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