Bird Notes columnist Julian Hughes of RSPB Cymru speaks to conservationists and farmer on what needs to be done to boost Chough numbers
Andrew Forgrave Rural Affairs Editor
12:02, 8 MAR 2019
Choughs feed on soil invertebrates, so require short grass and soft soil to find them (Image: Ashley Perkins)
It's a beautiful morning, the sun warm between the clouds scudding into Cardigan Bay.
A group of Jays beat steadily into the breeze, out across Bardsey Sound. However it is their corvid cousins that distract me.
Seventeen Choughs take to the air, wheeling overhead, their “chee-ow” call ringing off the sea cliffs.
Choughs are the red-billed and red-legged crows that ride the air currents, forage for invertebrates on the cliff tops, and nest in crevices and caves along the Llŷn Peninsula .
As I walk towards Aberdaron , their call is a periodic reminder of this area’s importance for Choughs. It’s why the bird is the logo for the Llŷn Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The weather is very different to the morning I spent with RSPB conservation scientist Daniel Hayhow a few days earlier.
Wrapped in waterproofs against a squall sweeping up the Nantlle Valley, I find Daniel clutching an iPad, repeating photographs taken here in 1997 and 2004.
Photography is being used to compare how the mosaic of vegetation has changed in Snowdonia, where Chough numbers are falling
Daniel has taken a few weeks away from his usual responsibilities to get to know Choughs even better - but he’ll probably encounter very few of the birds.
He said: “Ornithologists in north and west Wales have been studying Choughs for several decades, so we know a lot about where they live and what they need.”
He’s referring to the thousands of hours spent by Adrienne Stratford, Tony Cross and their helpers who have put coloured leg rings on Chough chicks for more than 25 years.
Thanks to them we know about the birds’ movements, foraging areas and roosts, and the important role of autumn flocks in enabling young Choughs to learn how to feed and survive.