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Herons and allies

Updated: Mar 12

Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus

Scarce migrant, but increasing. Only recorded this century:

2007: 2 on Grade Marsh and 5 more at Hayle Kimbro on 21st Apr remained until 2nd May. 17 were seen flying over the Helford on 13th Apr.

2009: 1 at Kynance on 21st Sep was possibly the same as that over Lizard village on 1st Oct.

2012: 8 at Soap Cove and Windmill Farm on Oct 6th possibly included the one seen over Ruan Major later that day.

2013: 1 Lizard Village 24th Sep, 1 Gillan Creek on 27th Sep-5th Oct, 1 Loe Pool 8th Dec and 2 Goonhilly 28th-29th Dec 2013.

2014: One at Gillan Creek on 16th Feb stayed until 11th May and likely a different bird to that seen in Lizard area on 4th Jan, at Ruan Minor on 25th Apr 2014, at Cadgwith on 26th Apr and at Lizard Point on 5th and 11th May.

2018: 1 at Croft Pascoe on 16th-25th Aug 2018.

2019: 1 over Lizard Village on 10th Jan made its way to Grade Marsh and was possibly the same as that seen at Coverack on 27th Jan and Loe Pool on 31st Jan, which stayed in the Helston Amenity area until at least 16th Feb when it was reportedly joined by a second. Also one at Mullion on 28th Dec.

2021: 1 at Traboe Cross on 28th Aug, 1 over Porthleven towards Loe Pool on 21st Dec.

2022: 1 at Grade Marsh on 1st Jan

Glossy Ibis at Croft Pascoe Pool in 2018. Joe Jones.

Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia [BoCC5: Amber]

Rare. Most commonly seen at Gweek and Loe Pool, where it is likely that birds during overlapping periods relate to the same individual. The only count of more than one is over two over Lizard Village on 25th Sep 2010. Singles include:

1940s: 17th Feb-29th Mar 1944 (Gweek), 9th Dec 1946-13th Jan 1947 (Gweek), 1st Nov 1947-28th Mar 1948 (Gweek), 29th Nov 1947 (Loe Pool).

1975: 29th Jun (Loe Pool).

1982: 20th Oct (Gillan Creek) .

1988: 10th Oct (Gweek).

1991: 19th Jan (Frenchman's Creek).

1992: 14th May (soaring over Lizard Downs).

1995: 17th-29th Sep (Loe Pool).

1998: 10th Sep-11th Oct (Loe Pool).

2000: 10th Sep (Loe Pool) and 18th Sep (Gweek).

2001: 28th Aug (Loe Pool).

2007: 2nd Sep (over Bass Point)

2016: 10th Oct (over Mullion)

2017: 15th Oct (Coverack)

2019: 6th Jan (Gillan Creek).

2020: 4th Dec (Loe Pool).

2023: 20th Oct (Lizard Village)

Bittern Botaurus stellaris [BoCC5: Amber]

Historically quite well known in Cornwall, particularly during severe winters, but its crepuscular and secretive habitats make it difficult to discern any long-term trend. However the first documented sighting on the Lizard wasn't until 1957. It occurs periodically at Loe Pool, particularly in cold winters, with 2-3 present some years (e.g 2 in Jan 2011, 3 in Feb 2011, 2 in Feb 2012, 2 in Jan 2021 and 3 Feb-Mar 2021). It was first seen there on 28th Feb 1979.

Elsewhere there were singles at Poldhu in 1957 (no date) and 21st Feb 2004, Goonhilly on 17th Mar 1982 (dead one found a month earlier), Lanarch 2nd Jan 1951, Newton-St. Martin on 10th Mar 1987, south Lizard area (in flight) on 24th Nov 1989, at Constantine on 2nd Jan 1997, at Croft Pascoe on 28th Dec 2004, Windmill Farm on 30th Nov 2012 and Cury 3rd Jan 2016. Also photographed Lizard Village 22nd Mar 2020, and the presumed same bird was found dead near Lizard Village on 5th Apr 2020.

Bittern, one of three at Loe Pool in March 2021. Ilya Maclean

Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus [BoCC5: Amber]

Rare. Pre-1850 (no date) one, now in a collection, was killed somewhere on the Lizard, which may have been the bird reported by Penhallurick (1969) as killed at Newham Moors near Helston in 1838, though another was killed there in 1841. An adult female was picked up exhausted at Coverack on c. 20th April 1867. Adult males were seen at Hayle Kimbro on 11th Apr 1952 and Croft Pascoe Pool on 21st Jun 1975. A female was at Bray's Cot Pools on 9th Jun 1982. Also a male found dead at Loe Pool on 8th Aug 1983 and an adult female found moribund at Kuggar on 27th Mar 1987.

Night-heron Nycticorax nycticorax

Rare, and all records are given (singles unless otherwise stated):

c. 1837: a female somewhere on the Lizard.

1850: 28th Apr (female killed at Penrose), Apr (pair shot at Gunwalloe).

1955: Oct (one killed on the Lizard).

1949: 15th Mar-16th Apr 1949 (Manaccan).

1950: 19th Mar (Carne Creek, Helford).

1990: 20th Mar-21st Apr (Loe Pool).

2001: 11th Apr (Church Cove), 29th Apr (Croft Pascoe Pool).

2005: 16th Apr (Kuggar).

2006: 6th Apr (Loe Pool).

2015: 17th May joined by a second on 18th May (S Votier, I Maclean).

2023: 28th Apr (near Ponsangath, J Foster)

Night-heron, one of two at Loe Pool on 18th May 2015, coinciding with an influx into the south-west. Ilya Maclean

The 2023 Night-heron near Ponsongath. Steve Wood.

Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides

Two (some reports say up to 5) were shot at Trevenwith (near Gwendreath) in 1849, coinciding with a large influx into Cornwall. One was also shot somewhere on the Lizard in May 1871 and is now in a collection. A bird was reported from a private garden on the Lizard (no location) on 9th Jun 2012 and is said to have been there for a week. A bird seen at Kynance, Housel and Bray's Cot on 16th May 2015 eventually settled on a pond at Higher Bochym to 23rd May may have been a different bird from the one seen flying in off the sea shortly after the one on the pool at Housel.

The Squacco Heron at Higher Bochym. Tony Blunden

Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis [BoCC5: Amber]

Prior to the influx of 2007, just a single in the Kynance/Soapy Cove area on 13th-15th Jun 1999 and 4 at Gweek 11th-31st Dec 2001 (three of which stayed on into 2002 dwindling to 1 by 13th May).

In Dec 2007, 4 were at Breage, just off the Lizard, and may have been among up to 7 at Penventon Farm near Porthleven on 24th-27th Dec 2017. During that period and up to Feb 2008 small numbers were recorded from a number of sites including Constantine, Gweek, Loe Pool and Culdrose. Birds had mostly departed by May with one Lizard Point on 11th May 2008.

Thereafter one at Bass Point 11th Oct 2009 roosted in the plantation at Church Cove and was seen the next day. Also, one near the Mullion Holiday camp on 18th Nov 2011 was probably the same as that at Cury Cross Lanes on the 26th, which was then seen intermittently in the area until 13th Dec 2011.

None were then seen until a single at Culdrose on 9th May 2016, which heralded the next major influx, after which the species took up residence. Subsequently it may have bred in the Helford area, and counts as high as 35+ were recorded at Frenchman’s Creek in 2017. Counts of 30+ are now common. The highest count is 120 at Gillan Creek in early Nov 2022.

Large flocks of Cattle Egret are now a fairly common sight in winter. This, most of a flock of 76 Cattle Egret near Newton-St-Martin on 1st Jan 2024 (though with at least one Little Egret also). By late February, a few of these starting exhibiting breeding plumage. Ilya Maclean

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea

No heronries were recorded in Cornwall until the 19th century, though this may be due to the lack of documented records rather than indication of its scarcity, though undoubtebly it has become more common as a breeder. On the Lizard, the Helford is the regular breeding site, though they also breed periodically and Loe Pool. Between 1948 and 1953 A. G. Parsons found four simultaneously occurred heronries along the Helford: at Bishop's Quay, at Polwheveral, at Merthan Wood and near Constantine. The Polwheveral site has been occupied since the 1930s, and they are known to have bred elsewhere on the Helford as far back as 1906. Away form the north of the Lizard the bird is predominantly a migrant and winter visitor, with seemingly fairly nomadic individuals turning up at any wetland site from time to time.

Purple Heron Ardea purpurea

First record one Lizard area in 1867. Thereafter more than 120 years elapsed until the next sightings:

1988: 24th Apr (Gunwalloe).

1990: 31st Mar-28th Apr (Gunwalloe and Poldhu),

1994: 29th Apr-3rd May (Poldhu).

1996: 1st May (Lizard Downs).

1998: 24th Sep (Lizard Village).

2004: 6th Jul (Church Cove).

2006: 1st Jun (Lizard Point).

2009: 9th-19th Apr (Windmill Farm), 20th Apr (Breage).

2011: 8th Apr (Loe Pool).

2013: 2nd Jun 2013 (Helston), 3rd Jun (Trelowarren).

2017: 17th Mar-3rd Apr (Crousa Downs), 17th Oct (over Old Lizard Head).

2021: 24th Apr (Soapy Cove)

2022: 19th May (Bray's Cott)

2023: 5th Apr (south over Rosemullion), 10th Apr (2 near Gwenter), 23rd Apr (Gunwalloe)

Most sightings occur in spring, but there are also records in autumn.

Purple Heron at Windmill Farm, 12th April 2008. Tony Blunden

Purple Heron at Bray's Cott, 19th May 2022. Joe Jones

Great White Egret Ardea alba [BoCC5: Amber]

Rare but increasing. All records of singles except 2 over Kynance on 16th Oct 2020, 6 at Traboe Cross on 11th Oct 2022, 5 over Goonhilly on 12th Oct 2023 and 2 at Loe Pool on 18th Oct 2023. Additional singles are:

1948: 19th Sep-3rd Nov (Loe Pool and Gweek, first for Cornwall).

1978: 1st Jun 1978 (Loe Pool).

2002: 23rd Aug (over Mullion) and 1st Sep (Loe Pool).

2003: 14th Sep (over Lizard Village).

2004: 24th Apr (Kynance Pool and Windmill Farm).

2007: 23rd-25th May (Loe Pool).

2010: 28th Aug (over Lizard Village)

2012: 9th-12th Oct (Loe Pool).

2013: 30th Dec (Loe Pool).

2014: 17th Apr (over Lizard Village) and 11th May (Gillan).

2016: 5th Oct (Loe Pool)

2017: 5th Apr 2017 (Crousa Downs) and 27th May-4th Jun (Loe Pool).

2019: 18th Feb (over Lizard Village), 7th Apr (Helston) and 10th Oct (Porthleven).

2020: 1st Jan (Helston Sewerage Works), 24th Sep (Loe Pool), 15th Oct (Crousa Downs) and 7th-8th Dec (Porthleven).

2021: 2nd Aug (Lizard area).

2022: 31st Mar (Loe Pool), 19th Aug (in off sea Lizard Point)

2023: 12th Oct (Jollytown), 22nd Oct (Ruan Pool), 28th Oct (Loe Pool), 8th Nov (Church Cove and Grade Marsh), 11th Dec (Lizard Village)

Seasonal trends (left) and 5-year totals (right) of Great White Egret on the Lizard Peninsula. A definite signs of an increase in records. Can occur at any time of year, though peaks in October. Loe Pool remains the top sight for this species.

Little Egret Egretta garzetta

The first records were of three at Loe Pool on 7th-27th Apr 1955, a single at Gweek on 10th-18th Sep 1957 & 11th Apr 1965 and one onboard a trawler off Lizard Point on 4th May 1960. Other early records include singles at Porth Navas on 17th May 1976, Mawgan Creek and Gweek on 8th-11th Jun 1986 and in the Helford on 29th Aug-10th Sep 1989. The species became common from 1990 predominantly around the Helford River. It remains quite rare on the south Lizard, where records are of wandering birds, GRade Marsh probably being the favoured site.

A young Little Egret resting before going to roost at Loe Pool in Jan 2021. Ilya Maclean

Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus [IUCN: NT]

The long-staying bird that remains the first for the United Kingdom, put in an appearance over Lizard Downs on 22nd May 2016, Porthleven on 30th Jun 2016 and took up residence at Loe Pool for a few days in early Sep 2016.

The Dalmatian Pelican over Lizard Downs. Tony Blunden

(White Pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus)

An escaped bird on Loe Pool on 31st Jan 1989 must have been quite a spectacle. A Pelican species, most likely an escapee of this species was seen at Gweek on 13th Apr 2023.

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