Cuckoos in the Gwent Uplands


 Cuckoo , Blorenge.

If you visit the Gwent Uplands in May you have a very good chance of hearing the call of one of Wales most iconic spring migrants. 

"Cuckoo Cuckoo,  Cuckoo Cuckoo".

Its fabulous to hear the calls all over the hills of the Blorenge, Pwll Du and Gilwern Hill. The monotonous but much loved call seems to bounce all around the valleys and hilltops

Paul and I had been up since the crack of dawn and started the morning at Pwll Du. The hill top was covered in a layer of mist and there was cold wind blowing. Considering its pressing on for middle of the month it was freezing for what is supposed to be a spring morning.

I was so glad to have brought my jacket to keep me warm. We got a lucky break first things with a short break in the mist and the sun burned through providing some much needed warmth and light. The bird life certainly reacted to the dimmer switch suddenly being turned up and various species began to show up.

Willow Warbler and Chiff Chaffs started blasting their greatest hits out. They were joined by Goldfinches and Linnets. Then the Meadow Pipits , Skylarks and Wheatears began to make an appearance.A lovely male Wheatear posed nicely for me on a metal post. 

Male Wheatear ( Pwll Du)

Paul and I then began to hear Cuckoo calling down in the valley and it sounded like it was starting to move up the hill. The bird kept teasing us with the odd glimpse of it calling from a distant tree.

I went exploring and found a lovely windy stone wall. Perched up towards the top was another male Wheatear that was quite confiding to photograph.

Pwll Du

The mist kept rolling in however and soon the visibility and the chilly hill fog was getting into our bones so Paul and I decided to head off for a look on the slopes of the Blorenge and parked up at the Punchbowl.

The Punchbowl is a beautiful area consisting of mountain moorland, mixed woodland ( managed by the Woodland Trust) , a glacial pond - the "Punchbowl" and farmland.

Aerial of the Punch Bowl

Paul and I went for a wander around the woodland and the path that leads to the Punchbowl.

We saw some Siskin, Chaffinch, Robins, Wrens, Willow Warblers, Stonechats, Linnets and Common Redstarts but the Cuckoos remained quite elusive apart from hearing their distant calls and a quick fly past.

Cuckoo in flight. It is sometimes mistaken as a bird of prey.

As were walking back on ourselves we were joined by a good birding and photographer friend Lee.

Its always good to meet up with our birding pals and have a good chat. Sometimes its almost as if by magic that we meet up and then suddenly after searching all morning for a good view of Cuckoo, one turns up directly in front of us. And, thats exactly what happened this morning.

Cuckoo makes a sudden appearance.

We watched the male Cuckoo from a distance and it posed briefly for us to photograph before flying off into nearby trees. It was joined by a second male bird and they spent some time chasing each other around until one remained perched in a tree calling almost continually. It would occasionally move from time to time after being mobbed by some Meadow Pipits.

What made things even better for us was that the sun started to come out and finally it started feeling more like a spring day.

The Cuckoo stayed in the area and out on quite a show from a distance. It was happy to perch up and do its thing as long as we remained at a respectful distance.

I got lucky and at one stage it landed on a stonewall near where I was walking and I managed to take a few pictures without it noticing me.

Cuckoo perches on dry stone wall.


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