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Black-billed Cuckoo on North Uist

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BrianR
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Re: Black-billed Cuckoo on North Uist

Post by BrianR » 22 May 2016, 21:32

Initial reports of a Black-billed Cuckoo were perhaps unsurprisingly greeted with a certain amount of scepticism - after all the small number that have made it to our shores before have all been in the autumn and like the Yellow-billed Cuckoo most that have made it have been on their last legs. So the first spring record for the UK drew a small crowd of birders that were fortunate to be on the Uists. The bird was taking caterpillars and initially was on the fence by the main road near the junction with the Paible Circular Road. Later it flew into Ada and Archie Campbell's garden and they were thrilled to see it - what a bird to get on ones garden list. A few photos are attached. Some birders are making plans for a charter flight - let's hope it is still present tomorrow.
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Re: Black-billed Cuckoo on North Uist

Post by MisterT » 23 May 2016, 18:32

The cuckoo was still present today in the same location. A few more photographs taken in low light are below

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Re: Black-billed Cuckoo on North Uist

Post by Stuart Taylor » 23 May 2016, 19:08

The bird seems to be getting more mobile. When I went passed in the afternoon the little crowd of birders were watching it in one of the gardens by Loch Sandary. Some guys had come from Southampton and were going back to work there tomorrow!!

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Re: Black-billed Cuckoo on North Uist

Post by BrianR » 24 May 2016, 22:20

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Present for its third day. Very mobile today and went 'missing' for around three hours much to the consternation of birders arriving on the scheduled flight from Glasgow. All was well however as it reappeared in plenty of time for them to make their return flight. In the afternoon the bird settled in or opposite Ada and Archie's garden. Ada even heard it's advertising-call twice yesterday - a rather flat 'cu-cu-cu-cu'. Probably the first time this has been heard in the UK!

As a bonus an Osprey came over Loch Sandary - attention was drawn to the bird by plenty of mobbing Oystercatchers - and drifted away to the N.

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Re: Black-billed Cuckoo on North Uist

Post by BrianR » 25 May 2016, 20:26

And still they come - everyone has so far gone away well satisfied on getting exceptional views of this extreme rarity - for most it will have been an addition to their British lists. I believe it is the 15th record for the UK and the first in spring. Also perhaps the longest staying and most easily observed. The finders were Richard Levett and Tracy Viney who just happened to be driving along the main road when Richard spotted it on the fence. He thought it was an American cuckoo and on looking it up was able to identify it as a Black-billed. Little did they realise what a storm this would cause in the birding world. Benbecula airport tweeted a photo of four charter planes on the tarmac on one day but I'm told there have been a few more since. Yesterday and today has spent long periods by the main road opposite Ada and Archie's garden. It has been feeding well on caterpillars - not sure of what moth they would have pupated to but certainly two different in photos I have seen.
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Re: Black-billed Cuckoo on North Uist

Post by BrianR » 26 May 2016, 18:22

An interesting observation received from John Kemp: 'the only caterpillar I’ve seen well is on the large photo by Dean Eades (www.BirdMad.com). This green caterpillar with bold black spots on it’s back is the Six-spot Burnet (which I’ve had confirmed as such) and is a toxic species though recorded as being eaten by Cuckoo. Burnets release cyanide from crushed tissues at all stages of their life-cycle including eggs. Six-spot Burnet caterpillars feed upon common bird’s-foot trefoil a cyanogenic plant.'

Good views of the cuckoo in the morning. As far as I know the last sighting today was by David Henshilwood near the south end of Loch Sandary: 'perched briefly on reed stem outside window at 13.10 hours while I was having lunch!'

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Re: Black-billed Cuckoo on North Uist

Post by BrianR » 26 May 2016, 19:58

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Attached are some of René's photos of today.
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Re: Black-billed Cuckoo on North Uist

Post by MisterT » 26 May 2016, 21:18

You just can't drive past without looking to see if it is still there, which it was. This photograph was taken at the same time as Rene's when resting in a bush

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Re: Black-billed Cuckoo on North Uist

Post by BrianR » 27 May 2016, 21:05

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After David's sighting yesterday the cuckoo was not seen until near dusk when it was relocated in Peter's holiday home garden west of the north end of Loch Sandary. It must have roosted here and a few birders had the garden staked out at 04.45 hours. It put in an appearance soon afterwards and I believe it was seen up until the afternoon at least. More birders are planning on coming to see it over the weekend. Few have been disappointed so far but it has, by a long way, been the UK's longest staying Black-billed Cuckoo.

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Re: Black-billed Cuckoo on North Uist

Post by BrianR » 28 May 2016, 21:36

Early this morning the bird was in Ada's garden and then in the late morning it was picked up by John Bell on the fence and in the garden of the house just below the summit of the hill back towards Bayhead. A fresh influx of birders then had good views up until the evening from the road leading to Loch Sandary.

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