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.
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.