A key component missing from our narrative on Cuckoo migration is the nature of their wintering grounds and the wildlife and human communities with which they share them. Thanks to Cuckoo our satellite-tracking work we know where they winter and we can view the sites through the images captured by orbiting satellites. However, we do not have a sense of what these places are like on the ground, nor do we understand how the Cuckoos are viewed by people in countries like Gabon, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Building a far more comprehensive picture of their Africa wintering areas will provide a powerful frame for our evolving narrative around Cuckoo migration and decline.
The 2016 trip to Gabon, involving photojournalist Toby Smith and storyteller Malcolm Smith, set out to form a coherent picture of the wintering areas used by Cuckoos in Gabon, the landscapes within which they sit and the elements of human culture and local wildlife with which they interact. Toby and Malcolm left for Gabon in mid-January 2016 with the aim of spending two weeks on the ground. The trip was funded through the BTO/SWLA Flight Lines project, with additional support from Toby, Malcolm and two anonymous donors, all of whom saw the importance of getting a real sense of where some of our birds winter.