from Simon Barnes
Still calling, this fellow. Been hard at it since the last week in April.
Eddie and I walked out onto the marsh and at once the cuckoo called cuckoo. Last chance, last chance in 2017 to meet a handsome cuckoo itching to make more cuckoos.
They love this watery valley, the cuckoos, and every year we’ve been here – this is our fifth spring – a cuckoo has sung hard for a good six weeks. Not much longer to go, then.
This year has been different. I’ve heard a female cuckoo on at least two occasions. (Same girl? Or two different ones?) The females don’t cuckoo, they make a rich, satisfied bubbling call that hangs in the air. Every chance, then, that this has been a happy spring. For the cuckoos, anyway.
Perhaps not for a luckless pair of reed warblers, saddled with the job of bringing up an overwhelming cuckoo chick, but things get complicated when you get sentimental about nature. It’s not as if a cuckoo has a moral choice about infant-care, or as if we had a duty to impose our own notions of morality onto cuckookind.
The facts is that the struggle to become an ancestor will continue for as long as life still lasts — in a million baffling and bewildering ways.
Soon enough the cuckoos will be heading south, to the rainforests of West Africa. The adult birds will mostly be retracing routes that have flown before: but what of that chick? Say that he is
successfully reared by those red warblers: how does he know where to go? How does he know to go at all? No one will tell him that staying on would be death, that there are no caterpillars to tide a cuckoo over an English winter.
Somehow, the young cuckoo will realise that he is not a reed warbler, but a cuckoo who must seek his own destiny. He will fly southwest, over-winter, and if all goes well, fly back north to seek a female. He will enjoy her company for the briefest of brief spans and then trust her with the task of artfully disposing of the resulting egg. And so become an ancestor.
Cuckoo! How does he even know how to sing that briefest and most compelling of songs?
Here’s Eddie’s blog: