Thursday, July 19, 2012 | | By: Febi

Life is worthwhile

After a few days of not feeling on top form I finally woke at 1.45 this morning feeling really bright and breezy.  Notwithstanding which I was still feeling a bit frustrated that I had messed GB about with regard to dinner plans a couple of times this week and had generally been anti-social and not got things done that I had hoped to do.  But all frustrations disappeared completely when I opened the front door and went outside.  It being the Hebrides it was still light enough to see the jetty and the beach and the far headland despite the fairly dense cloud cover.  The wind had died down and in the calm one could hear the sound of the waves falling onto the beach, the piping of Oystercatchers and the high pitched call of a seabird I couldn’t identify.

These alone might have been enough to have made all seem right with the world but then I heard, from a field across the valley, the sound of the Corncrake.

 Picture from RSPB site

To me there is no sound more evocative of the wilds of the Outer Hebrides than the creaking ‘crek, crex’ of the Corncrake.  This is a bird which at one time my mother could hear from her bedroom window in the house in Liverpool where she was brought up. Over the years changed agricultural practices have driven it away and the only places it can still be found in the UK are the most remote parts of Western Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The Corn Crake's breeding habitat is grassland, particularly hayfields, and it uses similar environments on the wintering grounds – which in our case are in Africa. Although it is extremely secretive and hard to see its call carries for miles and has ensured that the Corncrake has been noted in literature, and garnered a range of local and dialect names.

Although numbers have declined steeply in western Europe, this bird is classed as being of Least Concern on the IUCN Red List because of its huge range and large, apparently stable, populations in Russia and Kazakhstan.

 Photo from Wikipedia

Its loud and distinctive call makes it comparatively easy to count and the RSPB reckon there are 1145 calling males in the UK.  I can hear one of them by just leaving my computer and stepping outside.  How wonderful is that.  Yes, life is worthwhile.


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