In a further victory in the battle to save the bird from national extinction, the Department of Arts and Heritage confirmed that preliminary figures from its 2014 census show 230 calling corncrake males were recorded this summer — a 24% increase on the 185 recorded last year, which represented an increase of up to 40% on 2012 — the highest percentage rise in almost 20 years.
However, the 2014 figures show that a previous corncrake stronghold, the Shannon Callows, is home to only one calling male.
The largest concentration of the corncrake this year is located in Co Donegal where 156 calling males were counted with 108 of those on islands off the coast. The Donegal island with the largest number of corncrakes is Inisbofin with 42. This was followed by 15 on Tory Island and 14 on both Gola and Inishmeane.
The next largest concentration of the bird was found in Mayo/Connemara, where 72 were recorded with 37 found in the Mullet peninsula and 25 in the Connemara islands.
Between 2012 and last year, the State spent €1.2m on conservation measures for the bird — the spend for 2014 is not yet available.
Corncrake expert Dr Anita Donaghy of Birdwatch Ireland said yesterday: “We are surprised by this increase and would express some reservations, but until the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) provides the full data set we would not be in a position to comment further.”
The corncrake is on the EU Birds Directive requiring conservation measures be put in place.
Research shows that for every calling male, there is a female corncrake nearby which has two broods of chicks here every summer.