Connecting choughs – Crave á bec rouge visitors

We originally thought the choughs in Cornwall that appeared back in 2001 came across from Brittany but it turned out we were wrong,  they were from southern Ireland (we know this thanks to DNA work by Aberdeen University, Marius Wenzel et al).

However (and very excitingly), we can now confidently report there is at  least one Breton chough in Kernow adding to the Celtic melting pot of choughiness (technical term).

Photo by Rob Jutsum
Photo by Rob Jutsum

Towards the end of February we were contacted by Rob, one of our small team of just-in-case’ chough watchers in North Devon to say he had found a chough at Baggy Point.  Rob got some lovely images and they showed the chough was colour-ringed but the rings were not ones we recognised.  After checking with colleagues working with choughs in Wales who said ‘no, not one of theirs’, a quick email was sent to our friends across the water in Brittany to see if they could identify  the bird.  Sure enough, yes they could!

Photo by Rob Jutsum

Photo by Rob Jutsum

Turns out this chough was ringed as a nestling on the island of Ouessant in 2007.  It was known to have been resident on the island until at least 2011, and could well have been there in subsequent years too, as monitoring in Brittany is not as intensive as it is here in Cornwall.

The chough then disappeared from Baggy Point after a couple of days (where it was happily feeding alongside some very photogenic Hebridean sheep),  but was ‘refound’ by Rob again in the same area towards the middle of March.  It all too soon vanished, but not for long though.  Ten days ago a member of the public, Ann, saw a chough in north  Cornwall and sent her record in to CBWPS, who of course forwarded it on to us.  As we were not expecting a chough to be in that place, we then asked local chough watcher Geoff to go take a peek and within minutes we could confirm it was the same Breton bird. How amazing is that!

Photo by Geoff Rogers

Photo by Geoff Rogers

The chough has not been seen for a few days now but intriguingly it was last seen the morning a mystery chough was observed flying over  a few islands on Scilly the same afternoon – waiting to hear if it is still over there or if it is colour ringed – if it isn’t colour ringed it could be the unringed chough that was seen in East Devon over recent weeks, or another bird from Brittany, Ireland or even Wales for good measure.   Will keep you posted……….



A Tale Of Two Choughs

During last year’s breeding season a new chough appeared amongst the West Cornwall choughs.  This bird was unringed so we had no way of knowing its story; where it came from, age, sex etc. Through observing its behaviour it came across as young, it was also seen attempting to mate with a male chough so we assumed it was a female (questionable assumption I know but it was also a smaller bird and female choughs are smaller and lighter than males). After a short stay and refusing the advances of this young male, the chough re-appeared on the Lizard. We are pretty sure it was the same one due to sightings we had of an unringed chough appearing  around the coast on different days.  If you are new to this story or need your memory jogging, you can read more here and here.

To cut a longer story short, last summer this unringed chough joined the new family group of the two Southerly Point chicks and the male foster parent green/white. She has been there ever since.

This new pair can be found at Southerly Point taking over the legacy of the original Lizard pair and have been busy nest building. Whether they breed, only time will tell.

The choughs on the Lizard had a rough time last season. Five resident choughs including two breeding pairs were lost and with the two Southerly Point chicks having moved to the Roseland, it is down to this new pair to establish choughs back on the Lizard. No pressure then!

As a new pair and with one being a young bird they are the focus of our attention and we ask everyone gives them space during the breeding season.

Fingers crossed and good luck to them!

Posted from a Cornish cliff top.

There is one rule about chough watch…

…we don’t talk about chough watch.

Now that is not strictly true is it?!

We will happily talk to anyone about what we do and why we do it. We also do not want to stop people from seeing the choughs. Far from it in fact! We would like Cornwall’s coast to be filled with choughs like it once was so not one person in this Duchy can say they have never seen a chough.

What we don’t talk about is where the birds are nesting as that would leave them open to having their eggs stolen by collectors which is still a very real threat.

If you see our signs asking you not to take a certain path, it is not because we are trying to stop you from seeing the choughs but to allow them peace and quiet to breed and raise their chicks.

We know that choughs can be quite tame birds and are used to humans but like any new parents they are protective and any worry or distress could cause them to flee and we really want them to stay.

Posted from a Cornish cliff top.