• Countryside Alliance Team

The Cuckoo in Cuckoos Knob

I heard my first Cuckoo last week. He is early this year. I have for the past few years heard him on the same date - 23rd April and always feel that summer is on its way when I hear the wonderful faint call of ‘cuckoo cuckoo’ coming from the same corner of the field in front of our house. 

This year he arrived with a bang, I was snoozing listening to the dawn chorus, contemplating making our large cups of early morning lapsang tea when outside my window that familiar call started up. He honestly could have been on my window sill. It’s funny how full of joy I was that day and he certainly cheered the corona gloom that periodically descends on our house. I probably need to explain something else, we live in a wonderful sleepy hamlet in Wiltshire just outside Pewsey surrounded by the rolling hills of the Pewsey Vale. The hamlet which is just outside Wootton Rivers is called Cuckoos Knob!

I have wondered for years how long this special place has been the home of countless generations of Cuckoos and I really must find out a bit more. I presume that the Cuckoos have always enjoyed the beautiful surroundings and the small hill ‘the knob’ that we live on.

The Cuckoo is a dove sized bird with blue grey upper parts, head and chest with dark barred white under parts.  With their sleek body, long tail and pointed wings they are not unlike a kestrel. Both sexes are similar in appearance and the young are brown and not nearly so refined looking – quite large and not hugely attractive from the last one I found stuck in our hedge! They visit us in Spring/Summer and as everyone knows the female lays her eggs in the nests of other birds, especially meadow pipits, dunnocks and reed warblers. They are in decline although you wouldn’t know that in Cuckoos Knob!

Not everyone in my household is as keen on the Cuckoo as me. This is namely to do with our male Cuckoos who tend to cuckoo, their mating call, all day and night for about a month from the beginning of May onwards. Its deafening and means that my son doesn’t sleep very well for a month! I am determined to find out the history of Cuckoos Knob!

In the meantime, here is a lovely poem:

In April I open my bill

In May I sing night and day

In June I change my tune

In July far far I fly

In August away I must

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