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Photo credit: Dr Liz Thompson

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Photo credit: Peggy Rickaby

Wall Brown Butterfly

Photo credit: Dr Liz Thompson

The range of habitats in our small rural, coastal parish ensures that a varied range of animals may be found here. Some are resident all year, others visit for summer, or winter. Some stay for a short time while on migration and a few species are only recorded as they pass through. Of course it would be impossible to list them all, but here are a few to look out for.

BIRDS are the most conspicuous, and there are at least 48 species that breed regularly of which 10 are summer visitors that spend their winters in Africa. A further 14 are regular winter visitors and a minimum of 6 more can be seen at any time of year. Add to this a minimum of 12 species of seabirds which frequently pass by offshore, and an ever- increasing number of rare vagrants, the list soon becomes surprisingly large!

Specialities include the Nightjar, an uncommon summer visitor which breeds among low bushes in the moorland edges. These birds may be seen as they fly around catching moths, but are most often only heard- a long, low churring song at dusk, wonderful to hear on a calm summer evening. There are still a few Skylarks breeding on the moors and a good population of Meadow Pipits, one of the favoured hosts of the Cuckoo so this species thrives here too. Two true seabird species, Shag and Fulmar, breed on the cliffs as do Herring Gulls and a few pairs of Great Black-backed Gulls.

The Stonechat is a very attractive small insect-eating bird that lives here all year, either on the coast, or up on the moorland. Named for its ‘chack – chack’ call, it chooses conspicuous perches like the tops of Gorse bushes and will raise several broods of youngsters during the summer.

Seabirds pass by regularly, en-route to feeding grounds, and the most spectacular is the Gannet. These white birds have a wingspan of 6 feet, with black wingtips and a pale yellow head. Their nearest colony is Grassholm Island, off the coast of south Wales. They dive into the sea, sometimes from a height of 30 feet, to catch Mackerel and other fish.

The birds that you can see, every day, are listed below, by habitat, with the commonest underlined.

Coastal cliffs and along the coast path:

Shag, Fulmar, Stonechat, Raven, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Wren, Dunnock, Rock Pipit, Meadow Pipit, Linnet, Wheatear, Buzzard, Kestrel, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Oystercatcher and Turnstone (winter)

Seabirds hinclude Gannet, Razorbill, Guillemot, Kittiwake, and Manx Shearwater. In a westerly gale in autumn you may also see Great Skua, Arctic Skua, Pomarine Skua, Storm Petrel, Common Gull, Black-headed Gull, Grey Phalarope, and rarities such as Sabines Gull and Leach’s Petrel.

Fields, hedgerows, stream valleys and gardens

Blackbird, Song Thrush, Robin, Wren, Dunnock, House Sparrow,Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Feral Pigeon, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Linnet, Raven, Carrion Crow, Rook, Jackdaw, Magpie, Buzzard, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Pied Wagtail, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker. In summer, also expect to encounter Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Grasshopper Warbler, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Swallow, House Martin, Swift, Cuckoo, Grey Heron.

In winter, Water Rail, Woodcock, Snipe, Curlew and Grey Wagtail are resident.

Moorland

Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Stonechat, Whitethroat, Linnet, Kestrel, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Carrion Crow, Raven, Jackdaw, Wren, Dunnock, Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting, Herring Gull, Nightjar. In winter, Hen Harrier, Merlin and Short-eared Owl may be seen occasionally.

MAMMALS are far more secretive, and often nocturnal. Rabbits seem to be everywhere and are essential food for many creatures, and road-kill rabbit is breakfast for Crows, Magpies, Buzzards and even Ravens on occasion. There are good numbers of Foxes, some Badgers, and the small mammals include Common, Pygmy and Water Shrew, Mole, Wood Mouse, Short-tailed Field Vole, Bank Vole, Stoat, Weasel and Brown Rat. You can be sure of seeing Common Pipistrelle bats around most farmsteads at dusk but other bat species are more elusive. Look for Grey Seals too, especially at River Cove and the Carracks, down from Trevail.

REPTILES AND AMPHIBIANS are fairly common, and on rainy evenings in spring, the roads may be full of toads on their way to their breeding ponds. There are Frogs and Palmate Newts which breed in quite small pools and ditches. Adders occur on the coastal heath and up on the moors, also Common Lizards which are so fast that all you usually see is the vegetation moving as they slip away to safety.

BUTTERFLIES are less common than in the past but still the unimproved grassland, coastal heath and moorland provides the right conditions for several species. The smallest, and brightest of these is the Small Copper, other small ones are the Common Blue, Holly Blue, Small Skipper and Large Skipper. Wall Brown, Meadow Brown, Ringlet and Gatekeeper are still abundant, as are the large White, Small White and Green-veined White. In late summer, the migrants Red Admiral and Painted Lady appear, sometimes in large numbers, and this is also the time to look for Clouded Yellow, also from the Continent.

MOTHS are difficult to see and identify but there are a few day-flying species to look out for. From June to August, the 6-Spot Burnet is very obvious with its shining dark forewings and 6 vivid red spots, flying slowly over the coastal heath on sunny days. A migrant, the Silver Y, is often present in large numbers from May onwards. It is intricately patterned with a bright silver coloured Y-shape in the centre of each forewing, hence its name.

The largest day-flier you might see on the coast and moors is the Fox Moth. The males fly by day with a fast, erratic flight, and are warm brown with two thin yellowish lines across the forewing. Their caterpillars, black with narrow orange bands, eventually reach 3 inches or so in length and become progressively more hairy and obvious, feeding on heather and brambles. Unusually, these large caterpillars spend the winter in hibernation, emerging in late spring to feed and then pupate.

DRAGONFLIES may turn up anywhere, especially the large yellow and black-striped Golden Ringed Dragonfly. Damselflies are smaller and the Beautiful Demoiselle is found on all the Zennor streams and streamlets. The males are a striking dark metallic blue-green, with almost black wings and the females have bronze-green bodies and iridescent brown-green wings.

OTHER INVERTEBRATES are too numerous to mention, but the most obvious one is the large, harmless, metallic-black Bloody-nose Beetle, which moves really slowly and is common everywhere. It exudes a red liquid from the mouth when threatened, which is foul-tasting and deters predators.
Dr Liz Thompson