From Wildlife Extra:
Corncrakes released onto Nene Washes to boost English population
‘Three Tenors‘ Hit the Stage at the Nene Washes
July 2013. ‘The ‘Three Tenors’, a trio of male corncrakes, are performing at the RSPB‘s Nene Washes nature reserve in Cambridgeshire, in an initiative aimed at expanding the breeding population of this scarce UK species which is the subject of a reintroduction programme in England.
Retired from breeding programme
The three birds, affectionately named the ‘Three Tenors’ by staff at the Pensthorpe Conservation Trust (PCT), are, in the best operatic tradition, males of European origin. The birds have been retired from the current captive breeding programme which is seeking to re-establish a breeding population in England following its extinction as a regular breeding bird in the 1980s. Their voices, rather than their genes, are now being redeployed!
The Trust, which plays a key part in rearing corncrakes released as part of the Corncrake Reintroduction Project, has carefully selected the trio, which have been transferred from the breeding facilities at Pensthorpe in Norfolk to attract birds returning to the Washes following migration with their distinctive ‘crexing’ call.
Hoped they will attract females
Tape recordings of crexing males have been trialled before. However, this doesn’t allow a realistic ‘dialogue’ to be established, which can hold the attention of other birds for long enough to convince them to stop over. It’s therefore hoped that the ‘Three Tenors’ will establish two-way conversations and attract returning birds to new areas; expanding the current breeding range, and encouraging them into other suitable habitat
Having once been widespread across the UK, the range of corncrakes has contracted due the introduction of mechanical mowing and the intensification of grassland management, notably the switch from hay-making to silage production. The result is that corncrakes in Britain are now heavily concentrated in the Western Isles of Scotland.
Population in England
Following habitat improvement measures implemented in the 1990’s in Scotland, population increases have been noted at key breeding sites in the Western Isles, but corncrakes did not return to breed in England. So, the partners in the Corncrake Reintroduction Project (Pensthorpe Conservation Trust, Zoological Society of London, RSPB and Natural England) established the Nene Washes project and now hope that the ‘Three Tenors’ can help expand the range of English corncrakes, alongside the ongoing captive rearing and release programme.
Chrissie Kelley, Head of Species Management at the PCT comments: “We’re delighted to have been able to sponsor this ‘gala performance’ and expect the ‘Three Tenors’ to sing their hearts out to help re-establish corncrakes in England.”
Jonathan Taylor, RSPB Warden at Nene Washes comments: “The corncrake’s rasping call was once a familiar sound of the English summer but many people will be unfamiliar with it. We are innovating with our partners to give corncrakes a home in Cambridgeshire and, if successful, we’ll have helped to address the loss of wildlife from our countryside described in the recently-published State of Nature report.”
The birds were relocated from Pensthorpe to the Nene Washes on 24th April 2013 and have settled in to their new surroundings. They are being cared for by highly experienced RSPB staff and monitored closely by the project partners. The new enclosures have been built at a secret location within an area of suitable habitat for corncrakes.
Corncrake re-introduction project
As a result of studies in the 1990s, it became clear that corncrakes need access to tall (20cm+) invertebrate rich vegetation throughout the breeding season, which birds can easily walk through, and also that they are susceptible to mechanical mowing of meadows. Armed with this critical knowledge, the Pensthorpe Conservation Trust, the RSPB, Natural England, and the Zoological Society of London got together to collaborate in a project to restore the corncrake as a breeding species once again in lowland England.
The site chosen for the release was the RSPB’s nature reserve on the Nene Washes, near Peterborough, due to its size and habitat suitability. The Washes are considered to be of international importance for their spring assemblage of breeding waders and other birds of wet grassland and overwintering flocks of ducks and swans.
Ireland’s corncrakes – no longer in every acre: here.
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