Friday, 29 May 2015

Bumper Broods and New Nests for Choughs in Cornwall

Lizard chough chick (3.5 weeks old) (photo: National Trust)
Teams of RSPB and National Trust volunteers have been watching chough nest sites across Cornwall again this spring. Despite a battering from some very strong and cold easterly winds, the 'Chough Watch' volunteers have put in many hours to make sure that disturbance around nest sites was kept to a minimum, and it has paid off!

Earlier this year the Lizard choughs threw in an unexpected surprise by settling into a new nest site, just east of their original nest at Lizard Point, where they have raised five chicks this year (3 females and 2 males); terrific news for all involved. Tony Cross, BTO (British Trust of Ornithology) bird ringer visited us last week to put colour rings on the chough chicks, this helps us to identify the choughs as individuals throughout their lives, which provides a wealth of scientific data. Tony's annual visit is always awaited with much anticipation as it is the day we find out how many chough chicks have been raised in the Duchy – there are at least 13 chicks with one nest still unchecked – another good year for Cornish choughs!

Two Lizard chough chicks (3.5 weeks old) (photo: National Trust)
Catherine Lee from National Trust on the Lizard says: 'It's a long time since the Lizard saw 5 chough chicks in one brood and it suggests that we are getting things right. Since the new tenant farmers, Rona and Nevil Amiss, arrivedat Britain's most southerly farm – Tregullas Farm, we've seen a marked improvement in the condition of the local habitat. Habitat and food availability play a huge part in the choughs' success, but there are other factors to consider such as disturbance, predation and of course the weather. Raising chicks is far from plain sailing but the fact that the choughs have managed to find enough food to fill 5 hungry bellies, is proof that things were right for them this year'.

George, the infamous male chough on the Lizard and proud father of 5 this year (photo: NT\BarryBatchelor)
There is a huge commitment from a fantastic team of people to help Cornwall's iconic bird recolonise its former range. Over 100 volunteers help to protect chough nests from disturbance. The RSPB are happy to report that new pairs have joined the Cornish breeding population this year, Nicola Shanks from the RSPB says 'we've had new sites and first time breeders keeping the Chough Watch team very busy working out what is happening at each site. Thanks to the volunteers and all the time they give we have great information and safe nest sites'.

Lizard Wildlife Watchpoint (photo: Shannon O'Grady)
In addition to the nest protection, the RSPB, National Trust and Natural England – forming the Cornwall Chough Project, work with local farmers and land owners to ensure that the cliffs and coastal fields are managed in such a way to improve the habitat for choughs and many other rare species across Cornwall. Jeremy Clitherow, Lead Advisor from Natural England was thrilled with the news 'the environmental stewardship agreements we have with local farmers helps to complete the jigsaw of habitat management across the Lizard and National Nature Reserve. The Lizard is a hotspot for our chough related habitat work, so it's fantastic to see an increase in chick numbers here this year'.

The youngsters are expected to leave their nests early next month. As well as the choughs on the Lizard, there are a number of pairs soon to fledge young along the coast between Sennen and Pendeen, so June is a great time to take a leisurely stroll along the coast to see Cornwall's wild choughs. If you are in the Lizard area do visit the Wildlife Watchpoint at Lizard Point for the latest news and sightings. It's open every day from 10am - 4pm (April – mid September).

If you'd like to keep up to date with chough news and learn more about them or get involved in the Cornwall Chough Project please visit or

For more news on the wildlife watchpoint visit: or or

- Cat

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Butterflies need you!

Are you interested in Butterflies? Do you want to learn more about them and help us discover what’s found where on The Lizard? Read on to find out how you can get involved.

Marsh Fritillary
The Lizard is a good place for butterflies, with Marsh Fritillary being our greatest star. This beautiful insect was once widespread in the UK, but has declined rapidly, making its Lizard colonies all the more important. It’s not our only fritillary though, with small pearl bordered fritillary found on the coastal heaths and you may be lucky enough to see the surprising large silver washed fritillary visiting a buddleia in late summer.
 And there’s a whole host of other species on The Lizard to spot, from commas to speckled woods, and blues to peacocks.

If you want to learn more, why not sign up for Butterfly Conservation’s free event at Windmill Farm on Saturday 6th June. It will be a fascinating day learning basic butterfly recognition, their food plants and spotting techniques with Cornwall Butterfly Conservation enthusiasts. In the afternoon you will get the chance to put these new skills into practice, and you may even spot a rarity! To book contact Jo Poland 07800 548832 

We’re keen to find local volunteers to help us do more butterfly recording on the Lizard, by undertaking a regular walk and sending in your sightings. You don’t need to be a ready made expert! Enthusiasm is the main requirement, and an ability to commit to doing the same walk on a sunny day (between 10am and 5pm) once a week April to September (although it is a job that can be shared). Data from these regular transects contribute to the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme, and are vital to science’s understanding of long term trends. Could you help us find out more? Currently there are few transects on the Lizard, with some fine butterfly sites, like Windmill Farm and Kynance which would really benefit from closer monitoring. Do get in touch (Rachel Holder 01326 291174) if you are interested and would like to find out more. We'd love to hear from you!

Speckled Wood

Monday, 4 May 2015

New Horizons for the Wild Lizard Project

 This week saw new horizons for the Lizard peninsula as the first ever Lizard Horizons school discovery day took place with St. Martin in Meneage School at Windmill Farm nature reserve.
As the new Volunteer Education Ranger for the Wild Lizard Project I've helped develop and implement some of the activities that we undertook at the reserve. Although I have experience volunteering in forest schools, and have spent time exploring nature reserves during my Zoology degree, I'd never before been tasked with bringing the two together!

I've lived in Cornwall for a number of years, forever being fascinated exploring the ocean and the moors. However, I had yet to explore the Lizard, and when the post of full time education volunteer was advertised I jumped at it! Getting young people involved in nature seemed an obvious career choice as discovering nature was what I enjoyed most when I was young.
St Martin in Meneage School go rock pooling with the new Volunteer Education Ranger
Out at Windmill Farm Nature Reserve pond dipping as part of the Lizard Horizons Project in partnership with the Cornwall Wildlife Trust

Greater Diving Beetle discovery at Windmill Farm
One of the original scuba divers the Greater Diving Beetle 

St. Martin School started their discovery day through learning the long and varied history of Windmill Farm, from sheep rustling gangs in the 1820's to why it became an important Navy base in WWII. They went on to discover why some of the rare and unique plants such as Pygmy rush thrived on the reserve. This was followed by the main activity of the day; Pond-dipping! Where the school discovered the greater diving beetle, water scorpions and tadpoles galore!

Since joining the Wild Lizard Project just last month I've also helped out in other events including a family bushcraft day at St Anthony. Here children foraged for shoreline food, built a fire without matches and explored the unique shoreline at this Helford Voluntary Marine Conservation Area event.
St Keverne School learn the adaptations of a shore crab
A rather grumpy shore crab entertains the St Keverne School on their Seashore Safari
Other recent school visits under the Wild Lizard Project banner have included rock-pooling at Kennack sands, part of Natural England's NNR, with St Keverne School. We discovered how dog whelks are adapted to drilling holes into mussels so they can suck out their dinner, and how hermit crabs fight each other to win a new shell home!
Mullion School and their very own mermaid of Poldhu
Mullion School and their seaweed mermaid
At Poldhu, Mullion school learnt local legends of mermaids in their beachside story about the old man of Cury, and went on to build their very own mermaid after a scavenger hunt.
Happy faces with St. Martin in Meneage School after a long day of exploration
Wild at Windmill Farm, the project getting children outside the classroom and exploring their local natural environment
In my first few weeks volunteering I have been involved with National Trust, Natural England, Cornwall Wildlife Trust and HVMCA events and sites across the peninsula, demonstrating just how good a partnership the Wild Lizard Project is.

It's great seeing so many children enjoying being outdoors in such a variety of environments. Hopefully they will go on to expand their own horizons through their involvement with nature, just as I look forward to gaining in experience of outdoor education as my placement continues over the coming months. Greater  Diving Beetle anyone?

Author: Tom Bucher-Flynn

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