Monday, 16 May 2016

Great Spotted Cuckoo

The bird was first flagged on the Friday, but would have been the subject a major twitch over the weekend. We had given it a couple of days for the numbers to die down a bit, but in the end the chance of seeing a Great Spotted Cuckoo was too much of a draw. Early Monday morning and we headed off west along the A27 attempting to beat the usual traffic jams.

We had a plan. Great Spotted Cuckoo in the morning and then if nothing else was showing in Portland we would head north to Cotley Hill to see the Marsh Fritillaries. 

It did not look promising when we arrived. There were no birders at its usual spot in Reap Lane and a quick check at the Bird Observatory gave us the news that it had been seen there earlier in the morning but had then flown off north and its whereabouts were now unknown.

We headed back to Reap Lane to wait for its return and the reason for it favouring this location soon became apparent. The bushes were covered in tents containing the caterpillars of the Brown Tailed Moth, as was the ground, and if you stood still long enough you would have them crawling up your legs. The Cuckoo is equipped to eat them but for humans the hairs can cause skin irritation and breathing difficulties. The best advice I have seen, is not to stick them up your nose.


We waited a couple of hours with confidence levels gradually sinking but then to our relief the Cuckoo flew in. That was the good news, the bad news was that it landed deep in some bushes rather than out on the post where we wanted it.

Still a life tick for both of us and in the end we were able to get some decent record shots so we can't really complain.

It did eventually come out and start tearing open a few of the caterpillar tents but it was deep in the brambles and did not give picture opportunities. It was then spooked by the inevitable dog walker and disappeared back into the bushes.

We waited about another hour but it was clear that we were not going to get better shots. When we arrived we were the only two birders looking for it but once the bird had put in an appearance the numbers of people looking at it gradually increased and the chances of it coming out into the open reduced. In the end we had a sizeable twitch and feeling a little uncomfortable with the experience we decided to move on. 

I had really wanted a flight shot and I did get one but it is not exactly the picture that I had been looking for.

Still a great bird and it was worth the trip down to Portland and with it only being one o'clock we still had time to get to Cotley Hill for the Marsh Fritillaries. More on that in the next blog.

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