This Black-billed Cuckoo was first found on the 21st October, 1982 by our late friend Ian Prophet and N. Davidson in the Telegraph Area on St. Mary's, and the news was soon broadcast to several hundred birders staying on the Scillies. Shortly before the discovery, we were birding on the golf course on St. Mary's and watched a huge tanker sail closely past St. Mary's and we wondered if any North American Cuckoos had hitched a ride on this tanker.
Shortly after the bird had been found it mysteriously dis-appeared and for the next two days, birders methodically searched the area, but were unable to locate this mega North American Cuckoo. It was finally re-found by an islander in a garden in Hugh Town on the 23rd and all the birders present on the Scillies were able to connect with it.
Luckily, we were staying close-by, and after the initial panic by the other birders, we again visited the garden later on and to our surprise very few birders were now present and the house owner allowed us to stand inside the gate and in the evening sunshine the Black-billed Cuckoo showed well right in front of us just a few yards away, allowing me to obtain the following photographs.
Sadly, the weather turned cold and very wet overnight and we were not surprised when the late David Hunt entered the garden the following morning and found the Cuckoo dead.
1982 was an exceptional year for Black-billed Cuckoos in the UK with no fewer than four including ours were seen, with an early juvenile Autumn migrant found on St. Agnes on the 29th August, with a first winter trapped on the 21st October, at Barnstaple, Devon and released the following morning, and one also recorded in Merseyside. In total up to 2011 13 accepted records for the UK of which 5 have been on the Scillies up to 1982, all of which have sadly died.
Since 1982, only 2 Black-billed Cuckoos have been seen in the UK and I suspect that when the next bird is found in the UK it is likely to cause a manic panic amongst the twitching brigade.
Black-billed Cuckoo, Hugh Town, St Mary's Isles of Scillies, 23 Oct, 1982.