Last modified: 23 January 2014
Image: Grahame Madge
Legal company Claims.co.uk has donated a generous sum to help continue funding of the “Give corncrake a home” project on Rathlin Island.
The corncrake was once an iconic bird of our countryside, its distinctive call bringing back fond memories of long summer evenings for many people. However, over the last century their numbers have dwindled, sightings have become a rarity and the last reported breeding pair in Northern Ireland was in 1997. However, the RSPB is working hard to bring back this species, helping it become a familiar visitor to our rural areas once more.
The RSPB is currently focusing conservation efforts on Rathlin Island as it was once a ‘hot-spot’ for corncrakes and it lies in close proximity to areas in Scotland and southern Ireland where corncrakes have currently breeds successfully. Every summer this charismatic bird makes a long distance trip from Africa, when they arrive they look for an appropriate habitat in which to breed. Corncrakes are shy, secretive birds and look for protective cover where they can call from and find food. Early in the breeding season they use early growing tall vegetation; nettles, cow parsley, irises, and reeds provide the perfect hiding place. Later in the season they spread out into hay fields as they grow taller. However, there is a shortage of suitable early vegetation cover on Rathlin and therefore, a need to create the perfect habitat for these birds.
RSPB’s Michael McLaughlin said “We are very grateful to Claims.co.uk for giving their support to this project. Volunteers are currently hard at work collecting nettle roots (or rhizomes), which are then replanted around the edges of hayfields on Rathlin. In addition, brambles are cleared on the Island to create ‘corncrake corridors’ that provide essential connectivity between areas of suitable habitat. We hope that these corridors will attract birds looking for a safe breeding area.”
This project involves a variety of tasks, from digging up nettle roots to clearing brambles from field boundaries to make way for new fencing, so if you would like to get involved as a volunteer, there are still plenty of opportunities.
Volunteering with the RSPB is a great way to meet new like-minded people, learn more about nature, gain experience in conservation, and have lots of fun in the process!
To get involved and play your part in this amazing project, please get in touch through corncrakeNI@rspb.org.uk or call us on 028 9049 1547.