Churchyard Nature Note with Andrew Tompsett

May 2016

Churchyard Wildlife Records

The protracted spring is now moving along faster as the daylength increases and the temperature gradually rises. Kate Williams, one of our Thursday volunteers, has been keeping a note of different birds and plants as they appear week by week. This shows the gradual increase in activity and blooms: we expect an explosion of colour once May comes in. The record so far is shown in the following table.


Date No. of bird species seen No. of plant in flower
11 Feb. 12 5
18 Feb. 7 5
17 Mar. 12 9
31 Mar. 12 12



One of the more interesting and uncommon plants is the Green Alkanet Pentaglottis sempervirens which blooms early with pretty blue Forget-me-not-like flowers. Preferring a shady site, it may be seen on two graves near the place where the major pathways cross. We would be pleased to see it in other areas too. Other related plants, not in the churchyard are a shade-loving garden plant is Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’, similar to the green alkanet with early blue flowers but with white veined leaves which stand out for the rest of the year. Another relative, Comfrey, is not ornamental, but makes strong growth which is useful for compost making and as such it is best grown in a corner where it cannot smother other more attractive plants.

The bird list this spring includes the Green Woodpecker which has been active in the churchyard recently. This is a fairly large handsome bird with yellowish-green body and crimson head- crest. The green woodpecker announces its presence by a loud laughing call which has led to the local name of ‘the yaffle’. This call is quite loud and travels well, especially it is thought when rain is expected, giving rise to another local name – ’rain maker’. The bird is attracted to undisturbed ground because its main diet is ants and our numerous ancient anthills are an obvious attraction, so it is worth looking out for this lovely bird as you approach the War Graves area. Look for its characteristic swift undulating flight as it flies away.

Our other, fairly common woodpecker, the Great Spotted Woodpecker (smaller than the Green and mainly black and white in plumage) is seldom seen near the ground but frequents bird tables and trees, especially rotten or hollow ones, where it feeds on insects in the wood and makes the familiar drumming sound to announce its presence to others. Both species, Green and Great Spotted, excavate holes in trees where their nest is made and often also damage telegraph and electric poles. A large pole in our garden had suffered from the attention of woodpeckers and had to be replaced recently!

Andrew Tompsett April 2016

Tree removals – two large trees have become unstable and will be removed as soon the weather permits.

Wall Repairs – The partially collapsed and unsafe section of the North boundary wall opposite the school has been repaired whilst the school children were on holiday. We offer our thanks, both to the RZT contractors and for financial assistance received from the Illogan Parish Council and the owners of the adjacent property.

Daffodil donations – The church family was grateful for the Richards family’s donation of daffodils for the Mothering Sunday posies and also for the beautiful Easter blooms from Mark van der Vliet.