Friday, 29 May 2015

Bumper Broods and New Nests for Choughs in Cornwall

Lizard chough chick (3.5 weeks old) (photo: National Trust)
Teams of RSPB and National Trust volunteers have been watching chough nest sites across Cornwall again this spring. Despite a battering from some very strong and cold easterly winds, the 'Chough Watch' volunteers have put in many hours to make sure that disturbance around nest sites was kept to a minimum, and it has paid off!

Earlier this year the Lizard choughs threw in an unexpected surprise by settling into a new nest site, just east of their original nest at Lizard Point, where they have raised five chicks this year (3 females and 2 males); terrific news for all involved. Tony Cross, BTO (British Trust of Ornithology) bird ringer visited us last week to put colour rings on the chough chicks, this helps us to identify the choughs as individuals throughout their lives, which provides a wealth of scientific data. Tony's annual visit is always awaited with much anticipation as it is the day we find out how many chough chicks have been raised in the Duchy – there are at least 13 chicks with one nest still unchecked – another good year for Cornish choughs!

Two Lizard chough chicks (3.5 weeks old) (photo: National Trust)
Catherine Lee from National Trust on the Lizard says: 'It's a long time since the Lizard saw 5 chough chicks in one brood and it suggests that we are getting things right. Since the new tenant farmers, Rona and Nevil Amiss, arrivedat Britain's most southerly farm – Tregullas Farm, we've seen a marked improvement in the condition of the local habitat. Habitat and food availability play a huge part in the choughs' success, but there are other factors to consider such as disturbance, predation and of course the weather. Raising chicks is far from plain sailing but the fact that the choughs have managed to find enough food to fill 5 hungry bellies, is proof that things were right for them this year'.

George, the infamous male chough on the Lizard and proud father of 5 this year (photo: NT\BarryBatchelor)
There is a huge commitment from a fantastic team of people to help Cornwall's iconic bird recolonise its former range. Over 100 volunteers help to protect chough nests from disturbance. The RSPB are happy to report that new pairs have joined the Cornish breeding population this year, Nicola Shanks from the RSPB says 'we've had new sites and first time breeders keeping the Chough Watch team very busy working out what is happening at each site. Thanks to the volunteers and all the time they give we have great information and safe nest sites'.

Lizard Wildlife Watchpoint (photo: Shannon O'Grady)
In addition to the nest protection, the RSPB, National Trust and Natural England – forming the Cornwall Chough Project, work with local farmers and land owners to ensure that the cliffs and coastal fields are managed in such a way to improve the habitat for choughs and many other rare species across Cornwall. Jeremy Clitherow, Lead Advisor from Natural England was thrilled with the news 'the environmental stewardship agreements we have with local farmers helps to complete the jigsaw of habitat management across the Lizard and National Nature Reserve. The Lizard is a hotspot for our chough related habitat work, so it's fantastic to see an increase in chick numbers here this year'.

The youngsters are expected to leave their nests early next month. As well as the choughs on the Lizard, there are a number of pairs soon to fledge young along the coast between Sennen and Pendeen, so June is a great time to take a leisurely stroll along the coast to see Cornwall's wild choughs. If you are in the Lizard area do visit the Wildlife Watchpoint at Lizard Point for the latest news and sightings. It's open every day from 10am - 4pm (April – mid September).

If you'd like to keep up to date with chough news and learn more about them or get involved in the Cornwall Chough Project please visit www.cornishchoughs.org or www.twitter.com/cornishchoughs

For more news on the wildlife watchpoint visit: www.lizardandpenrose.blogspot.co.uk or www.facebook.com/LizardNT or www.twitter.com/LizardNT



Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Butterflies need you!

Are you interested in Butterflies? Do you want to learn more about them and help us discover what’s found where on The Lizard? Read on to find out how you can get involved.

Marsh Fritillary
The Lizard is a good place for butterflies, with Marsh Fritillary being our greatest star. This beautiful insect was once widespread in the UK, but has declined rapidly, making its Lizard colonies all the more important. It’s not our only fritillary though, with small pearl bordered fritillary found on the coastal heaths and you may be lucky enough to see the surprising large silver washed fritillary visiting a buddleia in late summer.
 And there’s a whole host of other species on The Lizard to spot, from commas to speckled woods, and blues to peacocks.

Peacock
If you want to learn more, why not sign up for Butterfly Conservation’s free event at Windmill Farm on Saturday 6th June. It will be a fascinating day learning basic butterfly recognition, their food plants and spotting techniques with Cornwall Butterfly Conservation enthusiasts. In the afternoon you will get the chance to put these new skills into practice, and you may even spot a rarity! To book contact Jo Poland 07800 548832 

We’re keen to find local volunteers to help us do more butterfly recording on the Lizard, by undertaking a regular walk and sending in your sightings. You don’t need to be a ready made expert! Enthusiasm is the main requirement, and an ability to commit to doing the same walk on a sunny day (between 10am and 5pm) once a week April to September (although it is a job that can be shared). Data from these regular transects contribute to the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme, and are vital to science’s understanding of long term trends. Could you help us find out more? Currently there are few transects on the Lizard, with some fine butterfly sites, like Windmill Farm and Kynance which would really benefit from closer monitoring. Do get in touch (Rachel Holder 01326 291174) if you are interested and would like to find out more. We'd love to hear from you!



Speckled Wood
Rachel

Monday, 4 May 2015

New Horizons for the Wild Lizard Project


 This week saw new horizons for the Lizard peninsula as the first ever Lizard Horizons school discovery day took place with St. Martin in Meneage School at Windmill Farm nature reserve.
As the new Volunteer Education Ranger for the Wild Lizard Project I've helped develop and implement some of the activities that we undertook at the reserve. Although I have experience volunteering in forest schools, and have spent time exploring nature reserves during my Zoology degree, I'd never before been tasked with bringing the two together!

I've lived in Cornwall for a number of years, forever being fascinated exploring the ocean and the moors. However, I had yet to explore the Lizard, and when the post of full time education volunteer was advertised I jumped at it! Getting young people involved in nature seemed an obvious career choice as discovering nature was what I enjoyed most when I was young.
St Martin in Meneage School go rock pooling with the new Volunteer Education Ranger
Out at Windmill Farm Nature Reserve pond dipping as part of the Lizard Horizons Project in partnership with the Cornwall Wildlife Trust

Greater Diving Beetle discovery at Windmill Farm
One of the original scuba divers the Greater Diving Beetle 




St. Martin School started their discovery day through learning the long and varied history of Windmill Farm, from sheep rustling gangs in the 1820's to why it became an important Navy base in WWII. They went on to discover why some of the rare and unique plants such as Pygmy rush thrived on the reserve. This was followed by the main activity of the day; Pond-dipping! Where the school discovered the greater diving beetle, water scorpions and tadpoles galore!

Since joining the Wild Lizard Project just last month I've also helped out in other events including a family bushcraft day at St Anthony. Here children foraged for shoreline food, built a fire without matches and explored the unique shoreline at this Helford Voluntary Marine Conservation Area event.
St Keverne School learn the adaptations of a shore crab
A rather grumpy shore crab entertains the St Keverne School on their Seashore Safari
Other recent school visits under the Wild Lizard Project banner have included rock-pooling at Kennack sands, part of Natural England's NNR, with St Keverne School. We discovered how dog whelks are adapted to drilling holes into mussels so they can suck out their dinner, and how hermit crabs fight each other to win a new shell home!
Mullion School and their very own mermaid of Poldhu
Mullion School and their seaweed mermaid
At Poldhu, Mullion school learnt local legends of mermaids in their beachside story about the old man of Cury, and went on to build their very own mermaid after a scavenger hunt.
Happy faces with St. Martin in Meneage School after a long day of exploration
Wild at Windmill Farm, the project getting children outside the classroom and exploring their local natural environment
In my first few weeks volunteering I have been involved with National Trust, Natural England, Cornwall Wildlife Trust and HVMCA events and sites across the peninsula, demonstrating just how good a partnership the Wild Lizard Project is.

It's great seeing so many children enjoying being outdoors in such a variety of environments. Hopefully they will go on to expand their own horizons through their involvement with nature, just as I look forward to gaining in experience of outdoor education as my placement continues over the coming months. Greater  Diving Beetle anyone?

Author: Tom Bucher-Flynn

Friday, 17 April 2015

Spring spruce up round The Lizard

Digger in to repair the car park surface
The last few months have been a busy time for the practical team on The Lizard. After finishing off important winter habitat management work and all the vegetation 'cut backs' on the coast path in the New Year, the race was on to prepare for the busy summer season.



So what have we been up to?

'The Aerator'
The first job on the list was to repair the car parks and roads for what turned out to be a very busy Easter. 


The Kynance toll road sees lots of traffic each year which has a huge impact on the road, in terms of 'wear and tear'. This year the toll road needed a good few lorry loads of tar to repair pot holes and resurface the damaged sections.
Aerating the grassy sections of car park

The grass car park suffers a little from the high number of cars which compact the surface making it hard for the grass to grow. One of our contractors spent a day aerating and reseeding the grass sections of the car park, breathing a bit of life back into the surface and hopefully allow the grass a chance to develop stronger roots. 



Replacing the oak posts
Down at Lizard Point we’ve been busy working on the footpaths to improve access.

The oak safety fence that runs alongside the coast path at the Point was installed over 20 years ago and has lasted well, despite the amazing weather it must have experienced and the thousands of people that must have leant on it to admire the view. 

However, it was starting to show its age a little so over the past few weeks we have replaced the oldest section digging out 34 of the posts - It doesn’t sound like a big job but whoever had installed the fence originally had meant it to last, all the posts being set into very hard concrete. So for a few weeks Lizard Point rang with the sound of volunteers and staff breaking the concrete out by hand with bars and spades before installing the new oak posts and stainless steel wires. The new fence is now finished and looks great. 

New fence posts in place
Alongside this work, the paths to the Point have been widened in places before being swept of loose material and dusted with a fine surface coating making them easier to walk on.We've also been installing steps and improving drainage as well as simple jobs like cutting back brambles and vegetation to improve views which make such a difference.

Over the summer months we’ll be continuing to work hard maintaining and improving access to all across The Lizard, in the hope that more people can get out there and enjoy it! 

- Martin 

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Mum? Dad? How long does it take to get to a star?

if you reach up far enough you could hold one!
Have you ever slept under the stars? I mean actually under the stars with nothing between you and the heavens? My first time was as a young child. It was rather daunting at first; I thought I might have been eaten by the creatures of the night! So what my parents let me do was to sleep with my head outside the tent with the rest of my body inside under lots of blankets to keep warm. No sleeping bags in those days! Well we couldn’t afford them!

The memory lives with me to this day, staring up at the thousands of twinkling lights in a mass of darkness. I was enthralled by the beauty of such a spectacular sight. And as I lay there, I could hear the soothing sounds of the night: the gentle rustling of the trees, an owl hooting in the distance, cows in a nearby field and the rummaging in the hedge of what I thought may be a fox or a badger. And as I became a parent, my children too were able to enjoy this great outdoors experience, and although now older and not at home, continue to do so to this day.

You too can enjoy this experience in whatever type of accommodation you prefer to stay in; it does not necessarily have to be a tent. The campsite here at Teneriffe Farm can accommodate caravans, motorhomes, campervans, trailer tents as well as tents. Or for the most adventurous of you, why not just sleep outside in a bivvy bag? Now that really is fun! However, I would not recommend sleeping with your head out of a caravan doorway. You’re liable to get an awful crick in your neck! But you could sleep outside on the decking of your camping pod. Here on the Lizard can you stay in one of the most southerly camping pods of England. And on a clear night the views are truly breath-taking.

one of the National Trust's camping pods
The National Trust has a number of campsites throughout the country ranging from small tent pitch only sites provided by National Trust tenant farmers to larger sites managed by the National Trust themselves. They are of course all different with their own ‘character’ but they all have one thing in common: you’ll find them situated in truly stunning areas. These areas, whether coastal or in the countryside, are looked after by the National Trust for ever for everyone. You’ll find Teneriffe Farm Campsite only minutes from the South West Coast Path and surrounded by the Lizard National Nature Reserve and the North Predannack Downs Nature Reserve.  What’s more, you don’t have to be a National Trust member to stay on one of our campsites. Everyone is welcome! But you may wish to join us when you see that stunning stretch of coastline or area of beautiful countryside of which the management and care is the responsibility of the National Trust. And your money goes directly in helping us with our conservation work.

Like to know more, then click here! It will take you on a journey of discovery and wouldn’t it be great to see the stars from the great outdoors. And for stargazing facts, tips & ideas then a visit here will provide lots of inspiration.

plenty of space for playing at Teneriffe Farm Campsite

So why not give it a go and experience a traditional camping experience which will be truly memorable. You won’t regret it, and if you have children they’ll love you for it.








Wherever you choose to stay we hope to see you soon. The stars are waiting for you.

Happy camping!

Steve











Thursday, 2 April 2015

Life as a volunteer Ranger

New chainsaw skills in use
For the last eight months I've been one of the full time residential volunteers with the National Trust in Cornwall, based with the Rangers at Poltesco who take care of all the Trust land around the Lizard. Here’s just a little bit about my experience.

Although I’d volunteered previously with various conservation groups, a lot of this job required a whole new and unfamiliar set of skills. When I first started I couldn't have told you the difference between a hacksaw and a bow saw and it was news to me that there were so many different spades for different jobs. The team had the unenviable task of making a Ranger out of me!

Sign making in the workshop
Strimming a path, felling a tree, putting up a fence, repairing the coastal path and to be honest most of the jobs we did were all new to me. Straight away I joined the team on the day to day jobs and  some tasks were easier to get to grips with than others.  I’ll not lie, some tasks were frustrating! You get taught how to do something and it looks simple enough, but actually doing the job ended up being another matter entirely. Some days my head and my hands were clearly in disagreement! For the brilliant Rangers, for whom the idea of putting up a fence is probably as easy as changing a light bulb, I can only imagine how hard it was to watch me fumble over a simple job. But they didn't show it, I was encouraged to give things a go and that trial and error was no bad thing. Meanwhile the Rangers would have discretely managed to complete the whole of the rest of the job around me with effortless ease and they’d still be smiling and encouraging me with my task. Eventually it pays off and one morning you’re given a job where you find yourself gathering the right tools, equipment, and doing the job with less and less guidance. Don’t get me wrong, I know I've still plenty still to learn. The wonderful part of this job is that there is always going to be more to learn because working outdoors you've got all kinds of variables thrown into the mix.

In the last eight months I've gained practical skills from all sorts of experiences, including swailing (controlled burning of) heathland,  fixing fences and gates, herding cows, repairing the coastal path, making and repairing signs, relocating ponies, removing rubbish across the Lizard, painting landmarks, building bridges plus I've also qualified in use of brushcutters, strimmers, chainsaws, and received first aid training. Through the Lizard Rangers, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to spend a week volunteering on Lundy with the Landmark Trust, helping re-point the Church.

helping ring Shearwaters on Lundy
Back on the Lizard, the team also do some fantastic events with local schools, visiting groups from further afield, and community groups, and as a volunteer you join in with these activities. I didn't expect to find myself searching for giants and pixies around Poltesco, or making start and finish lines for a snail race, but these are some of my favourite memories. I think we can all agree that we live in times where so many of us are disengaged with the natural environment around us and sometimes I know I get a little bit depressed about the fate of nature, but when you see people of all ages out and about enjoying nature together you can’t help but be uplifted and it restores your faith that there is hope for the natural world.

I never had a day where I didn't want to go to work, there was always a laugh to be had, and every day was different. There is such variety in the role and I gained a whole new set of skills to take forward. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all the wonderful staff and other volunteers I worked with at the Lizard and neighbouring Penrose National Trust. It is a beautiful place but it was the enthusiasm, kindness and knowledge of the staff that made my experience so awesome and a time that I will never forget.

Kathy


Sunday, 29 March 2015

Have you visited Lizard Wireless Station?

Marconi's Lizard Wireless Station, above Housel Bay

If you walk the Lizard’s coastpath regularly, you’ll be familiar with the little black huts perched high on the cliffs above Housel Bay. These unassuming wooden buildings have an esteemed history, and can rightly claim their place in the story of modern communications.

It was here that young Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi proved beyond all doubt that wireless was going to work beyond the horizon, when in January 1901 he received a transmission from the Isle of Wight. Doubters thought radio waves would disappear off into space, but Marconi showed they infact followed the curvature of the Earth. He pushed the limits of this new technology rapidly, and only 11 months later he completed the first trans-Atlantic radio transmission from nearby Poldhu to Newfoundland, to great applaud.

Lizard Wireless Station moved from being an experimental station to a commercial operation, handling ship to shore messages, in direct competition for a while with the Lloyds Signal Station next door at Bass Point. This distinctive white castellated building communicated with ships via flags and had a telegraph cable on to Falmouth and beyond. History has shown which of radio and flags won out in the end!

After claiming its spot in communications history, Lizard Wireless Station faded into obscurity. It was bought as a dilapidated holiday home in the 1990s, and it is 15 years since the National Trust started to renovate and restore the station. It reopened as a little museum in time for the centenary of its January 1901 over the horizon transmission, and we haven’t looked back since!

Take a tour inside the station today with one of our guides



From the beginning of April until the end of October 2015 our opening will be Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays 12 noon – 3pm weather permitting. Come along to see just how the station would have looked in Marconi’s day, and hear some fascinating tales from our knowledgeable volunteer guides. Entry is free, but donations are welcome. There is no vehicular access to the station (but do call if you have mobility difficulties and we can make special arrangements) so the best way to arrive is on foot, via ½ mile of spectacular coastpath from Lizard Point, or from Lizard Village via Housel Bay lane.


Cwmbran Amateur Radio Society visit March 2015

If you live locally, have an interest in history, like chatting to people, and can spare as little as 3 hours a month, we would love to hear from you, as we are always on the look out for more folk to join our dedicated team of volunteer guides so we can expand our opening and welcome more visitors. Don’t worry, you don’t need to be a radio expert! Please do get in touch on 01326 291174 if this interests you.

And if you have never visited Lizard Wireless Station? Easter is almost here, so do pop in and see us this season!

Rachel

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