My name is Ali, a Conservation Biology student at the Penryn Campus, and I’m writing to you today as part of a student led group, The University of Exeter (UoE) Chough Project, because we need your help!
We are a group of third year students and academics who are conducting a field project all about the feeding habitat of the Cornish Chough. This involves a ground habitat survey every time we spot a feeding Chough, however, as I’m sure you are aware, they can be devilishly difficult to spot! We are only a group of 10 and so we’re writing today to ask if you can be a part of our mission to conserve the Cornish Chough by helping us collect as much data as possible?
If 2012 was the best year yet for choughs in Cornwall with 18 young fledged from five nests, would 2013 be even better? The breeding season started off with all the signs it could be another bumper year, albeit the season got off to a slow start for most of the established pairs and it was unlikely that the new young pairs would do anything other than â€˜practiseâ€™. Of the nine pairs, (by standard methodology), five were confirmed breeding and all was going well until an unpaired male decided to muscle in on the territory of the long established pair at Southerly Point on the Lizard. A day of pretty nasty and prolonged fighting resulted in the disappearance of the older male â€“ almost certainly a fight to the death- and the new usurper male immediately taking over the site alongside the older female who chicks were at the time a week or so old. It is very unlikely the new male was the father of these chicks as the pair had not been tolerating him, but his urge to breed and him being a younger stronger bird won out. He and the female continued to feed the chicks for about a week more, then she disappeared too â€“ this is not unusual where birds have a life-long bond-leaving the new male to bring up the babies on his own, which he did with great success, the two chicks fledging in early July. A sad end for this important pair of choughs, but the legacy they leave is remarkable and truly historical for Cornwall.
Another pair of Lizard choughs was also not faring well, on checking their nest, the two chicks were found to be underweight, one succumbing to the inevitable shortly afterwards. Towards fledging time the remaining chick, and mysteriously, both the adults then vanished â€“ we can only assume that they were struggling to find food to feed themselves and abandoned the site.
Happily, elsewhere the chough pairs have done really well with two maximum broods of five in Penwith, and a new pair raising one chick, so a total of 13 young fledged for the year, not bad considering. Thanks to the chough team and all those behind the scenes who do their bit for choughs in Cornwall.
There are birds on the north coast ranging from Godrevy to Mawgan Porth as well as on the Lizard peninsula and far west Cornwall. All records are very useful to keep track of their numbers and movements so please do send your sightings to cornishchoughs.org.uk
With the breeding season upon us we feel it pertinant that until further notice we won’t be publishing sightings of Cornish Chough on the daily sightings pages. However, we still want you to send in your sightings for our records. We will ensure all your reports are passed on to the RSPB. (Photo courtesy of S.Rogers)
For regular Cornish Chough updates see Cornish Choughs Blogsite.
The youngsters from this yearâ€™s broods have dispersed, some further afield than others. Penwith youngsters have been seen around St Ives and near Zennor and last week were around the St Ages area (up to ten birds recorded) and Watergate Bay. Lizard young are venturing west as far as Perranuthnoe. Survival this year has been remarkably good with 15 of the 18 young accounted for still. An interesting record from out of Cornwall came from Gatwick airport!!
If you see choughs while you are out and about, please donâ€™t forget to send us your records, even if you think â€˜they must know alreadyâ€™ – email@example.com all records are entered onto our database.
Claire Mucklow – RSPB
2012 has been a hard breeding season for many birds, fortunately the unseasonal weather has not affected the choughs too badly and they have had another fantastic season. This year there were 5 nests to monitor across Cornwall. The fantastic news is that from these 5 nests, 18 chicks have fledged successfully, another record breaking year. We are delighted to see yet another year with 100 % fledging rate and we couldnâ€™t do it without the help of all the staff and volunteers involved in the project, many thanks. All of the young have taken to the wing very well and are spreading further along the coast. As they find their independence it is getting increasingly hard to keep track of them , so if you do see choughs, your sightings would be much appreciated, please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org
More exciting news…
Finally, after 11 years of debate and wondering, we are excited to share the original origin of Cornwallâ€™s choughs. As you know in 2001 three unringed choughs arrived on the Lizard, after being extinct in Cornwall for nearly 40 years. Two of these birds settled at Southerly Point and have bred there for the last 11 years successfully raising 44 chicks. A project carried out by researchers at the University of Aberdeen has compared the DNA found in chough feathers from across Europe, the results of their research strongly suggest that the original pair of choughs came from Ireland. For more information visit University of Aberdeenâ€™s website http://www.abdn.ac.uk/news/details-12997.php
Cornwall Chough Project
All in all it has been a very successful season for the Cornish Choughs with 15 new chicks added to our population! Below is a overview of the nest sites:
South Coast sites. 2 nests
Southerly Point Pair: 4 chicks (2 of each sex)
Site 2: 3 chicks (2 female, 1 male).
North Coast sites. 2 nests.
Site 1: 5 chicks (4 male, 1 female).
Site 2: 3 chicks (all male)