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Warblers and allies

Updated: Apr 12

Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti

This species was first recorded in Britain in 1961 and in Cornwall, at Par Marsh, in 1973. It was first recorded in the Lizard area, at Poldhu on 28th Oct 1976. Subsequently, it was heard singing at Coverack on 2nd-3rd Jun 1977, Gunwalloe on 8th-16th Apr 1978 (up to 2 singing), Poldhu on 6th Jul-31st Aug 1978 (ringed and recaptured). In 1979 it was recorded at Gunwalloe, Loe Pool and Poldhu.

It became resident thereafter, breeding at Poldhu, Gunwalloe and Loe Pool, intermittently at Kynance from 1983-1999 and occasionally at Hayle Kimbro and Goonhilly. It is currently a resident breeder at Gunwalloe and Poldhu Marsh, Loe Pool and occasionally at other sites.

However, it is still a scarce bird in the south Lizard area, with records from Caethillean on 10th Oct 1993, 2 at Church Cove on 2nd Apr 2000, Cadgwith on 2nd Nov 2001, Chapel Lane on 2nd-9th Feb 2015, Caerthillian on 24th Aug 2020, Lloyd's Lane on 2nd Nov 2021, Rizza Valley on 29th Apr 2023 and Kynance on 23rd Oct 2023. Also records from Soap Cove on 9th Oct 2021 and at Windmill Farm on several dates in 2021 after 9th Oct. In Autumn 2022, one took up residence at Kennack Sands and stayed until Apr 2023 at least,

Cetti's Warbler, Loe Pool. Ilya Maclean

Historic (1982) breeding distribution of Cetti's Warbler on the Lizard. Medium-sized squares indicate probable breeding and small squares present in the breeding season and possibly breeding.

Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus

There is little to suggest that the historic status of this species has changed significantly, and it remains a fairly common resident breeder. The British population is assigned to the race rosaceus. The nominate form from northern Europe, i.e. 'northern' long-tailed tit, occurs as a vagrant in the UK, and likely so doe birds of the europaeus group, though separation in the field is more problematic. Careful observation by Clark (1908) showed that late autumn parties, which frequently turn up on the Lizard, were not of continental origin, but rather comprised local family groups. Whether this is true of the occasional influxes of this species on the south Lizard in October, often during classic rarity conditions, is unknown.

Long-tailed Tit, Windmill Farm, April 2021. Joe Jones

Historic (1982) breeding distribution of Long-tailed Tit on the Lizard. Large squares indicate confirmed breeding and small squares present in the breeding season and possibly breeding.

Wood Warbler Phylloscopus sibilatrix [BoCC5: Red]

Historically this species bred fairly commonly in Cornwall, though predominantly in the east of the county. It is slightly surprising that it never occurred commonly in the sessile woodlands of the Helford, as elsewhere in the south-west, this is its favoured habitat. Nevertheless, in 1973 a singing bird was at Bosahan, Helford, and 2 were seen around the Helford on 4th Aug 1983. A pair with a juvenile was seen at Loe Pool on 27th Jul 1976, an adult with 2-3 juveniles there on 16th Jul-26th Aug 1977, and an adult there on 16th Jul-2nd Aug 1978. The species may have attempted breed at this site thereafter, with singles recorded, often singing, on 9th Apr 1982, 3rd Jul 1983, 16th May-6th Jun & 8th Aug 1987, 7th May 1988 and more recently on 20th-26th Apr 2011.

Its current status is best described as an increasingly rare spring and autumn migrant. Records away from the Helford and Loe Pool are as follows (all singles):

1962: 6th May.

1973: 27th Aug.

1986: 13th May.

1987: 2nd May.

1988: 21st-24th Sep.

1989, 7th May.

1992: 25th-26th Aug.

1993: 2nd & 26th Apr and 10th & 19th May.

1994: 11th-12th & 24th May.

1995: 29th Apr.

1996: 20th Jul.

1998: 9th May.

1999: 27th & 30th Apr and 3rd Aug.

2000: 24th Sep.

2001: 11th-15th Oct.

2002: 24th-28th Oct,

2003: 21st Apr.

2005: 16th-18th Oct.

2006: 26th Sep

2008: 16th May.

2011: 7th Apr.

2014: 30th Sep-8th Oct.

2015: 8th May.

2016: 8th May.

2018: 21st Apr and 10th Sep.

2021: 21 Aug.

2022: 12th Sep

2023: probable 13th Sep

Wood Warbler, Kynance, Aug 2021. Ilya Maclean

Seasonal trends (left) and 5-year totals (right) of initial sightings of Wood Warbler on the Lizard Peninsula excluding historic breeding records.

Western Bonelli's Warbler Phylloscopus bonelli

Rare, with just six records. Singles recorded at Church Cove on 12th-13th Sep 1990 (B Cave), Lizard Village on 21st-23rd Sep 2006 and 5th-6th Sep 2014 (B Cave), Bass Point on 22nd Aug 2015 (S Votier), Croft Pascoe on 12th May 2016 and Lizard Village on 20th Sep 2017 (T Blunden).

Western Bonelli's Warbler, Lizard Village, 20th September 2017. Tony Blunden

Hume's Warbler Phylloscopus humei

Rare, with just two records. Singles at Church Cove on 22nd-23rd Nov 1998 and Helston Sewerage Works on 13th-15th Oct 2004 (A Pay).

Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus [BoCC5: Amber]

Increasingly common migrant and also a fairly regular winter visitor with 3 or 4 recorded around Loe Pool in recent winters. A few linger into spring. It was first recorded near Porthleven on Oct 18th-20th 1950 and Church Cove 16th-23rd Oct 1960 when still a major rarity in the UK.

Yellow-browed Warbler 16th October 2019. A classic date for this species. Tony Blunden

Seasonal trends of initial sightings of Yellow-browed Warbler on the Lizard Peninsula (where dates available). Blue: pre-2020 records. Red: post-2020 records (including 2020).

Pallas's Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus

Scarce and not recorded until 1982 when one was at Caerthillian on Oct 27th and Kynance on 8th Nov (B Cave). The only other record form the 1980s was from Caerthillian on 31st Oct 1987 (B Cave).

In the 1990s it became almost annual:

1991: 3rd Nov 1991 (Chyvarloe Wood, S Bury)

1994: 5th Nov (singles at Church Cove, A Pay et al) and Lizard Point (B Cave)

1995: 30th Oct (Lizard Point), 29th-31st Oct 1995 (Church Cove, B Cave et al)

1996: 24th Oct (Lizard area), 30th Oct (Kynance), 8th Dec (Gwendreath, S Bury)

1997: 19th & 25th Oct (Caerthillian), 22nd Oct (Church Cove).

1998: 4th-6th Nov (Church Cove)

1999: 21st Oct (2 Pistol Meadows, 1 Lizard Village and 1 Lizard Point), 15th Nov (Kynance Downs).

Post-2000 it became rarer, though 2022 was a good year:

2003: 14th Dec (Carminowe Valley)

2005: 21st-23rd Oct (Kynance Farm)

2007: 19th-2oth Oct (Church Cove)

2011: 4th Nov (Cadgwith, T Blunden)

2015: 31st Oct (Carminowe Valley, I Maclean)

2016: 8th-9th Oct (Housel), 26th Oct (Lizard Point, S Votier).

2019: a long-stayer at Coverack Sewerage Works on 23rd Jan-20th Apr 2019 (S Bury), heard singing quite frequently in the spring.

2022: 29th Oct (Gwendreath, T Blunden), 31st Oct (Lloyd's Lane, I Maclean), 12th Nov (Lloyd's Lane, T Blunden)

The 2022 Lloyd's Lane Pallas's Warbler. Tony Blunden

Seasonal trends (left) and 5-year totals (right) of initial sightings of Pallas's Warbler on the Lizard Peninsula, which showed a peak in the mid-1990s. Most records are concentrated in late October and early November, but there have also been three winter records.

Radde's Warbler Phylloscopus schwarzi

Rare, with just three records, all of singles: at Caerthillian on 26th Oct 1984 (B Cave), at Church Cove on 21st Oct 2007 and at the Devil's Frying Pan on 21st Oct 2021 (S Croft, D Collins).

Radde's Warbler, Devil's Frying Pan. Dave Collins.

Dusky Warbler Phylloscopus fuscatus

Rare, with just 9 records, six within a week in Nov 2011. First recorded at Caerthillian on 27th Oct 2007. In Nov 2011, there was an influx with singles recorded at Trethvas Farm on the 14th (T Blunden), elsewhere on the Lizard on the 15th (T Blunden), Caerthillian on the 18th-19th (B Cave), Kennack Sands on the 20th (T Blunden) and birds at both Cadgwith (S Bury) and Housel Bay (T Blunden) on the 21st-22nd. The only other records are of a spring bird at Bass Point on 19th May 2019 (J Foster) and of a bird along Lloyd's Lane on 20th-25th Nov 2021 (J Foster).

The 2019 spring Dusky Warbler at Bass Point. Tony Blunden

Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus [BoCC5: Amber]

Historically common across the Lizard Peninsula. It remains a fairly common breeding summer resident, though there is some evidence of a decline. Extreme dates for migrants are 20th Mar (2020) and 24th Nov (2014), though there are also a few winter record. A bird assumed to be of this species recorded regularly on 8th Jan-end Feb 1949 in Penrose. Definite wintering birds were recorded on 12th Dec 1996-1st Jan 1997 and 24th-31st Dec 2011 at Helston Sewerage Works.

There are also a few records of ssp. acredula (‘Northern’ Willow Warbler) e.g. at Housel on 19th May 2019.

Historic (1982) breeding distribution of Willow Warbler on the Lizard. Large squares indicate confirmed breeding, medium-sized squares probable breeding and small squares present in the breeding season and possibly breeding.

Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita

As with Willow Warbler, this species was historically common across the Lizard Peninsula, though in contrast the previous species it has probably increased in number, certainly during winter. Wintering birds were undocumented in Cornwall until 1869. By the 1970s, Loe Pool and Helston were regular wintering sites. In the winter of 1976-77, 20+ were recorded ar Helston Sewerage works and 4 at St Kerverne Sewerage works. It is evidently much more common than that during winter currently.

Race tristis (Siberian Chiffchaff) occurs fairly regularly at scattered locations in late Oct and early Nov, and fairly regularly at sewerage treatment works and sheltered woodland locations throughout winter, with occasional birds lingering to spring or occurring as spring migrants.

Race abietinus has also occurred, though identification is harder and of a sample of 389 birds caught at sewerage works, and based on mtDNA analyses, 96% were collybita, 4% were tristis and <1% abietinus, suggesting the latter is rare. Numbers of tristis seem to be increasing.

An obvious collybita chiffchaff in the Rizza Valley, April 2024. Ilya Maclean

Some Chiffchaffs are rather harder to ascribe to race. This rather pale one at Helston Sewerage works on 6th Feb 2021 has a lot of pro-Siberian features, but can a pale collybita definitely be ruled out?

A more definite tristis at the same site.

Some Siberian Chiffchaffs stay on until April. This one in full song at Helston Boating Lake on 11th April 2024

Historic (1982) breeding distribution of Chiffchaff on the Lizard. Large squares indicate confirmed breeding, medium-sized squares probable breeding and small squares present in the breeding season and possibly breeding.

Iberian Chiffchaff Phylloscopus ibericus

Rare, with just 3 records. Singles at Windmill Farm on 30th Apr-3rd May 2004 (A Pay), Soapy Cove on 20th Apr 2013 (T Blunden) and Little Treleaver 11th Apr-23rd Jun 2016 (J Foster). Also a possible at Soapy Cove on 11th Sep 2023.

Iberian Chiffcaff at Little Treleaver in Apr 2016. Ilya Maclean

The 2013 Iberian Chiffchaff at Sopay Cove. Tony Blunden

Another photo of the 2013 Iberian Chiffchaff at Sopay Cove. Tony Blunden

Green Warbler Phylloscopus nitidus

One trapped and ringed in a private garden in Lizard Village on 10th Jun 2019 (T Blunden) was the first record for Cornwall. Also seen later in the day along Man of War view.

Green Warbler trapped and ringed in Tony's Garden. Tony Blunden.

Greenish Warbler Phylloscopus trochiloides

Rare, with just three records. Singles at Church Cove on 28th Oct-2nd Nov 2009 and Lizard Village on 24th Aug 2016 and 4th Jun 2019.

Arctic Warbler Phylloscopus borealis

Rare, with just two records. Singles at Kynance Pool on 7th Sep 1991 (S Bury) and Church Cove on 30th Sep 2014 (T Blunden).

Great Reed Warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus

Rare, with just two records. Singles at Gunwalloe Marsh 3rd-6th Jun 2012, and at Hellarcher Valley on 20th May 2020 (T Phelps).

Aquatic Warbler Acrocephalus paludicola [IUCN: VU]

Formerly scarce, now rare, all records given (singles unless otherwise stated):

1976: 11th & 30th Sep (Loe Pool).

1977: 10th Sep (Predannack Airfield).

1979: 12th Sep (Caerthillian).

1980: 22nd Sep (Hayle Kimbro and another at Predannack Head)

1982: 9th Sep (Hayle Kimbro).

1986: 26th Sep (Hayle Kimbro)

1988: 26th-28th Aug and 16th & 22nd Oct (Hayle Kimbro), 8th Sep (unspecified).

1989: 9th Aug (Gunwalloe)

1990: 5th Sep (Loe Pool), at Gunwalloe: 8th Aug (3), 22nd-25th Aug (2), 25th-26th Sep (1)

1991: 13-14th & 29th Aug (Gunwalloe).

Rare since the early 1990s, despite increased observer coverage:

2012: 23rd Aug (Gunwalloe, M Grantham)

2015: 3rd Oct (Kynance, T Blunden).

Aquatic Warbler, Kynance, 3rd Oct 2015. Tony Blunden

Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus [BoCC5: Amber]

A common breeding summer visitor, though the first dated record of this species in Cornwall wasn't until 1839. Nevertheless, this is probably more indicative of observer coverage than a chance in status.

In the 1970s and 1980s, there was a notable decline in this species, mirroring, though not as extreme as that of Common Whitethroat, and probably attributable to changes in rainfall in the Sahel region though which it migrates. Nationally number increased during the late 1990s and 200s, but have thereafter declined quite substantially, potentially owing to habitat changes. The is suggestive evidence that this is also true on the Lizard. Nevertheless, it remains a moderately common breeder in a variety of damp or scrubby habitats.

Extreme dates are 28th Mar (2017) and 29th Oct (1996).

Singing Sedge Warbler, Hellarcher Valley. Ilya Maclean

Historic (1982) breeding distribution of Sedge Warbler on the Lizard. Large squares indicate confirmed breeding, medium-sized squares probable breeding and small squares present in the breeding season and possibly breeding.

Paddyfield Warbler Acrocephalus agricola

Rare, with just one record: a bird at Church Cove / Rizza Valley on 8th-13th Oct 2012.

Paddyfield Warbler in Rizza Valley. Ilya Maclean

Blyth's Reed Warbler Acrocephalus dumetorum

With several records of 'possible's prior to this, in 2022, this long overdue bird on the Lizard was finally clinched with certainty, with one in Tony's garden on 7th Sep (T Blunden). Another was seen at Windmill Farm on 14th Sep 2022.

Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus

As elsewhere in Cornwall, the species was historically rare: the first record for the Lizard is of two singing at Gunwalloe Marsh on 29th May 1964. It is now fairly common breeding summer visitor and migrant, though there is some evidence of ongoing decline. On the south Lizard occurs mostly as a migrant, though recently has taken up residence at Grade Marsh. Extreme dates are 30th Mar (1989) and 28th Oct (1990).

Historic (1982) breeding distribution of Reed Warbler on the Lizard. Large squares indicate confirmed breeding and medium-sized squares probable breeding.

Marsh Warbler Acrocephalus palustris [BoCC5: Red]

Rare, with just six records. Singles at Kynance on 18th Oct 1970 (trapped and ringed), Church Cove on 1st Jun 1993 (B Cave) & 14th-15th Oct 1995, Poltesco on 6th May 2001, Pistol Meadows on 24th May 2007 (B Cave) and Lloyd's Lane on 20th-21st Jun 2019 (S Bury).

Marsh Warbler, Lloyds Lane. Ilya Maclean

Booted Warbler Iduna caligata

Rare, with just one record: at Caerthillian on 14th Oct 2019 (M Pass, I Maclean).

Melodious Warbler Hippolais polyglotta

Historically very rare. The first record for Cornwall (and the UK) was of a male shot in May 1907, which up until the late 1970s, remained the only spring record for the regin. The next Cornish record wasn't until 1951, though thereafter it has been seen nearly annually

The first Lizard record was of a bird at Church Cove on 11th Sep 1977. It's current status is best described as a scarce but increasing autumn migrant and rare spring migrant. Autumn records, all of singles are as follows:

1977: 11th Sep (Church Cove).

1979: 6th Sep (Caerthillian).

1980: 30th Oct (Caerthillian).

1988: 8th Sep (Lizard area).

1990: 8th Oct (Loe Pool).

1992: 18th Sep (Lizard area).

2002: 7th Sep (Poltesco) and 15th Sep (Caerthillian).

2008: 13th Sep (Caerthillian) and 15th Sep (Old Lizard Head).

2009: 16th Aug (Lizard Village)

2017: 22nd Aug (Pistol Meadow)m 21st Aug (Lizard Village) and 24th Sep (Hellarcher Valley),

2018: 7th Sep (Hellarcher Valley).

2019: 8th Sep (Bass Point).

2020: 28th Aug (Lizard Point).

2021: 22nd Aug and 16th Sep (Kynance).

2022: 18th Sep (Kynance Gate)

2023: 20th Aug (Loe Bar), 23rd Aug (Kynance Valley), 30th Aug (Lizard Pt), 13th Sep (Lizard Pt), 21st Sep (Kynance Farm)

There are three spring record all in late May: singles at Soap Cove on 24th May 1989, Croft Pascoe on 24th May 2009 and at Coverack on 29th May 2015.

Melodious Warbler near Lizard Point in 2020. Joe Jones

Seasonal trends (left) and 5-year totals (right) of initial sightings of Melodious Warbler on the Lizard Peninsula.

Icterine Warbler Hippolais icterina

Scarce autumn migrant with most records concentrated into a short period in late Aug and early Sep. All records are given:

1970: 28th Aug (Caerthillian).

1975: 21st Sep (Caerthillian).

1979: 2nd Aug (Caerthillian).

1980: 16th Sep (Bass Point).

1985: 10th Sep (Lizard area).

1989: 25th Sep (Caerthillian).

1990: 9th Sep (Lizard area).

1998: 27th Sep (Housel Bay).

1999: 21st Aug (Lizard Village).

2003: 26th Aug (Chynhalls Cliffs).

2005: 2nd Sep (Church Cove).

2015: 23rd Aug (Soap Cove)

2016: an influx year, with singles recorded on 18th and 28th Aug at Lizard Point and 15th and 26th Sep at Church Cove.

2022: 11th Aug (Kynance Cove)

Seasonal trends (left) and 5-year totals (right) of initial sightings of Icterine Warbler on the Lizard Peninsula.

(Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler Locustella certhiola)

A possible sighting of one at Pistol Meadows on 3rd Oct 2013 (B Cave).

Savi's Warbler Locustella luscinioides [BoCC5: Red]

Rare, with just three spring records, all from Gunwalloe Marshes: on 23rd-27th Jun 1986 (A Pay), 2nd Apr-19th May 1987 (A Pay, S Bury) and 19th Apr-2nd May 2015 (I Maclean). One was also heard singing at the Waterings at Housel in spring (S Croft, date uncertain between 2003 and 2005).

Grasshopper Warbler Locustella naevia [BoCC5: Red]

The early historic status of this species in Cornwall is largely unknown, though Penhallurick (1978) suggested that its status had changed little between the mid 180ss and late 1970s. In recent years there has been a marked decline. Once a moderately common breeding summer visitor and migrant on the south Lizard area it has become remarkably hard to find there in recent years. It remains more common in the reedbeeds at Gunwalloe and bred recently at Windmill farm, but is evidently declining on the north Lizard too. Extreme dates are 11th Apr (2004 & 2015) and 18th Oct (1999).

Grasshopper Warbler, Goonhilly Downs, 21st Sep 2020. Joe Jones

Grasshopper Warbler, Hellarcher Valley, Spring 2023. Steve Wood

Historic (1982) breeding distribution of Grasshopper Warbler on the Lizard. Large squares indicate confirmed breeding, medium-sized squares probable breeding and small squares present in the breeding season and possibly breeding.

Fan-tailed Warbler Cisticola juncidis

Just a single record of this species: on 1st June 1998 (S. Bury). After a spell of south-easterlies, which had brough a Quail to Chyvarloe and Turtle Doves to Treleaver, Steve was checking the checking the valley south of the road ford between Bray’s Cott and Gwendreath for Darford warbler (2 singing ). He flushed a small warbler that landed just a few feet away. He quickly realised he was watching a close-range Fan-tailed Warbler!

Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla

Historically, this species was always common in east Cornwall, but was comparatively rare in west Cornwall until quite recently. In the late 1970s, Penhallurick notes its presence as a beeder being confined primarily to the wooded areas of Meneage, despite being evidently much more widespread than that currently.

Its wintering occurrence is Cornwall was documented as far back as the 1860s, though undoubtedly it has also increased as a winter visitor, perhaps more so than as a breeding species, though wintering birds remain more common in sheltered areas to the north of the Lizard. It is also a common migrant, and during migration season large numbers can occur at coastal locations.

Blackcap, Lizard Village, 2nd May 2021. Joe Jones.

Historic (1982) breeding distribution of Blackcap on the Lizard. Large squares indicate confirmed breeding, medium-sized squares probable breeding and small squares present in the breeding season and possibly breeding.

Garden Warbler Sylvia borin

Historically this species was rare in west Cornwall and the first documented sighting of one on the Lizard is not until 1946: of a bird singing in the Helford on 13th June. Numbers increased thereafter, and by the 1990s it had become fairly common in suitable habitat on the north of the Lizard, though in recent years there is suggestion of an ongoing decline. It also occurs as a migrant. Extreme dates are 10th Apr (2000) and 16th Nov (1986).

Historic (1982) breeding distribution of Garden Warbler on the Lizard. Medium-sized squares probable breeding and small squares present in the breeding season and possibly breeding.

Barred Warbler Curruca nisoria

Rare, with just seven records, all of singles. At Landewednack Valley 21st Sep-1st Oct 1995 (B Cave), Church Cove 29th Oct 1996 and 4th Oct 2000, Kynance on 7th-10th Oct 2006 (B Cave), Lizard Village on 17th Sep 2015 (T Blunden), Gunwalloe on 25th Aug 2016 (S Bury) and Hellarcher Valley from 12th-16th Oct 2019.

The 2019 Barred Warbler in Hellarcher Valley. Tony Blunden.

Lesser Whitethroat Curruca curruca

There were no 19th century records of this species in Cornwall and the species was undoubtedly rare, though possibly overlooked in the first half of the 20th century. The first documented sighting on the Lizard is of one feeding young at Church Cove, Gunwalloe on 17th Jun 1955. Now a very scarce breeding summer visitor and more regular migrant. Breeds fairly regularly at Windmill Farm. One seen carrying food at Gunwalloe on 17th Jun 1955. May also have bred around Kynance Road area in 2019 as was recorded regularly there in spring. Extreme dates are 14th Apr (2018) and 5th Dec (2015) with additional wintering birds 5th Jan-2nd Feb 2013 (T Blunden) and 28th Dec 2014 (D Wright). Late autumn and winter records are more likely to be of race blythi or possibly even other eastern races.

A probable blythi Lesser Whitethroat in Church Cove 17th Nov 2013. Ilya Maclean

Sardinian Warbler Curruca melanocephala

Rare with just three records. Males at Kynance on 18th-26th Mar 1990 (B Cave), Caerthillian Cove on 13th-14th Apr 1996 and Porthleven on 18th-19th Apr 2020 (I Maclean - see finders account).

Western Subalpine Warbler Curruca iberiae

The assignment of birds of the Subalpine Warbler complex recorded on the Lizard is challenging owing to the relatively recent splitting of this complex into three species, the subsequent reassignment of race cantillans as Eastern as opposed to Western, and frequent inconsistencies in the use of the various taxonomic forms referred to in bird reports.

Birds occurring in the UK are likely to belong to one of four taxa: iberiae (breeding in Iberian Peninsula, southern France and the extreme north-west Italy), cantillans (breeding in southern Italy), albistriata (breeding in the Balkans and Turkey) and subalpina (breeding on Mallorca, Corsica and Sardinia). The race inornata, from North Africa, is unlikely to occur. Western Subalpine Warbler comprises inornata and iberiae, Eastern, albistriata and cantillans and Moltoni’s subalpina. Historically, iberiae and cantillans were lumped as cantillans (‘Western’).

Unidentified Subalpine Warbler species were recorded on 27th Apr 1987, 13th May 1988, 30th Mar-8th Apr 1989, 30th Mar-20th Apr 1990, 30th Mar-1st Apr 1993, 23rd Apr & 19th May 1993, 6th May 1995, 7th May 2001, 24th Apr 2002 and 19th Apr 2013.

Birds identified or more consistent in appearance with Western were recorded on 27th Apr 2003, 16th-19th Apr 2018 and 5th Apr 2021. On 14th Apr 2022 one of race iberiae was found at Housel (T Blunden).

Western Subalpine Warbler, Soapy Cove, 6th Apr 2021. Joe Jones.

(Moltoni's Subalpine Warbler Curruca subalpine)

A probable (not heard) was seen along the Kynance Road on 9th May 2016 (T Blunden)

The probable Moltoni's Warbler. Tony Blunden

Eastern Subalpine Warbler Curruca cantillans

Birds identified or more consistent in appearance with Eastern were recorded at Lizard Village on 11th May 2010 and 10th May 2016. A bird on 13th-21st Apr 2015 (joined by a 2nd on the 15th) was identified as Western at the time, but photographs are more indicative of cantillans (see below). There is some suggestion that late spring unraced Subalpine Warblers are likely to be albistriata.

Probable cantillans Subalpine Warbler, Kynance Road area, 13th Apr 2015. Tony Blunden

An albistriata Eastern Subalpine Warbler from Tony's Garden. Tony Blunden

Whitethroat Curruca communis [BoCC5: Amber]

Historically and currently a common breeding summer visitor. However, this species declined catastrophically between the late-1960s and mid-1980s owing to drought in Sahel region, though has subsequently increased. Extreme dates are 3rd Apr (2011) and 9th Nov (1996).

Historic (1982) breeding distribution of Whitethroat on the Lizard. Large squares indicate confirmed breeding, medium-sized squares probable breeding and small squares present in the breeding season and possibly breeding.

Dartford Warbler Curruca undata [BoCC5: Amber]

Rare prior to 1981, though recorded at Kennack Sands on 14th Apr 1940 and 3rd Feb 1974 and from the Lizard area on 11th Mar 1978. Early records probably relate to birds of continental origin. However, Montagu (of harrier fame) gives an interesting account of this species from Sep 1796 (only a few years after the first British record) from an area of gorse near Constantine:

"In the month of September, we observed many of these birds frequenting the furzy hills and killed several from that time to 24th December when a sudden fall of snow that covered the ground for some time drove them away from that part. Many of these birds, from their first appearance were in their nesting feathers, from which some hopes were entertained of breeding in those parts: but with the most diligent search, not one was to be found the following summer; nor indeed did they ever return after the snow had driven them away".

The species now breeds in small numbers at several locations. As in 1796, numbers decline sharply after cold winters.

Dartford Warbler, Kynance, 13th Apr 2021. Joe Jones.

Firecrest Regulus ignicapilla

Increasingly common migrant and winter visitor. Historically rare in Cornwall and the first documented sighting on the Lizard isn't until 1949 when a bird was recorded at Manaccan on 23rd Sep. Currently particularly common around Loe Pool where counts of up to 20 have been recorded and where singing birds in spring 2020 implying possible breeding. Breeding was confirmed within the Lizard Area in 2021 with family parties seen at Tremayne Quay and Loe Pool.

Firecrest, Loe Valley, Jan 2020. Ilya Maclean

Firecrest in Church Cove, 20th October 2022. Ilya Maclean.

Goldcrest Regulus regulus

The historic status of this species is largely unknown, though as it tends to associate with conifers, it was likely much rarer in the 1700s prior to pine trees being introduced to Cornwall. It is now a common breeding resident, with numbers considerably augmented by migrants particularly in autumn.

Goldcrests foraging. Top: Joe Jones. Bottom: Steve Woods

Historic (1982) breeding distribution of Goldcrest on the Lizard. Large squares indicate confirmed breeding, medium-sized squares probable breeding and small squares present in the breeding season and possibly breeding.

Wren Troglodytes troglodytes [BoCC5: Amber]

The true historic status of the wren is unknown in Cornwall, though as numbers decline after cold winters, it is possibly more common now than historically. It also the case that the barbaric custom of killing wrens on St Stephen;'s Day (26th Dec) survived in Cornwall well into the 19th Century, The tradition owes its origin to the belief that the bird's song awoke a guard so foiling the attempt by Stephen to evade his captors.

It is currently a very common resident breeder. Along with Meadow Pipit, probably the most common resident bird on the Lizard. To the best of my knowledge, people no longer kill them at Christmas, though some strange habits still survive in the badlands south of the Helford river.

Historic (1982) breeding distribution of Wren on the Lizard. Large squares indicate confirmed breeding, medium-sized squares probable breeding and small squares present in the breeding season and possibly breeding.

Nuthatch Sitta europaea

Anecdotal evidence suggest that this species was once quite rare in wets Cornwall, so while it is hard to determine the change in this species' status with any certainty, it is quite possible that it may have increased in number as it is now a fairly common resident breeder in the wooded areas on the north of Lizard. It is much rarer on the south Lizard where at has been recorded in recent years at Church Cove and Hayle Kimbro. The Church Cove bird even caused a twitch.

Nuthatch, Carminowe Valley. Ilya Maclean

Historic (1982) breeding distribution of Nuthatch on the Lizard. Large squares indicate confirmed breeding, medium-sized squares probable breeding and small squares present in the breeding season and possibly breeding.

Treecreeper Certhia familiaris

Once a common species and documented as being more common than the Nuthatch on the Lizard in the 1970s. It bred at Bochym and possibly Church Cove in the early 1970s, and may still occasionally breed in the Helford area or around Loe Pool, where recorded sporadically, but nowhere near as common as in the 1980s, when 13 were recorded at Loe Pool/Helston area on 30th Nov 1983. However, an adult was seen feeding a fledgling at Penrose on 10th June 2020. Elsewhere singles at Church Cove 1st Sep 1983 (possibly 2), 17th Sep 1987, 7th Oct-2nd Nov 2010 and 20th Nov 2020. Also one at Kynance Pool on 15th Oct 2015.

Historic (1982) breeding distribution of Treecreeper on the Lizard. Large squares indicate confirmed breeding and small squares present in the breeding season and possibly breeding. The species is now extinct as a breeder.

(Chestnut-flanked White-eye Zosterops erythropleurus)

An intriguing record of one in the Lizard Village area on 19th Oct 1988 (B Cave, A Pay). This species is a fairly long-distance migrant, breeding in north-east China and south-east Russia and overwinters primarily in Thailand and surrounding countries, a range not that dissimilar to Pale-legged Leaf Warbler. There are several other autumn and spring records from elsewhere in Europe, including on St Agnes, Isles of Scilly in October 1990. Nonetheless, it is kept commonly in activity and the prospect of an escape cannot be ruled out.

Rose-coloured Starling Pastor roseus

Scarce but increasing late spring and autumn migrant. The first records are of singles killed near Helston in 1830, shot near Lizard Village on 2nd Aug 1936 and at Manaccan on 15th Aug 1951. More recently, one recorded in the 1970s, 6 in the 1980s, 8 in the 1990s, 11 in the 2000s, 22 in the 2010s and probably up to 4 or 5 adults 9th-21st Jun 2020 and several in 2021, though difficult to be certain how many birds were involved as only a maximum of 2 were seen together. In the June 2020 influx, birds were also seen in Helston and St Keverne. In 2022 there 4-5 seen.

Spring birds tend to be adults and arrive in Jun or July. Autumn birds tend to be juveniles and occur mostly in September and October. An adult overwintered in 2015/16.

Young Rose-coloured Starlings tend to occur in late Sep or Oct. This one near the Housel Bay Hotel 22nd Sep 2013. Ilya Maclean

Adult Rose-coloured Starlings turn up in late Spring, typically in June. This one was a little early, arriving on the 31st May 2021. Tony Blunden.

Seasonal trends (left) and 5-year totals (right) of initial sightings of Rose-coloured Starlings on the Lizard Peninsula.

Starling Sturnus vulgaris [BoCC5: Red]

Until the mid-19th century the starling was almost exclusively a winter visitor to Cornwall, though even by the early 1800s a few pairs were known to have bred, predominantly on cliffs. Its increase as a breeding species probably coincided with rising human populations and the increasing availability of nest sites in towns and villages.

On the Lizard it is currently a fairly common breeding resident and very common winter visitor, with occasional very murmurations in winter involving 1000s of birds. In late Nov and earl y Dec, at least 10,000 roosted in the reedbeds around Loe Pool.

Breeding plumage starling in Lizard Village, 1st April 2024. Ilya Maclean

Historic (1982) breeding distribution of Starling on the Lizard. Large squares indicate confirmed breeding, medium-sized squares probable breeding and small squares present in the breeding season and possibly breeding.

(Superb Starling Lamprotornis superbus)

An escape frequented the Porthleven, Helston and Mullion areas in Sep 1991.

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