Who are the chough watchers?

Super Keith

Keith got in touch with us in 2005, when he came across a bird he didn’t recognise while out for a walk near Mullion.  He went home to look it up on the interweb and of course that led him to us at the RSPB.  Newly retired and having time to walk, he soon found that a pair of choughs had taken up residence on cliffs near him and thus began his close connection with these amazing birds. All these years on, Keith still says he isn’t a birdwatcher, but he is one of our most dedicated and loyal volunteers.This year, as in previous years, Keith set up and ran the nest protection operation at ‘his’ site with the help of local people, many of whom have been co-opted to the job by Keith and his persuasive charm and passion for choughs. Being ex Navy there is military precision in the planning and execution of all tasks -including the end of season BBQ! Keith is not very well at the moment, so us and the choughs send him happy thoughts and hope he’s back on the cliffs very soon.

Keith in t' shed

Keith’s second home



Matt, Mark, Keith and Darren on BBQ duty 2014

Thanks Keith!

It’s a tough world if you’re a chough

Choughs are often seen hopping around, they seem to sustain quite a few injuries to their legs.  All that scrabbling around on rocks, fighting off the enemy and scrapping, it’s a hard  life even if you are chough-tough.  Poor ‘no rings Nora’ on the Lizard has been limping for the last week or so, although there is no obvious damage to her leg and she is feeding as well as ever.  No-rings Nora is very easy to identify because unlike the other choughs in Cornwall she is not colour-ringed – where did she come from?  We have a feather sample from her so hope to find out soon.  Her and her mate, still accompanied by one of their offspring from this year, are usually to be seen around the cliffs at Kynance.

'Nora' no rings -hopping along

‘Nora’ no rings -hopping along. Photo Alec Farr

Working on your holidays?

Fed up with all that flicking through guide books deciding on what to do next, reached you limit on culture, bored with lying around on the beach?  Perhaps next year you might consider a working holiday? – more and more people are doing just that and getting involved in the world of conservation.

Most of the volunteers that help monitor and protect the choughs in Cornwall are fairly local to a particular nest site. But, there are a growing number of volunteers who, because of their interest in the choughs, come to Cornwall and spend a working holiday with us.  For many years we rented accommodation on the Lizard so volunteers could stay free of charge in return for their time, but we could no longer afford the rental costs and regrettably folded this residential scheme.  However, some volunteers from ‘up country’ who came every year decided they still wanted to be involved so this year they rented and funded their own accommodation, plus, some new volunteers were expressing an interest and they also took up the working holiday challenge and booked their own accommodation so they could help us.  Thanks guys – you know who you are!

Some of the volunteers have been using their experience helping the National Trust at the Wildlife Watchpoint at Southerly Point, which we ran between 2002 and 2013, whilst others have spent their ‘holiday’ elsewhere in Cornwall where us and the choughs most needed help.  Jane and Ian from Dorset just sent us this lovely piece about their working holiday.

“Our visits to West Cornwall have included a trip to see the choughs since their return to the county, so volunteering with the chough watch combined the best of both worlds for us.  It gave us the opportunity (excuse) to sit on the cliffs watching the sea and the wildlife for a few hours each day with the knowledge that we were helping to protect these beautiful birds.

Volunteering in this way is such a positive experience.  We felt very much that we belonged there and were actively contributing to the region and the environment, rather than just being holidaymakers or birdwatchers.

The RSPB co-ordinator was inspirational, taking time to make sure we were comfortable with the area, briefing us on exactly what to do if we needed to talk to the public about the nest site and its protection and keeping in daily contact to see how things were going.  Her enthusiasm and interest in us as individuals all contributed so much.

I have been asked to add the down sides to our working holiday and I can honestly say that there were none.  We have been spreading the word with like-minded friends and hope to bring other volunteers with us next year.” We also took advantage of the discount offered by Classic Cottages.  I don’t know if they want this publicised or will continue to do it but it did help with costs for us.

All the best from Jane and Ian