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.
Farewell George: an unexpected goodbye starts a new chapter for the Lizard choughs
Many of you who follow the choughs will have heard of ‘George’, otherwise known, by local children, as ‘Champion chough’. He was the bird that usurped the original male at Lizard Point, stole his mate and, after losing her a fortnight later, was left to foster the original pair’s last brood. After a dramatic start to 2013, George proved himself a champion by raising these two chicks entirely on his own against all the odds!
George and one of his 2014 chicks (Photographer: Terry Thirlaway. Copyright National Trust)
‘Champion chough’ nested near Lizard Point with a new mate (Nora) ever since; successfully raising 8 chicks. The pair started nesting again in early March this year, so we geared ourselves up for another season of nest watch, but to our horror ‘George’ vanished; leaving his mate the only chough on The Lizard and taking with him any hope of a brood of Lizard chicks this year....
...Or so we thought!
Have a Listen to this....
What does the UK coastline sound like and what are the distinctive sounds of Scottish estuaries, Cornish beaches, the Pembrokeshire coast or a busy seafront? In what ways do these sounds fascinate us, move us or seem important to us?
Sounds of our Shores is a community-led, interactive soundmap which asked members of the public to upload their favourite seaside sounds and help build a permanent digital resource of UK coastal recordings. In addition a resident sound artist spent time on the Lizard recording the sounds of our shores. Much of what he recorded and what was uploaded by the public from all over the UK can be found on https://audioboom.com/channel/soundsofourshores.