Lizard Point: rich in wildlife
The most southerly point is home to an abundance of wildflowers and birdlife, whilst offering a haven for the Atlantic grey seals which live amongst the rocks just off the coast. The National Trust’s Wildlife Watchpoint, opened by volunteers April through September, offers a unique insight into the wildlife at Lizard Point.
The iconic Cornish chough [http://www.the-lizard.org/index.php/article-archives/birds/187-lizard-choughs-breeding-update] disappeared entirely from Cornwall in 1973 after a decline forced by habitat loss and persecution. In the winter of 2001 the birds returned naturally to Cornwall, three of which took up residence on the Lizard. The following spring a pair successfully bred in the Duchy for the first time in over 50 years and the population has been steadily increasing ever since.
Choughs are often seen and heard from the Point and can be spotted all along the coast path spanning both west and east. At least one pair of choughs has nested near to Lizard Point each year since their natural recolonisation in 2001. Watch out for the distinctive red beak and claws and listen for the charismatic ‘cheaow’ that gave them their name.
The RSPB, National Trust and Natural England have been actively involved in the protection of these rare birds across Cornwall. For more information on their Cornwall Chough Project, click here [http://www.cornishchoughs.org.uk]
Rarely will there be a day when you are unable to see an Atlantic grey seal [hyperlink: http://www.the-lizard.org/index.php/article-archives/marinelifesp/263-grey-seal-pup] bobbing around in the water or hauled out on the rocks at low tide. An endangered and protected species, the UK is home to nearly 40% of the global population of grey seals. Seals can be spotted all around the Cornish coast, at sea, hauled on land
There are half a dozen or so local seals which tend to stay close to Lizard Point. On certain days anywhere between ten and twenty seals can be seen hauled out on the rocks south of the Point. Be sure to keep an eye to the water as you walk along the coastal path as seals are often seen swimming close to the cliffs.
The seals at Lizard Point are recorded by a team of dedicated volunteers and can be identified by their unique markings. For more information on the work of these volunteers and about the Atlantic grey seals, visit the Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust’s website. [hyperlink: https://www.cornwallsealgroup.co.uk/]
Whilst the aerial displays of the Cornish chough can steal the show there are plenty of other species of bird to gain a glimpse of around the Point.
On the rocks to the south often sit herring gulls [hyperlink: http://www.the-lizard.org/index.php/article-archives/birds/499-herring-gull], lesser- and greater-black backed gulls [hyperlink: http://www.the-lizard.org/index.php/article-archives/birds/444-great-black-backed-gull] and kittiwakes [hyperlink: http://www.the-lizard.org/index.php/article-archives/birds/410-kittiwake-species-profile], whilst rarer gulls like the yellow-legged gull occasionally make an appearance. Groups of oystercatchers [hyperlink: http://www.the-lizard.org/index.php/article-archives/marinelifesp/263-grey-seal-pup], heard before they are seen, fly past. Diving cormorants [hyperlink: http://www.the-lizard.org/index.php/article-archives/birds/273-fishing-on-the-helford] and shags [hyperlink: http://www.the-lizard.org/index.php/article-archives/birds/452-european-shag] drying in the sun are a common sight out on the rocks. Further out to sea gannets [hyperlink: http://www.the-lizard.org/index.php/article-archives/birds/330-gannet] can be seen flying past on their daily feeding routes whilst a keen eye can catch a view of razorbills [hyperlink: http://www.the-lizard.org/index.php/95-latest-news/400-razorbill-species-profile], skuas [hyperlink: http://www.the-lizard.org/index.php/article-archives/birds/393-great-skua] and shearwaters.
Inland a variety of chats, tits and wagtails can be seen amongst the bushes and on the ground as buzzards [hyperlink: http://www.the-lizard.org/index.php/article-archives/birds/436-buzzard-species-profile] soar and kestrels [hyperlink: http://www.the-lizard.org/index.php/article-archives/birds/280-kestrel] hover with ease above them. Look out for house martins [hyperlink: http://www.the-lizard.org/index.php/article-archives/birds/514-house-martin] and swallows [http://www.the-lizard.org/index.php/article-archives/birds/331-swallow] throughout the summer and as autumn sets in be sure to look to the skies in search of a murmuration of starlings [hyperlink: http://www.the-lizard.org/index.php/article-archives/birds/409-starling-species-profile].
Check out [hyperlink: http://the-lizard.org/index.php/100-walks/605-lizard-point-birds-to-see-in-every-season] local naturalist Tony Blunden’s walk around Lizard Point to see a variety of birds in every season.
Cetaceans & Big Fish
If you have a good eye, a good scope and a calm sea you may be able to spot a group of cetaceans (marine mammals) as they move past Lizard Point. Porpoises are a common sight as they wheel their way across the water, whilst pods of common [hyperlink: http://www.the-lizard.org/index.php/article-archives/marinelifesp/379-common-dolphin] and bottlenose dolphins can be spotted in the distance. Occasionally these species will swim much closer to the cliffs and produce a spectacular display of acrobatics.
If you are really lucky you may catch a glimpse of a minke whale breaching the surface or orcas as they migrate through our waters.
We regularly see ocean sun fish [hyperlink: http://www.the-lizard.org/index.php/article-archives/marinelifesp/249-sunfish-enjoying-the-warm-weather], blue fin tuna and the sight of a basking shark [hyperlink: http://www.the-lizard.org/index.php/article-archives/marinelifesp/536-basking-shark] feeding along the coast is an experience unlikely to be forgotten.
Blanketing the cliffs near Lizard Point is a pair of invasive plant species native to South Africa. Hottentot fig [hyperlink: http://www.the-lizard.org/index.php/article-archives/florasp/352-hottentot-fig] and purple dewplant cover large areas of the cliff faces both west and east of Lizard Point. Both species act as a carpet completely excluding other plants and lichens from establishing.
Hottentot fig is of particular concern. A single plant can span across areas up to 50 metres and is able to outcompete native plants. Over time the acidity created within the leaves by the way the plant photosynthesises is transferred to the soil beneath. Total eradication is hard to undertake successfully, however it’s important to manage the spread of this invasive species. The National Trust undertakes fig pulling ever year to keep the balance right along the Lizard cliffs.
For more information on the management of invasive species at Lizard Point.
The Wildlife Watchpoint
In 2014 the most southerly building was repurposed by The National Trust as a Wildlife Watchpoint [hyperlink: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/features/keep-an-eye-out-for-seals-at-the-lizard-watchpoint]. The Watchpoint is opened daily by volunteers from April until September each year. Alongside talking to visitors, volunteers record sightings of birds, marine mammals, insects and reptiles contributing to National Wildlife recording schemes. Volunteers are on hand with binoculars and telescopes free for you to use to get great views of the local wildlife. More information on the Watchpoint can be found here [hyperlink: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/features/our-wildlife-watchpoint]
Find out about some of the flora [hyperlink: http://www.the-lizard.org/index.php/article-archives/florasp], birds [hyperlink: http://www.the-lizard.org/index.php/article-archives/species-profile], butterflies and moths [hyperlink: http://www.the-lizard.org/index.php/article-archives/butterflies-moths/126-but-mothsp], and other animals [hyperlink: http://www.the-lizard.org/index.php/article-archives/fauna/103-fauna/480-animals-landing-page] you can see on The Lizard.