Thursday, 20 April 2017

Cuckoo Trouble

There’s a very tall metal post on the edge of the common; I think its some kind of beacon connected to the nearby small airport, but it’s rarely vacant. This morning a kestrel was perched on top and on my way home a buzzard displaced a loud carrion crow. These isolated posts are used all the time, particularly on the estuary, where there’s a series of wooden stakes way out from the shore, probably a relic of the fishing industry. I spotted my first spring osprey of the year on one of these this morning. If there’s a heat haze it’s often difficult to be confident of what’s there, but today’s early cool air presented no problems. Ospreys have been arriving for weeks now and many are already back at their nest sites. We have them on the Dyfi Estuary north of here, and a pair is already busy nest-building. It’s now their third year at this Wildlife Trust reserve, but they still haven’t brought off any young. State of the art visitor viewing facilities are in place, and we all keep our fingers crossed that this year’s birds will stay and oblige.

In Scotland, where there are now about 200 nesting pairs, ospreys are big news and big business. Radio tracked individuals have been followed from the nest to West Africa and back. Yesterday’s news from the Scottish Wildlife Trust reports the first egg laid at the Loch Low nest was between 7.30 and 8.40 am; I wonder what pioneering ornithologists would have made of all this.

Hearing my first cuckoo each year is very special. Soft and distant at Oxwich Marsh, it captures the magic of spring in a moment of pure exhilaration. A few miles away on Ryers Down another, hotly pursued by meadow pipits is soon out of sight. Such a fundamental part of our British summer, it’s hard to imagine the countryside without them, but unlike ospreys, they’re in big trouble. I can't imagine life without cuckoos, a bird woven into our culture in so many ways.

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