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:
As I work out some better angles a couple of walkers appear and I see it fly:
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.
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:
There’s a high speed chase across the field with a Meadow Pipit travelling faster than I thought was possible:
The Cuckoo has its head down and is flapping furiously.
Amazingly the Meadow Pipit catches up with the Cuckoo and gives it a furious tweak to its tail.
It’s a constant struggle.
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.
I want to come back tomorrow.