Tuesday 19 June 2018

Cuckoo calling, another challenge.

This blog is a summary of my first attempt to catch a Cuckoo on Fygyn Common.

It's that time of the year when Cuckoo's start their journey south to the Congo. They only spend about 2 months in the UK and the remainder of the year in Africa.
The Cuckoo population has halved in the last 25yrs and the conservation status is currently red.
The BTO have embarked on "The Cuckoo Project" to understand the full annual cycle of the Cuckoo that would help them make informed decisions. There are some studies that have beed done in the UK breeding season but little is known of what happens when they migrate back to the Congo. Below is a link to the project that is a very interesting read.


Annually every spring I have Cuckoo's on my Fygyn Common site in Carmarthenshire on the southern edge of the Brecfa Forest. This year I got my permissions in place to use sound with the fantastic support and trust from the BTO, albeit I was a little late sorting it all out.

I also got advice from the BTO website on the best way to catch them, supported by a video.



My first trip was planned for the 18th May, however it was a little late in the season.

In preparation for this I sorted a couple of potential places to erect a net. On Fygyn Common there are a few areas where the trees are too high but other areas have small bushes and trees that are more suitable. Cuckoo's will respond to sound and perch on top of the tree near the sound, so lower the better. When they hear the bubbling sound of a female they swoop down and hopefully into the net.

On the day the net was up at 06.30am and a Cuckoo decoy was positioned by the sound system which was placed in the middle of the net. Cuckoo could be heard calling some distance away.

As soon as it was switched on a Cuckoo was seen flying straight towards the tree attracted by the sound to investigate. I was retreating quickly to hide behind some Gorse bushes so as not to frighten it off. As soon as the female bubbling sound came on the Cuckoo became very excited and swooped down flying into the net. it was all over in less than 5mins.

The male bird was ringed and processed and whilst I had it in my hand 3 other males flying together past over me and I also heard a female bubbling. So I feel confident there are at least 5 Cuckoo's hanging around the Common.

Time for a net move deeper into the Common and this time there was a lot of interest in the sound, even when the female bubbling sound came on. However they just would not come into the net. I have concluded from this they were probably familiar with the sound which made them cautious but I hadn't got a different sound to try.

Subsequent visiting days later I was experiencing the same thing, birds come to the sound but not flying into the net.

And I thought it was going to be easy after catching the first Cuckoo within 5 mins. I have plenty of time to ponder, wonder and prepare myself for spring 2019.
Wouldn't it be exciting if the BTO were interested in putting a Satellite Tracker on a Fygyn Common bird next year.

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