The initial role of the charity was to undertake research to establish the status of the Island’s birdlife at the start of the 21st Century. The results of that work were published in 2007 in the ‘Manx Bird Atlas’.
Conservation is as much about people and their decisions as it is about the study of the species and habitats concerned. It is therefore vital that Manx BirdLife continues to engage with key individuals and organisations in the public and private sector to ensure that our professional opinion forms part of policy and decision making aimed at conserving wild birds of the Isle of Man and their habitats.
Assisting in the development of initiatives such as agri-environment schemes, whereby funds are provided to farmers to provide habitat for declining species, will be key in helping the charity to have a positive impact upon our local bird populations in the medium to long-term.
Breeding Bird Research
In the summer of 2010 the charity reached the half-way point of a resurvey of breeding birds on the Isle of Man. Using the same methodology as used in the initial 1998-2003 research, even down to walking the same route, this research which is due for completion in 2015 is already providing an important annual index of change for a range of common species. At the end of 2015 the charity will be publishing a ‘Change Atlas’ showing how bird populations have faired since the baseline period of 1998-2003.
Species Specific Survey
Some species whose breeding distribution is restricted by habitat type e.g. Hen Harrier or are clustered in their distribution due to their colonial nature e.g. Grey Heron and Sand Martin, can be poorly represented by large scale surveys. Therefore, in addition to the general survey effort being undertaken by Manx BirdLife, a range of species are subjected to targeted survey effort enabling us to gather a more complete picture of the status of that species on the Island.
For example, in April-July 2010 Natural England and the RSPB commissioned the charity to undertake a full breeding census of Hen Harrier as part of a British Isles survey; whilst in 2007 a census of Peregrine Falcon was undertaken.
Winter Bird Research
In the winter of 2009-10 the charity commenced a re-survey of wintering bird populations on the Isle of Man, the start of an annual programme of surveying 20% of the Island to monitor change in trends in our wintering bird populations.
Monitoring change in our wintering populations is important for sedentary species that remain on the Island throughout the year as well as for visiting birds that may breed elsewhere in the British Isles or further afield, some of which the Island has an international obligation to help conserve.
Though not a core reason for the charity to exist, being engaged to undertake a consultancy role does provide important finance to help under-pin the conservation and research work that lies at the heart of our existence.
Undertaking a consultancy role has the added advantage of ensuring that local expertise and knowledge is available to the contracting body, which on the Island tends to be the Isle of Man Government. A move away from engaging off-Island consultants and using local experience is welcomed; helping also to keep income circulating within the Island’s economy.
Throughout the life of the charity, Manx BirdLife has undertaken a range of projects, from assessing the value of upland sites for birds in relation to a proposed onshore windfarm project, to monitoring the effects of quarrying expansion.
Point of Ayre Gravel Pits Reserve
Lying at the extreme north of the Island, the Point of Ayre gravel pits are part of the industrial excavation of sand and gravel being undertaken by Cemex, Island Aggregates Limited. Since 1999 Manx BirdLife has been monitoring the site on a weekly basis and has a wealth of data that documents the movement of birds through the site as the seasons change and, importantly, as the site has started a natural regeneration.
As the site becomes worked out, on a planned, phased, basis the potential exists to significantly improve the range of habitats and hence bio-diversity within the site. To this end Manx BirdLife are presently negotiating a long-term lease for the site with Cemex. Once signed, the charity and company will be implementing a restoration and management plan, assisted by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, who have many years experience in maximising the potential of worked-out quarries.
Though a timescale for the works being completed has yet to be finalised, a core element of the work will be to integrate visitor access, through a number of paths and hides, aimed at providing great viewing opportunities, whilst minimising disturbance.
Like any charity, Manx BirdLife relies upon the goodwill, support and generosity of the community within which it operates. Since our work started in early 1998 we have enjoyed fantastic support for our efforts from members of the public, the business community, Government and other conservation bodies.
As a result of that support we have gained a high public profile which we seek to maintain and build upon. One of the most popular means by which we do this is to give talks to a range of organisations, including the Womens’ Institute, Round Table and various youth bodies. If you would like a member of our staff to give an illustrated presentation/talk please get in touch using our contact details on this site.
A couple of years ago we launched a ‘Friends of Manx BirdLife’ membership scheme. It would be fair to say that, to date, that scheme has not been properly supported or promoted by ourselves. In early 2011 we aim to put that right, by re-launching the scheme and providing proper support and feedback to the membership. If you would like to help in promoting the scheme we are looking for volunteers, so please get in touch if you are interested.
In fact, over the coming months we will be seeking a range of volunteers to help support the work of the charity. Further details on how you may be able to help will be forthcoming.
Finally, and in another exciting development for the charity, we are in the process of making a wildlife documentary, showcasing the diversity and beauty of the Island’s wildlife.
All of these initiatives are aimed at developing our role within the community and providing a range of opportunities to share with you the importance of the work we are undertaking.