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
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
Courtesy of The Western People - 2002