Rare corncrake returns to breed
Michael McCarthy, formerly the Independent’s longstanding Environment Editor, now its Environment Columnist, is one of Britain’s leading writers on the environment and the natural world. He has won a string of awards for his work, including Environment Journalist of the Year (three times) and Specialist Writer of the Year in the British Press Awards in 2001. In 2007 he was awarded the Medal of the RSPB for “Outstanding Services to Conservation,” in 2010 he was awarded the Silver Medal of the Zoological Society of London, and in 2011 the Dilys Breeze Medal of the British Trust for Ornithology. In 2009 McCarthy published Say Goodbye To The Cuckoo (John Murray), a study of Britain’s declining migrant birds.
Monday 09 August 1999
They were sighted by John Thorpe, who had been looking for the birds all summer. "I'd almost given up hope when I noticed something creeping through the grass," he said. "I assumed it was a rat, but to my surprise it stood bolt upright and was revealed as an adult corncrake."
Corncrakes have declined spectacularly in the past 30 years as intensive farming has done away with the traditional hay meadows they need for breeding. They are now, more or less, confined to the Western Isles of Scotland, although a few pairs are still thought to be clinging on in Yorkshire.
The birds are difficult to see as they skulk in long vegetation, but the "crek-crek" call of the males, once one of the most distinctive sounds of summer, gives them away. A census last year counted just under 600 male corncrakes in Britain.
They arrive from Africa in the late spring and those in the Isle of Man, where they have been absent for 11 years, have been seen in traditionally managed hay meadows on the Close Sartfield nature reserve. "We are absolutely delighted," said the Manx Wildlife Trust's director, Caroline Steel. "We hope it's the start of things to come."
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