guernsey's regularly wintering waders have declined by over 50% over the past 20 years and only 2 out of 11 species have actually shown a consistent increase in the past 10 years. In 2007 a new species, Grey Plover, was added to the Red list.

The island has lost its designation as being internationally important for Turnstone. Although, some of the reasons are due to external factors such as climate change, declines in waders have been highest on beaches with the most disturbance. Dog walking especially disturbs feeding and roosting waders.

Known locally as the 'wader counts', these have been a monthly institution since 1979 although technically they cover much more than just waders! Each month, volunteers visit 10 sectors (see Methods section here) along the Guernsey shore and count all the waders, ducks, geese, gulls and other waterbirds such as Cormorant and Shag, Kingfisher, Coot and Moorhen. These data are collected as part of the Wetland Bird Survey organised by the British Trust for Ornithology and are collated into annual reports. Periodically, estimates on the total number of waders in the UK and the Channel Islands are calculated.

Waterbirds are an important group to monitor because they are very vulnerable to factors such as disturbance, pollution and habitat change. They are therefore a good measure of the overall health of the intertidal environment.

Disturbance is probably the most important factor impacting on wader populations. With ever increasing demands being placed on the islands' beaches, disturbance levels are going up. Birds are hit by a 'double whammy' of reduced time for feeding as well as having to expend extra energy flying to escape the danger. Safe roost sites are also often few and far between and birds can be displaced to less good quality roost sites where the risk of predation is higher.

Voluntary dog ban on certain beaches in winter
The imposition of the voluntary dog ban has been a great step forward. Many times in the past the author has seen an owner allowing a dog to repeatedly chase the Dunlin flock at Vazon. The dog is having a great time but these birds are continually being denied access to their feeding areas and this will inevitably have an effect on numbers.

The wader counts are carried by numerous volunteers every month and observers show extreme dedication in going out in all weathers. However the results have provided us with an almost unique dataset allowing us to look at changes over almost 30 years. There are many people to name individually but to make this analysis I would like to thanks Wayne Turner, Jen Smart and Mary Simmons for entering a vast amout of data from paper forms to allow these analyses.

  Copyright © La Société Guernesiaise 2008. All rights reserved.
Candie Gardens, St Peter Port, Guernsey GY1 1UG, Channel Islands.