Monday 29 May 2017

A Corncrake in North Warwickshire

On the afternoon of 27th May I received a text message from another Alvecote Pools 'patch worker' to say he had stumbled upon a Corncrake. One of his dogs had flushed a strange bird from cover briefly whilst he was taking a stroll around Teal Pool. Convinced he had found something unusual, he staked out the bird and to his credit remained on site until it called. It was the sound of a singing male Crex crex! Surely not?

Unfortunately at the time I was staking out a bird of my own, a marvelous singing Marsh Warbler at Lakenheath Fen RSPB in Suffolk. There was no way I was cutting short our weekend away in East Anglia so I messaged a few local birders to see if they would head down and check it out. Unfortunately due a fair share of alleged, spurious sightings in the area over the years, none of them could, or would visit the site and check out the claim. A few of the replies I received could not even be reproduced here for fear of an in depth investigation by the Independent Press Standards Organisation.

Then on the evening of Sunday 28th May, another fellow Alvecote regular, Simon Rose made the same discovery, completely independent of the previous sighting. On this occasion he decided to record some footage of the bird with his phone and sent it through to me via the wonders of social media. There was no doubting this time, there was a Corncrake on my patch, the first record for the site since 1978. Any thoughts of spending another night in Norfolk were dismissed and we quickly downed our fish supper and departed Hunstanton at about 8.30pm.

View only from here. Thank you.

It seemed a little strange nervously twitching a bird a few miles from where we live, at this distance, especially as it would be dark by the time I got there. I eventually arrived on site just after 11.00pm and upon opening the car door the bird could be heard instantly. I was absolutely thrilled. The bird called constantly and clearly just a short distance from the metal gate overlooking Teal Pool until I left just after midnight. I headed down again at 5.00am and after a brief wait, it recommenced its repetitive repertoire.  
The mega 'twitch' on Monday morning by Adam Archer.

The Corncrake could be found breeding in reasonable numbers throughout the lower Avon and Severn valleys of the southern West Midland Bird Club recording area up until the 1930's and 1940's. Unfortunately the species fell victim to agricultural changes when mechanised mowing of its favored habitat earlier in the year destroyed nests and young. The last confirmed breeding attempt occurred at Chesterton in south Warwickshire in 1969. Records in the region were more or less annual up until 1972, after which, sightings and calling birds began to become exceedingly rare. This Alvecote bird is only the ninth confirmed instance in the County of Warwickshire since this year. These are listed in full as follows:

2017 - Alvecote Pools - singing male at Teal Pool - 27th May to 7th June.
2005 - Kites Hardwick area - one bird flushed several times whilst mowing set-aside - 25th to 26th August.
2000 - Clifford Chambers area - one bird flushed several times whilst harvesting - first week of September (no date).
1994 - Packington - one bird heard by local gamekeeper - 8th to 9th July.
1988 - Packington - one bird flushed by local gamekeeper - 15th September.
1978 - Alvecote Pools area - one bird heard - 9th May.
1978 - Newbold Comyn - one bird seen & heard - 25th June, 30th August & 24th to 25th September.
1976 - Bodymoor Heath - one bird flushed - 8th September.
1972 - Southam - one bird calling for several days during the Spring (no date).

Viewing Instructions: Please park sensibly along the west side of Polesworth Lane (incorrectly labeled as Polesworth Road on Google Maps) only and do not block any gates with vehicles. There is no public access to this sensitive site without prior permission from the owner therefore do not enter the fields. The bird is audible from the metal gate at the southern end of Polesworth Lane (see map above). It has only been seen briefly in flight on a couple of occasions but it is still a real treat just to hear it sing, sometimes at very close range.

Thank you all for your cooperation.

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