Pic of stonechat attached for roundell

More Great Cuckoo News

I have been very pleased not only with the number of sightings of cuckoos but with the quantity of sightings sent to me, thanks very much to everyone who responded. It seems our cuckoos are not doing so badly as last year, although as always this is just my gut feeling not a scientific analysis and I believe cuckoo numbers continue to fall dramatically nationally.

Swaledale Cuckoos

Roger Brownbridge and his wife Mary heard one at Muker on June 4. Also in Swaledale, Jen and Jon Dening heard one calling ‘cuck-cuckoo’, and were perplexed about this. “However on reading our bird book, we discovered that they do this if stressed!” Jeff Loffill, “clearly heard a cuckoo on June 3, in Knaresborough. I was quite excited as the last one I heard was five years ago in Swaledale and wondered when I’d hear another.”

Nidderdale Cuckoos

Nidderdale cuckoos include from Jean Ogden who has “heard the annual cuckoo that we get near Bewerley last month and still singing now. Also I had to usher two greylag with young ones from road between Bewerley and Dacre.” Susan Hockey lives on the Nidderdale Way in Upper Nidderdale on the hillside above Newhouses. “There’s been a cuckoo in the wood above our house since early May. We hear it regularly.” Geoff Deighton “heard one in Nun Monkton May 31.” Not really Nidderdale, but over the top in Dallowgill, Patrice and Phil Lyth have been hearing a cuckoo since the end of April.

Wharfedale Cuckoos

Wendy Binns, from Tadcaster, writes, “during half term I was walking in the Dales between Yockenthwaite and Hubberholme and could hear the cuckoo quite clearly. It was the first I had heard this year. The sound seemed to follow me right from Hubberholme along the valley to Yockenthwaite and then we returned via the top route and the sound got closer and closer. Then I realised that I could hear two cuckoos. I have never ever seen a cuckoo, but think I photographed a male and female.” I’m concerned that folk like Wendy of working age and who clearly enjoy the countryside have never seen a cuckoo, it amply illustrates the huge decline in these enigmatic birds, very worrying. In fact a look at the BTO website reveals a 48 per cent decline in cuckoos over the past 14 years. Sadly it seems nobody knows why this should be. There is a difference between male and female cuckoos and this is well illustrated on the RSPB website. The juvenile cuckoo is much browner than its parents and this could account for the brown colouration on Wendy’s photograph, because the bird seems to have a brown head which is missing on the female, which has a brownish chest whilst the male’s chest is greyer. A word of caution, however, the incubation period for juveniles is 11 to 13 days and the fledging period is 17 to 21 days, a total of at least 28 days (Source BTO) meaning the cuckoo laid its egg in early May, perhaps a tad early this late spring, although the photo is convincingly a juvenile. Just between you and me I didn’t realise that there was a difference in plumage between male and female cuckoos until I researched Wendy’s email, you learn something every day and at my age forget two things!

John Cooke from Wetherby writes, “I recently started my annual walk from Bolton Abbey up to Simon’s seat. For several years past now I have heard a cuckoo calling when I have just passed through the gate onto Barden Fell. This year I had to walk a couple of hundred yards before I heard a cuckoo. I was very pleased and relieved. On my way up the hill I spotted a pair of stonechats and at the very top of Simon’s Seat I heard a cuckoo calling from the direction of Skyreholme and at the end of my walk near to the Cavendish Pavilion I heard another cuckoo. Normally I only hear a cuckoo on Barden Fell, whether they were three separate birds I could not say. Either way it was a lovely treat.” I had a trip out with Robert Brown recently to Barden Reservoirs to watch cuckoos, maybe that area is a cuckoo hotspot? It seems most cuckoos are now found on the moorland fringes, perhaps where meadow pipits are more numerous.

BTO and Cuckoos

Finally if your interest in cuckoos is stirred you might wish to follow the fascinating journeys of radio tagged birds, google BTO cuckoo tracking and follow the fascinating journeys of around 18 cuckoos from all parts of the UK, although sadly not Yorkshire, what an oversight. These birds according to the rhyme will “fly away” in July when their journeys really will become amazing. You can also purchase a cuckoo sponsorship pack which might just help this enigmatic bird’s survival.