Today, we had a visitor. Year after year without fail, this visitor makes it’s way from Sub Saharan Africa to grace our shores for a few short months.
And she’s obviously happy to be here after flying 4,500 kilometres. If I’d clocked up those kilometres, I’d go around shouting my name out too. CUCKOO, CUCKOO- I’M BACK!!
Excitement about the cuckoo is something that is passed down in the O’Shea family gene pool. Apparently, the great sadness of my grandpa’s declining years was the fact that he could no longer hear the cuckoo call, due to increasing deafness.
Grandpa passed this cuckoo love on to my father. Back in the 1970’s, we lived in Cornwall. Every Sunday in April, dad would insist that we went out into the wilds in an attempt to hear the cuckoo. It was probably a bit of ‘Wild Goose’ chase, if you pardon the pun. The significant thing I took from all this was that hearing the cuckoo was an important and serious civic duty.
It is such an important event that I log the date in my diary every year. I also tell all my April glamping guests about the cuckoo and encourage them to listen out for him.
I have to say, that given the way she behaves when she gets here, she probably doesn’t deserve such a warm welcome. In fact, if I was a Meadow Pipit, Dunnock, Robin or Pied Wagtail, I’d be rightly fed up to hear she’s back in town.
She is what is known as a known as a, ‘brood parasite,’ which may sound a bit harsh.
What it means, is that she lays her eggs in other birds nests, fooling them into doing all the work of raising her babies. In the meantime, she sneakily removes the eggs of her host and eats them!
Here in Ireland, the cuckoo abuses the poor Meadow Pipit so badly, that in the Irish language it’s called, ‘Banaltra na Cuaice’, which translates as the Cuckoo’s nurse.
So what else do we know about this exotic visitor? Well according to the traditional nursery rhyme:
The Cuckoo comes in April
She sings her song in May
She changes her tune
In the month of June
And July she flies away
We also know that number are declining, so that’s a bit of a worry. In Britain, their numbers have halved since 1995. A marked decline is also occurring in Ireland and other parts of Europe. I’m always relieved when she arrives back to us. I’m also happy that she flew back in time for me to hail her as HARBINGER OF SPRING on S Day!