Caught by the River

Matt's Bird of the Week – Cuckoo

Matt Sewell | 9th July 2012

Cuckoo (Cuculas canorus). Words & picture by Matt Sewell.

It was my birthday last Thursday, I took the day off and treated myself to a few hours of spotting and jotting at Venus Pool. With nothing much to report I set about drawing the scene in my sketchbook when an unfamiliar vintage noise stirred me from my etchings. Lo and behold, my first ever cuckoo presented itself to me, a birthday cuckoo with binoculars, a rare present indeed.

Why the suspicious look, Mrs Cuckoo? Her self-aggrandizing song is as infamous as her dubious parenting method. She forces her young upon unsuspecting parents by laying her large egg in the nest of a little Warbler or Pipit, then clears off before the unwary host parents return to their brood. They sit in hope, waiting for their enchanting progeny to join them. So loved-up are the hosts at the arrival of their first-born, they don’t realise that it’s a Cuckoo chick. The little hosts try to appease the ravenous Brute, working night and day to feed the ever-open, greedy mouth. Shockingly, while they are away the expanding Cuckoo jettisons the true, unhatched family from the nest. The golden child is waited upon solely, and grows to four times the size of its foster parents, like a true parasite.

Aside from its brutal entrance into the world the Cuckoo is a vital part of our landscape and national psyche, heralding the beginning of summer, and should be welcomed into our lives with open arms.

Matt’s book, Our Garden Birds, is on sale from the Caught by the River shop, priced £10..