Great Spotted Cuckoo – 2009

Clamator glandariusCog Frechvagrant

First for Pembrokeshire

At around 9:30am on 10th March, my wife Marion and I set off on a walk from the Pencarnan Caravan site intending to check raven nest sites along the coast path in the vicinity of St Justinian.  On arrival at the northern edge of Trefeiddan Moor both of us were quick to pick up the obvious presence of a largish bird sitting still on the edge of a stand of withy at a distance of 150m or more.

Using binoculars for the best part of two or more minutes, and until the bird flew, we described the bird to each other.  Because a strong breeze blew from our right, and the distance involved, I placed my bins against a telegraph pole to steady the image.  When the bird flew, we followed its short flight of 100 or so metres to another withy stand where it alighted and once again sat silent and still.  At this point we walked closer, but before we could add anything further to our description, it flew towards a dense area of withy and gorse on the edge of the moor and out of view.  We never saw it again.

The first words spoken as we viewed the bird were “it’s a cuckoo” – which was obvious because of its general shape, size and horizontal posture, “a foreign cuckoo” exclaimed Marion.  Next we remarked upon its two-tone colour: dark above and white below.  While steadying the image, I was able to discern pale spotting of the upper parts and what appeared to be a single larger spot in the area of the primary/secondary wing coverts on the edge of the wing.  Marion said the throat was cream in colour, something I could not discern, no doubt, because I have colour perception limitations.  She admitted later she did not know that great spotted cuckoos have yellowish throats.  I was in no doubt we had found our first British great-spotted cuckoo.

When we lost sight of the bird, I returned to our caravan to collect my telescope.  Following a long period of searching, about four hours, we reluctantly conceded defeat.  Any chance of find the cuckoo the following morning was quickly dashed with the arrival of a slow moving warm front that delivered drizzle and poor visibility to the area for the remainder of that day.  We searched the area over the next few days but to no avail.

We have seen many different types of cuckoos, in Europe, Africa, America and Asia.  From our extensive experience and on the basis of size, jizz and plumage, we are sure that this bird was a 1st year great spotted cuckoo.

John Best

Pembrokeshire Bird Report 2009

This has been accepted by BBRC as the first record for the county and only the third for Wales – the previous two were of a dead male found at Plas Penhelig, Aberdyfi, Meirionnydd on 1st April 1956 and one at Newborough, Anglesey 3rd – 15th April 1960.

Note – the photo is NOT of this particular bird, but is for illustrative purposes only.

More about the Great Spotted Cuckoo in Pembrokeshire