There is a giant ash tree above my writing hut, lofty and apparently in good health. Touch wood. It’s become the cuckoo’s favourite perch – stud-post, to be more technical. It’s become a favourite place, from which he can belt out his unchanging plea for female company.
I’ve been able to see him in glimpses as he flies to and from the ash, those sharp-pointed wings scissoring the air. Today there was a second cuckoo, alas for the ash-bird, another male, calling from across the wet, low-lying common.
So there was a streak of wings from the ash as the home bird went nee-nawing off to sort out the intruder, and after that a return flight. Then the calling began all over again, with the joy of conquest giving added intensity to the call.
No idea if there’s been a female cuckoo around: all I know is that I haven’t heard one all spring and I’ve been around most of the time. The male’s call sounded optimistic to the point of rhapsody in April; it’s sounding a little desperate in June.
Eddie and I had time for a stroll round the marsh in the evening, and as the vegetation rises higher every day, the flags are flying yellow along the dike. We sat and had a listen for a while: the din from the heronry in our ears. Up to eight occupied nests there, I learned, from the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) volunteer who did the survey.
Five species of warbler were in good voice. I’m eager to get Eddie to recognise the voice of willow warbler, for there has been a male singing from our own scrap of marsh all spring. It’s the bird I’ve wanted more than any other. Last year there was a willow warbler singing just next door, on my neighbour’s land.
But in April a male started to sing from a clump of alders on our own bit and I willed him to stay and make the place his own. He seems to
have done just that: I hope with more success than the cuckoo. The world needs more willow warblers.
Eddie heard the sweet song lisping down the scale, and we waited until he had done it a few more times. Listen to it here http://www.bing.com/search?q=blows%20willow%20warbler&pc=cosp&ptag=A9C7EDF55B3&form=CONMHP&conlogo=CT3210127
It’s the voice of spring. We need to cherish it.