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!
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'.
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'.
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).
Photographs: National Trust (IMG:1 & 2) | NT/BarryBatchelor (IMG:3)| NT/Shannon O'Grady (IMG:4)