top of page

18 March 2022

Author: Barnaby Adams


I've heard a cuckoo, I'm writing to The Times!

Traditionally in England, hearing the distinctive call of a cuckoo marks the unofficial first day of spring. Back in the day, people would pen a letter to The Times newspaper to mark the occasion … it became a thing … spring hadn't started until The Times reported the event! April 14th (or there about) was the date this article was typically printed.

Today, people log the same event on websites such as but the date seems to get earlier and earlier … is this global warming or mistaken identity? It seems unlikely that reports in January can be accurate. The potential for sudden temperature drops and adverse weather conditions, plus a lack of suitable food make the UK undesirable to this bird so early in the year (even if average winter temperatures are now warmer). Such a migration from central Africa would be far too risky, the birds just wouldn't make it or would likely perish on arrival. Then again, we have seen a massive decline in numbers(!?).

We're still only in March, but the weather has been warm and spring-like this week. The other day whilst in the house, I heard it, the unmistakable cuckoo call drifted across the warm sunny garden and in through the open window. How wonderful I thought. Then sometime later, I heard it again. And later, again! This was most unusual! Sure, I live in cuckoo country – a rich wetland habitat ideal for this particular bird – but I've never heard one so … regular!

Turns out I'd left the window open in the studio, and it was my cuckoo clock … every hour, on the hour *roll of eyes*. I wonder if this is why there are so many unseasonal reports across the country!? I wonder if my neighbours, and those of other clock owners, have been subject to the naughty pendulum-bound cuckoos busy tricking the unsuspecting ear!?

It also raises an ecological/conservation eyebrow for me. Might this also fool actual cuckoos? Oh such irony! The recording might scare the real birds away, making them look for different territory further afield, or perhaps it might attract them? How do I know the sound effect used for my clock isn't in fact, a super-seductive, sultry cuckoo? I might find myself drawing-back the curtains one morning to face a cuckoo equivalent scene, like some crazed grey and yellow version of Hitchcock's 'The Birds' – just more, Benny Hill!

Hmmm … I think there's a volume button on that clock … or maybe I should just go shut the window!

bottom of page