Cuckoo!

Common Cuckoo -1

For the last couple of months, I have been working on a project to photograph the common Cuckoo, one of nature’s most notorious birds.

These are images of an adult male cuckoo I photographed over a period of two months in England. The following shots depict the male cuckoo in its traditional territorial display pose of dropped wings and raised tail.

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Beloved as nature’s traditional herald of spring and summer, Cuckoos have held a place in the hearts of many for centuries.

The adults arrive in Britain in late March or April after 4000 journey from their wintering quarters in Africa. They stay only a few short months to breed, departing in July or August, with young birds leaving a month or so later.

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I had a go at trying some flight shots with this bird. It was all a bit hit and miss but I got a couple of front lit shots I was reasonably happy with.

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By June the meadow making up part of the cuckoo’s territory was carpeted with some beautiful flowers making for a very pretty backdrop as the bird foraged for food.

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In this next sequence of images, the cuckoo can be seen foraging for its favourite food, hairy caterpillars.

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The best opportunity the site afforded undoubtedly though was for backlit images. The next sequence are by far my favourite images from the project. I love using light in this way.  Initially I seemed to be the only photographer set up for backlit. By the end of the project though other photographers saw what I was getting and were persuaded to join me shooting contre-joure.

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One other benefit of shooting backlit is the light highlights dramatically the  spray as the cuckoo flays its prey to get rid of the harmful toxins.

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The best session was on the cuckoo’s final evening at the site before it left to make it’s arduous journey back to Africa. I love this next sequence of the bird coming onto the perch and the different wing positions.

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Contrary to their name, the Common cuckoo is in sharp decline most likely as a result in the crash in the butterfly and insect population they feed on as a result of the agricultural industry’s insecticides. The recent population decline makes this extraordinary bird a Red List species.

Based on the latest scientific research this Cuckoo has around a 60% chance of making it back next year from its home in the Congo where it spends the majority of the year. Godspeed.

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The project was great fun and a real privilege to be able to create images of such an extraordinary bird. I met some lovely people along the way many of whom have become good friends, including Lesley, Marcus, Paul, Graham, Dan, Gary, Jerry and John to name but a few. It was nice to meet you all. This blog is dedicated to you.

 

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