The cuckoo must be the most distinctive and widely known song in the world. Cuckoo clocks – who hasn’t heard one? Real cuckoos are often heard, but rarely seen, partly because the song echoes so far over the terrain.
April, come she will
May she will stay
June, she’ll change her tune
July, she must fly
August, go she must. [trad.]
I was walking on the links at Hunstanton on Sunday. Yes, I was on a golf course again, but only watching my team in a match (they drew, which is fine in an away match). The cuckoos were easily heard, and I couldn’t work out how many there were, mostly up at the far end of the course where it meets some trees and a bit of wetland. It must be a good patch for them to find suitable surrogate mothers.
According to my BTO guidance on songs and calls, it’s mainly the males that do the cuckooing, so it can be called a song, rather than a call, which females do too. I began to think there was more than one male present, since there was such a lot of cuckooing going on. Then I saw one fly around the trees where I was standing. It was quite close, and looked rather like a droopy wing pigeon, dark grey, and flapping with a sort of elongated downbeat. I rarely see more than one each year, and mostly it’s my local one that I spot sitting on a wire, once a season. So I was pleased to get a good view of this one.
A little later, three flew past, separated by several yards, but in a single line, as if following the leader. I reckon there was one female in the area, and suitable host nests, so the three were vying for the attention of the one female.
I wonder when they’ll change their tune? There was one cuck-cuckooing, so it’ll probably be after a successful mating. Then they go to coo-cuck. And not long after, they start leaving.
BTO Cuckoo tracking
The BTO have been tracking cuckoos for three or four years now, to learn more about their journeys. It’s fascinating how they take two main routes through Europe, then heard across the Sahara to different parts of Africa, but move around during our winter season as well.
You can see the details and pick a cuckoo to track at these Cuckoo project pages.
This is part of my #30DaysWild challenge. You can still join in – maybe once or twice a week.
Did you see my interview with Don Massenzio at the weekend? Check it out here!