Bird watching in Cornwall
Cornwall, a long, narrow peninsula that juts out into the Atlantic like the toe of a boot, and the Isles of Scilly, an archipelago of five inhabited and some fifty uninhabited islands lying twenty eight miles off the coast of Land's End, are the envy of the British birdwatching community for the countless unexpected species that turn up each year in spring and autumn, migrants blown off course or overshooting their target.
The Isles of Scilly, whose species list now stands at over four hundred - more than any other single site in Europe - represent the first and last landfall for thousands of miles, and are justly famous for being the best location in Europe to spot rare birds of passage. With the mildest weather in the UK, both Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly turn up a surprising variety of habitats, from exposed high moorland to lush, sub-tropical valleys to rugged cliffs.
The RSPB manage two reserves in Cornwall, one at Marazion Marsh, their most southerly reserve, and another at Hayle Estuary, the UK's most southerly estuary and one of the few that never freezes. In addition to these, countless local nature reserves and bird sanctuaries offer peaceful feeding and breeding grounds to rare and scarce birds, such as the uninhabited island of Annet, on Scilly, home to one of Britain's last remaining Puffin colonies.
Drowned river valleys such as Helford and the Carrick Roads, near Falmouth, offer migrating waders a much-needed chance to rest and re-fuel, while offshore rocks and reefs such as Lye Rock, near Tintagel, provide important breeding grounds for many species of seabird. Still relatively under-watched, especially in sparsely populated places such as the Rame Peninsula,
Cornwall offers unrivalled scenery for birders with access, via the South West Coast Path, to even the most desolate spot, while the Isles of Scilly, with their lack of traffic and unchanging natural environment, offers a once in a lifetime experience to anyone with even a passing interest in wildlife.