Monday, 21 May 2018

Going cuckoo at Otmoor
Cuckoo at Otmoor by Sally Douglas.

Going cuckoo at Otmoor

One of the first sounds that Spring is really here is the voice of the cuckoo and this May at Otmoor has not disappointed . Cuckoos arrive in the UK from tropical Africa and are only here from about mid April to July or early August. Juveniles really never see their parents and they tend to stay on, leaving the country in late August or into early September.

Watching two cuckoos fly over Greenaways ,it's amazing that they make this long journey, as the flight looks rather unstable and even a bit wobbly! The wings are long and pointed with fast shallow wing beats, they can look a bit like a small falcon and with several hobbys also on Greenaways, you have to view twice to see which bird you are looking at. Cuckoos also have the long tail, colouring and rather small head of a sparrowhawk and are sometimes confused with them.

Male cuckoos are greyish with blackish barring, females have a browner tinge on the breast and upper parts. When perched on a wire or post you can see the bright yellow legs and eye. The diet is a bit strange as they are able to eat all types of caterpillar , especially the hairy ones which are posionous to other birds.
The familiar 'cuc-coo 'call is far reaching and there is also a short chattering call sometimes heard when two males meet. Females have a bubbling, liquid chuckle, sometimes thought to be produced when an egg has just been laid in another bird's nest !

Sadly cuckoos have declined in recent years and as they spend 7 or 8 months away from the UK ,there is currently ongoing research to discover more about their movements. So hopefully the call of our most famous summer visitor will be heard for many more years to come.

Report by Colin Strudwick.