Thursday, May 25, 2023

Penny Mordaunt, Andrew Bridgen and the decline of the cuckoo

From the Leicester Mercury:

Andrew Bridgen has been labelled the “first cuckoo of spring” after claiming the BBC has repeatedly spread Covid-19 misinformation. The North West Leicestershire MP was also met with heckles of "shame" in the House of Commons before he was rebuked by its leader Penny Mordaunt.

Mr Bridgen, who now sits as MP for actor Laurence Fox’s Reclaim Party, spoke out after the BBC launched its new BBC Verify service this week, with the Leicestershire MP insisting the corporation had been behind much misinformation surrounding the pandemic.

Mordaunt is right about Bridgen: he is cuckoo. But she is behind the times when it comes to the way we regard the bird.

Fifty years ago the distinctive call of the cuckoo was a commonplace sound of the English countryside in spring and summer. When I was a boy you reckoned on hearing one every time you went for a walk.

Then people did write to the newspapers to claim they had heard the first cuckoo of spring: now they are likely to write if they hear the bird at all.

And our impression that the bird has become much rarer is correct. A page on the British Trust for Ornithology site says:

Since the early 1980s Cuckoo numbers have dropped by 65 per cent. The reason for this decline is not known, but it has been suggested that declines in its hosts or climate-induced shifts in the timing of breeding of its hosts could have reduced the number of nests that are available for cuckoos to parasitise, resulting in cuckoo declines. 

The main hosts in the UK are the dunnock, meadow pipit, pied wagtail and reed warbler. 

A passing dunnock replies: To be honest, I'm quite relaxed about this decline.


Anonymous said...

You can sponsor research into Cuckoo migration - and an individual cuckoo- on the BTO site

crewegwyn said...

I am delighted to say that there seems to be a slight increase in numbers here in South Cheshire. Still dismal compared to 30+ years ago but encouraging.