DONEGAL now has the highest population of corncrakes in Ireland as efforts to save the elusive bird species from extinction continue.
New figures from the National Parks and Wildlife Service show that 197 calling male corncrakes have been recorded nationally this year – a five per-cent increase on the 188 birds documented in 2021.
Corncrakes were recorded in five counties, the majority of them in Donegal where 110 were recorded.
A further 62 were charted in Mayo followed by Galway with 23 and one each in both Sligo and Kerry.
Largely responsible for the upturn has been the Corncrake LIFE project.
Now in its second year, LIFE is a joint approach between National Parks and Wildlife conservationists, landowners and farmers with a goal of improving habitats for the creatures.
The LIFE iniative bore fruit in spectacular style in August when a nest of corncrake eggs were discovered by a farmer at Fanad Head.
In what was described as a first of its kind in Ireland, 11 eggs were unearthed during the mowing of a field.
Following an emergency rescue effort, nine of the birds survived and were released back into the Donegal wild, enhancing substantially a species that has been on the decline in Ireland for decades.
Corncrake LIFE Project Manager Dr John Carey said the latest audit was encouraging but warned there was still some way to go to stop the corncrake from disappearing from the island’s landscape.
Dr Carey said, “We have made some good progress in getting conservation measures in place with project participants and the result-based scheme has had a positive response from farmers. Overall bird numbers have increased in the LIFE project areas too with some areas showing significant increases.
“We are working closely with locally led ACRES co-operation projects to ensure that farmers who select corncrake measures in the scheme will also have full access to the LIFE project and all the additional supports it brings with it.
“While numbers are moving in the right direction, there is still considerable work required to save the corncrake.”
Parks and Wildlife Divisional Manger Denis Strong has been involved in corncrake conservation since the mid-90s.
He said the increase in numbers was down to the number of farmers coming on board.
“It’s great to see the birds doing well again, particularly in areas like the Mullet peninsula where they have increased by 37 per-cent on last year’s figures.
“It’s a testament to the many farmers who are involved in both the Corncrake LIFE project and those who took up the grant scheme which has been running successfully for many years now.”