A cuckoo was seen, or maybe just heard, down the road from me in east Northants yesterday – brave bird! My earliest record for the last decade or so is 15 April but I’ll have to keep my eyes and ears open for sightings and hearings over the next week.
There have been a few records on Birdtrack for over a fortnight – some of those cuckoos must have realised that they should have stayed south for a while longer.
But the BTO project on tracking cuckoos shows us that Martin, Chris and Kasper have all crossed the Sahara and the leading bird, Martin, is back in southern Spain and heading our way. If anyone has Martin’s phone number it might be worth telling him not to rush back – enjoy the sun down in Spain. The temperature in Valencia yesterday was 22C and will get up to 28C by Tuesday whereas here in the Nene Valley it’ll be a rainy and chilly 12C for the next few days.
This tracking project is brilliantly entertaining – for the first time we can see spring heading towards us in almost real time.
Martin seems to have been deliberately clocking up countries on his migration. Travelling through France and Italy on his way south he has added Spain on the way back, but in between has steered a course almost designed to add as many North African countries as possible to his list; Libya, Niger, Chad, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Cameroon, Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Mali and Algeria.
Martin passed close to Paris and Rome on the way south but seemed to want to check out Timbuktu on the way back.
What things he has seen, if he has been looking , and what a bird list he might have accumulated.
And what people he has passed over and by. According to the World Bank, France is the country with the highest per capita GDP on his journey, with the wealthy French each being worth about US$44000 per annum in comparison to the Democratic Republic of Congo where the equivalent figure is US$210 – one 200th that of the French figure (and that for you and I, more or less).
Martin was captured near Great Yarmouth on 19 May 2011 in the country ranked 28th in the world by the UN Human Development Index but in his recent peregrinations he has visited five of the lowest 10 countries in the world.
I’d like a chat with Martin, and Kasper and Chris, when they get back to the UK. What do they make of what they have seen whilst they have been away? What do they think of the differing fates of people in the countries they have passed through? Yes, countries are just lines on a map, and are the product of quirks of human history, but they have real consequences for the people enveloped by those lines. What do those cuckoos think of the state of affairs they have seen on their travels?
Yes we are now in the position to learn much more of the migration of cuckoos but I am looking forward to the next technological breakthrough when we can learn from those cuckoos on their return. If we could put them on the TV when they get back, I wonder what would they tell us of how we run the planet.