Cuckooing in D flat

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Two good ones, full of I-didn’t-know-thats.

cuckooNever mind the Poe, the Dickens, the Conan-Doyle; the real treasures are the ‘lost’ writers most of us have not heard of.   My top pick to follow up is ‘W.W.’, otherwise Mary Fortune.  She is a very early, possibly the first, female writer of detective stories, who wrote and set her stories in the Australian outback of the 1860s and 70s (and seems to have lived a very curious story of her own).

And after page four of Cuckoo I don’t think I knew any of it at all.  Honour the man who can creep about Wicken Fen for thirty years, not only watching cuckoos but pretending to be one.  A few choice tidbits:  ‘pishing’ is the noise you make to bring shy reed warblers straight to you; in some species, individual birds lay eggs with markings unique to that female alone, like fingerprints; birds don’t have XY chromosomes but WZ, and sex of offspring is determined by the female not the male; and male birds cuckooing in C or D or D flat may be one way of distinguishing sub-species or races of cuckoos without having to get at their DNA.

If, of course, we still have any cuckoos left.

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