I actually had a weekend in which I didn’t worry over much about being suddenly out of work for the first time in more than 18 years. It’s easy, in a situation like this, to allow yourself to go cuckoo. But I prefer the other kind: the cuckoos with feathers.

I saw my first yellow- and black-billed cuckoos in fleeting glances on weekend birding excursions in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. In Norfork, I’m a lot luckier. For the past five years, we’ve had resident yellow-billed cuckoos almost close enough to touch.

I can’t explain my deep affection for these creatures. The beautiful taupe backs, melting to rust; the long, curved bill, the boldly barred tail, the distinctive cuck-cuck-cuck call…I’m almost absurdly fond of them.

Although I’d seen them in Brooklyn, I’d never heard one. In Norfork, I followed what was then an unfamiliar call and watched a male offer a female a grasshopper before he…well, you know. Since then, they’ve been regular residents.

In June, I watched as a cuckoo inspected the maple next to the patio for nest twigs, neatly snapping off the choicest ones and carrying them away, completely unconcerned about how close I was. Now I see them almost daily, searching the leaves of the catalpa for the caterpillars that are their favorite treat,  shaking them relentlessly before eating them. Today I saw what I’d swear was a youngster, shorter of bill than the adults.

 On an unexpectedly sweet, cool weekend like this one, watching the White River  go from storm brown to emerald, walking in the gift of morning mist, I welcome the feathered cuckoos – they’re plenty better than the mental kind.

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