My farmer friend Duncan told me he hadn’t yet heard a Cuckoo this year when I saw him this morning – and I told him that, for the first time since 2014, I’d heard one from the garden. Such are the sharing of bird observations that happen all over and which tend to form a tentative opinion in one’s mind as to whether it is a good or bad year for a particular species. These shared observations are interesting but, of course, they don’t add up to much in the way of evidence unless one has hundreds of friends who are reliable observers spread all over the country. That’s what the Breeding Bird Survey is – with thousands of observers carrying out standardised observations at randomly selected locations. But, if it goes ahead at all, we’ll have to wait a good 10 months or so for the results of this year’s BBS, and having a quick look at Birdtrack reporting rates is usually a good indication of what’s going on – a teaser at least.
But this year the change in birders’ behaviour has meant that reporting rates are all awry from usual. It’s quite good to see that, it’s a bit like an experiment that has worked.
So it you look at the reporting rate for Cuckoo you find this:
It looks as though Cuckoo ‘numbers’ are a bit delayed and a bit lower than usual, although not by very much, and just perhaps things have recovered in the last couple of weeks. This is just for fun, but I have a feeling that this year has been a good year for Cuckoos (in England) and that if we had all been running around with ur binoculars in a normal way then thuis year’a line would be above the historal average. That’s my hunch. Maybe this will show up in the BBS figures next year. I’ll remember to look and tell you whether I was right or not.
But I’ll also keep an eye on Cuckoo reporting rate for the rest of 2020 and see what that looks like.
Here’s the reporting rate for a bird I rarely see these days, the Spotted Flycatcher:
Crash in numbers or restricted access to the countryside (esp Wales and Scotland?). Who knows?