I believe that some things are embedded so deep in our DNA that they cause the heart to lift whenever you hear them. Cuckoos have played a role in human culture for thousands of years, appearing in Greek mythology as sacred to the goddess Hera, in Europe they are associated with the return of Spring and in Shakespeare’s Love’s Labours Lost the cuckoo is associated with cuckoldry.
The Cuckoo has, historically, heralded the start of Spring and indeed in the middle ages people believed the cuckoo actually brought the Spring with them. Farm workers were given the day off when the first cuckoo was heard and it’s arrival was celebrated by drinking ‘cuckoo ale’. It was a sign that Winter was over and you’d managed to eke out your harvest and survive. Cuckoo Festivals are still held in villages across the UK.
I’ll be honest it’s a few years since I last heard a cuckoo in Sutton Park. I was leading a group over Watership Down and we could hear the cuckoo call in the woods over to our left near Banners Gate (parkrun start). Their numbers have declined significantly in recent years so that they are now on the UK Conservation Red list. I’ve noticed many of you are walking in woods near to your homes so listen out and please let me know if you hear one. The rest of us might, sadly have to make do with the recording: https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/cuckoo/
The cuckoo is a dove-sized bird with blue grey upper parts, head and chest with dark barred white under parts. With their sleek body, long tail and pointed wings they are not unlike kestrels or sparrowhawks. Sexes are similar and the young are brown. They are summer visitors and well-known brood parasites, the females laying their eggs in the nests of other birds.
After the rain and grey skies this week we could do with the return of Spring so let’s listen out for the Cuckoo and hope he’s bringing it back with him!