Our dawn choruses in spring are full of song – in valleys such as Dixcart Valley the warbler species are mainly represented by Blackcap, Common Whitethroat, Willow Warbler and Garden Warbler. Other warblers such as Cetti’s Warbler and Icterine Warbler sometimes make an appearance. The fruity warble of the Blackbird, the loud burst of song from the undergrowth of the Wren, the repeated notes of the Song Thrush, the Chiffchaff’s two note call and the tripping tumbling song of the Chaffinch all swell the avian orchestra in the valleys and the gardens.
Around the coast our sea cliffs and stacks are full of Herring Gulls, Lesser and Greater Black-backed Gulls and Fulmars. These are not really a Gull but a little Albatross – like them the Fulmars have “tube-noses” which are designed to drain excess salt from the sea-water that they drink. They are easily recognised by their stiff-winged flight – they can look as if they are rowing against the air.
The Guillemot colony on Les Autelets (the alters) is the biggest in the Channel Islands. They lay their narrow-ended eggs directly on the rocky ledges – with all those birds crowded onto the available space it is a miracle that eggs and chicks survive. Shags warm up in the early morning sunshine on the rocks near Port du Moulin before flying off in squadrons to bath and fish. A boat trip around the island with George Guille will take in the offshore island of L’Etac which is probably the best place to see Puffins when they come ashore to breed in the spring.
On the shoreline the smart black and white Oystercatchers hiccup and bleep as they work the stones and probe the sand with their long red bills. Other waders such as Turnstones, Curlews, Whimbrels and Common Sandpipers join them. Each species has a different bill shape which enables them to get at their preferred food, and helps cut down competition. This is one of the reasons that shorelines can support many different species of birds.
It is a privilege to have Peregrines. The presence of these top predators is a good indicator of a healthy ecosystem which is necessary to support them and Sark is fortunate to have two breeding pairs. They are the cheetahs of the sky, unbelievable fast when they go into their power-dive or “stoop” after an unsuspecting pigeon, their usual quarry.
Other raptors that may be seen are Common Buzzards and Common Kestrels. Sometimes a Merlin, a Sparrowhawk or Honey Buzzard may be glimpsed. Occasionally the huge wingspan of a White-tailed Sea Eagle is spotted as the juveniles will go off exploring before finding their own territory.