Thursday, 25 July 2013

Op Hathor - Cornish Chough update 2013 (Claire Mucklow)

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 ‘practise’. 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 – 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 – 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 – 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
Claire Mucklow