Great news: Lizard chough Nora and her new mate now have chicks!!!
Earlier this season we had some sad news when the resident male chough ‘George’, who was quite a colourful character (LINK: http://the-lizard.org/index.php/article-archives/birds/640-farewell-george-an-unexpected-goodbye-starts-a-new-chapter-for-the-lizard-choughs ), vanished without a trace. After four weeks on her own, as the only chough left on The Lizard, Nora managed to attract a new mate. This was a surprise to us local volunteers as most of the choughs were, at that point, based in west Penwith and we didn’t expect any of them to move our way in time for this nesting season. But, as new breeding pairs began to establish out west it pushed some of the younger unpaired birds out and 3 young males came our way. We waited on tenterhooks, would they reach us?
It’s fledging time....
Right now hedges, trees, heath and grassland as well as nestboxes are all of a flutter as the breeding season gets into full swing. Birds are busy diving into all manner of hidey holes and secret places, beaks packed with insect food for their hungry chicks. Egg-laying season is typically between late March and May, although some species can have many broods with chicks into August. For a small garden bird such as the greenfinch, it can take over two weeks for the eggs to hatch and a further two-three weeks for the chicks to fledge the nest. Just before baby birds are ready to tentatively extend a wing, wiggle a tail feather and take flight for the first time, they leave their nest or fledge. Fledglings then spend a couple of days on the ground developing their final flight feathers.
The fledglings will appear fully feathered (with perhaps some downy fluff here and there) and spend these days hopping around in broad daylight – hence why so many members of the public are convinced they need rescuing.
Hoards of Prehistory, History & the Future
The invention of the Cornish shovel made it easier to shove things into the ground. It didn't necessarily make it much easier to retrieve them as you had to remember the right place to dig. Underground deposits await finders as has been shown by the accidental discovery of a few hoards, right here, on The Lizard, under the noses of passers by, even closer under their feet. The likelihood of an archaeologist discovering such a hoard approaches that of a lottery win with a bleached out illegible ticket. Even retrieval by the owner never approaches the certainty of a vomiting cat's canny foreknowledge of the footfall of the next barefoot passer by.
Hoards traditionally make themselves known to followers of horse powered implements. More recently metal detectorists have taken the lead, many of whom exercise restraint to preserve archaeological context, the value of which is paramount. Supply & demand can give a monetary value to almost anything, but the juxtaposition of artefacts in datable layers reveals history within prehistory and teases a complex story beyond the sum of its parts - a story that is repeated after the destruction that is a necessary part of excavation.
Stars at Lizard south Point – seals and people!
Cornwall Seal Group’s photo identification work (based on every seal’s unique fur pattern) enables us to track seals for life. In 2014 this work was championed by three incredible volunteers at Lizard South Point (LSP) who collect daily data all year revealing amazing information.
Key by Terry Thirlaway
Whilst seals are at LSP all year, their numbers peak in the summer and drop in the winter. Almost half haul out to digest their food whilst resting on offshore rocks. Over three quarters are adults and most of the year there are more males, but during the spring moult this changes and females outnumber males.
The Lizard team took on the challenge of identifying their seals and are incredibly good at this. ID tells us that most seals at LSP are passing through, using the habitat like a service station on a seal motorway running between Skomer in SW Wales, the Isles of Scilly and Looe in SE Cornwall as 28 seals link LSP to 12 other sites.
Brush by Alec Farr
Whilst no seals stay all year, ten are identified for more than half the year and these seal stars feature highly in stories our volunteers share with visitors. For example ‘Key’, who clearly hasn’t read her seal handbook that says she should leave LSP to have her pup elsewhere, has broken the rules not once but twice. ‘Brush’ turned out to be a seal I rescued on the north coast as a pup and who gave birth herself at LSP in 2015 at the age of six.
For more information please visit www.cornwallsealgroup.co.uk
Published: May 2016
Author: Sue Sayer Chair of Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust (Charity number 1162936)
Butterfly conservation reaches new heights
As spring came around this year, researchers from the University of Exeter’s Environment and Sustainability Institute were once again busy conducting surveys across the Lizard for one of our nationally rare butterflies, the marsh fritillary Euphydryas aurinia. The mission? To better understand the habitat requirements of this declining butterfly, with the ultimate goal of developing meaningful management practices to conserve these important populations for the future.
In March the black caterpillars can be seen basking and feeding together within silken webs near to their hostplant Devil’s-bit scabious Succisa pratensis. Extensive surveys for these conspicuous webs revealed populations at 8 sites (see here for last year’s survey). Although this is good news, populations can fluctuate largely from year to year and remain very sensitive to changes in climate and habitat. So we must obtain a sound understanding of their habitat requirements in order to give them the best possible chance...
Seaweed, what do you know?
Have you ever eaten, drank or bathed in seaweed? You might not think so but the chances are you have done all three. Seaweed is surrounded by a stigma founded on that nauseous smell clouding every beach you visited in your childhood. What I hope to show you is that seaweed can be both beautiful and useful. We have been using seaweed for thousands of years and new uses are still being found all the time.
Learn a little more about these amazing algae’s. Have a read through the facts below and I can guarantee you’ll be amazed.
History- The earliest archaeological records show that humans have been using seaweed for over 20,000 years. Amazing when you consider that grain is only thought to have been used for the past 11,000 years.
UK Species- There are over 7000 red, 2000 brown and 1000 green known species of seaweed in the world. Around 7% of these species can be found along the shores of the UK.