TWO pairs of very rare corncrakes have nested at Wheldrake Ings this summer thanks to a dry spring.

Reserve managers the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust said that 10 pairs of the species in total have bred in the wider Lower Derwent Valley National Nature Reserve.

The reserve is especially important because these birds are England’s only population of non-introduced corncrakes.

Corncrakes were once common and widespread, but agricultural changes have led to their disappearance throughout Britain.

These days, they are mainly confined to about 1,000 pairs in the north west Scottish islands, and were reintroduced to the Nene Washes, Cambridgeshire, in 2003.

However, it is too soon to tell if the reintroductions will have long-term success, so hopes rest on Wheldrake Ings and the Lower Derwent Valley for helping England’s corncrake population to recover.

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s reserve manager for Wheldrake Ings Brian Lavelle said; “We’re delighted that corncrakes are doing so well and we have high hopes for establishing the Lower Derwent Valley as England’s main stronghold for them.

“Good weather in the spring and early summer has certainly helped, but the birds’ fortunes have been raised thanks to a partnership with Natural England, volunteers from the Friends of Lower Derwent Valley and farms throughout the area, through adapting our hay meadow management to help this species flourish.”

Other ground nesting birds including water rails and curlew have also broke recent breeding records at Wheldrake Ings, and two pairs of common terns have bred for the second year following the installation of ‘tern rafts’.