Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

First corncrake heard on Rathlin in over 15 years 'scared off by helicopter'

A helicopter has scared off Rathlin's first Corncrake in 15 years
A helicopter has scared off Rathlin's first Corncrake in 15 years

The first corncrake heard on Rathlin Island in more than 15 years has fallen silent – after a helicopter landed in the hayfield where it was calling.

RSPB staff, who had been battling to lure the species back to Northern Ireland after it went extinct here in the 1990s, said they were "devastated" that the disturbance appeared to have scared off the male bird.

"Rathlin Island is directly on the flight path for birds returning to breed on the islands of Islay, Colonsay and Oransay to the north," Peter Harper from RSPB Northern Ireland explained.

"To hear there was a calling bird on the island was just fantastic news and the longer he stayed the more likely it was that we could have breeding corncrake on Rathlin once again."

The Belfast Telegraph revealed that the corncrake had been heard calling from an uncropped hayfield in late May.

Unfortunately, nine days after the bird was first heard a private-hire helicopter landed in the field. Although it was immediately asked to leave by RSPB staff, it's thought the level of disturbance caused the corncrake to leave.

The conservation charity remains hopeful that he, and other birds, will return in the future.

Reserve warden Liam McFaul said: "It's common for male corncrake to go quiet for around a week if they have been successful in attracting a mate. However, that time has now passed and there is no sign."

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