Country diary 1947: mowing machine the main cause of disappearing corncrakes | Birds

There can be little doubt that the modern mowing machine has been the principal cause of the virtual extinction of the corncrake as a breeding bird in a great part of Britain, and of this we have further evidence now. The only nest discovered in this part of Cheshire for some years was found in June when the grass in the Merryfall fields was cut; unfortunately for the corncrake the farm belied its charming name, for the machine ran over the nest and killed all five youngsters. I wonder if the quail which have reached the county this year – I have heard of them from two different observers near Nantwich – will fare any better.

Yellow wagtails also suffer from man’s activities. The farmer grows potatoes, the plants of which form a favourite nesting-site, and then he digs them up just when there are young in the nest. If a fork be used the nest can be spared, but the modern mechanical diggers must destroy many broods. A farmer friend of mine found a nestful (he called them “tater-setters”) when he was getting his potatoes and moved the nest five times till it had been carried day by day right across the field. He was proud to report that in the end they all flew successfully.

We found the male Clouded Buff moths (Diacrisia sannio) flying in unusual numbers by a moss in the Forest, where acres are covered with cotton grass, cranberry, and cross-leaved heath and where sundew and marsh Andromeda grow. These conspicuous insects, whose yellow forewings have a central red spot, seem to be confined to heath and moss land, although their caterpillars feed on many low-growing plants.

Frederic M. Kolodziej

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