Fewer corncrakes despite conservation campaign
THE BATTLE to save the corncrake in Ireland appears to have suffered a slight reversal this year despite State expenditure of €225,000 on preservation.
Preliminary figures released by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) show that numbers have dropped from 135 calling males in 2011 to 125-129 this year.
State expenditure on conserving the EU-protected corncrake has exceeded €930,000 over the past three years.
Project manager for the corncrake at the NPWS Pat Warner said yesterday that “we are doing everything humanly possible” to preserve and increase the number of corncrakes.
He said the corncrake was the sound of summer in rural Ireland before their population went into a steep decline, mainly as a result of intensive agriculture because corncrakes nest in fields.
The drop in numbers this year follows increases in 2011 and 2010, when the total rose from 121 to 135 in two years. Prior to the increases in 2010 and 2011, when the State spent €710,000 on conserving the bird, the corncrake population had been in steady decline since 1996 when 184 calling males were recorded.
Mr Warner said the drop this year was “disappointing” but the census figures came with a strong health warning.
“The weather during the census this year was atrocious. It was an appalling summer for the census and we may have missed some birds. So if we had reasonable conditions for the census it may have shown that we are flatlining at the moment in terms of corncrake numbers.”
The remaining strongholds for the corncrake are in Donegal and its islands, along with west Connacht. Only one calling male was recorded in a former stronghold, the Shannon Callows.
Mr Warner said: “It is a very persistent corncrake there. He got washed out of one field, but moved to a higher one. You’ve had a series of summer floods – five out of the last seven years – that have put the kibosh on the population there.”