Clock this one: the cuckoo!

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The bird we’ve got pictures of in this blog is one you will only hear from April until July, when it migrates back south.

I’ve heard them call from being old enough to hear them, but until now, at 56 years of age, I had never seen one. Neither had Alison.  So this sighting was a first for us, and to be honest with you, we’re still on a high.  Like Alison’s encounter with a nightingale last week, this is one of the finest birding moments yet.

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What can I say?  The cuckoo is one of a kind.  We’ve been pursuing them for ages, often hearing them but not catching a glimpse.  They are not like other birds in that they don’t build a nest, but lay in another bird’s nest.  The female usually lays around 9 eggs, one per nest, between May and June.  They will often choose a dunnock’s nest, or reed warbler, etc., and the cuckoo’s egg will look very similar to the host bird’s eggs.  When the chick hatches, before the other eggs, it uses its back to tip out all the other eggs in the nest, so that it gets the sole attention of the foster parent.

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As the name suggests, the call is a loud “cuckoo” repeated several times.  We heard this one calling and followed the sound, quietly hiding among the trees.  Then it decided to dive down to the ground to pick up some kind of food: insects, moths, caterpillars are its favourites.

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We just stood while it flew down, then it would fly back up into the trees.  As you can see, it’s quite a large bird with greyish bars on its chest, and has beautiful yellow eyes.  The female has brown bars.

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A characteristic of the cuckoo is its low held wings.  Cuckoos are often seen perched on telephone wires or posts around farmland areas, but often you only see them as they fly from tree to tree.

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We were very lucky to be able to stand and watch these cuckoos come and sit on the grass in front of us: a wonderful birding moment, in the right place at the right time again.

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This one has taken a while to be able to capture, but putting the time in and never giving up meant we got there in the end, and the rewards are incredible.

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This was definitely a moment to treasure for us!  If we go cuckoo, who cares! Cuckoo!

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