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Monday night’s gales were a stark reminder that winter still has a few tricks up its sleeve.

Monday night’s gales were a stark reminder that winter still has a few tricks up its sleeve.

It will be well into April before we can relax in the knowledge that spring has gained a foothold — and only just!

That harbinger of spring, the cuckoo, pictured above, normally returns to the Largs area around the second week of April if weather conditions along its migration route are favourable.

Cuckoos are birds of upland areas and woodland edge, so places such as the Brisbane Glen are likely to have a couple calling during April and May.

The migration of cuckoos has been a mystery until recent years. The theory was that they flew to Africa to spend the winter but no one knew what routes they took or where they ended up in that vast continent. Now, however, a handful of cuckoos have been fitted with satellite tracking devices in an attempt to find out exactly where they go when they leave Britain.

The project, being organised by the British Trust for Ornithology, has revealed some astonishing evidence of the birds’ long migrations.

Since being fitted with a satellite tag in Norfolk four years ago, Chris the cuckoo, named after TV Wildlife Presenter Chris Packham, has travelled over 60,000 miles – the equivalent of flying twice round the world, and he’s taken in 22 different countries along the way!

He was the only one of the first five cuckoos tagged to keep transmitting live data, far exceeding the expectations of the scientists who are leading the project. And he still seems to be doing well, with his position on 5 March reported to be in Central Africa just south of the Sahara.

The BTO say: “In the last few days Chris has moved to the northern edge of the rainforest, having left his location in Congo and travelled 630km (390 miles). He has flown across the entire breadth of the forest spanning Congo and Central African Republic, at which point it is slightly narrower than to either the east and west.

“He is now in Central African Republic where other tagged cuckoos are currently. We now have five Cuckoos on the edge of the forest getting ready for the next stage of their migration to West Africa.” Hopes are high that the cuckoos will make it back to Britain — and Largs! — to announce spring’s arrival.

Follow the cuckoos at: www.bto.org/science/migration/tracking-studies