Battle to save corncrake suffers setback as bird disappears from former Shannon stronghold
The battle to save the corncrake from national extinction has suffered a set-back with the disappearance of the bird from a former stronghold.
The State has spent €338,032 during the first 10 months of this year on protection measures to maintain and increase the population of the bird.
Numbers of the bird increased in 2013 and last year reached a record level of 230 calling males.
However, new figures from the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht show that, this year, the numbers have dropped nationally by 20pc to 183 calling males.
The annual census of the corncrake had detected one calling male in the Shannon Callows, formerly a stronghold for the species, in 2014. But there was no sign of any corncrakes there this summer.
The bird has also disappeared from Co Sligo, the north Mayo mainland and Achill Island, and Connemara since last year. The largest concentration of the bird is now in the islands off Donegal, where 86 calling males were spotted during last summer.
Denis Strong, western division manager with the National Parks and Wildlife Service, said the disappearance of the corncrake from the Callows was "the end of an era".
"It is the first time that we haven't recorded a corncrake in the Shannon Callows since we commenced our annual count.
"When I started in this work 25 years ago, the Shannon Callows was the place for the corncrake. It had the biggest breeding population of the corncrake. It was 'corncrake capital' of Ireland.
"It is unfortunate that this has happened. It was inevitable it was going to happen because the population wasn't sustainable there," he added.
Asked could the corncrake return to the area, Mr Strong said: "We are not giving up on the Callows yet and we will continue to monitor the area - I wouldn't write it off in terms of the corncrake."