Cuckoos and cuckoo spit


Ok, this is not a photo of either a cuckoo or cuckoo spit – it’s a barbary dove. Its just that cuckoos are very hard to photograph and cuckoo spit isn’t very glamorous so I chose a dove. I like it. But the reason I’m writing about cuckoos is that on Wednesday I heard my first shining cuckoo of the summer. Although it was only a part call the notes were unmistakably cuckoo, and like the summer chatter of kingfishers or the flowering of pohutukawa, are such a strong signal of the seasons rolling round. Quite by chance it was only a day earlier that I’d accidentally brushed some cuckoo spit onto my arm while working through a thick patch of scrub.


The “spit” is created from sap by a spittle bug nymph, the small pale dot at the top, to provide camouflage protection as the feeding bug lodges on a succulent part of the plant. In adulthood these nymphs become froghoppers. Spittlebugs only appear in the spring, coinciding with the appearance of migrating cuckoos as they return from wintering in the Pacific. So, not actual cuckoo spit but it’s one of those little connections in nature and in our culture that I love.


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