Cuckoos – good year or bad year?

Cuckoo. Photo: Paul Sterry

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:

https://app.bto.org/birdtrack/explore/graph/graph_report_rate.jsp

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:

https://app.bto.org/birdtrack/explore/graph/graph_report_rate.jsp

Crash in numbers or restricted access to the countryside (esp Wales and Scotland?). Who knows?

Cuckoo. Photo: Tim Melling
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8 Replies to “Cuckoos – good year or bad year?”

  1. Here in our wee glen, upper Lossie, Moray, we have had at least 4 cuckoos around us. This seems to be a good year for them here. Beautiful sound in the mornings having my cup of tea in the garden.

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  2. Once again just reporting Otmoor Mark, it seems to be quite good year for cuckoos with for or five males calling over the whole Reserve and the occasional female chortling away. As I left the Reserve later this afternoon ( Otmoor is now open apart from the hides and narrow paths to the hides) a cuckoo was calling close to the car park.

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  3. On the basis of doing intensive (every 3-4 days) warbler surveys in deepest Cambridgeshire sine late March, cuckoos are more obvious this year than recent years. Add to that yesterday's 05.40 wake up call from a cuckoo in search of warbler nests on the adjacent lake, and I think they are busier this year.....

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    1. tim - thank you. That's interesting and while your observations are just local and personal, they reinforce my supposition that it's a good Cuckoo year this year.

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  4. I've been able to get onto parts of the North York Moors during lockdown and there have been a fair few about consistently. At least 6-7 spots with calling males that are clearly separate birds/territories (either far apart enough, or where I've heard two at the same time from different directions). Possibly up to 9-10. Glimpsed female birds in a few places too.

    Might just be me being more alert to them and focusing on my local area more, not sure. But they seem to be doing well.

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  5. Just up the road from you Mark at Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows there have been 2 calling males. They can separated by call, one of them has a croaky voice and has been present at this site for the last 2 years. I heard a female calling earlier this year and a male was still calling on Monday morning. Unfortunately, in all of the years I have been birding at this site, I have never found a juvenile.

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