Great-spotted Cuckoo is one of my most wanted to see birds of all time. With my ample time having finished uni I had planned to twitch one should one come up at any point during the spring. Such as it happened the peak time for one to drop in passed without report until one was found at Portland, about as far away as I could have imagined.
I could not go immediately, the distance meaning it would have to stay a little while to give it some credentials first, plus I had wrapping up the dissertation first. I handed in the dissertation two days early so to justify a possible trip down, but it took some work to convince myself that it would still be there.
I bought a ticket for a coach down at 1.00 in the morning, and then got the train from London Victoria to Weymouth. I did not expect the bird to have stayed overnight, but I was overjoyed to see a 'tweet' at 6.00 in the morning saying that the bird was still present. I finally made it on site at half 11 only to get the news that the bird had not been seen for over two hours. I had hope it would reappear but in two hours of unsuccessful searching the hope soon changed to despair. Signal was patchy and my phone battery was giving up so I decided to head to its favourite spot on the footpath at Reap Lane. Upon arrival I was informed that it was here, and had been showing for some time. Raises the question why news had not been put out. Anyway, it took a short while but the bird soon revealed itself and started to show very well.
It had a pattern of sitting out and feeding for about 10 mins, before flying into a dense thicket for between half and 3/4 of an hour. After a while in the thicket it would move to the back of the thicket where it could be seen, and then stay there until it decided to fly back out to the feeding area.
There were hundreds of Brown-tailed Moth caterpillars for it to feed on, and that is probably the reason it decided to stay, as the weather had turned overnight to looking quite chilly and overcast. The bird frequently sat looking like it would rather be anywhere else in the world than where it was, but when it sat up it was active and a real pleasure to watch. Sadly I labored to get any incredible shots like those that have littered twitter over its stay but I got a few nice record shots.
Once located the Cuckoo stuck to that pattern for the four hours that I stayed to watch it. Well worth the journey down in the end. The only disappointment of the day was really the lack of supporting cast. Nice views of Peregrine on the deck and a few Ravens knocking about were about the best of the other birds on site. The chilly breeze probably tucked any migrants within the hedges and there was nothing moving on the sea, although in searching for the cuckoo I did not stay by the sea for very long.
When I finished watching the Cuckoo it was mid afternoon. Whilst waiting for my train I decided to have a quick look at Radipole Lake. I got fantastic views of Cettis Warbler in the car park, and I finally managed to connect with its famous Hooded Merganser, a bird which I have somehow missed on every over occasion I have been on the site.
The journey back took its tole, and by the time I got home at 5 in the morning I could not have gone on even if I had wanted to. But it was so worth it, the Cuckoo was something else, one of the best birds I have ever seen.
Portland Bill: Peregrine, Herring Gull, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Starling, House Sparrow, Raven, Goldfinch, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Blackbird, Shag, Carrion Crow, Great-spotted Cuckoo, Woodpigeon, Swift, Swallow, Fulmar, Pied Wagtail, Linnet, Jackdaw,
Radipole Lake RSPB: Swift, Swallow, Mute Swan, Mallard, Cormorant, Hooded Merganser, House Martin, Shelduck, Great-crested Grebe, Herring Gull, Feral Pigeon, Coot, Moorhen, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Greater Black-backed Gull, Grey Heron, House Sparrow, Tufted Duck, Cettis Warbler, Carrion Crow, Oystercatcher, Great Tit, Woodpigeon, Chiffchaff, Gadwall,