To hear the evocative springtime call of the cuckoo these days is a comparative rarity as the bird has, in common with many other species been in steep decline for decades. For example, nearly forty percent of the population had failed to return in the early nineties and now, twenty years on, that figure has undoubtedly increased.

The cuckoo was an essential welcome harbinger of spring when I was a boy and the birds called regularly on local commons in and around the London area and of course in the countryside. Indeed, its annual arrival was taken for granted.

For many years I visited the Northamptonshire countryside, a favourite location of mine to listen to cuckoos and a guaranteed hotspot around light woodland and hedgerows. This year, my contacts tell me that not a single bird has been heard calling. How very sad.

However, taking a more upbeat if cautious tone, I've noticed that the house sparrow which rapidly vanished from many areas seems to be making something of a comeback.

There are ongoing studies hoping to pinpoint reasons for our 'cockney sparrer's decline but I've always maintained that habitat loss is the main culprit. The birds like to nest under eaves of houses but over the past thirty years or so many householders have stopped up eaves  to improve insulation, thus depriving the birds nesting space.

The colonies I am monitoring are all resident among older houses where roof spaces are accessible and old fashioned garden hedges have been left in place. Lack of insects available at crucial nesting times is also a probable factor but finding a suitable home is paramount.