For the fifth year in a row, a calling corncrake has been heard on Rathlin Island.
The bird was heard in the Church Bay area of the island last weekend – a couple of weeks earlier than usual and in nettle beds specifically created by RSPB NI staff and volunteers to attract corncrakes.
The corncrake is one of our rarest birds and is a red-listed species (a bird of high conservation concern) – and Rathlin is the only place in Northern Ireland where they have been heard or seen in recent years.
RSPB NI warden Liam McFaul has confirmed the bird’s presence after an island resident was the first to hear the distinctive ‘crex-crex’ call in a field behind their house.
The conservation charity has been working hard for years to create the perfect habitat for corncrakes in field margins on the island.
This has involved working with a dedicated team of RSPB volunteers - who have been digging nettles and cutting back scrub - for more than 10 years. Each winter, the volunteers dig up nettle rhizomes – usually in Co Antrim or Co Down - before the rhizomes are transported to Rathlin, where they grow early in the season and this encourages the birds to come in and settle within them.
While there are travel restrictions in place all over the world at present, this thankfully doesn’t extend to birds! And so corncrakes migrate north from western Africa each summer and they will make the return journey in August or September – hopefully after a successful breeding season.
Last summer, two pairs of the rare ground-nesting birds were recorded on the island for first time in 30 years, with the movements of one of the males indicating that he potentially had two female partners.
Posted On: 07/05/2020