Choughed to bits

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The warden Steve and his family have a truly amazing set up here. Old farm buildings and barns make up the residence with panoramic views over the ocean and lighthouse and on a clear day you can see over to Dublin and Holyhead.

Up in the hills behind the BBFO (Bardsey Bird & Field Observatory) headquarters was a short section of cliff and scree surrounded by grassy banks and gorse: perfect habitat for choughs.

Nearly three quarters of choughs nest in Wales so we're very privileged to have the rarest member of the crow family visiting our shores.

Floating just above the cliff were a number of choughs, numbering around 15-20 birds, who casually rode up and down in the thermals, wings flailing every which way and swooping and diving as only choughs can do, occasionally landing to feed.

It was an interesting contrast to the display we'd seen from the sky pilots at Gigrin Farm. The red kites were masters at high-speed corkscrew turns moments before hitting the ground to grab their carrion, but the choughs had their own unique style.

They looked almost comical, tucking their wings back, and plunging into shallow dives before regaining their composure with a few quick wing beats to steady themselves, before swooping off again, with that piercing 'chow' call.

At times it looked as if they were learning to fly but had forgotten to read the manual, making it up as they went along.

High above them, a lone male peregrine falcon soared around in the clear, blue skies, wings outstretched with head twitching from side to side, searching for his next meal.

While the rest of the crew went on a quick recce of the island with the warden, Steve, I grabbed my camera and photographed a few nice sequences of the birds in flight whilst simon grabbed a film camera and went up the hill to film the birds.

We're due to film them on South Stack, Angelsey shortly, but it seemed like too good an opportunity to miss, so keep an eye out for the bardsey chough footage when we feature coastal and marine wildlife on the programme in the final week.

Gull


Links

Rare birds caught on camera

BBFO

RSPB chough blog

Chough species guide

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