This is the first poem I “found,” back in 1992. It is all printed in a little brochure I picked up in Ireland, describing how to conserve the Corncrake, a bird that nests in what we call hayfields.
Every Corncrake Counts
a found poem
A number of factors affecting Corncrakes:
loss of long vegetation along hedgerows,
drainage of small marsh areas
where reeds, white-grass and flag iris provide early cover,
more closely grazed pasture,
marginal land going out of production.
Rotary cutters cut very close to the ground.
Any species attempting to nest
on the ground in a hay meadow is at risk.
Cutting from the headlands towards the centre kills birds.
Chicks in particular are reluctant to cross mown ground
where they are at risk from predators like hooded crows,
tend to stay in long grass where they are often killed
when the last swathes at the centre of the field are cut.
When a Corncrake loses a clutch
–for example in a silage field–but survives herself,
she will lay again often in a hay meadow
which may also be cut before the eggs hatch.
In this way, a female may lay three of four clutches
but succeed in hatching few or no chicks.
Listen for Corncrakes on your land.
Listen for their calling at night.
The male Corncrake usually calls from the same spot.
You may be able to work out which field the nest is in.
If you have a Corncrake on your land
leave areas of rough vegetation on the farm uncut.
Marshy corners, patches of flag iris and nettles
all provide suitable early nest sites.
Ensure that the headlands have taller grass than the rest of the field
when the Corncrakes arrive.
With a little care and patience, fields can be cut in a way
that will drive Corncrake adults and chicks
to the safety of the field margins.
It will be necessary to work the field
in an anti-clockwise direction.
Headlands at the field ends are cut first
to provide a turning circle.
Leave a swathe uncut in the headlands.
Cut the field slowly.
Speed kills, and is not vital
From “Every Corncrake Counts,” an Irish Wildbird Conservancy pamphlet
written by Eleanor Mayes