Farmers play key role in €5.9 million corncrake habitat conservation project
A new EU-funded €5.9 million Corncrake LIFE conservation project includes working collaboratively with farmers and landowners to improve the landscape for the endangered bird.
The project was officially launched in County Donegal yesterday (Friday March 25) and aims to increase the Corncrake population by 20% ensuring it remains a part of the rural landscape in the future.
The project is supervised by the Ministry of Housing, Local Authorities and Heritage; Speaking at yesterday’s launch, Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform Malcolm Noonan said:
“The call of the corncrake was once a ubiquitous sound in the grasslands and grasslands of the island of Ireland. However, rapid changes in farming practices in the 1970s spelled the death knell for the bird.
Corncrakes are listed for special protection under the EU Birds Directive, with just 188 male calling animals recorded across Ireland in 2021, the department said.
The species requires tall vegetation cover (>20 cm) and is associated with grasslands – which are traditionally harvested in late summer – where they nest and feed.
This means the birds must find alternative cover, and so agriculture plays a key role in establishing, maintaining and conserving corncrake habitat, the department explained.
Measures focusing primarily on habitat creation and restoration will be implemented in coastal and island areas of County Donegal, Mayo and Galway, and associated farmland, over a five-year period.
Creating and maintaining early and late cover areas, mowing wildlife-friendly grass, providing refuge areas during grassland harvesting, and incentivizing later cutting dates will be part of the project.
Project leader Dr John Carey of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) explained:
“The project will develop knowledge exchange groups with farmers and advisors to share information on how to create and maintain high quality Corncrake habitats, and ensure landowners can maximize their potential. to receive rewards under the results-based pilot program.”
Local field officers and community engagement officers will support landowners and work with stakeholders to make the corncrake an asset to the areas it frequents. Targeted school programs will also be used to highlight the Corncrake’s needs and raise awareness of its endangerment.
Innovations such as tractor-mounted flush bars to keep birds away from mowers, thermal imaging drones to find nests, and passive acoustic monitoring using high-tech microphones to try to help locate birds, will be explored as part of the project.
The Corncrake LIFE conservation project works with the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine (DAFM), Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, Údarás na Gaeltachta and Fota Wildlife Park.
Minister of State for Land Use and Biodiversity, Pippa Hackett added that the Corncrake is highly dependent on habitats used for agricultural purposes, reflecting the need for a more cooperative approach to agroecology. .