Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Cocker Hoop

As Margaret and I arrive in Coquetdale for our summer holiday, we are invariably greeted by the sound of a cuckoo calling for a mate, but try as I might I have never located the source. A few years back a fisherman in the next cottage, who didn't eat fish brought us a freshly caught trout, you'll never believe he said, but all the while I've been fishing, I've had a cuckoo for company it was sitting on the fence post behind me, I dashed out to see it fly off into oblivion.
Friends tell me to go to Scotland to see them and a grand variety of other species also, but that is out of the question for the foreseeable future.
Last year I heard about a juvenile on the car park at Parkgate, but circumstances prevailed and I couldn't make the trip down there. Then out of the blue I get to hear of a juvenile fattening itself up on caterpillars in at Cockers Dyke near Pilling before making it's long journey to Africa, as my desk was clear I decided to go for it.

I set off on a beautiful morning with the sun rising over the Pennines and the mist hanging in the valleys, but sods law was to prevail. As I headed north heavy cloud drifted in from the Atlantic and by the the time I arrived it started to pour down, it was 7am, it was going to be a long day. There was nothing for it, I had to sit it out in the car and drink my coffee. An hour and a half past and I had already eaten my lunch and still no cuckoo, its gone I thought, its buggered off to Africa. Damn!!!

Then through the gloom "my" bird arrived and landed on a post forty foot or so away, my heart skipped a beat, even though it was too dark to photograph, well now it really was going to be a long day, cause I wasn't going to budge before sunset - that's if the sun were to ever rise!

Well it did awake from it's slumbers and put it's hat on, and the weather and light slowly improved as the day progressed. The cuckoo returned every half hour or so feeding from various fence posts and electric wires, before being disturbed by dog walkers.

I was amazed by it's ability to hunt for caterpillars. From wires thirty foot or so above the ground, it would perform a variety of acrobatic dismounts, then free fall parachute, before twisting into a full head on dive, hawk fashion, vanishing into the nettle covered ground and immediately emerge with its pray and return to a perch on the wire. From fence post it would launch similarly horizontal attacks as far as twenty foot away, in both instances I never saw it miss. But should I be surprised with this bird's ability, when, from the moment it hatches its inbuilt genetics instruct it to remove its adopted parents eggs from the nest, then after feeding its self up it will journey to Africa all on it own some.

All in all I put in thirteen hours on site that day, but eager for more I returned a couple of days later, in a seven hour stint the cuckoo never showed at all, I wrongly assumed it had moved on, only to be told later that it had turned up that evening. I went back the next day only to get a fleeting glimpse in very bad light.

My mate Steve took up the gauntlet the next day, he phoned me at two o' clock to say it had just turned up and the light was good, so I immediately jumped in the car and set off once more. I took up a position behind a WW2 bunker hoping the cuckoo would land on the fence post directly in front of me. Although my strategy held a bit of a risk, the cuckoo might stay in it's favorite corner and not come to my desired post, had that been the case I would have returned home empty handed once more. But I needn't have worried after twenty minutes the cuckoo duly obliged and I returned home a very happy man, cocker-hoop you might say.


  1. The only word I can think of that would be apt for your Cuckoo images is..........."STUNNING"

    Really well done David!

  2. Dave. I must congratulate you on your outstanding cuckoo images. As with all your stunning bird images your many hours behind the long lens have paid off again. I regret not having gone to see this wonderful bird !!! Overdue congratulations to you for Birdguides POTW as well. Hope to meet up again sometime.

  3. Many thanks Paul and Brian - yes we keep trying Brian, maybe one day soon - I'm off to Northumberland in a couple of weeks, when I return it won't be too long for the starling show and hopefully SEOs.

  4. Your Cuckoo images have to be the best that I have ever seen.

  5. Cheers for your encouragement Ben, much appreciated.

  6. Not much for me to add to the already great compliments made to you on your 'Cuckoo' safaris David....just truly brilliant stuff, photography and account.

    Pleased I was able to contribute to your finding where this amazing creature was.

  7. Thanks Pete, from the moment it fist appeared that gloomy morning I was in your debt.
    As I have said before Pete if you want any images for your wonderful blog, just let me know.
    Cheers mate.


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