RSPB Scotland seeks land managers with Crex appeal

Louise Muir has joined the RSPB team as the Argyll Islands Corncrake Conservation Advisor.

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RSPB Scotland is looking for land managers in Kintyre who want to work with it to help the iconic – but rare – corncrake.

Corncrake Crex crex, adult male calling from meadow, RSPB Balranald Nature Reserve, North Uist, Scotland, June.

Corncrake Calling is a major project that seeks to boost the fortunes of the bird and raise awareness of their ‘Crex Appeal’, Crex Crex being the birds’ Latin name.

This four-year project, part funded through the National Lottery Heritage Fund and managed through RSPB Scotland, will work closely with land managers,  communities and national audiences to provide these iconic birds with the best possible chance of future success.

Louise Muir has joined the team as the Argyll islands corncrake conservation advisor and is now seeking partners in the area.

‘The project will only succeed with the cooperation of farmers, crofters and land managers and RSPB Scotland is committed to working closely with them,’ she said.

Much of the Argyll islands’ landscape and its associated species and habitats is a product of long interaction between landforms and low-intensity agriculture.

The corncrake was once heard across the whole of the UK but in 1993 the UK population was only 480 and was limited to the Hebrides.

RSPB has been working with farmers, crofters and other national organisations for decades and strong partnerships have been formed.

Between 1993 and 2007 the population grew significantly and was a major success story for evidence-based conservation and for agri-environment measures promoting species conservation.

In 2017 the UK population had hit 1,305. However, more recently the bird’s fortunes have declined, and the 2019 figure is down to 870 calling males.

‘Corncrakes rely on farmers and crofters to provide them with the right conditions for breeding and successfully raising chicks,’ said Louise.

‘When the birds return from wintering in Africa, they need long vegetation to hide in. This vegetation is perfect for concealing nests and rearing chicks and cutting silage and hay crops later in the season in a corncrake friendly manner allows multiple broods to be raised and flightless chicks to escape.

‘Often small changes in farming and crofting practices can make a big difference.

‘The current political climate creates much uncertainty for farming across the whole of the UK and the geographical peripherality of islands can intensify this. This is a crucial time for marginal farming and the biodiversity they support.’

The Corncrake Calling project aims to build on the past successes by not only implementing further management for corncrake but also promoting sustainable land management practices; using this noisy rare bird as ambassador for the conservation of the diverse species and habitats found in low intensity farming systems.

If anyone who is a land manager on the Argyll Islands feels they could deliver corncrake friendly land management or would like further advice on management for the corncrake or other biodiversity interests on their land, they should contact Louise on louise.muir@rspb.org.uk.

Likewise, if there are any community members who want to do their bit in helping support wildlife please get in touch – volunteers will also play an important role in helping to make this project a success.

caption: Louise Muir has joined the RSPB team as the Argyll Islands Corncrake Conservation Advisor.