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.


Who are the Chough Watchers?

Here's Terry  - I am told by a very reliable source that this lens is called the 'Royal lens' - it is the one that that the paparazzi typically use for celebrity shots.  Well, our choughs are Cornish royalty you know. Unlike the paparazzi Terry does not need to chase after his subjects he just spends hours and has really got to know the choughs and their habits so he can photograph them without disturbing them.

Terry kindly lets us use his photographs because us staff have teeny cameras and are really rubbish at taking photos of things that move. And I am not sure I eat enough spinach to lift a lens like that!

Thanks Terry

Snap!  Terry by Alec Farr
Terry by Alec Farr

The Big Day

Today was the day we expectant watchers get very nervous and very excited about.

Tony Cross, chough ringer extraordinaire has paid the chough pairs a visit and has ringed a total of 17 chicks across 5 nests.

Well done choughs and a big well done to the chough watchers.

The next milestone in the breeding season is when the chicks fledge. Can't wait!

The Call Of The Wild

Every year during the breeding season, we put up notices asking dog owners to keep their pets under control or place them on leads. This probably gives the impression we are anti-dog. Well...

...You see the dog in the picture? I adore this dog. I am far from being anti-dog. He is not my dog but as far as I am concerned he can do no wrong. We as people are very protective over that which we love. Animal or human and those that are parents especially your children.  I have seen Barkley chase after birds. Mostly swallows or pipits. I don't believe he would or could catch one and that he is just playing (I adore him remember) but he is a natural predator and as they don't know him and don't know that he won't hurt them, I have to question whether they are encouraging him to chase them which is how it can appear.

Choughs do see dogs as a threat. I know because I have seen a chough dive at a dog and call alarmingly that has come too close to its nest site a number of times.  The same way it would try and fight off a stoat, a fox or a bird of prey. Choughs are being good parents and protecting their young. We are only trying to help them out with our notices and ask that you help them out also. Keeping dogs away goes towards giving them a safe sanctuary during their breeding time.

Your dog might not hurt a fly normally but they are animals with natural instincts to hunt and when chicks first fledge the nest they are not fully aware of the risks to them in the outside world and are not strong flyers straight away. They are much slower to take off. Therefore a dog might come across a young chick and before the chick realises it is there and before you know it, your dog had a new toy.

I really hope you can understand and take this on board. We are animal lovers and care for all of nature. Just trying to give those less fortunate a helping hand.

Thanks for listening.

Posted from a Cornish cliff top.