Coastal Birds of Cornwall

Check out this fantastic picture of a chough and a kestrel taken recently in the far west of Kernow.  The photo was taken by James Sellen on his recently holiday to the area.

Photo by James Sellen

Spring is here

That's right! The birds are busy and no more so than the wild red-billed choughs of Cornwall.

As we head towards the breeding season, we know that there are approximately twenty four choughs spread out along the Cornish coast from the south east to the north.

Unfortunately, over winter it looked like the population had lost two breeding pairs with a chough from each one vanishing. That was made more sad by one of those pairs being an established pair who have raised a good number of chicks since 2011.  In fact, last year they had four chicks fledge the nest and all four are still alive having made it through their first winter which is a happy but sadly a rare occurance in the chough world.

Now for the happy news! At the beginning of the year, we were looking at four established breeding pairs with the possibility of a new pair but all of a sudden we are watching nine pairs!  That's right, NINE pairs!

That is the highest number since the chough recolonised in Cornwall in 2001.

They may not all breed this year but we are watching them all and will let you know how they get on.

 

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..........

UPDATE: The Breton chough is at least one of the choughs that was spotted on Isles of Scilly in recent weeks (turns out there has been two, one possibly unringed).  Dr Ilya Maclean sent us the photo below he took while visiting the islands.  Last seen on the 14th April, where will it turn up next?

Photo by Dr Ilya Maclean
Photo by Dr Ilya Maclean