The COVID lockdown enabled me to concentrate on birding my yard and local areas most of 2020 and I hadn’t chased a rarity since January. The appearance of a Eurasian Common Cuckoo in Rhode Island on November 1st more than caught my attention. Normally this species spends the late fall and winter in sub-Saharan Africa. Clearly this fellow was lost! Only the third time ever seen in the Lower 48 (why it’s a code 3 and not a code 5 perplexes me), the USA birding community mobilized.

I was not able to find 12 hours to drive to “Snake Den Farm” in Johnston, Rhode Island until Sunday November 8th. In order to comply with RI law, I took my COVID test within 72 hours of visiting….and proved negative.

Thankfully the weather has been unusually pleasant and this confused juvenile is content eating the vast supply of woolly caterpillars at the farm. I took my chances and left 19041 at 3am today. Four hours later the appearance of TWO Bald Eagles, our National symbol, eating roadkill on I395 in Norwich, CT, was a harbinger for a successful morning.

I pulled into the parking area adjacent to the farm at 7:30am and was surprised to see more than 20 cars with many different license plates already occupying most of the limited area. I quickly gathered my optics and walked briskly towards the assembled crowd a couple hundred yards away. A friendly couple approached and greeted me with a “Your timing is good”. I replied, “It better be, I just drove up from Philly”. They smiled and said: “That’s nice, we drove 14 hours from Columbia, SC”. This Cuckoo was an attention grabber!

“Snake Den Farm” (Cuckoo in the upper right of bush on left)

Within minutes I had the stout vagrant in my view. I had planned to meet my brother (Wistar) at 7:30 but I didn’t see him. He lives only an hour away so I was about to text him when he texted me: “Where are you? I’m here”. I looked at the two guys to my right and one was him! I had walked past him in my excitement to see this mega-rarity. Blame the masks.

2020 has been a COVID nightmare and it also cost me a species on my life-list. The birding powers decided to lump the Northwestern Crow back in with the Common Crow. So the addition of the Common Cuckoo brought my ABA area (USA & Canada) life-list back to 785. But who’s counting? I AM!!

About George C. Wood

A birder since age ten, but not necessarily an avid "lister", I am closing in on 700 (*800!) species seen in North America.....hoping to capture each sighting with my camera.
This entry was posted in Quest for 700 (*800!). Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to COVID COMMON CUCKOO!

  1. michael bradley says:

    Hey, George:

    So glad to see another blog! Congratulations on the Cuckoo. And a double win that you got to see Wistar (I think.)

    Keep ’em coming.

    Hope to see you soon.



  2. Joe Weisbord says:

    Awesome! Rounds out a great weekend. Wish i could have been there to see it!

  3. Julia Foster says:

    Is Wis in your photo? How’s he doing? Congrats on the bird!

  4. Liedtke, Norman F. says:


    Thanks for sharing. Since I am not a birder I really enjoy learning the lingo… It’s like a new sport… And you’re coaching me

    Regards, Norm Liedtke
    Meyer, CEO…….Sent from my iPhone so any spelling or grammar mistakes are Siri’s fault of course
    C. 610-909-0615

  5. Jeff Day says:

    Way to go, George!

  6. Choppy rouse says:

    George, what great news during this crazy covid period. I admire your excitement in going after your dreams and fulfilling them, so happy to hear your good news, choppy

  7. Wendell Holland says:

    Where in the sub Saharan?

    Sent from my iPhone


  8. Tom Mason says:

    Great story and great bird, George!

  9. dawneweisbord says:

    So wonderful George!

    Dawn E Weisbord Acupuncture~Qigong~Herbal Medicine Narberth Acupuncture 201 North Narberth Avenue Narberth, PA 19072 215-850-0921


  10. Jay Bennett says:

    Woodie: Your wonderful insanity of rare bird pursuit is particularly uplifting in these crazy times! Keep it going — 800!

  11. Thomas, Brinton (RBC Wealth Mgmt) says:

    Great fun…. Thank you for sharing!

  12. W. Jeffrey Watkinson says:

    Nice George
    I love reading your birding adventures!!!!

    Jeff Watkinson
    Watkinson Capital Advisors LLC.
    Office #: 484-540-9218
    Mobile: 610-761-5866

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  13. GW,
    always enjoy reading about your birding adventures.
    good pics!

  14. William Watkinson says:

    my son Jeff forwards your blog which is always fascinating especially to a non birder like me.
    so cool what you do.

  15. I got almost as excited as you, reading your post! I enjoy your enthusiasm during this time when we are mostly hunkered down at home.

  16. William Conrad says:

    Bill and Joanne

  17. Chelsea Hessels says:


  18. Laurie Thomsen says:


    I love these birdtales! Congrats on another Species! Great pic of it too.

    All the best, Laurie

  19. Jill Miller says:

    Thanks, George. I love reading your posts. Yes – we know you are counting!!

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