The breeding ground of the corncrake Crex crex extend from Ireland to Asiatic Russia in the northern hemisphere. They winter in southern and eastern Africa, migrating northwards to Ireland for example arriving on their breeding ground from early April onwards. The return flight to Africa is in August and September. They require the cover of tall vegetation where they nest and feed in traditional type hay meadows which are cut annually. Annual cutting creates a sward with an open structure, which is easy for the birds to move through but when cut they must find alternative cover adjacent to the meadows late in the season.
In our Corncrake Agri-environment plans the farmer plays a role in the establishment, maintenance and conservation of corncrake habitat. A very important part of this is the creation of Early and Late Cover (ELC). Early for the corncrake arrival in April and late (August/September) for brood cover after the hay meadow is cut and before departing to Africa. A favourite plant species for the creation of this ELC is common nettle Urtica urens but flaggers and umbellifers can also be used.