Wednesday, 9 May 2012


Yesterday I heard my first cuckoo of the year, and according to old legend this heralds the start of spring. Well, I think the cuckoos are a bit late for the start of spring. Folk law normally gives the first week of April (often the 7th) as the date of the cuckoo's first call, so it was about a month late yesterday. Myths about this bird being the forbearer of storms however seemed more accurate as hours after hearing it I was stood on top of Coniston Old Man in horizontal sheet hail. But that might have had more to do with being high up in the clouds than this lovely bird further down the mountainside.

Cuckoos are only around in the UK for a few months, which is probably why they are so closely linked to the coming of spring. By July and August they'll be heading back to Africa for the rest of the year. Over the last twelve months there's been a very high profile research project by the BTO to find out a bit more about where cuckoos go when they're not in the UK. The project is important not just because cuckoos are one of the migrants we know least about but also because they are a Red Listed species, they've halved in numbers during my lifetime.

The project used radio trackers attached to five cuckoos to discover the migration route and stop of points from the UK down to Africa, and back again. So far two have returned and the project hopes to continue this year, spreading to Scottish and Welsh birds too.

To find out more about this amazing project have a look here,  and keep your ears open for that iconic sound. It might even be one of the very special BTO birds!

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