Behold the dramatisation of conversations taking place in a ‘normal’ suburban street recently.
Mrs Thing (for it is she) “Darling, I was convinced that I heard a Cuckoo Cuculus canorus canorus in Mousehold Heath the other morning. This pleased me, but my thoughts quickly turned to you. Bearing in mind that in the many years you have lived around here and the many hours you have spent observing wildlife in this Heath area, you have not heard or seen a Cuckoo and do not have it on your garden list or for that matter your silly Norwich list nevermind your woeful year list; do you think it likely that I am correct in my identification? For the Cuckoo does have quite a distinctive call does it not my dear?”
Thing (for it is he) “Dearest, it is true that this species of bird is not on the two lists of mine that you mention but this does not preclude the species occurring in the environ. For your information, in the classified section of the Norfolk Bird Report between 1966 and 1987 there is hardly a mention of the Cuckoo (disregarding the spurious record of 300 on Acle New Road in 1983 that was subsequently withdrawn) and in the latest edition (2009) the entry is more substantial but it doesn’t specifically mention Mousehold Heath. Furthermore, in the Norfolk Bird Atlas (Kelly, 1986) the Cuckoo is widespread throughout the county in non-urban areas during migration but breeding is much more localised but looking at the map, it would not rule out the chance encounter in Mousehold. Unfortunately I cannot cross-reference with the latest Norfolk bird atlas because it is, although excellent, really ruddy expensive. In conclusion, your record of the Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus canorus, although quite exceptional, is not impossible. Of course, as I didn’t hear it I cannot vouch for the authenticity of the record, but admit that not much else sounds like a Cuckoo and you have been well-trained.
Mrs Thing “How wonderful. In that case my dear, I maintain that I heard said species and will speak of it no more. Before I finish though, I believe that in these circumstances (a garden mega I think you would call it) it is obligatory for me to swear loudly and say ‘get in’.”
Thing “Indeed. Harrumph”
Days pass. The mega is not mentioned again. Mrs Thing visits a neighbour, an elderly local woman who is not unused to the country and it’s ways and knows some things about this and that. The conversation moves away from a discussion on the mores of the local bandits, to natural history.
Brenda (the elderly local woman) “Wun lump orr too moi woomun?”
Mrs Thing (for it is she) “Just one thanking you, I don’t like my Earl Grey too sweet, what?”
Brenda (the elderly local woman) “O’roit moi woomun. Tell yu whaaaa – ded yu hare that cuck-goo the other morrnun?”
Mrs Thing (behind a wistful smile) “Indeed I did Brenda, indeed I did…………..”
And so it came to pass, that Mrs Thing had independent verification that a Cuckoo was heard in Mousehold Heath from her garden. Something that her husband (that’ll be me then) has not seen or heard anywhere near here in the last thirty years. He is thus ‘gripped off’ in the parlance of the birdwatcher. Mrs Thing is ‘quite pleased’ in the parlance of the normal human.