Keep an eye out for ringed Spoonbills

Over the autumn and winter we’ve received reports of several colour-ringed Spoonbills, giving a great insight into where these strange birds originate.

Green V463

This bird was ringed as a chick at Høje Sande, Ringkøbing Fjord in Denmark in June 2023 and turned up at Marazion Marsh on 28th September, before unexpectedly wandering back north to Potteric Carr, South Yorkshire, seen on 10th-15th October. Realising the error of its ways, it returned to Marazion Marsh four days later and commuted between there and Hayle estuary until at least 9th December.

Spoonbill and Little Egret, Martin Webb
Great White Egret and Spoonbill – Alex McKechnie


This second bird has an equally interesting, but far more extensive, history. Ringed as a chick at Schiermonnikoog, Oosterkwelder in The Netherlands in July 2006, it spent its first winter 470 km away in France before returning to The Netherlands. It spent its second winter in Poole Harbour, Dorset, then again returned to The Netherlands. Subsequent winters were as follows:

  • 2008-09: Devon and then on the River Tamar in Cornwall in February 2009
  • 2009-10: Yealm estuary, Devon, then back on the River Tamar in January 2010
  • 2010-11: France in September/October, Dorset a week later and River Lynher, Cornwall in December 2010, then back to Devon in January
  • 2011-12: Poole Harbour, Dorset
  • 2012-13: Poole Harbour, Dorset
  • 2013-14: No sightings
  • 2014-15: Poole Harbour, Dorset
  • 2015-16: Poole Harbour, Dorset
  • 2016-17: Poole Harbour, Dorset
  • 2017-18: Poole Harbour, Dorset
  • 2018-19: Poole Harbour, Dorset
  • 2019-20: France in October, then Poole Harbour, Dorset
  • 2020-21: France in October, then Poole Harbour, Dorset
  • 2021-22: Poole Harbour, Dorset
  • 2022-23: Poole Harbour, Dorset
  • 2023-24: Poole Harbour, Dorset and Roiver Lynher, Cornwall on 16th January

So this bird is pretty faithful to a wintering area, but does wander a little and really does highlight the value of reading colour rings on birds.

Spoonbill – Rick Napp

Many thanks to the colour ring coordinators for their feedback on the reports and of course to the photographers who reported them. If you see any colour-ringed birds, the Bird News team can always help track them down so do let us know.

Gerrans Bay Planning Application

Cornwall Birds regularly monitor planning applications in the Duchy for potential impacts on birds and their conservation. Recently our attention has been drawn to an application to the MMO for two large seaweed farms in Gerrans Bay. This is an important wintering area for seabirds especially divers and grebes. It is unclear what impacts these farms may have on seabirds. Together with the RSPB, the Society will be commenting on the application registering our concerns as follows:-

  • Effects on foraging behaviours
  • Disturbance displacement (day and night/ feeding or roosting sites) though noise, light or presence of structures or people.
  • Bird strike due to entanglement or striking cables, etc.
  • Reduction in or changes in food availability due to changes in ecology/hydro morphology, etc.
  • Pollution incidents/disease/biosecurity issues.

The Cornwall Willow Tit Task Force – Training Day

Willow Tits, since 1970, have seen a population decline of 94% in Britain and have earned the unenviable title of Britain’s fastest declining resident bird. A collaborative project led by CBWPS and the University of Exeter has been launched, seeking to combine sound science and expert local knowledge to find practical solutions to bolster the species in Cornwall.

There’s a lot to do but we’re off to a flying start, with a pot of funding already secured for enhancing habitat at Goss Moor national nature reserve.

The Project

Headed up by CBWPS Vice-Chair, Pete Roseveare and University of Exeter PhD student, Daveron Smith we are working with partners in Cornwall to collaboratively co-design and deliver landscape-scale initiatives that benefit both Willow Tits and the people that live and work in the landscape. By:

  • Building relationships with local & national partners to better understand the species’ ecology
  • Co-designing interventions, underpinned by scientific evidence, that are mostly likely to help this species, accounting for real-world constraints & opportunities
  • Working in partnership with local land managers to drive changes in land management, leveraging nature recovery funding streams where available.
  • Co-developing a monitoring framework and platform to measure and share the success of interventions

Why Cornwall?

The natural environment in Cornwall is at the core of our identity and heritage, and the region is globally renowned for its beautiful land and seascapes and their unique history. However, its nature is highly fragile and not as healthy as it might seem. Nearly half of our breeding birds have declined, and several have already gone extinct. Work to help reverse these declines needs to begin now.

Why Willow Tits?

Our endemic subspecies of Willow Tit (Poecile montanus kleinschmidt) is Britain’s fastest declining resident bird, and within Cornwall is precipitously close to extinction. There is an urgent need to change the management of habitats, at landscape scale, to prevent this. With specific habitat requirements, a fragmented distribution and an aversion to dispersing over large expanses of open terrain, the species also presents an opportunity to consider more generally how landscape scale conservation can and should be carried-out. Such interventions are likely to bring about positive change for a range of other species and ecosystem services.

Willow Tit ‘Task Force’

We are well on our way to establishing a ‘Task Force’ of birders, land managers and conservation bodies to ensure Willow Tits, people and other species, see beneficial outcomes through this project. We have managed to leverage this so far to unlock funding for habitat works on Goss Moor which CBWPS will help to shape.

What next?

Habitat survey is ongoing – drawing upon RSPB methodology in Willow Tit habitat assessment we are also collating existing datasets and working with licenced bird ringers and other partners, to acquire insights into the ecology of the species locally and identify knowledge gaps.

Long-running survey effort, beginning this winter, will develop our understanding of the distribution of Willow Tits in Cornwall. CBWPS members are uniquely placed to help us with this effort and, over the coming months, we would be very interested in hearing from people that would be prepared to carry out some Willow Tit survey at locations throughout Cornwall, including well known strongholds and areas the species historically frequented.

What does this project offer for you?

For a birder, this group can:

  • Use your skills to inform a large-scale project that will benefit Willow Tits in your area
  • Give you the opportunity to work alongside researchers and conservation organisations to guide local conservation actions
  • Provide training and upskilling for our standardised Willow Tit Survey method
  • Provide targeted survey focus in the winter to early spring period

We will be hosting training on December the 2nd where we will delve into the methodology and recording in greater detail.

If you would be interested in coming along to the training and undertaking field surveys this winter, please contact Pete Roseveare and Daveron Smith using [email protected] or drop Pete a call using 07955216836 after 5pm and he will happily provide further information.

Tamar Estuary Bird and Wildlife Cruise

Bird & Wildlife Cruise

Join Plymouth Boat Trips and Vice-Chair, Pete Roseveare on a new Bird Watching Cruise to see and learn about the many birds that migrate to the River Tamar and River Lynher during the autumn and winter months.

Travelling the River Tamar and River Lynher, which are known for wintering wildfowl and many waders. Where we hope to see Shelduck, Wigeon, Curlew, Greenshank, Black-tailed Godwit, the stunning Avocets and hopefully we are fortunate to also see Spoonbills.

Commentary will be provided by Pete Roseveare to give you the opportunity to improve your bird identification skills and learn about the ecology of the birds and the river.

Tickets include a hot Tea or Coffee and Steak Cornish Pasty.

Adults: £20.00 (Adults 16+)

For more details and to book please visit: Plymouth Boat Trips

Northern Harrier on the Lizard Peninsular

You may have heard that a rare species of raptor has graced Cornwall since 28th September, a juvenile Northern Harrier! This sublime looking bird of prey has delighted many birders from across the country and has been a welcome addition to the county lists of most Cornish birders too. Here we discuss where it came from and what makes it identifiable from the more expected Hen Harrier.

Local birder Edward O’Connor reported an interesting looking harrier species from his local patch at Higher Bochyn; a Natural England Reserve located on Goonhilly Downs. A team effort ensued to confirm suspicions that it was indeed a juvenile Northern Harrier; a 2nd for Cornwall.

So what makes this bird a Northern Harrier, rather than our resident Hen Harrier? At a distance you may notice that it has a darker looking head and the extsensive orangey hue to the underparts is certainly very eye-catching, when compared to a typical juvenile Hen Harrier. The devil is in the detail with this particular species though and to confirm the identification you need close and clear views of some subtle features that are best expalined via these stunning photographs and text from Mashuq Ahmad; a member of our County Rarities Committee.


Primary 9 and Primary 8 with 6 bars (not including the dark tip. On P9, innermost bar faint and hard to see. Typically 4-5 on Hen (rarely 6) Also 4 bars on P10, (typically 3 on Hen).

Dark breast band and, diffuse streaking on the rufous-toned underparts, restricted to upper breast and upper flanks.

Darker, chocolate brown upperparts in general compared with Hen Harrier with obvious rufous, upper wing covert fringes (lower lesser coverts).

Dark facial crescent, solidly dark chocolate crown and dark chocolate neck boa. In combination, creating striking hood effect unlike Hen Harrier .

Only one previous record of Northern Harrier has been confirmed in Cornwall before, an adult male photographed at Men -an- Tol on 23rd November 2013. Why are they so rare? Amazingly they breed no closer to us than Canada and northern North America and only certain weather conditions can facilitate such an extreme occurence of vagrancy. As the Northern Harrier was migrating south along the East Coast of North America on its way to wintering grounds further south it will have got caught up in Hurricane Lee.  As the remainder of this powerful storm sped quickly across the Atlantic , an uprecedented arrival of American vagrants where found across Britain. The fast moving weather system, accompanied by a warm front was a key factor as birds managed to survive this incredible journey, a ‘perfect storm’ for rarities!

At time of writing (6th October 2023) the Northern Harrier is still being seen on the Lizard, currently around Kynance Cove. If you haven’t been down to see it then why not go and enjoy this stunning raptor in an idyllic setting.






British Wildlife & Conservation Day at the Screech Owl Sanctuary

On the 30th of September Screech Owl Sanctuary will be hosting their annual Wildlife day and will be joined by a range of local wildlife groups for a unique opportunity (at no extra cost to entry) to learn more about British Wildlife & Conservation.

Some of the groups attending on the day include:

• Cornwall Birdwatching & Preservation Society
• British Trust for Ornithology – Ringing Group
• British Trust for Ornithology – Cornwall
• Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust
• British Divers Marine Life Rescue
• National Lobster Hatchery
• Cornwall Butterfly Conservation
• Cornwall Reptile & Amphibian Group
• Cornwall Bat Group

There will also be a quiz, pond dipping and face painting as well as many other activities to get involved with.

There will also be a reduced entry fee on the day of £8 per person (for any aged 3 years and over)

Middle Amble Closure

The access track to Middle Amble will be closed week commencing 4th September 2023. This is to enable essential maintenance work.
A drainage pipe will be laid alongside the track and resurfacing will reduce the risk of flooding. Furthermore a stock holding pen will be built in preparation for adding grazing cattle next year.
The track will be closed for approximately a week to 10 days during which time it will not be possible to visit the hide.

Access to Middle Amble Reserve

There is no access into the reserve. However, there is a hide overlooking the site enabling good views. It is a marsh and can be very wet and muddy so Wellington boots are highly recommended. We are planning to “pipe” the stream in the lane in September and the path and hide will be closed for approximately a week. Please park in the main car park in Chapel Amble village, PL27 6EU and not by the cemetery.

From the car park go through the village with the pub & post office on your right and take the left turn signposted Lower Amble. Go past the bungalows on your left and then the cemetery on the right. There is a straight section of road with elms on both sides, towards a long white cottage. Take the footpath on the left just as you approach the cottage. At the bottom of the lane go through the 5-bar gate and follow the track around to your right. You will see the hide about 75 metres away. The door key code to the hide can be found on the members page of the website.

Bird Books for sale

Mike Spicer and Pete Clement are in the process of disposing of the late Bob Hibbett’s book collection on behalf of his widow, Ros. Books are mainly in excellent condition and, whilst mainly on birds, there are several on flowers and insects. For a copy of the complete list, please email [email protected]. All reasonable offers will be considered. 100% of the proceeds will go to his widow.

Thanks in advance,

Marsh Harriers successfully breed at Walmsley Reserve

Cornwall Birds (CBWPS) are delighted to announce that a pair of Marsh Harriers have successfully bred on our Walmsley Sanctuary reserve; raising three young which fledged this weekend.

There are very few breeding records of this species in the county, and this is the first in North Cornwall. It is a sure sign that the careful habitat management carried out by reserve warden, Adrian Langdon, his dedicated team of volunteers and our partners at Cornwall Wildlife Trust are paying off and we would like to thank them for all of their hard work.

We would also like to thank our members and Walmsley visitors for their understanding whilst we withheld records of these marvellous raptors during the summer months in a bid to minimise disturbance and other negative factors whilst they settled and nested. It is greatly appreciated!

If you would like to visit the reserve to watch the Marsh Harriers, please do so from our tower hide. They are sure to do some wonderfully close fly-bys and will be free from disturbance from here.