I heard my first cuckoo of the year last night, as I emerged from the wood after a spot of badger watching. One badger had shown itself and had spent a few minutes dragging fresh bedding back to the sett in a comical reverse hop-shuffle. The light became too low for photography in the woods, so I crept away and emerged through the tree line to see the sun sinking behind the still un-leaved tree tops of the lower reaches of Plashes Wood. The last radiating touches slipped away, leaving the valley in a golden grey half-light. To the peaceful scene the almost plaintive call of a cuckoo drifted to my ear, the first I have heard this year.
It is so sad to realise that this iconic herald of spring is now a red list species in the UK, its breeding numbers now down to only 10-20,000. I have seen one only once and that was in-flight, despite living in its ideal habitat (though this may be more of a reflection of my bird-watching skills). It was quite distinctive, with a long tail and swept back wings – almost ungainly. We have heard them every year since we’ve lived in the valley. I hope the day never comes when we don’t hear it again.
Another first for the year tonight, a spotted flycatcher. It perched and caught flies from the bare twigged branches of the ash tree. It’s been a good week.