Bird Watching (UK) - - Conservation Bird Population -

Un­til the late 1800s, the Corn Crake bred com­monly in al­most ev­ery county across Bri­tain. A cen­tury later, the 1993 sur­vey recorded just 480 birds – and 92% of th­ese birds were on the He­brides. This first fact threat­ened the Corn Crake with ex­tinc­tion. The lat­ter saved it. What was once a bird of hay mead­ows across the wider coun­try­side had be­come a bird of hay mead­ows on the He­brides. This was, put sim­ply, the last place where late-cut and in­sect-rich grass­lands ex­isted on a scale large enough to sup­port a Corn Crake pop­u­la­tion, rather than a few doomed in­di­vid­u­als. We know to­day that the Corn Crake bounced back due to su­perb con­ser­va­tion work by the RSPB; but how was that work pos­si­ble? On the He­brides in 1993 – the low point of Corn Crake de­cline – there were 106 call­ing male Corn Crakes on Lewis, 66 on North Uist, 50 on South Uist and 111 on the tiny is­land of Tiree. So, even at that low point, here were four is­lands with con­nected Corn Crake pop­u­la­tions, in a land­scape where peo­ple were do­ing the right thing for birds on a big scale. That meant the RSPB had a pop­u­la­tion, rather than a few pairs, when they took on the case of the Corn Crake – and spec­tac­u­larly won. As a re­sult, from a pop­u­la­tion as low as 50 males on South Uist, there were, in the last sur­vey, 90 males. What’s in­ter­est­ing is that num­bers from the key strongholds in 1993 were, in most cases, close to Vik­to­ria’s 50-year thresh­old for shrikes. And Corn Crakes are a com­pa­ra­ble species, be­cause, like shrikes, they are long-range sum­mer mi­grants of which only one third make it back the fol­low­ing sum­mer. In a nut­shell, Corn Crakes had the de­cency to per­sist in one large haven. This bought the RSPB time to ex­pand their habi­tat. As al­ways, con­nec­tion is king.

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