The Birdsong is Amazing at this Time of Year – The Cuckoo is Here!

On my dog walks around Clue Hill Farm last week I heard the cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) three days running.  A true sign for me that spring is really here.  I think that this must be a real privilege, as the call of the cuckoo is becoming a

wood violets

Wood Violets in the Sunshine at Clue Hill Farm

very rare sound in the U.K., because fewer and fewer of them return to breed here every year.  It seems that very little is known about their habitat and where they go, so it is therefore very difficult to concentrate on their conservation.  We just hope that the conservation work that we are doing will prove beneficial to providing the correct habitats for birds such as the cuckoo.

I may have heard one, but I certainly did not see one and I wonder how many people would recognise one if they did see them?  The cuckoo is a dove-sized bird and has blue/grey upper parts, head and chest, with dark barred white under parts.  They have a sleek body, long tail and pointed wings, which is not unlike kestrels or sparrowhawks.

The females lay their eggs in the nests of other birds, especially meadow pipits, dunnocks and reed warblers.  The unfortunate host birds then take on the duties of parents and feed the cuckoo chick, unaware that the baby bird is not their own.  A female cuckoo may visit as many as 50 nest in one year – which if they are such prolific breeders, begs the question as to why they are in such decline; but due to their recent decline, they have now been listed as a Red List species by the RSPB.

Planning for the Wildlife Safari in the Barn at Clue Hill Farm

Planning for the Wildlife Safari in the Barn at Clue Hill Farm

When I met with Stuart Mabbutt last Saturday, who is now our Resident Wildlife Sound Recordist* at Clue Hill Farm, within the space of 25 minutes of walking around the woods and surrounding hedgerows, he heard: robins, willow warbler, wren, great tit, blue tit, pheasant, blackcap, green woodpecker, dunnock and saw two buzzards searching for prey.  We did not hear the cuckoo though.

Stuart was preparing a site study for his Wildlife Safari on May 16th and was really pleased to see how the woods and pond were springing into life.  He had last visited us in late autumn and our careful and sustainable management of the area is proof of how we try to nurture the environment to encourage wildlife.

Meanwhile, I shall be looking to spot my first cuckoo.  They are masters of disguise.  Some of them are even able to match their eggs to those in their chosen nest, making it less likely for the real owners to notice the new addition. How clever is that?

* Our Resident Wildlife Sound Recordist will be using Clue Hill Farm to build his sound archive so that he can produce soundscapes.  This is an exciting new collaboration for us, so watch this space!

The Power of Mindfulness

3AE338DE-430B-4E55-A0BD-B8BE55683C48If we are more aware of our thoughts, feelings and body sensations, from moment to moment, we give ourselves the possibility of having greater freedom and choice.  This takes us away from the old ‘mental ruts’ that may have caused us problems in the past.

A good starting point for the beginner is to try to be more open-minded.  Perform one new action as an experiment and don’t pre-judge how you will feel until this has been completed.  Trying new behaviours can be interesting in itself.

Don’t expect things to change over night and don’t expect miracles, but even making a one per cent change in your activity pattern, for example, increasing those activities that nourish you and decreasing those that deplete you, can help in regaining an overall sense of control.

When we become anxious and stressed out, we are like cars that are over-revving and it can be difficult to stop the effects that the stress hormone cortisol is having on our minds and bodies.

There is evidence that if you have as little as eight weeks of this simple technique of meditation you can reduce the size of the amygdala, which controls our fight or flight response.  This means that practitioners of meditation  are less prone to angry outbursts and over-reacting to certain situations.

There are now several opportunities throughout the country to enroll onto  a Mindfulness Course and really get to grips in a safe and controlled environment with the practices of Mindful Meditation, such as our one at Clue Hill Farm.

The so-called ‘Serenity Prayer” asks for:

‘Grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things which should be changed and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.’

If we can learn how to realize all of the above, then we have succeeded in moment-by-moment mindful awareness.

For an example from Jon Kabat-Zinn on ‘Healing the Mind’ do take a look at the YouTube recording:


To be able to turn your life around you may only require an introduction and guide to all of the above practices, we have the perfect solution to that:

These were the comments from Angela on our last day:

‘Would definitely recommend and come again myself.  A truly wonderful day – thank you!’