At least 185 calling male corncrakes have been recorded in Ireland to date this year, the Connacht field officer for the Corncrake LIFE project Liam Loftus has said.
He told the Irish Farmers Journal that with the census period for recording the birds almost over, numbers of calling males are at 185, up from 146 last year.
These are the best numbers recorded of the bird in about five years, Loftus said, and was greatly helped by an increase in reports from members of the public, as well as extra staff to assist during the census in 2021.
“There was a colder start to the breeding season this year, with fewer birds calling at night initially, but it’s gradually warmed up,” he said.
He said it was a great year for Co Kerry, with three birds confirmed this year and another due to be confirmed this week.
“That’s double last year’s numbers and communication with local landowners has greatly helped us locate breeding sites.
“Galway has 21 birds so far, with an increase from two to three on Omey Island and a bird returning to Turbot Island for the first time since 2017,” he said.
On Clare Island, the birds have returned again this year after successfully breeding there for the first time in 20 years last year, he said.
“In total, there are 43 calling males confirmed in Mayo at the moment with at least five more yet to confirm.
“In Donegal, there were significant increases on the mainland - 32 in 2020 to 44 in 2021 and 74 calling males recorded on the Donegal islands so far this season.
“This is an increase on last year’s island numbers, as the Donegal islands were under-recorded in 2020 due to COVID-19 travel restrictions,” Loftus said.
Corncrake grant scheme
The uptake of the corncrake grant scheme was particularly high again this year in Mayo and Galway, with the majority of farmers choosing to delay mowing until later in the season, Loftus said.
“This may have been the result of slower growth rates early in the season and a chance of a higher yield in August.
"In the next few weeks, we will be attending mowings when the weather permits for any landowners who delayed until August or September.
“Overall this season, we experienced a high level of participation from members of the public for reporting and recording corncrakes throughout the country, and the islands in particular benefited from higher numbers of tourists seeing and hearing the corncrake,” he said.
Outlook for the bird
Loftus said that the outlook for the corncrake is looking good in the core areas of Mayo, Galway and Donegal, with the pilot for the Corncrake LIFE project currently under way and a plan to roll the project out for landowner participation by the start of 2022.