Let’s celebrate. The cuckoo is here. In spite of current travails, nature does what it has always done in season.
A request in last week’s column for reports of the cuckoo’s arrival has prompted several readers from different parts of the country to report hearing that clarion call of early summer.
Most of the calls were heard between April 18 and April 20, but there were some at least a week earlier. People of a certain vintage, yours truly included, still feel a childish delight on hearing the repeated ‘cuck-ooo, cuck-ooo’ break the stillness of the countryside for the first time each year.
First to email last Monday was Donal O’Sullivan, of Ballygroman Lower, Ovens, Co Cork, who was thrilled to hear a cuckoo on Saturday, April 18. “I haven’t heard one since I was a child and called my wife to confirm I wasn’t hearing things!” he says.
Damien Maguire reported the cuckoo being heard in the Rinn River area, at Johnston’s Bridge, Co Leitrim, on Easter Saturday, April 11, and he also had accounts of a great spotted woodpecker, above Marley Park, in the foothills of the Dublin mountains.
Noreen Murphy heard the cuckoo at Ballyshoneen, Berrings, Co Cork, on April 14, while Joe McGrath sent word of the cuckoo in Cratloe Woods, Co Clare, on April 18.
A regular correspondent, Tom Lynch, of Clare Birdwatch, who last week reported a great spotted woodpecker in the storied Spancilhill area, also made contact to say the cuckoo was heard in other parts of Clare: Islandavanna Wood, west of Clarecastle, on April 16; in Inagh, on April 20, and Sliabh Rua at the back of Mullaghmore.
Irish Birding records the cuckoo in the Gearagh, Co Cork; Borrisokane, Co Tipperary, and Spiddal, Co Galway, and other places, on April 19-20. As usual, he is also in Muckross, Co Kerry. All positive as the bird has been declining in Ireland for 30 years or more, though not the same extent as the curlew or corncrake.
The Schools Folklore Collection, based on stories recorded by children countrywide from their elders in 1937/’39, forms an invaluable archive in UCD. The copperplate handwriting of Mary MacCarthy, Gurtatagort, Bantry, Co Cork, on old copybook pages tells of superstition surrounding the cuckoo.
If the cuckoo is heard for the first time with the right ear, it is a sign that all that person’s undertakings for the year will be lucky. But if heard with the left ear the reverse will be the consequence, she noted.
“If, while hearing the cuckoo for the first time, a person throws money from one hand to the other while the cuckoo is singing, he will have enough money during the year,” she went on.