Three birds of the North Cornwall coast

Historically, ravens were widespread over all of Britain but due to persecution by gamekeepers and farmers in the 19th century their range contracted westwards and to the uplands and thus in many folks’ minds became associated with rugged environments. In recent decades they have been dispersing eastwards back into the lowlands but the more rugged habitats in the south-west remain raven hotspots. Their nests, constructed of rather robust twigs, can be found along the cliffs of north Cornwall. Two nests that we have seen with young (ravens breed early in the year) are at Henna Cliff and Grower Cut. The Grower Cut nest can be seen to contain five young ravens somehow managing to look ugly and cute at the same time – five baby monsters!


Another species partial to the cliffs of north Cornwall is the peregrine falcon. Cliffs are the peregrine’s natural habitat though they can also be seen using quarries, church steeples, and London’s high-rise buildings as cliff substitutes. Like ravens, peregrines are currently undergoing a range expansion as their population recovers from the now banned organochlorine pesticides which caused their population to crash in the mid-20th century. Pentargon is a favoured nesting site and this year we first saw a peregrine brooding eggs (four tawny brown eggs if a quick count as the bird briefly shuffled off the eggs can be trusted) on April 13th (which is not to say they weren’t brooding earlier).


Dippers are birds exclusively devoted to fast flowing streams and are therefore found predominately in the uplands but can also be found near the coast where the rivers are short and fast like the rivers we have here in north Cornwall, such as the Valency. Though the nest was out of view in the river bank a pair was seen nest building on April 18th at New Mills. Nationally, though the breeding range of dippers seems stable numbers are decreasing due to, it is thought, the acidification of rivers by conifer plantations.


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