Tuesday, May 04, 2010

On hearing the first cuckoo....

The early morning is good. Just the dog and I and the world fresh, clean and green. For a few moments, before I go back to the house and another busy day kicks in, there is time to draw breath.
















Wow! What was that? From the dingle below me comes the unmistakable call of a Cuckoo, the sound rising up to fill the still air.

Its a nasty bird really - its only redeeming feature being that distinctive call - a quintessential sound of spring. I believe they are in decline - odd for a bird with such a strong sense of preservation. Perhaps the long haul from Africa has taken its toll - as it seems to have done with our swallows this year. Indeed this is the first one I have heard for a while, - I can clearly remember the last few occasions; 2 years ago on the Stiperstones, 6 years ago in a village up the road and 10 years ago in north Yorkshire. This may partly be due to the fact we lived in Stockport for over 20 years and while we were lucky enough to spot kingfishers very close to the town's horrid shopping precinct, the Cuckoo was never heard.

It was certainly a sound of my childhood in south Warwickshire. We three children would discuss it's traits as we rambled along the lanes to school or scrambled at play through ditch and hedge. Someone swore they never sang when they were flying. Never. I'm still not sure. We did 'bird-nesting' - although I can't remember ever taking an egg - in search of 'a cuckoo in the nest'. And no, we never found one.

The nearest we got I suppose was one of my brothers running excitedly to our teacher, Miss Charles. 'There's a cuckoo in the hedge' he squealed, pointing to the hedge of ubiquitous privet that bounded Moreton Morrell School's playground. Miss Charles was excited too and scurried over to gently part the branches and peer inside the better to see the unexpected visitor. No Cuckoo was to be seen. She wasn't to know that the infant brother - perhaps barely 4 years old - had a pet name for a ball - inexplicably balls were called 'cuckoos'. Somebody had lobbed a ball into the hedge and as far as he was concerned there was a cuckoo there....I imagine his big bossy sister (moi) explained all to Miss Charles, who probably tutted and blew the whistle which signalled the end of play.

It's quite possible we all trouped in for our singing lesson on the wireless, 'Singing Together' which introduced us to the country's traditional music, folk songs and ballads. This would have certainly been one of the songs we learned:

O the cuckoo she's a pretty bird
She singeth as she flies;
She bringeth good tidings,
She telleth no lies.
She sucketh white flowers
For to keep her voice clear;
And the more she singeth "Cuckoo"
The summer draweth near.

11 comments:

her at home said...

Once saw a rather stressed and diminutive mother bird attempting to feed her vast and stepchick when camping in Devon years ago, it is the only time I have ever seen a cuckoo. But fear not they may be in decline in the Uk but here in Brittany the cuckoos, the starlings and the swallows are doing fine thank you...

Elizabethd said...

They are indeed. We heard our first cuckoos about a week ago They always nest in roughly the same area.
But today I had a Sparrow hawk who arrogantly alighted next to the bird feeder with a glint in his eye. He got yelled at very quickly.

Frances said...

Well mountainear, I certainly don't see or hear cuckoos on my city block, but surely do enjoy reading about them and their ways.

Thank you!

Pondside said...

No cuckoos over here, but I well remember hearing them when we lived in the Schwarzwald of Germany. Over here it's gulls and ravens, eagles and Stellar's Jays.

rachel said...

I don't think I've heard a cuckoo since I was a girl!

Twiglet said...

I haven't heard a cuckoo since I moved down here. We always heard them each year, when I was a child in Minsterley - but that was many, many years ago!!!!

snailbeachshepherdess said...

What I always wondered was ...does the cuckoo cuckoo in Africa when it spemds the winter there - or is it only here?

mollygolver said...

Not heard the cuckoo yet this side of the hill - quite a few swallows about though warbling and wittering on the telephone wires and seeing who can make a direct hit on our car.

SmitoniusAndSonata said...

Well, I have heard a cuckoo clock cuckoo; and I just clicked on my Ipod Touch to consult the British Birds app to see if I had ever heard a real cuckoo... and I don't think I have.... but at least I visited a corner of the countryside in my study today!

elizabethm said...

I heard ours about a week ago from further up the valley. It is a lovely evocative sound from a bird with such aggressive characteristics! The sound of a childhood summer.

Nikki-ann said...

I don't think I've heard the cuckoo about here. Though I often here the owl hooting loudly when I'm walking home from the pub or a friends... I'm sure it's trying to scare me or something!