Hello! Apologies for the lack of ‘exciting’ stories of late. I’d love to be able to say I’ve been up to lots of adventuresome things in rainforests or getting stuck in ravines in search of the Holy Grail, but I haven’t. I’ve mostly been spending my spare time making the most of the longer evenings by foraging through local undergrowth in search of mini-beasts, moths and hedge-dwelling avifauna. I’ve also eaten some toast, slept a bit and misidentified Cuckoos.
The Cuckoo is one of those helpful birds that calls out its name to provide assistance in identification. Being distinctive looking birds, a Cuckoo is fairly straightforward to recognise if you see one – Grey back, wings and head and a white and grey striped chest, with bright yellow eyes. They are usually perched in an ungainly fashion on an overhead wire or tree branch and, in flight, have the appearance of a bird of prey – like a Sparrowhawk.
They make an arduous journey between Western Africa (where they spend the winter) and Northern Europe (where they breed). After about an eight-week lay-over in Europe, where they lay a solitary egg in a number of other birds’ nests – this is known as brood parasitism – they head southwards once more.
Recently, I have been hearing Cuckoos calling quite a lot… Or so I thought.
I was walking through a small area of woodland and I heard the unmistakeable call of “Cuckoo… Cuckoo…” and it was close. I stopped for a moment in order to get a better idea of its exact location and quietly crept towards the source of the noise. “Cuckoo… Cuckoo…” – It was getting louder, which suggested to me that I was getting closer. Or, I suppose it may have just increased its volume level… Maybe “Cuckoo… Cuckoo…” in certain circumstances means “Sod off and leave me alone!” Perhaps if I had studied Avian at GCSE instead of French and German, I would have known that. The National Curriculum is so limiting.
I found the tree the bird was perched in and, to my surprise, it was actually a Collared Dove. It was calling “Coo Coo… Coo Coo” which, I guess, is the same as “Cuckoo… Cuckoo…” only delivered with a slightly different regional accent.
Not for the first time in my life, I felt a bit of a fool.
In spite of this setback, I did manage to track down a bona fide Cuckoo… An exciting new addition to the year list.
In Other News…
I took a bit of a wander around Denbies Hillside, which is a lovely part of the North Downs (when the sun’s out). At this time of year, the area isn’t especially good for birds, but is great for butterflies, day-flying moths, various other insects and the odd rodent – Perfect fodder for Fauna Corner.
In order to take close-up photos of winged-things I lost count of the number of times I knelt in stinging nettles. I figured I would either have got stung enough to die in a painful rashy mess by the end of the day, or wake up in the morning with some nettle-related mutant superpower… Given that nettle is another word for irritate or annoy, I’m fairly sure I could probably lay claim to the title of Nettleman anyway, so I imagine there wouldn’t necessarily be a noticeable transformation.
As I got to my feet after photographing a particularly green, particularly shiny, particularly beetley creature (In case you’re wondering, I have no idea what it was!), I happened to notice an interesting pinky, flowery flower (Yep, same as above!)… Just as I was about to take a photo, I stopped myself. I was already on the limit with this year of nature discovery as it was: Fifty-two weeks of birds had already been joined by thirty-seven weeks of butterflies and a whole heap of moths, dragonflies, ladybirds and a near infinite supply of other insects. Adding flowers as a new area of discovery would simply explode my tiny little mind. There was no way I could find the mental resource to curate a, for want of a better title, Flora Corner. Besides, I’m an incredibly manly man, and such high levels of macho-ness and flowers just wouldn’t sit well together. I put my near-dalliance with considering buying an Alan Titchmarsh flower arranging DVD down to an acute case of patellar nettle rash and lowered my camera.
Phew, a lucky escape!