Corn Crake (Crex crex)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The Corn Crake (Crex crex) is quite a pretty little bird that is commonly found across Europe and western Asia. They are quite different from other crakes since they do not share the same habitat. While most crakes tend to prefer marshy areas, the Corn Crake seems to favour meadows and arable farmland as a breeding ground. Unfortunately, this tendency has resulted in the Corn Crake becoming a ‘Near Threatened’ species since modern farming methods often result in the destruction of nests and birds that may be hidden in pastures and amongst crops. What’s more, it is difficult to flush these birds out, since they prefer to run from danger in amongst the surrounding growth and out of sight instead of taking flight. Since harvesting and mowing often takes place before the end of breeding season, youngsters and nesting birds are often killed in the process.

When in flight the Corn Crake is quite easily identified due to its chestnut wings and long, dangling legs. The adults have brown, spotted under parts, a blue-grey head and neck area and a reddish streak on their flanks. Immature birds are similar in colour but their heads are a buff colour instead of the usual blue-grey. The Corn Crake also has a short bill and its slender legs are a yellowish-orange. As is typical of birds belonging to the rail family, the chicks are black and later develop their distinctive colouring when they lose their down feathers. The average bird is between 27-30 cm in length with a wingspan of 46-53 cm. In general, the Corn Crake is quite a secretive bird which is more often heard than seen. At night they make a rasping ‘crek crek’ sound which is quite distinctive.

The best time to see the Corn Crake is between April and September when they arrive at their Scottish breeding grounds to nest, mate and produce offspring. These days the Outer Hebrides of Scotland is generally considered to be the best place to find the Corn Crake, though they can be found in other parts of the country too. Their diet consists mainly of insects and seeds and you are most likely to find them by listening for their call instead of looking for them amongst the growth.

Crossbills Acting Cross-Eyed

August 12, 2008 by  
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It seems that a group of rare two-barred crossbills ‘looked’ at their internal compasses a little cross-eyed since they took a wrong turn and ended up in a remote, windswept outcrop of Scottish islands. No doubt the birds came in search of food but it is unlikely that they’re going to find their favorite snack – larch and spruce cones – this far north.

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Spectacular Birding on the Isle of Mull

August 1, 2008 by  
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The beautiful Isle of Mull is Scotland’s fourth largest island and a popular tourist destination for a number of reasons, one of them being that it offers superb bird watching opportunities in a wide variety of habitats. The island’s mountains, moorlands, sea lochs, hill lochans, damp boggy marshes and wide sandy beaches are home to many local species of birds, as well as a host of migrants at different times of the year.

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Fair Isle Bird Watching Delights

June 10, 2008 by  
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If you are looking for a great new place to enjoy a bird watching holiday, you might want to consider Fair Isle. Situated in the Atlantic Ocean somewhere between The Shetland and Orkney Islands, this little island is just three miles long and 1.5 miles wide. While the island is famous for its bird life, don’t expect exceptional weather or a bustling metropolis. This little island is frigid and virtually isolated – so you’d better pack warm!

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New RSPB Reserve at Dunnet Head, Scotland

May 29, 2008 by  
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In line with their ongoing efforts in the conservation of wild birds and other wildlife, as well as their habitats, RSPB Scotland have announced that Dunnet Head in Caithness has become a nature reserve. These cliffs at the British mainland’s most northerly point jutting out into the Pentland Firth between John o’Groats and Thurso, Caithness, are home to a multitude of seabirds, including guillemots, puffins and kittiwakes.

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