Modest rise in corncrake numbers but miracle needed

It is hard not to cheer the news that a modest increase in the population of calling, male corncrakes was recorded last summer even if that small reversal was a consequence of climate change and last year’s exceptionally — for now at least — warm summer.

The Corncrake Project Annual Report shows 151 calling males were recorded, an increase of 8%, the first since 2014. Donegal and its islands held 90, significantly 59 on islands. Another 39 were recorded in Mayo, 20 in Connemara and a lonely two in Sligo. 

Sadly, none were recorded in the Shannon callows, once a species stronghold, for the fourth year. Like that river’s once-great run of portmanteau salmon, Shannon corncrakes have succumbed to progress.

Our corncrakes are still in a precarious position, painted into an ever-tighter corner of this island. Their survival, much less their restoration, would be a miracle. 

That tragedy offers many lessons but one of the most important is that we usually wait far too long before we intervene to try to sustain struggling species.

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