Corncrakes on Skye 2017

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19th May 2017


The ‘roller-coaster’ of the summer corncrake survey approaches! The following months bring a series of highs (we have a corncrake!) and lows (where are all the corncrakes?) but it’s a trip of continual fun and interest as we discover what our summer visitors are up to this year – see Morar bird!. The corncrake is an extremely rare bird, particularly on Skye, and the survey allows us to monitor numbers from year to year. So far we have heard around 10 calling males between Waternish and Trotternish but I’m hoping that a few more will turn up so am very keen for your reports.

Famously, corncrakes are heard but seldom seen as they spend most of their time hiding in tall vegetation – a good adaptation to avoid predation. Females usually produce two broods, the first in May/June, in rougher areas along ditches and field margins where flag iris, nettle and other ‘weeds’ have grown sufficiently for a corncrake to hide in. The second nest (June/July) is likely to be in hay and silage meadows. The crofters and farmers of Skye often delay their mowing until the corncrakes have finished nesting to protect these rare birds. The repetitive, rasping call of the male is best heard late at night but they do call through the day too. They are found mainly on croft land but please don’t go into the meadows. It is best to listen for them from the roadside to avoid damaging the hay and silage.

If you hear a corncrake (day or night!) I would really appreciate a call, email, text or Skye Birds report saying where you heard it and when. All reports from Skye Birds visitors are extremely helpful with the summer survey and if you would like to know more about the work RSPB is doing on Skye for corncrakes please get in touch. Thanks and have a great summer!

Shelagh RSPB Corncrake Project Officer, Isle of Skye