Colourful mustard and phacelia within the wild bird seed mix plot

If you've taken a walk around Lizard Point recently, you may have spied a blaze of blue and yellow adorning one of the arable fields near Housel Bay. This is a one hectare plot of wild bird seed mix, which has been planted as part of a Higher Level Stewardship Scheme covering Tregullas, a National Trust farm. The plot is designed to be a living bird table, growing a mix of plants with small seeds that farmland birds love to eat. The plot will be in place for two years, before being sown again somewhere else on the farm, thereby keeping a constant supply of seed available to wild birds.

Windmill Farm National Nature Reserve is a 200 acre site that is jointly owned by Cornwall Wildlife Trust (CWT) and Cornwall Birdwatching and Preservation Society (CBWPS). The reserve is of interest to naturalists but also has a rich archaeological heritage ranging from Bronze Age Remains, Mediaeval field boundaries, 18th Century tenements and crofts, WW2 pillboxes and the famous Lizard landmark - the Windmill itself. The reserve is managed and run by the CWT, CBWPS and a small group of local volunteers.

The Windmill circa 1938
The Windmill circa 1938

Sadly, a few years ago, one of the Farm's most enthusiastic and supportive contributors passed away. He loved Windmill Farm. In his memory his wife, Cait, mounted a campaign to restore the Windmill in memory of her beloved husband. Years of fund raising followed and Cait's dream came true this summer. The Windmill was officially opened on the 29th September 2015. The Windmill now has an elevated roof, sympathetic to the original, and an internal spiral staircase leading to a viewing platform. The view from the Windmill is absolutely awesome! Well done Cait and all that supported her.

What a great period, down on the Farm, the last three months have been. We have had good numbers of Sedge and Willow Warblers, Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Whitethroat. I have only had 3 singing Grasshopper Warblers on territory - we normally have 5 or 6. Two male cuckoos have been calling all summer and I have had up to five in and around the Farm.

WhitethroatWhitethroat

We have seen an increase in the number of human passerines/visitors, possibly due to the numerous events organised through the "Celebrating The Lizard" series of events - a great initiative. One of my highlights, of the season, was encountered during one of these events. On the 26th June I was leading a group mainly looking for Adders, butterflies (Marsh Frits) and Dragonflys.

It was not that sunny when we got to the Marsh Frit site and none were out so we moved on to the Dragon Fly ponds; whilst there the sun came out so I suggested that we go back to the Marsh Frit site (they love a bit of sun).

Spring arrivals and passage, of Warblers, was good in April with decent numbers of Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Whitethroat and Sedge Warbler arriving to breed on the Farm. Grasshopper Warbler numbers appear down; I have only heard reeling in 3 locations this year - the farm normally holds at least 6 pairs. A notable omission this year is Lesser Whitethroat - there has been at least one on the reserve every year for the last 5. It is also good to see Stonechat breeding on the reserve - first fledglings reported on 22 May.

Stonechat

Stonechat

Creating suitable habitat for rare plantsThis winter seems to have been a super busy time for the Cornwall Wildlife Trusts West Cornwall Nature Reserves Team. In the autumn we were still putting the finishing touches on our Predannack Airfield grazing infrastructure which means we will no longer be required to install 13km of temporary fencing each year.

Predannack military signLast week I attended one of our biannual Predannack Airfield Conservation Committee meetings, representing the National Trust with our partners from Natural England and Cornwall Wildlife Trust, alongside the Royal Navy, DIO and others. It got me thinking as to how things have changed......

About fifteen years ago, I first attended a Predannack meeting in the air traffic control tower. How very out of place I felt, surrounded by men in uniform talking in acronyms, addressing each other by 'sir' and frankly showing dubious interest in wildlife or conservation. The 'War on Terror' had just started, Afghanistan was about to kick-off, and, understandably, defence of the realm gave priority over defence of a few rare plants.

WWII discoveries at Windmill Farm Nature Reserve

Pill boxesWe knew Windmill Farm Nature Reserve had WWII buildings scattered across the site associated with Predannack Airfield. The best preserved being the three Pill boxes situated near to the information centre, but it was not until we started to look more carefully at the hedgerows as part of our hedge laying and coppicing programme that we discovered more archaeological gems. Four more Pill boxes have been unearthed that we had no idea existed. Two of them sit side by side on a Cornish hedge. The Hedge was coppiced this winter and the Pillboxes can now see the light of day once more and look to be in excellent condition.

Published: April 2013
Author: Nick Marriott - Cornwall Wildlife Trust West Cornwall Reserves Manager