Conservation gold

We’ve just learnt that the Chough Watch team has won the RSPB’s President award!

The President’s award recognises significant volunteer contribution to nature conservation and to the work of the RSPB.  It’s the equivalent of winning an Olympic gold medal, so very special and hard won.

Team Chough  – you are the best.  Thanks for all your help this year and over the last 15 years to further chough conservation.

Claire and Nicola

as Mark just said …Yayyyyyy go us!

Volunteer view part 2

Another lovely piece written by Paul who travels to Cornwall each spring to help us keep the choughs safe during their critical incubation time.

When I tell me people I’m off to look after birds in Cornwall – apart from truly awfully puns based on ‘chough’ – the most common reply is “why would you want to do that?”

Why would you not? For a start, there’s the fabulous scenery; rugged Cornish coastline, glorious sunrises and spectacular skies. Do I need to mention there are birds and animals galore?

Then there are the people you get to meet – some know about the choughs and the story behind their recolonisation in Cornwall, they will often ask about a particular bird “have you seen him / her?”, “how are they all doing this year?”. Then there are people who look at you oddly when you mention choughs – I’m sure some think it’s some sort of elaborate practical joke – but when told the ins and outs of a Cornish chough’s life, carry on their way with smiles on their faces. Even better are the times when you can show people a chough!

Sometimes, of course, you have to ask people to avoid an area or stop throwing stones into a cave but most passers-by (whether locals or holidaymakers, adults or children)) are only too pleased to comply once they understand the fragility of the birds’ nest area.

I also get an enormous buzz by doing something for nature. Every little helps to redress the balance. Though I sometimes forget that when the sun goes in and the rain is coming in horizontally. It’s usually only a moment before I remember again.

Lastly, there are the birds themselves. Intelligent, sleek and beautiful flyers. After a few days being near them, you too might find yourself talking to them. Do I do that? No, of course not. Ahem.

Paul also volunteers his time in Malta to help prevent the illegal killing of millions of songbirds each year.

Thanks Paul!

Watchers words

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.  

Wonderful choughs

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..



200 years ago..

On checking the records this morning  according to Roger Penhallurick’s ‘The Birds of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly’, it’s been two centuries since choughs probably last bred around the Roseland area.

Until yesterday.

This lovely image shows one of the three youngsters that fledged on sunny Sunday 3 July 2016.   That’s one for the history books!


Choughs last seen around here in the 1820s. Thanks to David for watching over these recolonisers

And while talking chough chicks here are some more images from the weekend.

Below, parents being very protective of these two. Gulls, peregrines and crows are a threat to young choughs.  Geoff Rogers

North family group Geoff Rogers

wind beneath my wings Lizard way. Image by Mark Hayhurstwind beneath my wings. Image by Mark Hayhurst