The Corncrake Conservation Project appeals for Corncrake reports as breeding season approaches
On May 20th, Corncrake fieldworkers will resume their nightly search for calling male Corncrakes in townlands dotting Donegal’s coastline, ranging from Malin Head to Glencolmcille. Corncrakes are a species which have undergone a drastic decline in the last few decades and given the species’ highly elusive nature, surveys are entirely based on the male’s distinctive mating call, which is predominantly nocturnal. With a wide area to cover, National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is appealing for reports from those who are fortunate enough to hear the bird this summer. All reports are followed up on to protect a maximum number of nesting females. To report a Corncrake, please contact Marie @ 087 656 3527 or Andy @ 089 417 1384.
Birds have already started arriving and to date 12 have been confirmed in Donegal; 8 on Tory Island, 1 on Gola, 1 in Dunfanaghy and 2 in Malin Head. Further reports were received from Fanad and Inishbofin but have not yet been confirmed. This time last year 13 birds had been confirmed on the mainland alone, however a direct comparison of numbers is premature at this point. Cold, rainy nights are likely restricting the intensity and regularity of calling, meaning that birds may not be noticed even if they are present. In April and May of last year, conditions were much more suitable – drier and warmer. The cold spring also means that growth of vegetation has been delayed this year and suitable tall cover for the bird is very scarce in the bird’s usual haunts. With birds being more exposed, a greater than usual number of sightings have been reported, particularly on Tory island.
Thankfully, it’s not all bad news and there are also some positive developments on the Corncrake Project this year. NPWS has implemented a host of conservation actions and will be involved in community engagement activities this year to promote the bird’s survival and the public’s awareness of the species.
The Corncrake Grant Scheme, which is offered to landowners in close range of calling males to delay mowing, will see the introduction of refuge bands as an optional measure, compensating landowners for leaving a 2.5m unmown strip along the edges of plots when cutting. This has been shown to significantly improve the survival of chicks.
Habitat management works have also been carried out on Tory, Inishbofin and Gola Island this winter and spring in an effort to improve the quality of habitat for the birds. This has included removal of rank vegetation, fencing, rotovating and sowing of traditional grass species, oats, as well as the creation of areas of early cover, such as nettles and yellow flag iris. It is hoped that the works, carried out over approximately 10ha, will lead to an increase in numbers in these offshore islands where threats such as predation and human disturbance are greatly reduced. On Tory, great fun was had by primary and secondary schoolchildren as they took part in potato planting to establish late cover for the bird, as well as seaweed harvesting for use as organic fertiliser. Children and fieldworkers alike are hopeful that a Corncrake will find this patch attractive and establish a territory in the plot later this year!
The Glasshouses in Killult, between Gortahork and Falcarragh, will be hosting a series of Corncrake Tours in June and July, celebrating the Corncrake’s strong link to the local agricultural heritage and the surrounding rural landscape. For further information on these tours, contact the Glasshouses at 074 91 80994 / email@example.com.
Finally, to celebrate the project’s 25th year of conservation in action, NPWS will co-host a ‘Corncrake Trail’ day on Gola Island on Saturday 16th June, in association with the Gola Island Committee. The days activities will include informal talks on the history of Gola, the Corncrake project, a birdwatching tour of the island and a midnight walk to hear calling Corncrakes. For more information please contact Maureen at 074 95 32571 or Marie at 087 656 3527.
With hopes of a successful breeding season ahead for the emblematic species, please report any Corncrakes you may hear to:
Marie: 087 6563 527 for West Donegal (Glemcolmcille to Falcarragh) and Islands
Andy: 089 417 1384 for East Donegal (Dunfanaghy to Inishowen).
Or email: firstname.lastname@example.org