CORNCRAKES IN DONEGAL
As anyone interested in nature and birds will know the corncrake population in Ireland is in stark decline, so much so that it is now a Red-listed breed. Although they are now rare, County Donegal is probably one of the best places in Ireland to hear, and possibly see, one if you are very lucky.
Urban development and modern farming methods have played no small part in their decline. I live in the largest town in County Donegal and used to hear the distinctive call of the corncrake every spring until "progress" took away the large fielded site they favoured here. Their sound is very distinctive and described very well on birdwatchireland.ie "The kerrx-kerrx sound of the corncrake has been compared with two cheese-graters rubbed together, producing a sound so monotonous as to qualify the bird as the world's worst singer.".
I have never heard the sound a corncrake makes described like that before but having just gone to the drawer and taken out two graters and rubbed them together, I can confirm that is exactly what they sound like!
Every year I would ring the telephone given for anyone hearing a corncrake so those who kept such records could know where and when the caller heard their first corncrake of the year. (You can hear a corncrake on a link at the end of this post).
In rural areas farmers are asked to mow their fields from the centre of the field out to the edges, a small thing to do as far as the work involved is concerned but a massive help in preserving the small number of corncrakes we have. Mowing from the inside out means that nesting corncrakes and their chicks hear the noise and have time to run to safety, altered as they are by the noise. (Thanks to our commentators below (Ben Quinn and Daniel Mugan for pointing out my previous error in this paragraph).
The corncrake in Ireland has now had the intelligence to move their habitat to places where the landscape makes it nigh on impossible for machinery to get near. I have been lucky enough to sight a corncrake on Tory Island off the coast of Donegal and another island, Owey, where I was lucky enough to not only see it but manage to take an albeit very blurry photograph.
So given my interest in the corncrake and my love of photography, you can imagine how envious I was of a fellow photographer who hails from Malin Head in Inishowen, Ireland's most northerly point, Ronan McLaughlin, when I saw the stunning photographs he had taken of them!
When I said to Ronan about the photos (all taken at Malin Head) and how jealous I was that he managed to get these photos he told me "Patience and camoflague is key to success. Corncrakes by their nature are very secretive. But given time etc every now and again a bird will pop out for what can be a split second view." Patience? That's me out then. Here are the photos and a link to a video of the corncrake and the sound it makes also done by Ronan. Click on the photos below to enlarge.
6/27/2014 12:41:06 pm
Heard corncrake on south side of gweebarra bay today.
7/18/2014 01:43:31 am
Think you may have got that wrong about the mowing from the outside in. I'm pretty sure that it should be from the inside out since corncrakes like pheasants, try to remain concealed in cover and once the outside edge has been mown they are reluctant to break cover to cross open ground and retreat further and further towards the centre until they are caught in then last clump of long grass. Farmers generally want to mow from the outside in anyway since it's a bit of a pain for them to do it the other way. Really think you need to correct this as it's important not to give misinformation on such a crucial topic.
7/28/2014 07:38:23 am
Heard two corncrakes calling in Maghery today. Definitely not sweet singers!
10/20/2014 10:40:16 am
Ben Quinn is absolutely right - mowing must be done from the centre out. If done from the outside in, the corncrake will keep moving in towards the centre ahead of the machine. Eventually it will find itself trapped in the last remaining clump of grass in the centre but will try to remain hidden there. I've seen corncrakes flutter out as the last swathe is mown, their feet cut off by the blade of the machine
5/24/2015 05:23:53 pm
I have been listening to a corncrake in Dunfanaghy, Co Donegal for the past two nights (24 & 25 May 2015). I have recorded the calls on my IPhone.
6/4/2016 10:15:17 am
I saw corncrake in our field last night- has been calling for past month and half- Ballyheerin Fanad Co. Donegal
6/5/2016 11:40:52 pm
05th june 11:35 corn crake calling behind Ozanam Centre Dunfanaghy Co.Donegal
8/9/2019 04:49:10 pm
Frankie mc Ginley
5/5/2021 01:41:18 am
He's across the road from my house, been there this past four day's.
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