Pupils from the north of Skye joined RSPB Scotland last week to celebrate corncrakes and crofting at the first ever Isle of Skye Corncrake Festival 2019. The events were held over two days at Kilmuir Hall for Kilmuir and Staffin Primary schools, and Waternish Hall, where Carbost, Dunvegan, Edinbane, Struan Primary Schools and Skye home schoolers travelled to take part.
Corncrakes, and wildlife in general, are strongly linked to nature-friendly crofting and farming, and the festival’s goal is to celebrate this.
Focusing on both wildlife and crofting, pupils took part in games and activities, indoors and outdoors, such as the Corncrake Migration Game, Mowing & Music and the Nesting Game, to learn about these rare and threatened birds. They also worked together, using the knowledge they had learned from the festival activities, to create six corncrake collages. These will be displayed in Budhmor and Home Farm care homes in Portree.
The corncrake, a pigeon sized bird which nests in hay and silage meadows, was once common over the whole of mainland Britain. By the 1990’s they had retreated to the far north and west of Scotland but even here, numbers had dropped to critical levels. Thanks to agricultural subsidies supporting the wildlife-friendly crofting and farming practices of the west coast islands, the corncrake’s fortunes have changed.
Shelagh Parlane, RSPB Corncrake Project Officer for Skye, said: “Although we now have good numbers on the Western Isles, Coll and Tiree, we have very few calling males here on Skye. Corncrakes and crofting go hand in hand, and we are lucky still to have active crofters on Skye. It is important that we support and protect both crofting and corncrakes, in any way we can.”
“The unique call of the corncrake is a sound of summer. It is wonderful that so many children and their teachers joined us for these events and we hope to run more of them throughout the Hebrides in the future.”
If you hear a corncrake or would like more information about the work of RSPB Scotland on Skye, please contact Shelagh Parlane (tel. 07771545409).
Transport to the events and refreshments were supported by local businesses: NFU Mutual (Skye), MacGregors Industrial Supplies, Dunvegan Post Office, Minginish Community Bus, Isle of Skye Bakery, MacKenzie’s Bakery, Aros, The Red Brick Café/Jans, Jann’s Cakes, Stein Inn, Edinbane Inn, Coop Portree & Waternish Farm. Event materials were supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.