Cuckoos at Emsworthy Mire

I’ve seen a Cuckoo before, but only the outline of a bird perched in the distance. I’d love to see one properly. There are reports of them at Emsworthy Mire on Dartmoor, so I set off in the morning to see if I can hear one and maybe get a photograph.

As soon as I arrive I can hear them. There are at least three. There’s the familiar Cu-ckoo sound coming in very different tones from opposite directions and a strange churring which I soon realise must be the female. Then I see one perched on a bare branch:

Cuckoo - Emsworthy Mire - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

As I work out some better angles a couple of walkers appear and I see it fly:

Cuckoo - Emsworthy Mire - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

I’m in love with them already. They are so hawk-like they look like fast birds of prey. They never seem to be more than a few feet off the ground.

Cuckoo - Emsworthy Mire - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

They’ve evolved to mimic the egg patterns of their hosts and also the body colour and pattern of Sparrowhawks. Here, they’re searching for the nests of Meadow Pipits. Naturally the Meadow Pipits aren’t very happy about that and there appears to be some furious mobbing going on:

Cuckoo - Emsworthy Mire - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

There’s a high speed chase across the field with a Meadow Pipit travelling faster than I thought was possible:

Cuckoo - Emsworthy Mire - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

The Cuckoo has its head down and is flapping furiously.

Cuckoo - Emsworthy Mire - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Amazingly the Meadow Pipit catches up with the Cuckoo and gives it a furious tweak to its tail.

Cuckoo - Emsworthy Mire - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

It’s a constant struggle.

Cuckoo - Emsworthy Mire - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

It’s entertaining to see Cuckoos on the ground. I’ve been here all morning and haven’t see a single hairy caterpillar, yet I watch a Cuckoo perch, fly down and catch a large hairy caterpillar several times. It appears to be just one of their superpowers.

Cuckoo - Emsworthy Mire - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

They’re spectacular.

Cuckoo - Emsworthy Mire - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

I want to come back tomorrow.

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