After years working around the coast you get a feel for where a photo may have been taken, even if it is sent in with no place name. This image from Phil and Hilary was captured near Land's End - the lichen and the light is pure Penwith - and of course the chough's rings are tell-tale.
Sadly, our local marine life, including dolphins, basking sharks, seals and visiting whales plus other wildlife such as seabirds and even Cornwall's national bird, the chough who use the Cornish coast are under more and more pressure to find safe areas for nesting and feeding due to activities carried out by boat tour operators, kayakers, climbing and coasteering etc.
Cornwall is their home as well as ours and a place they, like us, love to visit or live. Following a few very simple guidelines, we can all live in harmony and enjoy what Cornwall has to offer. If we don't, the wildlife we get to enjoy seeing now will disappear.
The CMCCG have published this leaflet which is a simple guide on how to behave around our marine and coastal wildlife to get the best enjoyment from them.
Please view or download here CMCCG
The full guidelines can also be found here
If you have any concerns or to report wildlife disturbance, please call the hotline on 0345 201 2626.
The Cornwall Marine and Coastal Code Group, was formed by Cornwall Wildlife Trust, RSPB, Cornwall Seal Group, National Trust, Marine Stranding Network and the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR), Devon and Cornwall Police Marine & Coastal Policing Team, the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) and Natural England, and formed in 2013 to tackle the problem of marine wildlife disturbance and harassment.
At the beginning of the season we announced that we were watching 13 pairs but the final count of those that successfully bred was six. So what happened?
Pair 1: the female disappeared over winter but the odd report of two birds in this area left us hopeful. However, only last years breeding male could be found.
Pair 2: four chicks successfully fledged.
Pair 3: Nest building and courting behaviour seen but nothing more happened. We assume the female is too young to breed.
Pair 4: This pair chose to build a nest in a cave on a beach. After completing the nest no more happened. Possibly, the female is too young. However, they would have also been disturbed by beach users which may have put them off trying.
Pair 5: this is an established breeding pair but midway during the hatching period (once hatched, chicks stay in the nest for five weeks before fledging), the adults were seen carrying nest materials. This is an indication that all was not well and something had happened to the chicks. However, nest building was brief and they continued to visit the original nest site as if they still had chicks. On checking the nest, we found it empty and presumed predation.
Pair 6: This pair were monitored nest building but lost interest. They were of breeding age so it may have been down to human disturbance by climbers/kayakers or predator disturbance.
Pair 7: This nest was visited with four chicks ringed but only three fledged.
Pair 8: One chick fledged.
Pair 9: four chicks fledged.
Pair 10: Failed for the second year running. We are wondering whether even though this nest site was used with great success by another pair for seven years, the local ravens have finally figured out how to access it.
Pair 11: The story of the season! It appears that after the females period of sitting on the eggs, her partner disappeared and she was left to bring up her chick which she fledged successfully on her own. However, a young male has joined forces with her. After initial disagreements, they seem to have settled down as a family of three.
Pair 12: one chick fledged.
Pair 13: After attempting to nest build, they gave up and moved off down the coast.
NB when an adult bird 'disappears' it is more likely due to natural mortality i.e illness, killed in fight or predated.
Photo by Chough Watcher Paul Mason.
After a successful 2016, with a fantastic number of pairs and fledging chicks, 2017 has been ‘challenging’ for the Cornish choughs. An unfortunate combination of some breeding adults lost, young inexperienced pairs and predation, has meant the number of breeding chicks and fledging pairs have been lower than hoped. We have also seen low productivity due to a cool spring when eggs are laid and needing to be kept warm and a very dry period, affecting access to their food supplies.
Choughs also known as ‘digger’ birds, use their long red bills to dig in the ground for invertebrates but would struggle in hard dry ground to do this. Their next source of food would be via the invertebrates found amongst cow pats which proves how important in these times of climate uncertainty, grazing cattle on the coastal fringes is vital for choughs.
Six pairs were successful and most nests have fledged now. 14 chicks in total is still a pretty amazing result, although everyone involved in supporting chough conservation in Cornwall is aware that the population is not at a sustainable level yet and there is work to do to keep them safe and secure. We estimate that there are approximately 30 adult birds currently across Cornwall.
Volunteers from RSPB and National Trust have spent hundreds of hours protecting and monitoring nests, those lucky to see the young fledging have been rewarded by glimpses of parents feeding their chicks and first tentative flights.
This is a great time to see good numbers of choughs in the skies as the family groups are now flocking together and are venturing further as they explore the Cornish coast.
If you see any of Cornwall's choughs in the wild, please let us know via firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo by Barry Batchelor courtesy of the National Trust.