We’ve been excitingly welcoming in beautiful new Seasalt styles over the last couple of weeks, spring is on its way! One particular print has captivated us all. Laura Watson, one of our talented designers, has created a chirpy unique print called Kissing Choughs, featuring Cornwall’s most famous bird.
At Lizard Point, the most southerly point of mainland Britain, choughs, which were absent for many years, can now happily be found in abundance. We think Seasalt designer, Laura, has captured their cheeky personalities perfectly in this print.
The chough (pronounced ‘chuff’) is a member of the crow family, sharing the same inky black plumage. However, unlike other crows the cheeky chough has a distinctive and easily identified bright red bill, legs and feet, and a loud, ringing call. It’s this distinct call that gives the chough it’s name. However, the bird’s Cornish name, Palores, means Digger, a reference no doubt to its habit of digging away at loose soil to find invertebrates.
It’s the national bird of Cornwall and features on the coat of arms, proudly sitting on top of the crest flanked by a tin miner and fisherman. It is widely used in Cornish heraldry showing the significance of the bird on Cornish history. One Cornish legend states that King Arthur did not die but was transformed into a red-billed chough, its red feet and bill signifying Arthur’s violent and bloody end.
Sadly the increase of trophy hunters and degradation of the chough’s preferred habitat towards the end of the 18th century meant a steady decline in numbers.
The year 1947 saw the last successful nesting attempt in Cornwall. An ageing pair of choughs lived near Newquay between 1960–1967 but one of the pair was found dead in March 1967. Its partner patrolled the cliffs alone until 1973 when it too, the last of the Cornish choughs, was seen no more.
For the next 28 years, choughs remained absent from Cornwall. But early in the spring of 2001, a group of three wild choughs took up residence on the Lizard and in 2002, two of the birds raised young, the first in Cornwall in more than 50 years! Happily, thanks to this pioneering duo, there are now 7 breeding pairs, and it is estimated that over 70 youngsters have fledged from Cornish nests.
In the autumn and winter months, flocks can be found performing fantastic acrobatic diving and swooping displays on the Lizard. Favourite chough nesting sites include sea caves, cliff crevices, old buildings, quarries and mine shafts – where they’re safely tucked away from the worst of the Cornish weather. So if you’re taking a stroll around the Lizard peninsula be sure to keep an eye out for the cheeky Cornish bird. If you are lucky enough to spot a chough or two you can report your sightings to the RSPB who are working to help protect them. To report your chough sightings, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01392 453775.
If you’d like to find out more about Cornwall’s favourite bird this website knows all there is to know about Cornish choughs http://www.cornishchoughs.org/choughs/
These beautiful watercolour choughs were painted by our in-house Seasalt Artist, Matt Johnson.