In order to increase Corncrake breeding success, BirdWatch Ireland, with the support of the National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, have operated a Corncrake Conservation Project in Ireland since 1991.
BirdWatch Ireland fieldworkers in each of the core Corncrake areas count singing male Corncrakes, and advise farmers on Corncrake-friendly farming methods. Farmers with Corncrakes in their meadows are eligible for entry to the Corncrake Grant Scheme (unless they are in either REPS or Farm Plan Scheme). Grants are paid to those who delay mowing of hay or silage until early August, by which time most Corncrakes should have hatched two broods. There are also grants available for mowing from the centre of the field outwards and for leaving margins of unmown meadow at the edge of plots (
Shannon callows only). Centre-out mowing gives the Corncrakes a chance to escape to safety, without breaking the cover of the long grass. The uncut margins serve as refuges for both adults and chicks during mowing operations, and form a network of connected corridors to late cover areas.
Suitable early cover can be provided through nettle and Iris patches, and BirdWatch Ireland has been working with farmers in the core areas to increase the area of such cover available. This cover is important because early in the season a large proportion of meadow is still too short to provide cover for Corncrakes.
BirdWatch Ireland's conservation work also includes a plan for future habitat restoration and management for Corncrakes, particularly on islands off the north and west coasts of Donegal and the west coast of Connacht. Click here for further details.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service Farm Plan Scheme has now been launched on the Shannon callows and is available to all non-REPS farmers with meadow lands in the Shannon Callows Special Protection Area (SPA). The scheme will eventually replace the Corncrake Grant Scheme and, under a five year agreement, pays farmers to delay mowing, cut from the centre out and leave margins at plot edges, all measures which should increase chick survival. It is expected that the Farm Plan Scheme may extend to existing and any new Corncrake SPAs, with appropriate measures replacing the annual grants schemes currently operating in these areas. For full details of the Farm Plan Scheme Corncrake prescription please click here
The Department of Agriculture and Food operates the Rural Environmental Protection Scheme (REPS), a scheme which makes payments to farmers for environmental management. Since the mid 1990s, options to receive payments for Corncrake management have been available through REPS . For further information on the Corncrake options in REPS please contact the Corncrake Project Officer
There is great enthusiasm among local people and farmers in the areas where Corncrakes still breed. Local farmers are always interested to hear how the season is progressing, and local people report Corncrakes they hear to the BirdWatch Ireland fieldworkers. This support is vital to the continued success of the project, and is greatly appreciated.