Dover Castle Meeting April 2019

Dover Castle
Dover Castle

A second meeting of stakeholders took place at Dover Castle in April 2019. Chough re-establishment is part of Kent Wildlife Trust’s Wilder Kent project with a vision to work with partners to restore habitats and species across the county – choughs, of course, being one of the high profile species.

Choughists at Dover Castle

The group included representatives from Paradise Park’s Operation Chough, English Heritage, Wildwood Trust, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, University of Kent, Kent Downs AONB, White Cliffs Countryside Partnership and English Heritage.

Dover Castle was chosen, as it going to be the site of a chough aviary. This aviary is not for release purposes, but to give people the chance to see these wonderful birds up close.

Meet the locals - Sheep keeping the grass short
Meet the locals – Sheep keeping the grass short

The castle grounds are quite extensive, and one aim of the meeting was to find a suitable location for the aviary. This was not as easy as its sounds. There are many factors to take into consideration – including environmental and historical conservation. There are very few places on this English Heritage site where the ground can be disturbed.

he old infirmary
A possible aviary location – site of the old infirmary

Laura Chough Watching in Cornwall

Two weeks before the Dover Castle meeting, we were delighted to be visited by Laura Gardner, Director of Conservation from Wildwood Trust, on a fact-finding mission.

Ali & Ray Hales took the opportunity to seek out local choughs in West Cornwall, the picnic choice was obvious – Cornish pasty.

Eventually, a small group of choughs were discovered foraging along field edges near the coast. As is often the case, the birds were heard before they were seen – the unmistakable “Chee-ow”

The only way to watch choughs - binoculars in one hand, pasty in the other.
The only way to watch choughs – binoculars in one hand, pasty in the other.

The birds kept their distance, finally most set off to pastures new. However, two of the birds came closer, and we were treated to twenty minutes of excellent chough watching. The birds happily digging insects from the soil, ignoring the even happier group of chough watchers.

A pair of choughs probing, probing, probing...
A pair of choughs probing, probing, probing…