Big thank you from

The sound of the corncrake may just be making a comeback

by Paul Cormacain

WELL, it's good to know that I am not the only person to hear a corncrake this year. Although they have yet to be confirmed, there are three other local reports of corncrakes.

And then... I can remember seeing corncrakes just outside of the Belfast city boundary, in the old days, you understand. As for hearing them, in our first house in Finaghy after we were married we used to hear them every evening during their season. And then they started to become rarer, and rarer, and rarer.

The consensus of opinion is that the loss of the corncrake is caused by the changes to the summer hay meadows.

When farmers concentrated on silage rather than hay the bird suffered. Hay is usually cut once each year, so it made good sense for the farmer to change for he could cut silage twice each year. But this disturbed the corncrake, which could sometimes find his home and eggs destroyed by the cutting. Even worse, if the corncrake eggs had hatched then the young birds could be victims of the cut.

The old ways of cutting are now gone and mechanised cutting imperilled the birds.

The more modern machines could now kill them, and their numbers continued to decrease. We have now reached the stage when there were probably no breeding corncrakes in Northern Ireland last year. But what of the future, I hear you say...

Well, the big news is that a corncrake is calling in Belfast. The RSPB have been very active in instituting change, and just as a wee reward a wee corncrake decided to take up residence in the Harbour Estate, which is managed by the RSPB.

I do believe that that organisation is delighted, and rightly so. Even to hear a corncrake there is brilliant news, and who knows?

Well, that male bird will be well protected, he might like it and stay for a while, and a ladybird just might come along. She might like it there also, and they may decide to set up a home there.

If so, they should be as safe there as any in other environment or location, and we may yet have young corncrakes in Belfast once again. Oh bliss, oh happiness! Heavens, I hope that male likes the harbour estate, and the RSPB will be as proud as Punch. But not insufferably so!

That is the good news for the corncrake brigade. But what of the butterflies?

I was delighted to see an orange tip butterfly last week. It was, for me, the first one of the year, and because the sun was shining it was the most beautiful.

As I write this, it is not yet June, but we are seeing the end of May with very unseasonal weather, and I know we all like to complain about the weather from time to time.

Great for corncrakes, bad for butterflies. Ah well, some folk are never happy!

Well, I saw one orange tip between Belfast and Lisburn. Ken Bond saw an orange tip in Galway. Eamon McGlinchy saw an orange tip in Leitir Ceannan. A number of orange tips were seen at the north Slobs in Dublin on different occasions.

Then Ian Rippey saw an orange tip in Armagh, and then another one. In south Derry Trevor Boyd and others saw perhaps a few dozen orange tips. Then more of the butterflies were seen at Cushendun, Lough Beag, and Banteer. So how come some folk have seen dozens of orange tips, and I have only managed to see one?

One of the attractive sights of spring and early summer is to see the orange insect flying alongside lanes and hedges. Only the male has the orange tip, which makes him look stunning. The insects have been in the adult stage for nearly two months, and should still be around till the end of June. From then till next year, only the pupal stage will be around.

If I went down to the Belfast Harbour Estate, I wonder would I see an orange tip. Or would I hear a corncrake? If you go, I hope you experience both! If you are thinking of visiting the estate, perhaps you should give the RSPB a wee ring first. Enquire if the bird is still singing. There is a possibility of guided tours so you could go there, perhaps to even see a corncrake, or see other endangered species. Good luck!

Coming Events

Saturday 4th June - MS sponsored walk, and see the wildlife, at Colin Glen Forest Park, details from 9061 4115.
Examine the moth trap, see what visited overnight, and marvel at the lepidoptera, 10am, Oxford Island Centre, call them on 3832 2205.
River Wildlife Walk to celebrate World Environment Day in Lisburn, at 1.30, contact Siobhan Lanigan O' Keefe on 9250 9458.

Saturday 11th June - Celebrate World Oceans Day at Crawfordsburn Country Park, 11am, phone 9185 3621, or Portrush Countryside Centre, at 12pm, phone 7082 3600

Saturday 11th/Sunday - 12th June - Pond dipping at Castle Espie, at 2pm, details 9187 4146

Saturday 18th June - Lisburn RSPB is off to lovely Rathlin, all welcome, contact David McCreedy on 4062 6125

Sunday 19th June - Creepy Crawly Trail, at Colin Glen Forest Park, at 11am, meet some of the mini beasts that live there, and find out more from 90614115.

Ulster Star