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The Ornitholony of the Channel Islands






Though perhaps not possessing the interest to the ornithologist which
Lundy Island (the only breeding-place of the Gannet in the South-West of
England) or the Scilly Islands possess, or being able to produce the
long list of birds which the indefatigable Mr. Gäetke has been able to
do for his little island, Heligoland, the avifauna of Guernsey and the
neighbouring islands is by no means devoid of interest; and as little
has hitherto been published about the Birds of Guernsey and the
neighbouring islands, except in a few occasional papers published by
Miss C.B. Carey, Mr. Harvie Browne, myself, and a few others, in the
pages of the 'Zoologist,' I make no excuse for publishing this list of
the birds, which, as an occasional visitor to the Channel Islands for
now some thirty years, have in some way been brought to my notice as
occurring in these Islands either as residents, migrants, or occasional

Channel Island specimens of several of the rarer birds mentioned, as
well as of the commoner ones, are in my own collection; and others I
have seen either in the flesh or only recently skinned in the
bird-stuffers' shops. For a few, of course, I have been obliged to rely
on the evidence of others; some of these may appear, perhaps, rather
questionable,--as, for instance, the Osprey,--but I have always given
what evidence I have been able to collect in each case; and where
evidence of the occurrence was altogether wanting, I have thought it
better to omit all mention of the bird, though its occasional occurrence
may seem possible.

I have confined myself in this list to the Birds of Guernsey and the
neighbouring islands--Sark, Alderney, Jethou and Herm; in fact to the
islands included in the Bailiwick of Guernsey. I have done this as I
have had no opportunity of personally studying the birds of Jersey, only
having been in that island once some years ago, and then only for a
short time, and not because I think a notice of the birds of Jersey
would have been devoid of interest, though whether it would have added
many to my list maybe doubtful. Professor Ansted's list, included in his
large and very interesting work on the Channel Islands, is hitherto the
only attempt at a regular list of the Birds of the Channel Islands; but
as he, though great as a geologist, is no ornithologist, he was obliged
to rely in a great measure on information received from others, and this
apparently was not always very reliable, and he does not appear to have
taken much trouble to sift the evidence given to him. Professor Ansted
himself states that his list is necessarily imperfect, as he received
little or no information from some of the Islands; in fact, Guernsey and
Sark appear to be the only two from which much information had been
received. This is to be regretted, as it has made the notice of the
distribution of the various birds through the Islands, which he has
denoted by the letters _a, e, i, o, u_[1] appended to the name of each
bird, necessarily faulty. The ornithological notes, however, supplied by
Mr. Gallienne are of considerable interest, and are generally pretty
reliable. It is rather remarkable, however, that Professor Ansted has
not always paid attention to these notes in marking the distribution of
the birds through the various Islands.

No doubt many of the birds included in Professor Ansted's list were
included merely on the authority of specimens in the museum of the
Mechanics' Institute, which at one time was a pretty good one; and had
sufficient care been taken to label the various specimens correctly as
to place and date, especially distinguishing local specimens from
foreign ones, of which there were a good many, would have been a very
interesting and useful local museum; as it is, the interest of this
museum is considerably deteriorated. Some of the birds in the museum are
confessedly foreign, having been brought from various parts of the world
by Guernsey men, who when abroad remembered the museum in their own
Island, and brought home specimens for it. Others, as Mr. Gallienne, who
during his life took much interest in the museum, himself told me had
been purchased from various bird-stuffers, especially from one in
Jersey; and no questions were asked as to whether the specimens bought
were local or set-up from skins obtained from the Continent or England.
Amongst those so obtained may probably be classed the Blue-throated
Warblers, included in Professor Ansted's list and marked as Jersey
(these Mr. Gallienne himself told me he believed to be Continental and
not genuine Channel Island specimens), the Great Sedge Warbler, the
Meadow Bunting, the Green Woodpecker, and perhaps a few others.

This museum, partly from want of interest being taken in it and partly
from want of money, has never had a very good room, and has been
shuffled and moved about from one place to another, and consequently
several birds really valuable, as they could be proved to be genuine
Channel Island specimens, have been lost and destroyed; in fact, had it
not been for the care and energy of Miss C.B. Carey, who took great
pains to preserve what she found remaining of the collection, and place
it in some sort of order, distinguishing by a different coloured label
those specimens which could be proved to be Channel Island (in doing
this she worked very hard, and received very little thanks or
encouragement, but on the contrary met with a considerable amount of
genuine obstructiveness), the whole of the specimens in the museum would
undoubtedly have been lost; as it is, a good many valuable local
specimens--valuable as being still capable of being proved to be genuine
Channel Island specimens--have been preserved, and a good nucleus kept
for the foundation of a new museum, should interest in the subject
revive and the local authorities be disposed to assist in its formation.
In my notices of each bird I have mentioned whether there is a specimen
in the museum, and also whether it is included in Professor Ansted's
list, and if so in which of the Islands he has marked it as occurring.

No doubt the Ornithology of the Channel Islands, as is the case in many
counties of England, has been considerably changed by drainage works,
improved cultivation, and road-making; much alteration of this sort I
can see has taken place during the thirty years which I have known the
Islands as an occasional visitor. But Mr. MacCulloch, who has been
resident in the Islands for a much longer period--in fact, he has told
me nearly double--has very kindly supplied me with the following very
interesting note on the various changes which have taken place in
Guernsey during the long period he has lived in that island; he says, "I
can well recollect the cutting of most of the main roads, and the
improvement, still going on, of the smaller ones. It was about the
beginning of this century that the works for reclaiming the Braye du
Valle were undertaken; before that time the Clos du Valle[2] was
separated from the mainland by an arm of the sea, left dry at low water,
extending from St. Samson's to the Vale Church. This was bordered by
salt marshes only, covered occasionally at spring tides by the sea, some
of which extended pretty far inland. The meadows adjoining were very
imperfectly drained, as indeed some still are, and covered with reeds
and rushes, forming excellent shelter for many species of aquatic birds.
Now, as you know, by far the greater part of the land is well cultivated
and thickly covered with habitations. The old roads were everywhere
enclosed between high hedges, on which were planted rows of elms; and
the same kind of hedge divided the fields and tenements. Every house,
too, in those days had its orchard, cider being then universally drunk;
and the hill-sides and cliffs were covered with furze brakes, as in all
country houses they baked their own bread and required the furze for
fuel. Now all that is changed. The meadows are drained and planted with
brocoli for the early London market, to be replaced by a crop of
potatoes at the end of the summer. The trees are cut down to let in the
sun. Since the people have taken to gin-drinking, cider is out of favour
and the orchards destroyed. The hedges are levelled to gain a few
perches of ground, and replaced in many places by stone walls; the furze
brakes rooted up, and the whole aspect and nature of the country
changed. Is it to be wondered at that those kinds of birds that love
shelter and quiet have deserted us? You know, too, how every bird--from
the Wren to the Eagle--is popped at as soon as it shows itself, in
places where there are no game laws and every man allowed to carry a

This interesting description of the changes--agricultural and
otherwise--which have taken place in the Islands, especially Guernsey,
during the last fifty or sixty years (for which I have to offer Mr.
MacCulloch my best thanks), gives a very good general idea of many of
the alterations that have taken place in the face of the country during
the period above mentioned; but does not by any means exhaust them, as
no mention is made of the immense increase of orchard-houses in all
parts of Guernsey, which has been so great that I may fairly say that
within the last few years miles of glasshouses have been built in
Guernsey alone: these have been built mostly for the purpose of growing
grapes for the London market. These orchard-houses have, to a certain
extent, taken the place of ordinary orchards and gardens, which have
been rooted up and destroyed to make place for this enormous extent of
glass. But what appeared to me to have made the greatest change, and has
probably had more effect on the Ornithology of the Island, especially of
that part known as the Vale, is the enormous number of granite quarries
which are being worked there (luckily the beautiful cliffs have hitherto
escaped the granite in those parts, probably not being so good); but in
the Vale from St.

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