Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Posts Tagged ‘BTO’

Storytelling Starters ~ Touching base

Saturday, May 7th, 2016

Good news. David is back in Tregaron. Tregaron is a town in West Wales and David is the cuckoo I sponsor, one of the clutch that are being tracked by the BTO (the British Trust for Ornithology). It’s  reassuring that my cuckoo is not only back but busy. Sadly another tracked cuckoo, Vigilamus, also managed to make the 4,500 mile journey back to his previous breeding ground, in his case in Yorkshire, but then almost immediately succumbed to the near-Arctic conditions in that part of the country last week. 

Back to base:P1070361

In getting back to Tregaron this year, David has successfully completed his fourth migration cycle. I think of this with a sense of wonder. It’s one of those stories of nature that are really worth telling: they force you to stop and think about their many implications.

For David will not remain in the UK for long. If all goes well, he will already be back in Africa by the start of August or soon after. There, if he does what he usually does, he’ll spend the winter in the tropical forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Then, next January, he will set out – and cuckoos always fly alone – on his migration back north. It’s a very, very long way, taking him north into West Africa, then across the Sahara desert and over the Mediterranean before heading back through Spain and France to arrive back once more in the UK.

Where is home? (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Flying, falling

Saturday, August 22nd, 2015

No good signals have been received from Chris the Cuckoo since 5 August. At that point, Chris the Cuckoo was crossing the Meditarranean Sea after stopping in the Po Valley area of Italy on his annual migration south to Africa to the Congo.  Four complete migratory cycles of his have been recorded by the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) using the tracking device with which he was fitted. Now it is feared he has died and the probable reason is the severe drought the Po Valley area has been experiencing this summer.  

Falling – poor cuckoo!

P1070575Severe drought is also what’s causing enormous problems for salmon in the Vancouver area of Canada. As we were hearing from a friend there this week, the rivers are going dry and salmon trying to get upriver to reach their breeding places are not going to be able to do so.

For salmon and cuckoos, it’s a sorry tale. Already the Po Valley area drought is thought to have been responsible for the probable deaths of several others of the cuckoos that the BTO has been tracking this year. To discover the difficulties migrating cuckoos are facing is precisely why their tracking programme was devised. Drought, of course, is one of the worst of the problems: it means the feeding places where the cuckoos stop on their journeys cannot provide them with the sustenance they need for their onward flight.

The cuckoos were much on my mind when we went for a walk around the lovely North Pembrokeshire village of Nevern this week. The 6th century saint, Saint Brynach, founded the church in the village and, among the ancient yew trees leading to the church entrance is the famous Bleeding Yew that attracts many visitors. Nearer the entrance is the beautiful Celtic cross which figures in a sad little local legend in which the cuckoo is central.

 On St Brynach’s day each springtime, according to the legend, a service used to be held around that Celtic Cross. Every year, the vicar and the congregation would  gather for the service in front of that Celtic Cross and wait until, as invariably happened, a cuckoo would fly down and settle on top of the cross. At that point, the service could begin. One year, however, the people waited and waited until they were on the point of despair. Just as they were about to give up, a very wind-blown and battered cuckoo arrived and settled briefly on the cross only to fall dead on the ground below it as the service started. 

Flying – lovely swifts! (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Cuckoos and Crosswords

Saturday, November 8th, 2014

Fox 2 11.14Wildlife is always interesting. Most mornings these days when I draw the curtains, I see a big, handsome fox on the roof of the shed the other side of our back garden wall. Usually he’s still asleep. When he wakes, he stretches and yawns. Sometimes he then moves onto the tree-platform or storage-shed next door. I suppose he feels safe on these vantage points.

As for cuckoos, I learned a lot more about them last Saturday when I went to a fascinating talk on bird migration by a scientist from BTO (British Trust for Ornithology). Since then, thinking about what I learned has made me conceive a new storytelling idea namely, to devise something I could call The Cuckoo’s StoryAs with the Mabinogion story I told in North Wales a couple of weeks ago, there’s a bit of a back story.

The back story:

Cuckoos were part of my childhood. In our living room, we had an elaborately carved cuckoo clock: the cuckoo would pop out each hour on the hour, much to my delight. Besides, all round my grandparents’ smallholding deep in the countryside near Cilgerran, I’d hear that crazy repetition of the cuckoos’ call throughout the  cuckoo season.

Then a couple of years ago, I was re-introduced to cuckoos by a friend (Hilary, a million thanks!), who told me about a cuckoo-tracking project being run by BTO. I signed up to sponsor a cuckoo. Welsh cuckoos were being included among the birds being fitted with tracking devices. There was even an invitation to suggest names by which the tracked birds could be known. I remember suggesting Taliesin, the name of one of the earliest Welsh poets.

So that’s how I started getting some cuckoo knowledge. In this Blog previously, I’ve mentioned the astonishingly long and (to me) heroic journey that our cuckoos make each year. Not that they’re really OUR cuckoos at all. Each year, they spend only about 6 weeks in the UK. Then they’re off –  across Europe, the Mediterranean and the Sahara and, after a sojourn in West Africa, down through Africa to the Congo. Then after their time in the tropical forests, they’re on their way back to the UK to breed.

New knowledge: (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ What tales!

Saturday, April 12th, 2014

Two stories caught my attention this week. One is about a cuckoo so it’s a story I link with the element of air (hence my photo of sky). The other is about a message in a bottle that was recently fished out of the sea. This links in my mind with the element of water (hence my photo of a sadly rubbish-filled bit of the Thames). Both stories have caused me to ponder, partly because they so stirred my emotions, partly because they are true. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Pattern is key

Saturday, June 29th, 2013

Pattern is everywhere.

We see it in people’s behaviour where, over time, it can be a sign of problems and sometimes, sadly, we discern it too late.

We see it in natural life where often it’s a thing of great beauty as in the seed-pod of a poppy which provides my photo today.

We see it in the weather – and what strange weather we’ve been having this year. We must surely see it as an indication of the great upsets in the world’s climate which are being caused by global warming.

We see it in the life of birds, for instance in the cuckoo’s annual migrations which I regularly learn about in the Cuckoo Blog which the British Trust for Ornithology sends out to cuckoo-sponsors. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ The Road Home

Saturday, April 6th, 2013

This week I’ve been struck once again by the continuing tale of the cuckoo. The tale is told in serial form in regular blogs from the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology). What enables it to be told at all is the electronic tag. By tracking a small group of selected cuckoos on their annual migrations, these tags are helping scientists to establish what particular difficulties are contributing to the marked decline in cuckoo numbers in Britain. The cuckoo whose tracking I’ve helped support by contributing a small sum of sponsorship money is one that has been called Lloyd. He’s one of the cuckoos from my native Wales.

But it wasn’t Lloyd who became the centre of attention in this week’s BTO blog. It was one of the English tagged cuckoos called Chris.

The Cuckoo’s Tale (more…)