Alderney's Local Wildlife
Arguably Alderney’s greatest feature is the sheer diversity of wildlife packed into such a small space. There is never a season without something to offer nature lovers.
Alderney is better known for it’s birds than its mammals, however there are several distinctive species which thrive, largely due to the lack of predators. There is not a single fox on the island. There are plenty of bats, mice and rabbits, the little-known greater white-toothed shrew is common. Black rabbits and blonde hedgehogs are more unusual viewing, with the famous blonde hedgehogs occasionally observed in the evening, foraging for food in the side-streets of St Anne.
Alderney is a designated Ramsar site (a wetland of international importance) and is popular with birdwatchers who come throughout the year to view the species particular to the island, specially those which are strangers to mainland Britain. The island is notable for its northern gannets – home to about 2% of the world’s population. These birds are best seen on a rocky outcrop called Les Etacs on the south west of the island. There are often over 5000 birds gathered on the white tipped rocks, and they make quite an impressive sight.
The small uninhabited islands of Burhou and Ortac are also places of special importance. Burhou, which is two miles northwest of Braye Harbour, is home to threatened colonies of puffins and petrels as well as black-backed gulls and common seals. Ortac, along with Les Etacs, is the home of the thousands of gannets who base themselves in the area.
The puffins are best seen between the end of March and early July. Boat trips out to the uninhabited island of Burhou to view the puffins are regularly organised with the Wildlife Trust during this time. The gannets are best between late January and October. The gannet colony – Les Etacs – can be viewed on land, but for an up close view of these birds a ‘wildlife boat trip’ is best.
There are two nature reserves on Alderney – Val du Saou and Longis. Val du Saou is a seventeen acre area with a Countryside Centre housed in a German bunker which contains information on local nature as well as the island’s history. Migratory birds, as well as birds of prey, are often spotted from the reserve. Longis is the largest reserve and contains thirteen distinctly different habitats. The grasslands have a great diversity of plant species, with rarities such as small hare’s-ear, small restharrow, scrambled egg lichen, autumn lady’s tresses, bastard toadflax and green winged orchids. Both reserves, along with the Ramsar site, are looked after by the Wildlife Trust.