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TITLE
Conserving the corncrake (1 of 7)
EXTERNAL ID
GB1796_SINCLAIR_CORNCRAKE_01
PERIOD
1980s
CREATOR
unknown
SOURCE
Inverness Museum and Art Gallery
ASSET ID
1872
KEYWORDS
ornithology
crofting
conservation
audio
RSPB

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Once common throughout Britain, in 1993 the corncrake was on the brink of extinction in Scotland with a mere 470 calling birds. The R.S.P.B.'s Corncrake Initiative, set up in 1993, makes payments available to crofters and farmers with corncrakes on their land to manage their hay or silage fields sensitively for the birds. Ten years on, the scheme has proved to be successful with a 73% increase overall in the number of calling males recorded. Today, corncrakes are confined largely to the Hebrides, with small populations in Orkney and the extreme north and west of mainland Scotland.

This audio recording was made prior to the Corncrake Initiative being set up. In it, a R.S.P.B. representative outlines some of the issues relating to the corncrake.

'Towards the end of last year there was a meeting between the Nature Conservancy and the R.S.P.B. and it was decided that in order to work out a scheme to help to conserve the corncrake, we really needed to know much more about the bird's behaviour. So it was decided that the R.S.P.B. should take charge of this research side of the scheme, and the N.C.C. would be liaising with crofters and so on, finding out about the history of land use, and working out a scheme whereby crofters would be encouraged and helped to improve the habitat of the corncrake.

The R.S.P.B. side of this scheme is to discover a lot more about how the birds move around; when they're nesting; what sort of habitats they really need; what the survival of the young is and how it's affected by harvest and the hay harvest. And, on the other side of it, to what extent the birds are dependant on the more natural habitats, the iris beds and so on. And to this effect Tim Stowe [now R.S.P.B. Director, Wales] is working with an assistant down on South Uist. They're initially trying to track the birds' movements by putting a little radio transmitter on their backs, and this is not as easy as it sounds.

The best method of actually catching a corncrake is to play the tape of the familiar call, which is so distinctive, and the birds react to this by attacking the tape recorder and, if possible, the person who's next to the tape recorder. Initially, the method used on Canna was tried and that involved playing a tape near to a calling bird and putting a mist net, very fine net, between the bird and the tape recorder; the idea being the bird should go into the mist net. Unfortunately this didn't work. Now it's a case of Tim standing by his tape recorder with a butterfly net and this has succeeded and this week they've - well, they've now got three birds with these tiny little transmitters on their backs, and the two of them go round with receiver aerial and can pinpoint the birds' location, which is very valuable, especially now that the summer's really getting on and the cover's growing up. The bird is extremely secretive; he likes thick vegetation cover, and from the end of May going, you're very lucky to see a bird at all'

Image Copyright - Sergey Yeliseev. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License.

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Conserving the corncrake (1 of 7)

1980s

ornithology; crofting; conservation; audio; RSPB

Inverness Museum and Art Gallery

Bill Sinclair Audio: Conserving the Corncrake

Once common throughout Britain, in 1993 the corncrake was on the brink of extinction in Scotland with a mere 470 calling birds. The R.S.P.B.'s Corncrake Initiative, set up in 1993, makes payments available to crofters and farmers with corncrakes on their land to manage their hay or silage fields sensitively for the birds. Ten years on, the scheme has proved to be successful with a 73% increase overall in the number of calling males recorded. Today, corncrakes are confined largely to the Hebrides, with small populations in Orkney and the extreme north and west of mainland Scotland. <br /> <br /> This audio recording was made prior to the Corncrake Initiative being set up. In it, a R.S.P.B. representative outlines some of the issues relating to the corncrake.<br /> <br /> 'Towards the end of last year there was a meeting between the Nature Conservancy and the R.S.P.B. and it was decided that in order to work out a scheme to help to conserve the corncrake, we really needed to know much more about the bird's behaviour. So it was decided that the R.S.P.B. should take charge of this research side of the scheme, and the N.C.C. would be liaising with crofters and so on, finding out about the history of land use, and working out a scheme whereby crofters would be encouraged and helped to improve the habitat of the corncrake. <br /> <br /> The R.S.P.B. side of this scheme is to discover a lot more about how the birds move around; when they're nesting; what sort of habitats they really need; what the survival of the young is and how it's affected by harvest and the hay harvest. And, on the other side of it, to what extent the birds are dependant on the more natural habitats, the iris beds and so on. And to this effect Tim Stowe [now R.S.P.B. Director, Wales] is working with an assistant down on South Uist. They're initially trying to track the birds' movements by putting a little radio transmitter on their backs, and this is not as easy as it sounds. <br /> <br /> The best method of actually catching a corncrake is to play the tape of the familiar call, which is so distinctive, and the birds react to this by attacking the tape recorder and, if possible, the person who's next to the tape recorder. Initially, the method used on Canna was tried and that involved playing a tape near to a calling bird and putting a mist net, very fine net, between the bird and the tape recorder; the idea being the bird should go into the mist net. Unfortunately this didn't work. Now it's a case of Tim standing by his tape recorder with a butterfly net and this has succeeded and this week they've - well, they've now got three birds with these tiny little transmitters on their backs, and the two of them go round with receiver aerial and can pinpoint the birds' location, which is very valuable, especially now that the summer's really getting on and the cover's growing up. The bird is extremely secretive; he likes thick vegetation cover, and from the end of May going, you're very lucky to see a bird at all'<br /> <br /> Image Copyright - Sergey Yeliseev. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License.