RSPB Scotland Seeks land managers with “Crex Appeal”

Stephen Magee

Wednesday 16 December 2020

Machair habitat and northern Marsh orchid at RSPB Balranald nature reserve, North Uist

RSPB Scotland is looking for land managers who want to work with us to help iconic corncrakes.

Corncrake Calling is a major project that seeks to boost the fortunes of the bird and raise awareness of their “Crex Appeal” Crex Crex is the birds Latin name.

The ‘Corncrake Calling’ project has recruited  Louise Muir onto the team as the Argyll Islands Corncrake Conservation Advisor. She is now seeking local partners in the areal.

This four-year project, part funded through the generous support of the National Lottery Heritage Fund and managed through RSPB Scotland, will work closely with land managers, local communities and national audiences to provide these iconic birds with the best possible chance of future success.

The project will only succeed with the cooperation of farmers, crofters and land managers and RSPB Scotland is committed to working closely with them.

Much of the Argyll Islands landscape and its associated species and habitats is a product of long interaction between landforms and low-intensity agriculture.

The corncrake was once heard across the whole of the UK but in 1993 the UK population was only 480 and was limited to the Hebrides. RSPB have been working with farmers, crofters and other national organisations for decades and strong partnerships have been formed. Between 1993 and 2007 the populations grew significantly and was a major success story for evidence-based conservation and for agri-environment measures promoting species conservation. In 2017 the UK population had hit 1305. However, more recently the bird’s fortunes have declined, and the 2019 figure is down to 870 calling males.

Corncrakes rely on farmers and crofters to provide them with the right conditions for breeding and successfully raising chicks. When the birds return from wintering in Africa, they need long vegetation to hide in. This long vegetation is perfect for concealing nests and rearing chicks and cutting silage and hay crops later in the season in a ‘corncrake friendly’ manner allows multiple broods to be raised and flightless chicks to escape.  Often small changes in farming and crofting practices can make a big difference.

The current political climate creates much uncertainty for farming across the whole of the UK and the geographical peripherality of islands can intensify this. This is a crucial time for marginal farming and the biodiversity they support.

The Corncrake Calling project aims to build on the past successes by not only implementing further management for corncrake but also promoting sustainable land management practices; using this noisy rare bird as ambassador for the conservation of the diverse species and habitats found in low intensity farming systems.

If you are a land manager on the Argyll Islands and feel you could deliver corncrake friendly land management or would like further advice on management for the corncrake or other biodiversity interests on your land, please contact Louise Muir on  Likewise, if there are any community members who want to do their bit in helping support some of our fantastic wildlife please get in touch - Volunteers will also play an important role in helping to make this project a success!

Tagged with: Country: Scotland Topic: Practical conservation Topic: Corncrake Topic: Red