January 31, 2023

In exchange for annual payments of up to $304 per hectare for the most thorough corncrake-friendly preparations, farmers are required to plant part of their land with crops not intended for food, but to provide cover for corncrake breeding. The rest of the grassland is ideally left to return to traditional pasture, where multiple species of native grasses intermingle with wildflowers and weeds. Fertilizers and weed killers are not allowed.

“We don’t reward farmers for having a corncrake on their land, we reward them for having the habitat,” said Mr. carey. “Even if a corncrake never showed up, you got skylarks, meadow pipits, all kinds of flowers, invertebrates and butterflies. The greatest value of this country is not in food production, but in public goods and services: clean water, wildlife diversity, carbon sequestration. It’s time we started paying for that.”

Patrick Mangan, 57, a farmer and corncrake enthusiast, recently stood in his partially re-vegetated meadow on the Belmullet Peninsula, pointing proudly to the nettles, cow parsley, tall grasses and wildflowers where the corncrakes are proliferating again. At one point, the Belmullet population dropped to just four calling males; 38 were counted in 2021.

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