ISLE OF MAN
Choughs, or more correctly red-billed choughs, are not
only iconic birds but are rare in the UK and many
parts of Europe. They are usually confined to coastal
environments along the west coast of Britain due to the
realatively warm temperatures and often traditional
farming methods. Across Europe, the chough will
often colonise inland environments where traditional
farming methods can also be found. These are often
upland or mountainous regions where pastoral grazing is
dominant, and hence lots of insects above and below the
They are, therefore,
truly Celtic birds of mountain and coast in parts of
the world I personally find the most beautiful.
One such place is the Isle of Man.
A place I love.
A small rugged island midway
between England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, the
centre of the British Isles with a history to match up
to its location.
Over the years I have searched high and low for
choughs around the island, usually getting just
glimpses or the sound of the bird as it disappears
over cliff edges - the sound is an eponymous cackled
"Chaw", presumably giving rise to its name.
Chough 28 wing flick
The most famous location for the chough is the The
Sound, a small sea passage between the mainland and
and an outlier called the Calf of Man. This
southern tip of the Isle of Man is almost ancient in
character dotted with numerous stone cirles, standing
stones, burial mounds and even a living example of a
crofters village - Craigneash. The fields
hereabouts are dotted with grazing animals and rich
pasture, free of chemicals, just ripe for insects and
the hungry chough.
Over the last few years the chough numbers seem to be
slowly increasing, albeit still in low numbers of
about 150 birds. Fields can often be seen
accommodating the birds numbering in the tens or even
twenties of you're lucky.
Chough 33 group
This latter number would appear to be the size of
group most favoured by the chough, as any more would
presumably lead to conflict and, I'm guessing, lack of
food to satisfy everyone at a sitting.
Such groups appear mobile moving constantly between
nesting sites, farmland and the coast. It is
this that males finding the choughs rewarding, and due
to their very wary and intelligent behaviour, doubly
satisfying to get anything like a close-up photograph.
The weather on the Isle of Man is often wet and windy,
and for the photographer can present frustrations with
light qualty and shutter speeds.
The photograph below shows a windy shingle beach with
a few choughs flying along the seawall. The wind
is strong and the tide high, with clouds threatening
rain behind. A very typical view of the manx
island and the red-billed choughs!
Chough 51 landscaqpe
So my project continues with many shots still to be
Chough 38 portrait
I hope you like what I have so far, and I can't wait
to keep you updated of any future images.
Chough 06 youngster
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