Corncrake (Crex crex)
This charismatic and generally very secretive bird is best recognised by its rasping call and slight twitching of leaves as it moves effortlessly through tall grasses and herbage in order to stay concealed in cover. Although relatively easy to hear it is not always easy to see - its voice carrying some considerable distance easily disorientating the expectant observer.
C. crex is listed in Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds because of major population declines both historically and recently. Once widespread in Britain, C. crex has undergone a devastating national decline and range contraction since the 19th century due to the change in the way grassland is farmed. Earlier cutting of hay, increased mechanisation of the hay cut and the switch to silage meant that nests, chicks and even adults were killed. Its rasping call has not been heard regularly in Sussex since breeding ceased in the early 1940s. Numbers in the UK reached a low point of 489 singing males concentrated in the remaining core areas of the Outer Hebrides and Orkney in 1993. Their fortunes have at least been partially reversed by the recent conservation efforts of the RSPB and local crofters in the Western Isles and by a reintroduction scheme in the Nene Washes, Cambridgeshire.
The above birds were recently photographed amongst the stunning scenery of the Outer Hebrides.
Hobson, J. (2014). Corncrake. The Birds of Sussex. Thetford: British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) Books on behalf of the Sussex Ornithological Society, pp. 216.
Kelly, R. (1996). Corncrake. Birds of Sussex. Sussex Ornithological Society, pp. 220-221.