Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus - juvenile/first-winter. Snake Den Farm, Providence, Rhode Island. November 2nd, 2020.
Rhode Island does it again! Yet another MEGA within comfortable driving distance of home. After the Terek Sandpiper at Napatree Point in late June, I could never have imagined driving two hours through snow flurries to view a Common Cuckoo in a field, in Rhode Island in November of the same year! Found by Al Schenck at Snake Den Farm on Nov 1st the cuckoo was courteous enough to stick around for another day, much to the enjoyment of the assembled masses and myself. While some Old World passerines have been on my 'radar' for the New England states for a while, Common Cuckoo most certainly wasn't one of them. Without being over dramatic, what seemed like a once in a lifetime opportunity had cropped up less than a hundred miles from home in Northfield and I could hardly resist the chase. Moreover, once I arrived the bird put on the most fantastic show and the first views just happened to be the best of my forty minute visit.
Looking back, all my recent experience of Common Cuckoo comes from Israel in spring migration and, to a lesser extent, the breeding birds there. Although I grew up watching and listening to Common Cuckoos in the UK it's probably decades since I saw a bird like the Rhode Island individual in juvenile plumage. Most of them depart early and I'm pretty sure that I never saw a juvenile in the UK after early September. All the more incredulous then to find one in a Rhode Island field when it should really be wintering in sub-Saharan Africa! This remarkable observation looks set to become only the third found in the lower 48 states after singles in Massachusetts in May 1981 and Santa Cruz County, California in September/October 2012.
'Chapeau' to Rhode Island once more for another totally original rarity and gracious thanks to Tina Green, Jamie Meyers, Julian Hough, Frank Gallo and Jan St Jean all of whom shared tips and updates in one form or another. And of course, grateful thanks to the finder Allen Schenck.
November is off to a cracking start and I just can't wait to see what other avian riches come our way during the remainder of the month. Bring it!