Nature conservation charity RSPB NI has issued an urgent appeal to landowners in County Antrim and Derry/Londonderry to help them dig deep for nature.
The organisation is searching for areas of nettles (minimum 0.25 acres) which they can collect to help in their efforts to entice breeding corncrakes back to Rathlin Island.
Sadly, within a generation, corncrakes have been virtually wiped out in Northern Ireland. However, they can still be found in large numbers on the west coast of Scotland and in Donegal, within 30 miles of Rathlin.
The RSPB has been working for a number of years to entice the species back to the island and last May a male was heard calling for more than 50 days – a very encouraging sign.
Every year this charismatic bird makes the long trip from Africa and when they arrive in April spring they look for suitable habitat in which to breed. Corncrakes are shy, secretive birds and look for cover where they can call from and find food. Tall vegetation, like nettles, make the perfect home.
RSPB NI volunteer work parties gather nettles from the mainland and ferry them to Rathlin for re-planting around the edges of hayfields. Brambles are also cleared to create ‘corncrake corridors’ that provide joined-up areas of suitable habitat.
If you have large nettle-rich patches on your land and would be happy to ‘donate’ them to the RSPB’s Giving Corncrake a Home project, they would love to hear from you. Not only will you be helping to bring this iconic species back to Northern Ireland, you’ll benefit from a nettle-free farm this summer.
Please note the land must be easily accessible with safe parking. All livestock must be secured and a source of running water is essential to wash the nettle rhizomes and prevent contamination.
For more information, or to register your interest, please contact RSPB NI Conservation Team Leader Claire Barnett - firstname.lastname@example.org or call 028 9049 1547 during office hours.