Photo © 2007 Sergey Yeliseev

Photo © 2007 Sergey Yeliseev

John Parish of Bedwell Hey farm saw a Corncrake (Crex crex) on his land during the harvest in September 2010. These small secretive moorhen like birds are rare in England and Wales, although larger numbers are found in Northern Ireland and western Scotland. The males have a distinctive rasping call.

This migratory species breed in the United Kingdom from mid-April and leave for sub-Saharan Africa in August – September. Their breeding grounds are meadows and arable farmland where progressively earlier and more mechanised harvesting since the 19th century has led to their European decline. Action by the RSPB and others since the late 1990’s has improved the population of these birds, although they are still a threatened species according to the RSPB; the IUCN red list of February 2011 lists the Corncrake as of least concern. There is a project co-ordinated jointly since 2001 by the RSPB, Natural England, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Pensthorpe Conservation Trust which began introducing Whipsnade Zoo bred Corncrakes to the Nene Washes, floodplain meadows in the Cambridgeshire Fens, east of Peterborough. Since then numbers have steadily increased.

When Bob Young first asked me to write this article I thought he had said “John Parish has seen a cornflake on his land and it flew away. Write an article for the village web site”. It took me a few moments to realise I had misheard him.

If you have an article for the web site, send it to us at: articles {at} LittleThetford [dot] org

John McCullough