We asked Chough Watch volunteers to send us in a few words and thoughts to describe how they got involved and why, and also what they enjoy (or not) about their volunteering.
First off, this is from Judith.
This was my first year helping with the ‘chough watch’ although I’ve been passionate about them since their return to Cornwall. The experience has been very intense, focussing on just one spot and seeing how it changes from spring to summer, noticing the flowers and the other birds, like the nesting stonechats. Watching chough behaviour up close is fascinating. Seeing how the adult pair’s routine changes: busy in the morning, with worryingly long gaps between visits to the nest in the afternoon. Seeing their fast, precise dive into the nesting site, seeing how fussily the male cleans his beak, and seeing the two adults preening each other.
And the biggest moment of all, arriving at 8am on the morning the choughlets had fledged and seeing them ‘bouldered’ just above me – a term for how they hop from rock to rock as they get used to flying.“One was particularly nervous about her next flight and teetered for several minutes on the rock before launching. Over the next few days I watched them take longer flights and watched them learn to forage. Within a week they were good to go. The vast majority of walkers were very considerate about the birds and many were very interested to learn more about them and their return to Cornwall. ‘I’ve heard about them but I never dreamed I’d see one’, was just one comment, and it’s a real buzz to be able to answer their questions, show them the choughs and tell them about the brood and the ringing.
Choughs are becoming part of what people love about the coast path. For me, they’re a part of Cornish heritage, and now a walk in the cliffs without hearing and seeing them would not be complete.
And this lovely poem by Denise who came down from our HQ in Sandy, both last year and this year, to spend a few weeks helping us.
It’s time for sabbatical number two
Where should I go? What should I do?
So many projects need a hand
In many places cross the land.
I’m heading off to Cornwall
To help the red billed chough
To watch over the nest sites
That shouldn’t be too tough!
Now these guys like to make their home
In blowholes, zawn’s and mines
So off I go with flask and bins
And hope the sun will shine.
A watcher’s shift can be quite mixed
But always taking notes
Of sun and rain, birds and seals
Gannets, gulls and boats
The best part is the calling chough
It’s music to our ears
Watched over endless hours
God bless those volunteers.
A detour from the watches
The Minack’s great new play
‘King of the Chough’s’ is here all week
A great success I’d say.
Red bills and legs, black shiny coat
Their ciaow ciaow calling loud
Such lovely charismatic birds
King Arthur would be proud!
It’s such a treat to see these birds
Up close in all their glory
The chough’s are back in Cornwall!
A truly memorable story.
There will be more from the Watchers another time..