One of the few corncrakes in Mayo this summer

The photograph on the right is of a corncrake in its natural surroundings in North Mayo and it is noteworthy because the male bird is just one of 16/17 known to be in the west of Ireland this year.

One time - fifty years or so ago - there were tens of thousands of corncrakes in Ireland every summer populating good land and bad in rural and even urban settings.

Now they are under very serious threat of extinction in Ireland, falling foul of the silage making machines in the best grass land all over the country.

They first started to disappear from Cork and Galway and the reduction has been inexorable ever since. "In the west the dramatic fall came in the 70's and 80's," according to Tim Gordon, of Corncrake Watch.

He explains why the demise has been so. dramatic. "They go for the best grass and when that is cut it is like the birds going down a plug hole," he said.

Tim Gordon explained that when thousands of birds came to Ireland some of them had to go to waste sites and very poor land in rural areas.

"As ones were being killed off in the best grass areas, others went into those areas the next year and each succeeding year and so the decline in numbers accelerated," he said.

He added that a few silage fields in an area was sufficient to wipe out all the Corncrakes because birds went there year after year and were killed off

People were unwilling to accept this explanation for their demise but it was what came from all the research.

The same thing was happening to other species, sky larks for instance and cuckoos.

Tim Gordon said there were 155 corncrakes counted in the country last year. An encouraging sign was that the number had remained stable since measures were introduced to try to save them.

"There are few enough in the country and the situation is still on a knife edge. The project is working to the extent that we have not lost any and there are a few more in some places," he said.
Anyone who hears a corncrake should contact Tim Gordon at 097-85990.

Courtesy of The Western People - 2002