The first fragrant orchids appear, slender and elegant. There are white butterfly-orchids and dropwort too. The early morning light was almost too strong for flower photographs. Then dramatic dark clouds gathered, casting shadows over the landscape. Heading home, I'm walking toward the most threatening cloud but there's little rain. There is little light shed onto the ground and darkness is now behind and before me- when I catch the call of a cuckoo. So what if it rains. I turn back and follow the intermittent call of the cuckoo, uphill, scanning trees against the sky in the hope of seeing the bird. I follow the call for half an hour and follow it to the trees I know it favours.
The more I learn about the cuckoo the more questions arise. I know the female can lay up to sixteen eggs, a single egg laid in a meadow pipit nest. I wonder what the failure rate might be- when the host recognises deception and destroys the alien egg. And when the cuckoo calls to attract a mate is it the same bird who responds throughout the reason. I reckon there is only a single male in this territory.
Jan Wiltshire is a nature writer living in Cumbria. She also explores islands and coast and the wildlife experience. (See Home and My Books.)