Nature Reserve & Biological Station

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The Cuckoo roost and Cuckoo news

Happy 2013!! I am very sorry. This blog needs an urgent update. I have not realized that the last message was that we are not accepting visitors anymore. We DO accept visitors and the Cuckoo-story continues. I will give you an update on what has happened in the past weeks:

After our observations on the courtship behavior of our Wilito, we did not accept any visitors for several days. We tried to find the Cuckoos in the mornings in the same spot to see if they are still showing the courtship behavior or even mating. Only a few times more we saw the courtship behavior, but then Wilito did not show up anymore in that spot. We only had the adult bird around. The adult was always a lot shier than the immature and never got close enough for feeding, sometimes it would even run away quickly when seeing us, but then one morning it did not mind our presence. That morning the adult attended a swarm of smaller army ants (Labidus praedator) and stayed at the swarm for a while which gave me the chance to throw some grasshoppers at it. And finally it worked out and I was able to feed it next to the ant’s swarm. The next morning we found the immature again in that spot and while I was feeding it, the adult showed up and I ended up feeding two Cuckoos at once.

The following days I checked the same spot very early in the morning and found that Wilito was roosting there. The immature was sleeping in a thin tree next to a forest path and came down the tree for feeding when I arrived. We did not see the birds together anymore and as we could not observe any more courtship behavior, we also accepted visitors again. While the army ants were still moving further down on our neighbor’s land, I was feeding Wilito at dawn at its roost site. This was a lot easier than feeding it next to the ants for several reasons: one thing is that the Cuckoos are always a bit more distracted when the ants are swarming, another is that ants all over the place are nasty and I am allergic to these little creatures and then the biggest advantage of the roost site was a fix time. Before I always had to wait and search for the Cuckoo, at the roost site I knew when and where exactly to find it.

I could feed the immature at the roost site for a few days, but then it did not show up anymore. We found it at the ant swarm instead. Two days later I went to check the roost site with some dutch birders and again there was a Cuckoo in the tree. I wondered a bit about its behavior and when it came down from the tree I noticed that it was the adult!! Although not as tame as Wilito, it still let me feed it and did not mind the presence of our visitors.

The feeding of the adult Cuckoo at the roost went on for about three weeks. Except for a few days around X-mas it did not show up at the roost. On the 22nd we had a group of birders from Birdquest visiting and although we hiked down to the ants and waited there for three hours, we could not find the Cuckoo. On the 25th Wilo went to check the ants late afternoon and came back with the good news that the Cuckoo was at the roost again. So the Birdquest group came back on Boxing day and got a nice X-mas present. Again the Cuckoo stayed at the same roost for some more days, while the ants started moving again uphill. We were hoping that they would come back to our land, but when they almost reached the reserve they turned and continued moving onto another neighbor’s land.

Currently the ants are statary again, on our neighbor’s land though, but she lets us go there with visitors and we share a part of the entry fee with her. The adult Cuckoo is not at the roost anymore, but generally we are seeing it next to the army ants’ bivouac or swarm. The spot could be nicer but it is still possible to feed the Cuckoo there and although it is not yet picking the grasshoppers from my fingers, it has become pretty tame.

The question is: where is our Wilito? We have not seen it for quite a while and apparently it is not attending the same ant swarm anymore. Thursday afternoon some visitors saw a BGC on our trails in the reserve and I am sure it was not the adult which we saw the same day on our neighbor’s land. Maybe that was him, but what is he doing?? …….

This blog post was written by Nicole

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Bad news....

The army ants became nomadic again and took a route into a rivine covered with bamboo which made it impossible to follow them. Unfortunately this means that we can't offer the Cuckoo-feeding anymore.

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