Cornwall's Top 10 Wildlife Wonders of 2018

2018 has been a very mixed year for Cornwall’s wildlife. Nationally 56% of UK species have declined in recent years, some of them at an alarming rate. The same thing is happening here in Cornwall. It isn’t all bad news though, there are many examples where species decline has been reversed in small areas, but this will need to be scaled up if we are to bring species like hedgehogs and skylarks back from the brink. New Government legislation due in 2019 could help to turn things around if it is strong enough.

Some species had a good year in here in Cornwall; here are the 2018 Top Ten Wildlife Highlights:

   
1. Cornwall’s Beavers have Babies: photo David Parkin
Following the trial release of beavers on a farm near Truro, the Trust announced the birth of two kits – baby beavers. These were the first beavers to be born in Cornwall for over 400 years. Their antics were enjoyed by thousands of television viewers nationwide on the last episode of BBC’s Springwatch 2018.

2. Bottlenose Dolphins call our Waters their Home
After years of painstaking collaborative research it has finally been proven th at the small pod of bottlenose dolphins regularly spotted in Cornwall is a resident pod, the only group of their kind in England. We now know that the group is made up of 28 dolphins, which can be identified by markings on their dorsal fins. Every year we get numerous sightings of the group who can be seen leaping out of the water, surfing, playing and feeding close to the shore all around Cornwall’s coast

3. Blue-Fin Tuna Feeding Frenzies:
It’s been another great year for blue fin tuna sightings in Cornwall with the UK’s first successful blue fin tuna tagging programme being run this summer and autumn. The project ‘Thunnus UK’ has tagged a record number of these amazing giant tuna. Hundreds of sightings have been reported, with feeding frenzies seen all around the county as tuna feed on sardines and other small fish.

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4. 30,000 miles of Cornish Hedges Mapped: photo Dave Thomas
Two members of Trust staff and 20 volunteers mapped 30,000 miles of Cornish Hedges. An intrinsic part of Cornwall’s landscape for thousands of years, the map provides a wealth of information for research, conservation and the connection of wildlife and habitats. Cornish hedges provide a vertical wildflower meadow, topped with dense, shrubby growth - a shelter, food and nesting sites for birds, insects and small mammals.

5. New Cornish Pipistrelle Bat

Once thought to be a migratory species, passing through our county, surveys have now confirmed that the Nathusius pipistrelle bat is now in fact a resident in Cornwall. Sound recordings also suggest that this species is mating, with distinct mating calls heard, so future surveys are hoping to confirm that this species is actually breeding in Cornwall.

6. Damselfly Discovery:
thought to have never previously occurred in Cornwall, the enigmatic small red-eyed damselfly was seen at a site near St Keverne on the Lizard peninsula. Pictures of new sightings show females laying eggs and the site will be monitored closely in 2019, so keep watching for possible news of a new species to our county.

7. Return of the Crawfish:
Divers have been astounded to witness the return of Crawfish (spiny lobsters) to Cornwall in numbers unmatched since the 1970’s. Large numbers of these incredible creaking crustaceans are being reported. There’s hope that the population is able to re-establish itself fully to support a sustainable local fishery avoiding a repeat of the overfishing in the late 60’s and 70’s.

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8. Farmers Soil their Underpants:
Farmers in West Cornwall have been burying their underpants to help with grassland management. Cotton underpants are made from organic matter, so are an attractive feast for soil microbes and earthworms. As part of a project to establish how healthy soil is, farmers were encouraged to bury and inspect their pants, hoping for tattered remains.

9. Beautiful Year for Butterflies & Dragonflies:
Over 4,500 silver-studded blues were seen on one day in Penhale Dunes nature reserve as well as being home to several colonies of the grizzled skipper – the last remaining place in Cornwall where this butterfly can be seen. A new species of dragonfly, the southern migrant hawker, not previously seen on Windmill Farm’s Nature Reserve, arrived for the summer - making a total of 20 species of dragonfly and damselfly in this one special place.

10. Cornish Choughs Fledged their Young:
Following the sensational return of breeding Choughs to Cornwall in 2002, the steady march of new breeding sites has continued. Four more newly hatched Cornish Choughs were reared and could be seen soaring above the North Coast coastline.

With thanks to our wildlife friends, supporters and partners of Cornwall Wildlife Trust: Cornwall Bat Group, Cornwall Beaver Project, South West Water’s Upstream Thinking Project, Cornwall Wildlife Trust's ERCCIS (Environmental Centre for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly), Seasearch, University of Exeter Environmental Sustainability Institute, and many more.

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