Cuckoos are returning – tell us when and where you’ve heard one!

Our Dartmoor cuckoo project which began with the tagging of four Dartmoor birds last year is waiting and hoping that the two birds who survived the arduous migration to Africa will make it back to our shores this spring.

Last year Devon Birds in partnership with Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA),  took part in a ground-breaking national satellite tagging project run by the British Trust for Ornithology to learn about the migration of Dartmoor’s cuckoos and start to understand the reasons for their alarming decline.

In May 2013, satellite tags were put onto four Dartmoor cuckoos – named Dart, Ryder, Tor and Whortle. Sadly, two of Dartmoor’s cuckoos died on their way to their wintering grounds: contact was lost with Dart in Mallorca, and Ryder perished during his Sahara crossing. Tor and Whortle both made it successfully to the West African rainforests. British cuckoos are now beginning to return, with most of the tagged cuckoos, including Whortle, now in Portugal. Meanwhile, Tor’s tag appears to have developed a fault, but we are hoping to welcome them both back on our shores by the end of April. We shall give updates as we hear more news.

Devon Birds have created a live web map that allows members of the public to enter their cuckoo sightings on a simple form. That record, together with any others that have already been submitted, can be seen on a live interactive map by clicking on the cuckoo link on the front page of our website.

Despite the cuckoo being such an iconic bird, very little is known about their numbers, distribution and behaviour here on Dartmoor. We are hoping to gather more information about cuckoos locally by asking the public to contribute. We are using new technologies such as interactive maps, as well as the more traditional method of picking up the phone to get people to tell us where they have seen a cuckoo.

In 2014,  Devon Birds and DNPA are funding the tagging of a further three birds to help gather more data on the lives of our Dartmoor cuckoos. The progress of these three birds, in addition to the two cuckoos from 2013, will be tracked and can be followed online.

Naomi Barker, DNPA Ecologist and Devon birds’ member said: ‘We are slowly building a picture from all the different pieces of the complex puzzle that is the life of the cuckoo. The satellite tagging is providing us with a lot of data on their international movements, so together with getting more data on their local whereabouts, we will hopefully have a much better understanding of what is causing the declines and be able to start doing something about it.’

So make sure you enter your sightings on our form so they show on the map instantly!