Last year, just 162 calling male corncrakes were recorded in Ireland; sad proof that the bird whose distinctive ‘krek-krek’ was once a common summer sound has dwindled to near extinction because of intensive farming.
There is reason to hope, though. The National Parks and Wildlife Service, under its corncrake farm plan, has encouraged farmers to delay harvests until the birds have reared their young.
The plan could not have a better ambassador than vet Feargal Ó Cuinneagáin, who is farming land on the Mullet Peninsula in Co Mayo with the sole aim of attracting the rare bird.
His hard work has paid off as he recorded seven corncrakes on his 25-acre farm of nettle, iris, and hogweed beds this year. In spite of that, he has seen the bird itself — “a finickity little lad” — only twice.
His enthusiasm is infectious and has the potential to encourage others to follow suit.
It is a worthwhile project because, as Ó Cuinneagáin says, if we lost the bird we would not just be losing a species but part of our culture too.