A Cuckoo in a Clock May Be the Only One You'll See

Article excerpt

Byline: By SALLY WILLIAMS

Peering out from a clock perch to mark the chiming of the hour may be the only chance of spotting a cuckoo this year. The unofficial annual race to hear the first cuckoo of spring could be a non-starter this year because the once common bird appears to be flying out of Wales.

The first cuckoo to be heard in the woodlands of Wales is a subject for garden-fence chatter, pubs and for letters to newspapers.

Cuckoos can usually be heard in March and they stop singing by June when they fatten up until August, stocking up on insects and grubs before beginning their long flight to Africa.

But there has been a 60% decline over the past 10 years in the number of cuckoos in Wales, where the bird is disappearing faster than in other parts of the UK.

This is particularly worrying as the cuckoo has an almost SAS-style talent for survival and is far meaner and tougher than most other British birds.

The reason for the decline is a mystery, but bird experts believe it could be due to a combination of factors, including a loss of habitat, a reduced food supply and global warming.

Alan Davies, RSBP site manager in Conwy, said it was very unusual for him not to have heard a distinctive cuckoo call by now and he said the bird's rapid decline was a serious situation.

He said, 'We've nearly always heard one by now. It is uplifting to hear a cuckoo, which signifies that summer is on the way. People like to boast about who has heard one first. But nobody here has heard the cuckoo yet, it is very sad.'

He said the cuckoo could be under threat because of problems it faces in Wales and in its winter home, Africa.

He said, 'Global warming could be relevant, birds respond very quickly to climate change and they are wonderful indicators of changes in the environment, so we need to keep an eye on them.

'The Sahara is rapidly expanding southwards, leaving the migrating cuckoo with further to fly and with less food along the way.

'For us it would be like setting out on a motorway journey, running out of fuel and not having any services on the route, so you've had it.

'They end up having to migrate further which is a real problem. …