Peace Crane by Hilary Taylor

Peace Crane by Hilary Taylor
Picture by Justin Wyatt
To read Hilary's story buy this special book...

This magical story has a touch of the supernatural. When an injured crane is found and nursed, something happens, something magical and inspiring...

Gentle Footprints launched- AS SEEN ON TV

Gentle Footprints was officially launched Fri June 4th at the Hay Festival with guest speaker Virginia McKenna and some of the authors

Buy from Bridge House Publishing by clicking on the link BUY:


Virginia McKenna at Hay Launch

Virginia McKenna at Hay Launch

Animal Anthology To Raise Funds for Born Free

Bridge House Publishing announce new book coming Spring 2010. For more about Bridge House please see their website.
This book is the annual charity book for Born Free...if you want to get involved with promoting and selling this book- email me!

Visit the Born Free Website to find out more about their valuable work...

Visit the Born Free Website to find out more about their valuable work...

Friday, 28 May 2010


So what's so special about choughs (pronounced 'chuffs')? Well, amid the unremittingly depressing news about the haemorrhaging of biodiversity throughout the UK and the world, the story of the chough in Cornwall is in many ways an encouraging one.

The chough is a member of the crow family which, in the UK, also includes the raven, carrion/hooded crow, jackdaw, rook, jay and magpie. I love this group, known as 'corvids', because they are birds with real 'attitude'. I was going to say they are characterised by an almost-human intelligence, but perhaps that is being rather too kind to our species.

Its fair to say that the chough is easily the most classy member of the corvid squad, with a refined, self-assured air, rather than the downright cockiness of some of their kin. It also has an undeniable charisma with its spectacular aerial flying displays, blue-black plumage and blood-red curved beak. Sadly this 'star-quality' has, to a great extent, been the chough's downfall - vast numbers were trapped or shot to feed a voracious market for skins and pets.

These magical birds have a particular significance for the people of Cornwall, being found on the county coat of arms and they have often been known as the Cornish Chough or Daw. In Cornish they are known as 'Palores' meaning 'digger' in reference to their habit turning over the soil to find invertebrates but there are numerous vernacular names throughout the county including chow, cliff daw, hermit crow and sea crow.

There are two types of true chough, the red-billed variety (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) and the Alpine Chough (Pyrrhocorax graculas), with a shorter yellow bill, which is not found in the UK - if you are lucky enough to see a chough with a yellowy-orange bill in this country it will be a juvenile red-billed chough as the eponymous crimson colour develops with age.

In fact, despite its association with Cornwall, the chough was once fairly widespread along the UK coastline. Persecution and changes in farming - the chough is associated with extensive livestock grazing and has suffered from the abandonment of such traditional farms and the move to more intensive regimes - led to a great contraction in its range. In the UK today the chough is restricted to maritime regions of the far-west in Cornwall, Wales, Scotland and the Isle of Man - a truly celtic race.

Because of the species' decline in numbers and range, and due to mixed fortunes in sub-populations, it is an amber-listed species (more on this later in the week) and is afforded the highest degree of legal protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Sadly, despite this, egg collectors remain a major threat to this species' recovery. It is also considered to have an unfavourable population status in the wider Europe being listed 'Vulnerable ' in the 'Species of European Conservation Concern'.

If you fancy seeing these fabulous birds back home in Cornwall, check out this short film 'Return of the Chough' by Peter McMurdie

Coming later in the week: the story of the chough in Cornwall, mining and wildlife (the story of habitat restoration), the alarming general decline in many British bird species, more on the problem of egg collecting and the terrible on-going persecution of our most iconic bird species.

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