A collaboration of coast and countryside organisations on The Lizard Peninsula

Legacy of the Lizard (article)

You might well remember that, on a magical day in 2001, three red-billed Choughs arrived on the Lizard after being absent from Cornwall for nearly 30 years. This article is the 2014 update on the Choughs' story.
Photo: Andy Hay (rspbimages.com) 

In the land of the Goatsucker (article)

With winter finally retreating into history and warmer days once more with us, many people will be noting their favourite signs of the coming of Spring and Summer. For some it will be the sight of bluebells in the woods or the arrival of swallows and other summer migrants. One of my favourites comes late in the Spring, leaves early, but is the very essence of heathland in high summer – namely the Nightjar.
European Nightjar, Norfolk, Copyright: © Natural England/Allan Drewitt. Aug. 2007

With winter finally retreating into history and warmer days once more with us, many people will be noting their favourite signs of the coming of Spring and Summer. For some it will be the sight of bluebells in the woods or the arrival of swallows and other summer migrants. One of my favourites comes late in the Spring, leaves early, but is the very essence of heathland in high summer – namely the Nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus).

 

European Nightjar, Norfolk, Copyright: © Natural England/Allan Drewitt. Aug. 2007

Dartford Warbler (article)

This small, dark, long-tailed warbler is a resident breeder in the UK but in low numbers. It has suffered in the past from severe winters: its population crashed to a few pairs in the 1960s, since when it has gradually recovered, increasing in both numbers and range.
Image copyright: Vic Froome (rspbimages.com)

This small, dark, long-tailed warbler is a resident breeder in the UK but in low numbers. It has suffered in the past from severe winters, its population crashed to a few pairs in the 1960s, since when it has gradually recovered, increasing in both numbers and range. It is still regarded as an Amber List species of conservation concern. In the UK 'Darties' are at their northern limit, being more normally associated with Mediterranean climes – their range has expanded further north over recent decades though.

Males have a beautiful, soft, almost plum colour wash to their chest (females are more camouflaged). (Image copyright: Vic Froome (rspbimages.com))

Birds to see in December on the Lizard (article)

Winter brings some special visitors to the Lizard. This article describes some of the bird species you can hope to see on a December day.

As with all the seasons, winter brings some special visitors to the Lizard. I love getting out on the heath on crisp winter days and am always on the look-out for overwintering birds of prey. Our regulars (Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Buzzard) are supplemented by Short-eared Owl, Peregrine, Merlin and Hen Harrier. Over the last 3 winters we have also had a wintering male Marsh Harrier – here he is flying over Windmill Farm last year:

Female Hen Harrier (note the white rump)

Hen Harriers and Short-eared Owls prefer hunting over downs and heathland and you can often get views of Short-eared Owls as they hunt low and fairly slow over the ground; Hen Harriers on the other hand are often gone in a flash! One really good spot to sit (with a flask of tea) is on the old WW2 Pillbox in the first field at Windmill Farm – this has views across the heath from the Lizard to Predannack.

Poo sticks (article)

Choughs explore cow pooHave you ever looked really closely at a cow pat?
Photo: Anthony Miners

  

Chicks raised by "champion chough" (article)

Chough chicks

In 2013, Chough chicks were raised by a "champion Chough" male, under the watchful eyes of the Cornish Chough Watch Team. This article describes what happened. 

Since 2001, a team of RSPB volunteers have protected the Cornish choughs, from disturbance both day and night, helping to raise 101 chicks for Cornwall. This year we had nine breeding pairs in Cornwall, five of which we expected to have chicks (the others birds were still too young).

After three years of learning the ropes as the Species Protection warden for the choughs on the Lizard, for once, this March I felt prepared for the usual seasonal routine of our two resident pairs. However, nothing could have prepared us for what this season had in store.

A very cold spring dominated by bitter and strong easterly winds put our local choughs off nesting at their normal time. Here in the Lizard, the younger pair started nesting in early April and were on eggs by the middle of the month, but the original pair, at Southerly Point, hadn't even begun to build their nest at that stage.

.An Introduction to Birds on The Lizard

The Lizard Peninsula, with the sea on three sides and the Helford River to the north, is an ecological microcosm and home to a broad selection of birds of sea, woodland, field and open moor. Recently it has gained a lot of publicity as the site of the return of one of Britain's rarest breeding birds, the Cornish Chough, a species of crow with distinctive red beak and legs and a haunting 'chee-aw' call. The Chough began breeding here in 2002 after a long absence and a concerted effort by local conservationists.