Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Cuckoo arrives

Last week  the first day of spring greeted us with snowy hill tops. At the beginning of this week we truly heard that spring was indeed here as the sound of the cuckoo echoed around the valley. Big excitement in our family as we stood in the garden listening. By the sound of it the bird that was calling was not far away. As we could not see the bird we assume it was a Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) (formerly European Cuckoo) which will have arrived here from Africa for the breeding season, I thought I spotted one when we where on our way back from the coast last week but had not heard one till Sunday. In flight, the Cuckoo can be easily mistaken for a Kestrel or Sparrowhawk because it has swept-back wings and long tail. However, Sparrowhawks do not have pointed wings like the Cuckoo, and the Kestrel is streaked and not barred on the underparts.I have seen cuckoos at close quarters  in UK so I am pretty sure it was one. Its well know that these birds are brood parasites, laying there eggs in other birds nest, and this gives them a rather bad reputation. The common cuckoo starts to breed at 2 years. When it is ready to lay the hen cuckoo flies down to the host's nest, pushes one egg out, lays an egg and flies off. The whole process takes about 10 seconds. A female may visit up to 50 nests during a breeding season.  The expression "a cuckoo in the nest" is used to denote a thing or person who is out of place, unwanted.

The evocotive sound of the cuckoo in spring however is very welcome as it heralds a new season, it is the male who has the familar cuckoo cuckoo call.
An old British saying goes:

In April I open my bill
In May I sing night and day
In June I change my tune
In July far far I fly
In August away I must

It seems here in Spain for April we should read March.

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