The Elusive Spotted Crake Seen At Cabragh

OUR regular bird ringers from Birdwatch Ireland’s Munster Ringing Group are pretty level-headed types, not given to public whoops of delight or admissions of surprise. Last Tuesday morning at Cabragh Wetlands, as so often before, they set up their mist nets, extracting, weighing and ringing each bird caught in its lattice. Towards the end of their session they suddenly found themselves with a bird so rare that a 2001 report says it has not been recorded as nesting in Ireland since 1851.

OUR regular bird ringers from Birdwatch Ireland’s Munster Ringing Group are pretty level-headed types, not given to public whoops of delight or admissions of surprise. Last Tuesday morning at Cabragh Wetlands, as so often before, they set up their mist nets, extracting, weighing and ringing each bird caught in its lattice. Towards the end of their session they suddenly found themselves with a bird so rare that a 2001 report says it has not been recorded as nesting in Ireland since 1851.

The spotted crake, porzana porzana, is a bird that few will ever see in the British Isles – a once in a lifetime experience, said one of our ringers, and as he was formerly in charge of Ireland’s corn crake programme, he ought to know. Smaller than its cousin, the very elusive and shy water rail, the spotted crake is even more secretive, rarely emerging from the cover of reedbeds. He happily wanders through mud and shallow water, dipping low with body close to the ground, pecking away to find insects, snails, small fish, worms and plant material, but hardly ever ventures into the open. Your chances of seeing them, even at sites they are known to habituate, are tiny.

Full Cabragh notes in this week’s Tipperary Star.