First wild breeding success for Whipsnade corncrakes
Monday 23 August 2004
A family of month-old corncrake chicks sighted on RSPB's Nene Washes reserve, near Peterborough has been hailed a great success by the breeding project partners, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), English Nature and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
The reserve has been the focus of an on-going attempt to reintroduce the corncrake chicks which were bred at Whipsnade Wild Animal Park.
The corncrake - the world's most threatened bird to breed regularly in the UK - started to disappear from the English countryside more than a century ago, because of the introduction of more mechanised and intensive farming methods. Today this relative of the more familiar coot and moorhen only breeds in Britain and in the north and west of Scotland, where conservationists have been working intensively with local crofters and landowners to ensure the bird's continual survival.
Corncrakes reared at ZSL's Whipsnade Wild Animal Park have been released at the RSPB's Nene washes nature reserve in Cambridgeshire. 55 birds were released in 2003 with a further 59 this year. The project aims to release 100 young birds a year for the next 3 years.
The secretive corncrake nests in hay meadows and other grasslands where there is dense vegetation. There have been some tantalising records of calling male birds in Cambridgeshire this year and a sighting of a female on the reintroduction site. The family party of corncrakes found on the 18th August may be her offspring. This is probably the first time corncrakes have nested in Cambrideshire since 1955.
Ben Bradshaw MP, Minister for Nature Conservation, who helped release some of the young corncrakes last year, said: "The haunting sound of the corncrake used to be the sound of the English countryside in the summer. It will be marvellous if this re-introduction continues to succeed."
John Ellis, ZSL's curator of birds, said: "This is great news for corncrakes! It's so exciting that all the hard work hand-rearing them from eggs at Whipsnade has paid off with the birds migrating back to the release site and breeding to create another generation of wild corncrakes for England."
Ian Carter, English Nature ornithologist, said: "Reintroduction projects of this nature are not undertaken lightly. They are long-term commitments requiring considerable time and effort. Although there is a long was to go before the corncrake is fully restored as a breeding species in England this is very encouraging news".
The RSPB's, Director of Conservation, Mark Avery; "This is tremendous news and a real shot in the arm for the Corncrake Project. To get confirmation that corncrakes have nested in the wild in only the second year of the project is a really encouraging sign for the future and shows that the habitat has been managed so that it will support breeding corncrakes."
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