Thursday, 20 May 2010

Corncrake Caper

It's no secret that Corncrakes have been introduced back into the Washes. Interestingly (if you're a birder, although perhaps not even then) they are now recovering unringed birds there, so either these are returning offspring, or the reintroduced birds are attracting regular birds. Either way, there are Corncrake there, and so a crack team was assembled to seek them out. Or a team at any rate.

We purchased fish and chips en route - the last thing we all needed - with five somewhat un-willowy birders squished in, the car was sluggish to say the least. We drew up at a chosen spot, and piled out. Birds the last thing on our mind, we set upon the food. The paper bags made a funny ripping sound....

"Crex Crex"

Hang on a minute?! A Corncrake was singing about 50 yards in front of us. Or perhaps 100 yards. Unless you are pratically standing on one, distance is incredibly difficult to judge. A perfect backdrop to the drumming Snipe, and the calls of breeding Black-tailed Godwit. Another Corncrake called behind us, much more distantly. Amazing - I hadn't though we were going to hear anything. Needless to say, much scanning from convenient vantage points produced nothing.

We walked along the track listening and looking. As dusk approached more and more began rasping, and I think we had seven in the end. This made Paul W very happy, as it allowed him to reduce a list that he keeps. Reduce? Eh? Not content with adding birds to lists - of which he has no more than forty - he also has a list of personal rarities, things he hasn't seen many of. When he's seen ten of something, it comes off that list. Prior to our visit, there were three Corncrakes on that list, and now there are none - magic! He also has a list of lists that he keeps. Forty-one.

At one point it seemed like one was right next to us. We spread out along the path in order to try and triangulate exactly where it was coming from. "CREX CREX!" We all agreed that it was in the grass directly in front of us, but even with the Black & Decker strimmer we had brought with us, we could not persuade it to show. The sound was incredible though. And they're so small as well - you wouldn't have thought they could hold a comb and a credit card, let alone manipulate them. And where do they store them? A remarkable bird.

In this day and age, I must naturally add some small print. The photographs above were all staged for comedy value. Obviously no Corncrakes were harmed in the making of this blog post. So did we see one? What do you think? Do you see a photo of a Corncrake?!


  1. I had to google the audio. How convenient that it calls its own Latin name! The self-identifying bird.

  2. just found Corncrake poop on my boot!