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Choughed to bits

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:00 UK time, Tuesday, 2 June 2009

We recently ventured over to Bardsey Island to film some rather special migratory sea birds but whilst we were there, Simon King heard the tell tale call of a chough in the hills behind us...

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.



Rare birds caught on camera


RSPB chough blog

Chough species guide


  • Comment number 1.

    as a licence fee payer i am very grateful that all of you are helping me to get the most out of the licence fee

  • Comment number 2.

    I have spent some time on La Palma recently and have a little query:
    La Palma is one of the smaller Canary Islands.
    One of the reasons La Palma is famous is for their population of "Grajas".
    It is claimed that the Grajas only exist on La Palma.
    However, watching Springwatch today, I noticed a remarkable likeness between Simon's Choughs in North Wales and the Grajas of La Palma.
    Below is a link to a picture of a Graja:
    The graja is certainly a type of crow and the name translates as "rook" in English but do you know if these are the same bird?

  • Comment number 3.

    As you can tell from my login name, I like choughs. I regularly go to the cliffs around Marloes in Pembroke, and watch the antics of this show off bread. They seem to fly for the pure pleasure of the airobatics they can perform. We owe a vote of thanks to the National Trust for the way they are grazing the clifftops encouraging this fine bird. Last year, I spotted a flock of 13 together on the clifftop. Magnificent.

  • Comment number 4.

    Froglet - thanks for posting the link up of the Graja.

    I have to say, the bird does look identical to a chough.

    And as you know, the chough is a member of the crow family so I'd say it was almost certainly the same species.

    I'll just confirm with RSPB though and report back!


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