Monday, 12 September 2016

My Trip to Jersey

I have not written any blog posts for a few weeks now, because first I was at my friend's house, and then, my mum and I went on holiday - and the latter is the subject of today's post. We went to Jersey for a week, staying in a hostel on the grounds of the Durrel Wildlife Park (an absolutely amazing place), and as well as visiting the wildlife park a few times, we also visited some of Jersey's famously beautiful beaches, and encountered some interesting creatures there.

Each morning we would wake up in our room to the sound of the animals in the park. My favourite was the pair of gibbons singing, a beautiful musical sound which is one of my favourite animal vocalisations. These duets would serve 2 purposes in the wild: first of all, it is a signal that tells other individuals that this is their territory, as gibbons are very territorial. Secondly, singing together at dawn and dusk helps to strengthen the bond between the male and female. The male gibbon at Durrel was previously part of a circus until the park took him in, and during that time he was trained to sing for the crowds. Sadly, even in the more natural habitat of the park he still sometimes reverts to this behaviour: when the zoo gets particularly crowded, he is prone to bouts of singing, because he still remembers when he had to sing for the crowds. Normally he would only sing at dawn and dusk with his mate.
Another noise that we could hear in the morning was made by the ruffed lemurs, which make loud, throaty noises which sound rather as if they come from a large, dangerous predator. Once I was helping out at Yorkshire Wildlife Park and was feeding the ring-tailed lemurs, when a black-and-white ruffed lemur started up this call behind me. It was so loud and shocking from an animal such as a lemur that it made me jump into the air with surprise.

Before we went to Jersey, I had heard that red squirrels were present on the island. I was excited about this, because I've never seen one before, so I did some research and wrote down some likely places where we might get a sighting of a red squirrel. I was expecting travelling to some distant woodland, then sitting silently for a while, and getting a fleeting glimpse of a red blur.
On the contrary, on our first day in Jersey, as we visited the wildlife park, a red squirrel suddenly ran out in front of us, about 2 metres away, stared at us for a little while, then ran off again! After this we had several more sightings in and around the zoo. Sometimes we would even see the squirrels running across the lawn while we ate our breakfast!

On the nighttime, we would often find speckled bush crickets on our windows, or even in our room. Several times I had to catch them and let them out of the house, in case they didn't find the way out themselves, but once we found a dead individual which I had not managed to rescue in the lounge area. In Hull, I have often gone out and searched for hours for the elusive speckled bush crickets - here I could see them without even leaving our room!
We saw a variety of grasshoppers in Jersey, and on our first day we heard the loud song of a field cricket from a nearby road verge. On a night, we could hear the cicada-like chirping of the great green bush crickets, which along with hearing gibbons calling in the morning, gave the impression of being in some far-flung rainforest, admittedly with the temperature turned down a few notches!

Plemont Bay

The first beach that we visited was Plemont Bay, which is a very beautiful place, with an excellent cafe. It was perfect for us because we needed only to catch 2 buses to get there from our lodge, and the beach was sandy instead of stony, as the latter is difficult and a bit dangerous for my mum to walk on, since she has a bad ankle. However, there were also rockpools, which was exactly what we had came for. I was surprised when we first arrived at Plemont Bay by how many fish there were. I must have seen hundreds of small shannies that day, and I caught a glimpse of a pair of beautifully coloured fish which I think may have been young dragonets. My mum also briefly saw a much larger fish with some blue colouration, which may have been a larger dragonet.
As some of the rockpools were quite large and deep, it was great fun to go swimming in them, as the marine life is even more fascinating underwater.

 Me swimming in a large rockpool. The water was nowhere near as warm as it looks!

 A view from the clifftops of Plemont Bay

We didn't see many crabs, as we would at beaches close to Hull, such as Filey and Bridlington, but I did see several shrimps, and hundreds of beadlet anemones. I also found some snakelock anemones, breadcrumb sponge, and a sea lemon. The sea lemon is a lovely little yellow sea slug which is covered in dimples and exudes a strong citrus smell when handled, making it resemble a miniature lemon. It feeds entirely on the breadcrumb sponge, and so its peculiar colouration makes it blend in well against the yellowy colouration of the sponge.

I also discovered that as well as being interesting, marine life can also be painful! Slipping on barnacle-encrusted rocks is not exactly my idea of good fun, and my leg's now covered in painful cuts.

 One of the sheltered areas at Green Island. The keen eyed may notice that this is in fact a rare sighting of a Lesser Spotted Jacob, which can be seen in the background searching for marine life

We also visited another beach, called Green Island. When the sea goes out here, it leaves loads of rockpools and large, sheltered areas of sea which are great for swimming in. In one of the larger rockpools at Green Island I found a shoal of fish which I think were sand smelt, which were good fun to swim with. This was also a good spot for collecting shells, and we found many seashells which are yet to be identified, as well as cuttlefish bone (which later had to be thrown away, as it smelt bad and was making our whole room similarly bad-smelling).

We went to Plemont Bay a second time, but because the tide went out quite late and the wind was rather cold that day, we didn't stay as long as our first time. When we weren't rockpooling, we visited the Durrel Wildlife Park, learning about the conservation work it does and having some close-up encounters with the animals they have there. We watched a baby orangutan playing - which was rather amusing, as its idea of fun consisted of hiding itself under some straw, jumping out, then flopping down upon the ground as too exhausted to stand, then repeating the process. We also got very close to the baby's mother, who seemed rather interested in the piece of cake that I had, and another female orangutan, which appeared to be doing the hoovering up, as she walked around the enclosure with her mouth clamped to the floor, sucking up food as she went.

Overall, it was a great trip, and given the opportunity I would most certainly visit Jersey again. We looked only briefly at the wildlife and beautiful coastline of the island, because we wanted to spend several days in Durrel, but in our short amount of time, we encountered a great deal of species which were new and exciting to me.

Until next time, keep on the wild side!

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