Corncrakes (Crex crex) are related to moorhens, coots and rails but differ from most members of the family because they live on dry land. They are very secretive, spending most of their time hidden in tall vegetation, their presence only betrayed by their rasping call. Corncrakes nest and rear their young in tall grass or herbaceous vegetation, such as nettles, cow parsley or yellow flag (iris). Sometimes they will use standing crops of oats and barley in late summer, after the hay fields have been mown. The Corncrake (Crex crex) is a globally threatened species, classified as ‘vulnerable’ at both world and European level and listed in Annex I of the Birds Directive and Appendix II of the Bern Convention. In Slovenia, no conservation measures have been introduced specifically for Corncrakes, however an important concentration of this species (ca. 250 singing males) can be found in the area surrounding Lake Cerknisko, in the flat fields of Ljubljansko barje and along the Nanoščica River. These three key sites are not protected, and before this LIFE project no measures had been undertaken to promote the adequate management of these areas. Historically the three areas included large tracts of grassland, which were managed to provide fodder for livestock and hay for local farmers. However, traditional agriculture practices are no longer profitable and are being abandoned, with a consequent exodus from rural areas. Abandoned land eventually leads to the development of vegetation, which is too dense for Corncrakes. In other areas, on the contrary, the problem is due to the intensification of agriculture, with a conversion to crop production, early grass mowing and the fertilization of meadows.
The main objective of the LIFE kosec (Crex Crex) project was the preparation and creation of conservation tools for the long term successful protection of Crex crex in Slovenia and speeding up the process of adoption of the European Union’s Birds Directive in Slovenian legislation. To influence major threats to Crex crex on ground level, the project aimed to produce appropriate habitat management solutions and educate local farmers and land owners about how to manage habitats in a bird-friendly way and how to obtain additional funding for such management. Additionally, the project aimed to raise awareness among the general public, local stakeholders and decision-makers on local and national level.
The project was carried out successfully and achieved good results. One of the main results is the elaboration of an Action Plan for Corncrake 2005-2015 and a National Monitoring Scheme for the Corncrake which includes detailed data. The Action Plan is a crucial document for the long term protection of Crex crex in Slovenia. Another significant result of the project is the introduction of a new Agri – Environmental Scheme for the protection of the Corncrake and other endangered wet grassland birds in priority Natura 2000 sites. This scheme falls within the Rural development Programme for the Republic of Slovenia 2007- 2013 and was introduced in cooperation with the Ministry for Agriculture, Forestry and Food. The new scheme offers new incentives to farmers for Corncrake habitat management in key Natura 2000 sites. To increase the potential habitat for Crex crex, plots of land were to be leased/purchased in the three sites (area surrounding Lake Cerknisko, in the flat fields of Ljubljansko barje and along the Nanoščica River). At the Lake Cerknisko, the lease and purchase of land exceeded what was planned at the beginning of the project. At Ljubljansko barje, the purchase of land was realised to a minimal extent, however the total area of land (incl. leased land) is also larger than foreseen at the outset. The habitats were not managed entirely as planned due to the delay in the leasing/purchasing of land and because of poor weather conditions during the summer of 2005 and 2006. Good practice recommendations for purchasing farm land from private landowners were drafted by the Municipality of Cerknica, a partner in the project. An innovative bird friendly mowing technique was successfully tested during the project. Initially the farmers reacted negatively to using the new technique, however it was finally accepted and widely demonstrated in the project areas. In fact the technique became a symbol of bird friendly grasslands management and was presented in the project’s leaflet and brochure. In the Ljubljansko barje project area the bird watching observatory was built in a very innovative way from the design point of view. Natural and local materials were used to integrate the object into the delicate wet grassland landscape in a very sensitive and discrete way. The architectural elements of the birdwatching observatory at the Iški Morost Nature reserve may be used within other visitor infrastructure in the future Landscape Park Ljubljansko barje. Excellent communication and cooperation was established with the responsible public institutions in the field of Agriculture and Rural Development and especially with advisory organisations for farmers and local farmers. This anticipates good conditions for a long term management of the project areas. Te After LIFE Conservation plan indicates that the beneficiary, DOPPS-BirdLife Slovenia, is committed to continuing the project activities. DOPPS-BirdLife Slovenia has a leading position among national NGOs with wide support among the general public and stakeholders. This project has been selected as one of the 26 “Best” LIFE Nature projects in 2007-2008.
Coordinator: DOPPS BirdLife Slovenia
Partners: Municipality of Cerknica, Slovenia; Municipality of Ljubljana, Slovenia
Co-financiers: Ministry for Environment and Spatial Planning of republic of Slovenia and Municipality of Postojna
Total budget: 809,024.00 €
EU contribution: 606,768.00 €
Duration: 01-JAN-2004 to 31-MAR-2007