Monday, June 27, 2011
This morning I saw the sky begin to tinge with red just as Dog and I began our morning walk, so I grabbed the camera as I was leaving the cabin. Poor Dog anticipated an unexpected morning car ride, as that’s where the camera was. He was sorely disappointed in that regard.
On Sunday morning, I was out doing some repair work to my rutted dirt lane. Roundtop has graded the lane several times already this year but then some torrential downpour comes along, making all their work go for naught. Again. So I was out with my rake, working on some of the ruts, when I heard a distant call of a bird I haven’t heard much of this year—a yellow-billed cuckoo.
To my admittedly wonky ears, the sound the bird makes doesn’t even approach a cu-koo sound. Perhaps if the bird was closer, which it rarely is, the cackle it makes before the single longer note would resemble a cu-koo. At a distance, the only sound I hear is more like “koooooo.” Even that’s something of a stretch.
Cuckoos are uncommon here, and sightings are even rarer than their call. They are skulkers, preferring the shelter of trees and bushes to sitting in the open. And their markings resemble a mourning dove, which are a dime a dozen. So unless you see the bird fly or set binos to every mourning dove, it can easily be overlooked.
A couple of years ago, a cuckoo spent the summer wandering all around Roundtop, both close and far, kooing all day long. I got the feeling it was searching, without success, for a mate, some female cuckoo to answer its call. I would hear it close by, then hear it move further away, circle behind me and kooo some more. That lasted most of the summer.
Yesterday’s distant call was the first time I heard the call this year. I think the bird was somewhere over on the back side of the mountain. I might not even have noted it except that after the episode of a few years ago, when a bird kooo-ed constantly, my ears are primed to the sound. I hope this time around, the bird finds a mate and raises a batch of little cuckoos. The idea of hearing a host of their odd little calls coming from all over the mountain is something I’d like to experience, even though it’s unlikely I ever will.