I needed to get back not too late, so it was a 4.30 alarm and getting to Thursley not far after 6. Clear when I left Rickmansworth but cloudy when I got into Surrey. Still, a cup of coffee revived me and I set off.
As soon as I got onto the heath the birdsong was deafening. A redstart was giving it full chat from a nearby wood and I stopped for a few minutes to listen - gorgeous but a tad on the dim side deep in the wood.
You could also hear tree pipits calling from the silver birches, stonechats, chiffchaff, willow warblers, blackcaps, linnets, wrens, it was alive.
I was focused though on the cuckoo, and about a 15 minute walk got me to an enclosed area of scrubby grass surrounded by trees. This was the area. Quite soon another birder, also called Paul, arrived and between us we set the stage for the proceedings. This meant putting together a nice arrangement of photogenic logs at optimum distance from the tree we were hiding in and baiting it with copious mealworms.
For the first hour you could hear the cuckoo calling, probably a few hundred yards away, but a succession of dog walkers did not help the chances of it coming down. We were kept entertained though by a pretty good supporting cast.
Finally, and slightly surprising, we had woodlarks coming down. They are pretty common here, but normally quite flighty and normally more on the heath, but these were pottering about on the grass, just as interested in getting nesting material as eating mealworms.
Click here for video of cuckoo calling
Clearly now getting a bit peckish and having seen the feast of mealworms laid out before it, the cuckoo flopped off the stick onto the floor.
It then decided it had enough of that, and we were worried when it took off that it was going away, but no it just went back onto the stick again.
It all had to end eventually though, and this was brought about by a combination of jogger and dog-walker going past. The cuckoo had enough and flew off into the woods. Predictably I managed to miss it flying, which was annoying, but I am making a habit of this type of shot now.
Cue the three of us grinning like idiots and in a bizarrely British outbreak of emotion we all shook hands and introduced ourselves!! All of us agreed it was a very special and unique moment we had just witnessed. I headed off back home to actually do some work leaving the other 2 to it. As I left the field though the cuckoo was starting to call again, but from some distance off.
A stupendous few hours, 3 year ticks, but that cuckoo. I have a feeling I might have another bite of that cherry....