For the 21st year running, RSPB Scotland is on the lookout for corncrakes this summer as part of the Corncrake Initiative, and is asking folk across Orkney to listen out and report any birds.
It is impossible to monitor the breeding population of these rare birds on Orkney without public reports and the local RSPB Scotland team are asking the public to call the hotline if they see or hear this extremely rare, secretive bird.
Pupils from Rousay Primary School have kindly helped to raise awareness by designing information posters which will be distributed across the islands.
Corncrakes migrate from Africa arriving in Orkney from mid-April. In flight their bright chestnut wings and trailing legs are unmistakable, but they are more often heard than seen. They have a recognisable 'crex crex' rasping call that is often heard coming from the long vegetation they rely on to hide in.
Bea Ayling is RSPB Scotland's Conservation Officer in Orkney. She said: "We are so grateful for all the support we have received that has helped us monitor these extremely rare and secretive birds. In 2016, we received 100 reports and we would like to once again thank everyone that contacted us. The only way we can keep track of numbers is with public support and therefore we hope people will continue to report when they see or hear birds this year".
Corncrake numbers in Orkney are unpredictable - last year 12 calling males were recorded across the county and in 2015 it was 16, compared to 36 in 2014.
Once common across the UK, corncrakes have been badly affected over the last century by the trend towards earlier mowing dates, which has seen corncrake chicks unable to escape, trapped and killed in their nests. In the UK corncrakes are now confined to north and west Scotland, with Orkney's birds representing a significant percentage of the surviving population.
Corncrakes are naturally quite short-lived birds and if habitat conditions are not good, they will quickly disappear from the landscape. As they rarely colonise new locations, once they are lost from an area, re-colonisation can be a major challenge. This is why keeping corncrakes in Orkney is regarded as so important.
If you see or most likely hear a corncrake, please to report it to the Corncrake Hotline on 01856 852021 or email email@example.com
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1. In the UK, the corncrake is listed in the Red list of birds of high conservation concern because of major population declines both historically and recently. Europe wide the species is threatened due to major declines through much of its range.
2. The RSPB is the UK's largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home. Together with our partners, we protect threatened birds and wildlife so our towns, coast and countryside will teem with life once again. We play a leading role in BirdLife International, a worldwide partnership of nature conservation organisations.