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Corncrake numbers soar from five to 133

THE corncrake could be saved from national extinction according to a new report that showed the first increase in its population since 2005.

The number of corncrakes in Ireland rose from five to 133 last year, according to a new report from the Department of the Environment.

There are now almost as many corncrakes in Ireland as there were six years ago when 162 were counted.

The bird species had found it difficult to survive in recent years due to the lack of female corncrakes in the three areas where the corncrake population was mainly confined, west Connacht, Co Donegal, and the Shannon Callows.

While there was significant progress last year in the conservation effort of the corncrakes, the National Parks and Wildlife Service census said the situation in the Shannon Callows "is quite catastrophic".

The annual report remarked that there were only two males present in the area in 2010, four less than there had been in 2009 and a drop from 54 that had been recorded a decade ago.

A combination of factors has threatened the species in recent years, including being killed by feral minks. According to the report, 254 minks were killed in a department predator control programme last year.

One of the main dangers to corncrakes is modern farming -- mowing and harvesting tends to occur before breeding is completed so many nests are destroyed and young birds have no means of surviving.

hnews@herald.ie