Cuckoos?

By Cuculus_canorus_vogelartinfo_chris_romeiks_CHR0791.jpg: Vogelartinfo derivative work: Bogbumper [GFDL 1.2 (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Cuculus_canorus_vogelartinfo_chris_romeiks_CHR0791.jpg: Vogelartinfo derivative work: Bogbumper [GFDL 1.2 (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
I’ve heard a Cuckoo in Northants this year – but only one. And that was not at my local patch of Stanwick Lakes, despite many visits.

I’ve checked my records, and this is exceptionally late for me NOT to have heard a Cuckoo at Stanwick Lakes.

The Birdtrack records look as though arrivals have been a bit late this year – but not spectacularly so. Maybe it’s just me, or just bad luck. How about you?

cuck

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41 Replies to “Cuckoos?”

  1. Like you, I have only heard Cuckoos in what I would consider absolutely prime habitat - nature reserves where host species are particularly abundant. I have yet to hear one in the wider countryside, even in places where I have heard Cuckoos in the past.

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  2. Yes, the song of the Cuckoo appears to be later than usual this year here in West Sussex. There was nothing before leaving for a week’s trip to Bodmin Moor (3-10 May) where they were already singing very well on arrival.

    But what of the bubbling call (or is it a type of song?) of the female Cuckoo? This has fallen silent in the daily song chart and the CBC maps that have been kept up since 1998 and 1989 respectively. The records will have to be checked but it’s been many, many years since that strange cry has been heard.
    It would be interesting to know if there are similar data sets elsewhere. The problem is that studying avian vocalisation rates and periods seems to have gone out of fashion. A lot was done back in the early first half of the 20th century but now there is very little.
    It would be great to be contradicted on that.

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  3. Heard my first cuckoo of the year yesterday at Queendown Warren Nature Reserve near Sittingbourne in Kent. Can't claim to have been particularly attentive prior to this!

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  4. I have heard one so far near my home town of Olney, Bucks. We usually have quite a few in this neighbourhood so fingers crossed.

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  5. There was one at Stanwick Lakes on Saturday 7th May at around 5.20am. It was flying across the reedbed and calling, near the backless hide. It wasn't there for long, maybe 10 minutes or so. Heard a distant cuckoo call throughout the rest of that morning - we were there doing the first CES ringing session of the year.

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  6. I haven't heard any cuckoos in my local patch this year (c. 6 miles NW of Peterborough). I last heard cuckoos here in 2014. I cycle widely around the local countryside (up to 20-30 miles distant NW of Peterborough) and haven't heard any cuckoos there either. Changing baselines?

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    1. Hello Andy. Agree (if I’ve read you right). Consistent baseline behaviour of the observer is the crux for cracking Cuckoo-type conundrums. Canines walks are one answer. Long cycle rides to and from work, even better.

      Admire your work on mires.

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      1. Hello Murray. I'm afraid I wasn't being very clear. I was thinking more of changing baselines in terms of conservation targets, an issue that George Monbiot has written and talked about. We tend to base our conservation policies on bringing back what existed in an area a generation ago rather than looking back further in time to an even richer fauna and flora. In 20 years time how much will we have missed the cuckoo? When they grow up, will the children in my local patch even realise cuckoos have gone missing?
        You make a good point about sampling. My bike rides are leisure/sporting and I fear they are not consistent enough in terms of route and time of day to provide a good sampling baseline.

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        1. But there are some dramatic re-introductions like Great Bustard and Sea Eagle.
          'Shifting baseline syndrome' is definitely a problem though. Look at the way we have quickly ceased to mourn the passing of the English Elm. Worse than that, we are all now immune to the ubiquitous NPK rye grass pastures that paint the grazing hillsides a monotonous green from one horizon to the next. Those two examples have occurred within one generation, so the concern for succeeding generations re the SBS is deeply worrying.

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          1. Murray - I think you're right about elm - not only mourning their passing but how many realize that they're actually still there, albeit in attenuated form! Fear ash is also about to be airbrushed from history.

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          2. MK: At leastr UK ash trees have a much greater genetic diversity cf. vegetative elm clones (and also, apparently, cf. continental ash).

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  7. We lost our regular calling cuckoo about 10 years ago. My theory would be that the lack of food resources in the wider countryside reached the point that the host species in this ecosystem - mainly dunnock - could no longer keep up with the requirements of the chick.

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  8. Yes, Faint and far away. How are your swallows we only have one pair instead of 5 or more.

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  9. Three so far (although one may have been the same bird again) at Bickerton Hill on the Sandstone Ridge near Malpas in Cheshire. But none nearer home.

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  10. Anyone heard one recently in south Lincolnshire. My last 'hearing' was some time ago now at Gibraltar Point nature reserve but they've been absent there in recent years.

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  11. Heard 2 singing at the same time in the Forest Of Galloway at the weekend, but in Cumbria they seem to be getting less frequent. Is it a Scotland/England split?

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  12. We've heard an occasional call this week at home near Standon, NE Herts after a barren year in 2015. Happy to say I managed to record at least 3 males singing together at Lakenheath, Suffolk last week, including some interesting vocalisations (and bitterns and warblers!).
    https://soundcloud.com/mark-wilkinson1-1/cuckoo-dawn
    The BTO Cuckoo Day at the CCI at the end of April was particularly fascinating, bringing together latest global research updates and artistic perspectives to give a picture of the cuckoo today. Thoroughly recommended if they do it again next year.

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  13. Cuckoos calling in Scourie area in Sutherland on 28th and 30th April, despite fresh snow, hail and sleet the previous few days.

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    1. Scourie area: packed with Cuckoos in 1978 during a two week trek across the moors and mountains in May. Fell asleep to their songs, woke up to them. So many but heard by so few.
      It wasn’t always like that in this dramatic and lonely landscape. And now there’s another cry, one that calls out for a rewilding of these high and lowlands along with a reversing of the not so recent Highland Clearances.

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      1. Of course that should be a reversing of the not so distant Highland Clearances and the recent ‘clearances’ of the young in search of homes and employment.

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  14. PS We talk about "Cuckoos" but shouldn't we be talking about host races maybe some of which have or at great risk of going extinct. Is there any genetic DNA divergence after all they lay different colored eggs.
    Nick Davis on this is worth a listen. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b074xg5c Among other things he suggests that some birds with exotic squiggly egg patterns have outfoxed their cuckoo in the evolutionary race and they have no parasite strain left.

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  15. Heard one this morning! My first, but reports from round 'ere (Bedfordshire) as early as 12 April so I'm told.
    Report from a friend in Reading that swifts were unusually late in appearing and then, even more unusually, were seen before house martins.
    Here we seem to have reasonable numbers of swallows and martins at about the right time, give or take a cold week or two in April. It's the declining numbers of swifts that most concern me - all anecdotal of course but there seem to be fewer each year. The prospect of a summer without them is just awful.

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  16. Two cuckoos here in Derbyshire 27th April, followed by hail, snow and frost and silence. One heard same place 6th May, much better weather.

    This is a bit unusual, the place we hear them is named Cuckoo Stone Lane, so must be very long standing location for them. Usually once heard, they continue. We wondered if the first two moved away/died in the horrible weather and the May cuckoo is a new arrival.

    Tim, I remember the Gibraltar Point cuckoos, many years ago. Used to do residential volunteering when I was in sixth form.

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  17. Are house martins late this year? Ours are not back yet, in the area but not back in their old nest.

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  18. At my nearest nature reserve there are 3, I am told by one of the county recorders, I certainly heard one there today,last year I saw 2 there.

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  19. At least one is in the general Ilkley Moor area as usual, heard and saw it early this year on April 15th. Heard another across the valley a couple of miles away yesterday, again just below moorland. There are still meadow pipits around in these parts, presumably the host species. I don't hear cuckoos in lowland locations these days though, except sometimes at wetland reserves.

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  20. One calling last Saturday just up the road from you Mark at Irthlingborough Lakes and Meadows

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  21. No sign of any on my local patch but I heard a couple of males and a bubbling female at RSPB Fen Drayton on Sunday.

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  22. There were three calling on Cannock Chase (Staffordshire) on Sunday. One calling on 31st April on The Roaches Estate (Staffordshire Peak District).

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  23. I heard two at the weekend and then one today at Fen Drayton lakes, perfect habitat though and sadly I have heard none in the 'Cambridgeshire wild' ( is there such a thing?) for years.

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  24. As Andrew and Murray alluded to above, Nick Davis's book on the cuckoo, "Cheating by Nature" is absolutely masterful and I commend it to anyone even remotely interested in avian parasitism.

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  25. Heard one on the Clashgour estate last week (Sat 30th April). They seem to like Glenkinglass and Glen Etive, often hear them there.

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  26. Heard one on Butser Hill, Hampshire, on Saturday during a Butterfly Conservation members meeting.

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  27. Well, today my luck changed and I heard my first cuckoo from my garden in Helpston NW of Peterborough. It was somewhat distant (maybe a couple of hundred m away) and it didn't call for more than a few minutes, but still heart lifting to hear.

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