Around and about Lizard Point is known as a good area for birding, but travel a bit further north and west, and there is plenty to see. The whole area is well served by a network of footpaths, most of which have The Lizard village as a hub, so the best sites are all very accessible.
Kynance Cove and Valleys
There are two valleys leading down to Kynance Cove (SW684134), both of which have scattered scrub, reed, iris and saw sedge beds, with further denser scrub and willow carr developing further up the valleys onto the heath.
Access to the lower stretches from the carpark is very easy, but frequently narrow, wet and often overgrown tracks allow somewhat restricted access to the upper valley areas.
The valleys hold and funnel migrants with nearby open heath, and host breeding sedge, willow with occasional grasshopper warblers, chiffchaff and blackcap.
Dartford warbler populations have fluctuated recently but should be located (often by call) on a good walk around the area.
West of the Kynance valleys is one of the most dramatic area of cliffs (SW675135) with stunning views south towards the Lizard. The rocky cliffs and boulders often hold migrant birds despite their exposure and lack of cover. Flocks of song thrush and redwing are often found in late autumn. Black redstarts are regular seen in spring, autumn and winter. Peregrine, raven, buzzard and kestrel patrol the cliffs, and the short cropped grass and heath is an often used by the Lizard choughs for feeding.
The old field system (SW681141) enclosing a block of small acid grassland fields provides variation in the swath of the Lizard Downs heath habitat. The surrounding hedges and fence lines nearly always have a sheltered and sunny aspect in most weather and this is a favoured area for finding groups of migrant stonechats, whinchat and wheatear, with the odd ring ouzel. The field complex within the hedges often holds flocks of pipits and skylarks.
A remote and picturesque valley (SW676143), which requires a bit of effort to reach, often means it is very quiet, other than a few coast path ramblers. The deep valley situated in the flat open Lizard Downs heathland area offers refuge in inclement weather to any passing migrants or to species seeking different habitat to the open heath.
Redstarts, ring ouzels, whinchats, pied and spotted flycatchers are regular migrants, with wryneck almost annual.
The old mine workings in the mouth of the valley often echo with the song of breeding wheatear in spring: The Lizard is one of the few areas where wheatears regularly breed along the coast.
Look out for the few very rare prostrate juniper trees, the only UK site and one of only a few on the Western European Atlantic fringe.
The open flat expanse of grassy heath above the valley along the coast path (SW675142 and SW674147) provides foraging habitat for migrant waders such as whimbrel, mainly in spring, and golden plover, mainly in autumn. American golden plover, buff-breasted sandpiper and dotterel have all been recorded in recent years. The lawn areas are also good for pipits, larks, wheatears and wagtails.
North of and east of Soapy Cove, the open heath of Lizard Downs (SW685146) continues up towards Mullion. The whole of this area forms part of the greater Lizard Heath complex so is vital for holding the regular but declining wintering hen harriers, as well as merlins and short-eared owls. Scanning the heath from any vantage point in the area in the few hours around dawn and dusk is recommended. Snipe are often disturbed from damp spots whilst walking the heath and woodcock can be found around the willow clumps.
In spring, cuckoos search for their meadow pipit hosts with linnet and stonechat singing from the scattered gorse clumps.
Windmill Farm and Predannack Airfield
The windmill itself (SW693151), recently refurbished with a new observation deck, now offers a unique viewing opportunity across the Lizard from Black Head, The Lizard village, Goonhilly and north toward Helston. Time will tell, but it should be a great spot for visible migration and raptor watching over the heath. There are also a number of new pools in the large field north east of the car park and on-going works are planned to refresh the scrapes and ponds, making it a great site for waders and dragonflies.
The adjacent airfield is well known for its flocks of golden plover and other migrant waders. Viewing the airfield has been difficult in the past, but this has now been greatly enhanced by the observation deck, which offers good scope views.
It is a very unique site hosting large areas of short acid grassland and heath, which also attract large flocks of migrant wheatears, at times dominated by the Icelandic race, good numbers of breeding skylark and meadow pipit. Although it may look unused at times, it is a very heavily used airfield and military training area and, it goes without saying, please do not enter the airfield.
The National Trust host occasional guided walks during non-operational periods.
North of Soapy Cove, the next valley north along the coast is that of Lower Predannack Wollas, with a National Trust car park (SW668162) accessed from Mullion.
This is another area regularly hosting migrants, with clumps of sallows and other vegetation cover adjacent to open heath and farmland. A similar range of migrants to those found at Soapy Cove occur, with oddities such as mandarin on the stream. It is also a good area for shrikes, wrynecks, flycatchers and a wide range of warblers. Barn owls hunt the coastal grassland fields at dusk.
Predannack Wollas is also a good site for butterflies with dark green, small pearl-bordered and marsh fritillaries, silver-studded blue, wall and grayling in the area.
Have fun exploring the area and please be considerate of the ground nesting birds, rare breeding and wintering species that the area supports. Enjoy!
Published: July 2016
Author: Tony Blunden
Photos: Tony Blunden