It’s no secret that Cornwall is one of the UK’s most beautiful counties - just ask the incredible 5 million visitors we have each year! Attributing to our wonderful landscape are a rich variety of both wild and protected habitats, allowing wildlife to flourish.
Here in the south of Cornwall with a subtropical climate, Falmouth is home to an incredible wealth of wild bird species both inland and at sea. Since moving here a few years ago I have been fortunate enough to observe many of these while exploring the town and surrounding areas. I have always been an advocate for oneness with nature and protecting our natural inheritance. It’s wonderful living somewhere with so many like-minded folk who understand the intrinsic importance of it all for our own health and for the health of the planet.
Bird life thrives at Swanvale Nature Reserve which sits next to Swanpool Beach just outside of Falmouth town. I have enjoyed countless tranquil hours here sitting and watching the statuesque resident Grey heron fishing for his breakfast, Cormorants basking in the sunshine and the unmistakable blue flash of Kingfisher zoomies. In deep winter, cold sunny mornings draw a thick fog over the lake and you will often see people pulling over in the cars to take a dramatic photo on their way to work, or more serious photographers who have been there since dawn with their equipment.
The marshy woodland around Swanpool Lake provides shelter to tiny Goldcrests (listen out for their sweet high pitched song), Robins, Nuthatches and more.
If you’re up early enough, in addition to a mesmerising dawn chorus around the reserve, sunrise over Swanpool Beach is unmissable and you may even be rewarded with seal sightings as I have been from time to time.
One stretch of the famous South West Coast Path will take you from Swanpool east to Gyllyngvase ‘Gylly’ beach where Oystercatchers and Ringed Plovers (pictured above) study rockpools and shallows along the shore, wading in and out as the tide brings in their supper. Beautiful Sandwich terns arrive in the spring and are exciting to watch as they expertly twist, turn and dive into the ocean to catch fish.
Gylly is the beach closest to Falmouth town center and is popular with both locals and visitors alike, but is especially popular with our resident Herring gulls! Whether you regard these ‘seagulls’ as a noisy nuisance or misunderstood majestics (or a bit of both!), the species is protected due to declining populations and Falmouth is their home and we learn to live alongside them! I feel fortunate to have three young and curious gull chicks currently learning to fly and hunt snails in my back garden. They are fascinating to watch learning from their parents and becoming more brave each day flying further and further before returning home at night. I still wouldn’t trust one around my chips, however.
From Gylly, a gorgeous walk along the promenade will take you past understated Castle Beach and along the road all the way to Pendennis Point - an accessible headland with a near 360 view of the Falmouth Estuary and river. From this breathtaking vantage point with castle ruins, wildlife spotting opportunities are ample. I was fortunate enough to see my first ever dolphins here earlier this year
when a large pod turned up and hung around for several weeks. The dolphins later came right into the bay and all of us at Willow & Stone could observe them from the office windows, swimming around the harbour and teaching the young ones to hunt which was super special for us all!
Falmouth’s nature spots really can’t be missed. For a quieter birdwatching voyage avoiding the summer crowds, spring and early autumn are the most ideal times to make a pilgrimage along the coast path. Wildlife boat tours are also available where less common marine species can be spotted.
Whether you’re looking for dolphins in the distance, wildflowers or woodland, it’s really worth taking your time here and remembering that nature is forever our medicine and our home.
Wildlife photography by Rochelle Kent-Ellis (of the Willow & Stone customer service team)