Skye corncrake partnership celebrates 10 years
A collaborative partnership to help secure a future for Skye’s corncrake population is celebrating its tenth anniversary.
The partnership between SAC Consulting – part of SRUC, and the RSPB, NFU Scotland, Scottish Crofting Federation and local farmers and crofters, provided greater support for land managers to access agri-environment schemes to improve Skye’s corncrake population on a landscape scale.
The corncrake, a small, migratory bird that spends its winters in Central and Western Africa and its summers in Northern Europe, has been on the red endangered list since 1990, with a recorded population of 872 in 2019.
Since 1950, the rate of decline in Scotland has accelerated, coinciding with a period when the majority of hay fields were changed to silage production.
Janette Sutherland, Agricultural Consultant with SAC Consulting who facilitates the partnership, said: “The support to crofters and farmers through agri-environment schemes over the past 25 years has been key to the survival of the UK corncrake population and it is critical that we maintain and build on this hard work. With an uncertain future ahead, it is vital that these different groups continue to integrate.”
Currently there are 140-hectares under management on the Isle of Skye as part of the Scottish Government’s Agri Environment Climate Scheme (AECS) which provided funding to crofters and farmers to manage their silage and grazed fields differently to support corncrakes.
Practical methods that can be used on ‘high nature value’ landscapes to benefit the species, include delayed mowing, corncrake-friendly mowing and leaving uncut areas of grassland on field margins to provide cover for birds; curtailing grazing to preserve areas of tall vegetation in spring and summer, allowing birds to nest and raise broods; and establishing clumps of tall plants such as iris, nettles, meadowsweet, cow parsley or hogweed.
However, as corncrakes make their way south to Africa for the winter, there are still concerns about the declining population on Skye.
“The corncrake population in Skye is instrumental in expanding its geographical range to mainland areas such as Lochalsh and Glenelg,” said Janette.
“Unfortunately, the number of corncrakes is dropping across the board and although researchers are exploring some theories, it is unclear what is driving the losses.
“With such a small population, working in partnership is vitally important to their future survival.”
Posted by SRUC on 26/10/2020