Friends of the Fowey Estuary

The Heron’s breeding season starts as early as February or March with young in the nest by late April. So we started our surveying in late January 2013, by boat, looking for sites mentioned in historic records and anecdotal reports. Our first quest was to the Great Wood Site just below St. Winnow where a 1928 report in British Birds listed 8 breeding pairs. However no herons were observed on this occasion. We subsequently learnt that this heronry was blown out in a storm, possibly the 1990 Burns Day Storm.

We then made our way to a site at the mouth of Penpoll Creek, which was more successful, and here we counted 12 nest sites and some 20 herons flying in the vicinity. It’s possible that after the Gt. Wood site was wrecked the birds started a new heronry in the woods here which have only matured comparatively recently. These trees are not shown on the 1962 6-inch OS map. Three weeks later again, on 15th Feb, our next survey was by land, by kind permission of Nigel and Alex Vincent of Haye Farm at St. Veep who farm the land overlooking Penpoll from the north side Here we found a very good vantage point across into the nesting area, but far enough away not to disturb the birds. On this occasion we counted up to nine nesting sites. A second visit to the same spot, 8th March, yielded more positive results, with birds and nests more clearly occupied, and we counted up to 15 nest sites, and about 25 individuals present, a few of which were identified as immature non-breeding birds. We made further visits as the season progressed -  our ‘year’s best estimate’ of 13 occupied nest which was submitted to the British Trust for Ornithology makes it one of the largest heronries in Cornwall. We shall continue to monitor this heronry annually

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