Posts Tagged ‘corncrake


Crex Crex

The number of calling Corncrake on Mull this year was not as many as I’ve seen in previous years. I have a feeling numbers are again declining but this may be anecdotal. However, a little careful waiting aside a very friendly lady’s garden gave us good views of this very secretive bird.


What’s it all about

Do I get enjoyment from leading tours? Of course I do. Sure I love seeing birds and other wildlife but the best value I get is showing a guest something they have never seen before. When whatever it is shows well then that’s when I get really excited for them. Strongly imprinted memories live long in the mind. When something shows well those memories are well and truly burned into place. For me it’s always more about the people than about what they are looking at.

I always ask my guests after a tour what was their best moment. Sometimes it’s hard to filter out what was best among a throng of bests but on the latest Mull Tours the sightings of Corncrake more often than not came out on top. Some really good sightings this year of this enigmatic species both on the ground and in the air. Long may that continue.

Corncrake 1



A crake in the corn


I had a feeling the easterlies at the beginning of the week had not given everything. It’s feelings like that which drove me out into the rain to search for migrants yesterday. Four Swifts and a Whinchat on the hill were all I got for the effort until the rain drove me back to the laptop and to work.

When the sun broke through later in the day I thought I’d have a walk along the cliff top at Trimingham to relive the monotony. A Wryneck sheltered under the cliff edge was my target; what I didn’t expect to see was a Corncrake!

As I walked out of one of the cliff top woods a slim crake with dangling legs erupted from the path in front of me and went low to the left around the bushes and out of view. Damn it!

I walked forward half expecting to see it a mile away flying along the clifftop. It flew from a few metres in front of me again to the left, again around the bushes and again out of view. I knew if I was to find the bird I would need help and it came in the shape of Greg, Andy and Tony. Despite a thorough search of the field edges and stubble it was not seen again. Sorry guys.

Another Whinchat, Swift a Wheatear and a couple of Redstarts plus the palest Whitethroat you have ever seen in your life were all we could manage.

Obviously no photo so I thought I’d include this one taken on our Mull Tour earlier this year.

Now where’s that Wryneck?




A Bowl of Corncrakes


Anyone who has tried to see a Corncrake will know just how secretive they can be; they are the models of stealth. You are looking where they appear to be calling from and a head pops up out of the vegetation yards away. Getting someone on it before it disappears is itself an art as descriptions of yellow flowers vie with those of red tipped leaf for the best direction indicators. Invariable the crake moves on before it’s seen well.

Not so on the Birders Tour to Mull last week; we were stood amidst an island of calling Corncrakes. As we watched a wonderful spring meadow respectfully from a distance the other side of a wall at one of the RSPB recommended viewing locations we were somewhat taken aback as this little chap made his way across the grass between sheep and geese … right out in the open.




A quest accomplished

Across the hay meadows of Iona this week we could hear Corncrake. Seeing them however was a different matter.

We had decided last autumn when we were in Canada that a break in Scotland during late spring would be good. I have always wanted to photograph Corncrake and the Scottish Islands are their stronghold. We therefore decided to stay at the south end of Mull so we could take the ferry to the island of Iona if the weather was suitable to try for the Corncrakes. A quest was born.

The problem was the vegetation was far too long. Yes we’d had a cold spring but in the last week or so warm sunshine and showers had brought on the meadows. The vegetation was over head height for a Corncrake. Plenty of crakes calling but very difficult to see let alone photograph.

Iona is an island steeped in religion. It has become a place of pilgrimage for both the religious and the curious. Priest after priest making the walk from the ferry quay to the Abbey stopped and asked
“Have you seen them yet?”
“Yes” was the reply “…but not well enough to photograph”
“I’ve been coming here for 30 years and not seen one yet” said one.
Great. The temptation is always there to go in close and wade into the field. This is a protected species. A bird on the edge of extinction as a breeding bird in the UK and therefore deserving of its schedule 1 status. It must not in any way be disturbed and to be fair who wants to photograph the arse end of a Corncrake as it jettisons to the other side of the island anyway. ‘Just let the bird come to you of its own accord’ I kept telling myself. I patiently waited on the road, peering over a stone wall towards one calling individual which was presumably still unpaired. Head shot after head shot with the bird hidden among buttercups was the norm.

Eventually at the end of the second day trying the bird did indeed come to me and I got a half decent photograph … the quest was accomplished.

The usual view.
Hidden Corncrake

The view eventually.

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Jan 2023


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