Birds & Birding, Books

First Cuckoo in 1913

I was thinking about the seasons and how we look out for our first Yellow-billed Kite every year around Spring. We also love hearing the first Piet-My-Vrou and other cuckoo calls.

Richard Lydekker (1849 – 1915) was an English naturalist, geologist and writer of numerous books on natural history. In fact, about thirty books in thirty years, some of them multi-volume tomes – up to six volumes!

Lydekker attracted amused public attention with a pair of letters to The Times in 1913. He wrote on 6 February that he had heard a cuckoo, contrary to Yarrell’s History of British Birds which doubted the bird arrived before April. Six days later on 12 February, he wrote again, confessing that “the note was uttered by a bricklayer’s labourer”.

We have all been caught out by a tape recording, a cellphone audio clip – and a mimic like our Natal Robin, so we feel for poor Lydekker over a century later!

After the mirth subsided, letters about the first cuckoo became a tradition every Spring in The Times.