A Chattering of Choughs

Thursday, September 17, 2020 Adam Tilt 2 Comments


One species which appears to have had a very successful breeding season, at least locally, is the Chough. With their curved red bills and matching legs these charismatic birds are most definitely top of the corvid pecking order. You can keep your Jays and your Magpies (yes even with their iridescence) and give me a calling Chough sweeping along a Welsh clifftop every time.

We’re fortunate here that the Gower peninsula holds a healthy population and it’s been rare for one of our evening walks down that way this summer not to have encountered at least a couple. Of course weather conditions unfortunately haven’t tended to be on our side so most of those views have come during gale force winds. Not so on our last trip to Southgate however which saw calmer conditions finally arriving on these shores, if not the sun. There a flock of twelve incredibly vocal and boisterous individuals were roaming widely as far as Three Cliffs, often feeding on the cropped grassland without much concern for passing walkers. I shot a few frames but in truth I could tell that the results would be disappointing so was happy to just stand back and watch events unfold.

At times the flock would split into two distinct groups, each taking a different direction but inevitably coming together again a short while later. One of these gatherings saw the Choughs perch along the cliff-face itself, exactly what I hoped they’d do and a final chance to get some halfway decent photos. Creeping closer under cover of one of the old limestone pits I popped up a mere couple of metres distant, unnoticed and with probably the best seats in the house.
 
P1240911 - Chough, Southgate

P1240907 - Chough, Southgate

P1240912 - Chough, Southgate

It appeared that all thoughts of feeding had been put to one side and this was very much a social occasion, a chance to display ones dominance and for those lower down the pecking order to stake a claim for increased social standing. The resulting cacophony has never represented the collective noun for Chough better. A chattering in every sense of the word.
 
P1240902 - Chough, Southgate

Despite the lack of light these photos capture the nature of those interactions perfectly. Being no expert I wouldn’t hazard a guess as to age but the impression of a group of young lads out on the town fitted perfectly. Don’t you just love a bit of anthropomorphism. 

We eventually left them to it and I got the distinct feeling that their jostling and bickering was set to continue deep into dusk.

2 comments:

  1. It's so heartening to see these and to hear of their success. We watched a couple in Cornwall last summer, but miss them here in the 'far east'. We occasionally saw a Chough on Gower when we lived in Swansea, but never anything like seven at once!

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    Replies
    1. They've really gone from strength to strength in the last few years which is great news.

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