Column: As numbers decline the cuckoo may become extinct

A Broads cuckoo with a satellite tracking tag attached. Picture: Courtesy Andrea Kelly

A Broads cuckoo with a satellite tracking tag attached. Picture: Courtesy Andrea Kelly


The recording of wildlife has for many years been very important to me.

GYM nature correspondent Tony Brown.; Photo: Andy DarnellGYM nature correspondent Tony Brown.; Photo: Andy Darnell

I have kept nature diaries for many years now and I sometimes find it most interesting to read through older diaries of how things have changed. For example when I look back to the early 1980s, the number of small tortoiseshell butterflies seen was quite large, being seen on most nature walks with perhaps a dozen being seen each time.

Today however they are much scarcer having gone from one of our most common butterflies to being one of the scarcer ones. In the 1980s I would encounter bullfinches regularly whereas today I feel fortunate if I see one pair a year.

Swallows and house martins are much less common than previously when almost every house had its array of nests tucked neatly under the eaves. And as spring arrives, for many years, birdwatchers and naturalists alike have eagerly awaited the arrival of the cuckoo, listening first for its call.

They were a common sight in the 1980s but today are on the endangered list, an icon of spring sadly having diminished to such an extent that in a relatively short period of time they may even become extinct.

Several creatures have suffered a similar fate such as song thrushes, turtle doves, hedgehogs and wall butterflies. It is not doom and gloom, a few species have increased in numbers while new ones have appeared. One that comes to mind id the speckled wood butterfly which in the 1980s was quite scarce but is now common. So far as damselflies are concerned, we now have the small red-eyed and willow emerald damselflies, recent colonisers.

Any messages to Tony Brown on 07776433307, email

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