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Last-ditch effort to stop the extinctions of corncrakes in Britain | Birds
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Last-ditch effort to stop the extinctions of corncrakes in Britain | Birds

The male’s piercing crex crex call corncrakeCountry people used to wake up at night because of this bird. The last remaining breeding areas of this elusive migratory bird are now gone.

Despite a successful rescue effort that led its numbers to rally on the islands in north-west Scotland, rising up to 1,289 males in 2014; the corncrakes population has since dropped by more than 30% to just 800 calling birds in Scotland by 2021.

The Corncrake is being stopped from disappearing by last-ditch efforts. Corncrake CallingProject in Scotland encouraging farmers in Scotland to cut hay meadows later and in a corncrake friendly manner. 100 corncrakes are being raised in captivity in England and released each year to help them re-establish themselves in the wild.

The corncrake, an unusual species, is a long-distance flying machine. It soars high above the Congo before spending the summer on the ground. There, it eats insects and worms, and rears two broods of chicks in long grass.

The males Repetitive, mechanical-sounding callswhich leaves the bird the scientific name that once reverberated across the land, night and day. Modern farming, which uses meadows to cut early and often for silage, has seen corncrakes disappear from most parts of Britain in a matter of one lifetime.

The western Scottish crofting tradition provides the birds with the long grass and insects they need through the spring, summer, and fall seasons.

Since 1993, the species has been resurrected. The numbers dropped to 480 calling malesThe UK. Conservationists are concerned by a steady decline in corncrake-friendly farming since 2014.

Jane Shadforth (project manager for Corncrake Calling), an RSPB Scotland initiative to save the species, said: While most crofters and farmers want support wildlife, nature, and the corncrake, they can only do so if they have the support of the government. They need to earn a living and be rewarded for sustaining wildlife-friendly farming practices.

In England, 97 corncrakes were in captivity this year. Pensthorpe Conservation TrustReleased on Welney is home to the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust reserve (WWT).As part of a Natural England-funded effort to restore the species that became extinct as a regular breeder in England in the 1970s, the Fens were used.

To restore wild populations, birds were kept in captivity and released after 16 years. This is particularly difficult for migratory birds.

Chrissie Kelley from Pensthorpe, the head for species management, said that there is no quick solution. Captive breeding is a difficult process that requires years of learning, but I am optimistic that the Welney trial will be a success. The main goal is to have a self-sustaining population wild birds.

In recent years, male callers have been heard calling again on the Ouse Washes in Welney and the Nene Washes of Cambridgeshire. Wild birds are successfully breeding at both locations. Another attempt to bring the species back to the Wensum Valley in Norfolk has failed because male returnees form Africa disperse too far for females to hear their calls.

Kelley stated that a good success rate in releasing migratory birds is for at least 10% of them to return the next year. A good result would be for the 97 birds released to produce seven or eight calling males next season.

While captive breeding is an option, it can also be a good way to keep birds alive. However, any reintroduction must be done in conjunction with habitat management. Kelley said that while captivity can have its place. It is not a good idea to release birds into habitats that aren’t able to sustain them. These projects are very costly and long-term. However, well-managed habitat is what it all boils down to.

Corncrake Calling in Scotland encourages corncrake-friendly cuts. Traditional cutting from the field edge inwards traps and kills Corncrakes. They won’t run or fly across a mown lawn. Corncrakes and their chicks will run to the safety and security of the long grassy margins at a field’s edge if they are mowed in the middle of the field.

The RSPB Scotland annual survey revealed that there has been a decline in numbers by more then 30% since 2014. However, the survey did reveal that there have been significant increases in the number of volunteers. Important regional differences. The Outer Hebrides population has increased by 9.9% since 2019, but the Inner Hebrides population has fallen by 12.2%.

Since 2017, the number has plummeted from 75 to 26 on Islay and Mull. The good news is that Lewis saw their numbers rise from 75 to89, while South Uist saw them increase from 68 – 149.

These differences could be due to changes in the adoption of agri-environment programs. To allow corncrakes to produce two broods in long grass, it is best for farmers to not cut silage or hay till September.

A government scheme to support corncrake friendly farming The Agri-Environment Climate SchemeThe, has been vital in boosting corncrake numbers in recent years. However, its future was in doubt until the Scottish Government announced a three-year extension in Autumn.

The climate emergency and more intensive farming in African wintering areas are also threatening corncrakes. Many other long-distance migrants from Britain are also facing drastic population declines. This includes the turtle dove and swift warbler.

Shadforth said that we don’t have enough evidence to know what might be happening on this migratory route at the moment. We are keen to support the population in Scotland and work with farmers and crofters here.

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