Corncrake restoration

I was on Rathlin Island on Friday 6th March 2015, one of a working party with the RSPB in habitat management to entice the corncrake back to Rathlin Island.


As many of us are acutely aware, especially those of us who remember Ulster/Irish rural childhoods before the massive changes to farming practice of the last thirty years or so, the corncrake is threatened with extinction and indeed is almost extinct in the island of Ireland and apparently wholly so in Northern Ireland. However, one male was heard singing/crexing last summer on Rathlin Island, probably on his way to the Hebrides before being diverted to Rathlin by the prospect of ‘new’ territory. His attempts to attract a mate were unsuccessful, but fired by that success, the RSPB is making a determined effort to build on previous efforts for the coming breeding season.

Nettles provide excellent cover for breeding corncrake, so hardy volunteers for RSPB are digging up nettle rhizomes for their transplantation to Rathlin to await the corncrake’s approval.

The corncrake is expected in May. As part of the preparation on Friday, volunteers cleared brambles from around the edges of fields, so successful planting of the nettles can take place without the brambles choking them off. It was hard work, but I am becoming expert with a pair of secateurs and grip strength is improving.

More than anything it was marvellous to work in such a spectacular landscape, and be rewarded with the satisfaction of potentially facilitating the return of ‘little gods of the field’ as described in Kathleen Jamie’s Findings.

Thanks to Colin, Phillip and Sean for a great day.


The clearances, and personal bramble pile accumulating.


Taking a break as the collective bramble pile accumulates.


Return to the harbour.

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