Saturday, 7 July 2007


BirdWatch Ireland are doing their annual survey on corncrakes and there have been a few sightings around Inishowen. At one time, not too long ago these shrill birds were commonplace in the fields but over the years their numbers have been on the decline. One major factor is the change in how land is managed. The modern method of collecting hay and silage means that the birds are driven into the centre of the field and killed by the machinery. BirdWatch Ireland offer limited grants to farmers who will delay their cutting until the 1st of August and also cut from the inside outwards to give the corncrake adults and their young a chance to get to the outer edges and ditches of the field.

Corncrakes need tall vegetation such as nettles, iris patches, reed grasses and cow parsley during April and May to provide cover when they arrive in Ireland from Africa. These plants give shelter until the meadows have grown tall. In the breeding season around June and July they need hayfields to cover the nests and young, so the cutting times and grazing times of the land is important.

If you are interested in attracting corncrakes then the density of cover is important. The birds will not use early cover if they cannot move easily through the vegetation. If there is a mat of dead or woody stems on the ground the area may be unsuitable. The easiest way to thin it out is to open the land up to grazing in the autumn and early winter.

The corncrake is one of many wild birds whose numbers can be increased with wildlife friendly land management. If you would like details of grants and corncrake habits ring Sandy on 074 91 65177.

The Corncrake project is run by BirdWatch with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Duchas, the Heritage Service


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