The Cornwall Marine and Coastal Code Group

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.

Chough 2017 Summary

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.


A challenging year for Cornish Choughs

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

Photo by Barry Batchelor courtesy of the National Trust.

Can choughs find a home in North Devon?

North Devon AONB as part of their Coastal Creatures HLF project, very kindly organised and funded a two day boat survey along North Devon’s coast to look for potential chough nest sites and help with our habitat assessment of the coast.

We are looking at how to encourage choughs that already come over from south Wales to stay more than a day or two, and wanted to assess what the nesting opportunities are as historic data on choughs in the area is limited.

Much of the North Devon coast is not visible from land especially between Lynmouth and Morte Point. Once at sea it was particularly obvious how unspoilt and undisturbed and beautiful the coast is. Calm seas and a RIB that could eat up the nautical miles made for two mornings of productive surveys.   Colleagues from National Trust and Natural England were also on-board which was helpful in understanding what the habitat and management was like on the cliff tops.

Western Atlantic hanging oak woodland clothes some stretches from cliff to sea in multi shades of green, hidden seabird colonies came to life, and incredible geological features reminiscent of a flaky pastry disaster made for an experience few get to see.  It was a real privilege and a nice change from land based survey work.

Over the two days, although we saw some very good habitat to support choughs with cattle grazing, pockets of arable and nice shorter swards, there were disappointingly very few places that shouted ‘chough nest site’.  No caves to speak of, few crevices that had potential or chough-sized holes in safe places.  With the sandstones and shales being in the main either unstable or unsuitable  it’s not going to be easy for choughs to recolonize - although they used to breed along this coast in the 19th century.

But, we have a plan...

Given good habitat and few nesting sites, we talked about building chough homes.  Housing issues are not restricted to us humans although choughs are easier to accommodate, they just need a box (albeit a specially designed box).  In Wales, choughs have been using boxes put up for them along the coast for decades and a good proportion of the Welsh population use them so we know they work if the choughs find them (and they do). Another benefit of boxes is that they can be sited where the habitat is suitable; often choughs nest in areas where they end up foraging a considerable distance away - a win-win scenario!

The AONB and Natural England have very kindly said they will look at funding to support this box initiative.  How to get them sited on the sheer cliffs is the next challenge.  Anyone know some intrepid climbers up for a challenge?

Thanks to Jenny Carey-Wood and Cat Oliver from the AONB for their support.