Flappy McFlapperson

Tagged Cuckoo 1, Cuihu, 24 May 2016 close up Flappy McFlapperson (2016)  Tagged Cuckoo 3, Yeyahu, 26 May 2016 close upMèng zhī juān (2016)


26 May 2018

A tribute to Flappy in the Beijing Youth Daily (in Chinese).

Beijing Youth Daily Flappy 2

Beijing birders meet-up to celebrate Flappy’s life at The Bookworm.

25 May 2018

A Sixth Tone article in tribute to Flappy.

23 May 2018

After analysis of the transmissions from Flappy’s tag in the period to 17 May, we must conclude she perished sometime between 14 and 15 May 2018.  A tribute to this remarkable cuckoo can be seen here.

21 May 2018

There are still no further signals from Flappy and I am now concerned for her welfare.  According to the data received in recent weeks, her tag has been charging and performing well.  A sudden loss of contact, especially during migration when the tag is usually exposed to sunlight and with few barriers to the signal, is therefore unexpected and worrying.  It could still be that she is feeding under the canopy, preventing the signal from her tag reaching the satellites overhead but the longer no signal is received, the less likely that is the correct explanation.  We’re now examining the temperature data from recent weeks in the hope that will give an indication as to Flappy’s condition.  Her most recent position is c100km north of Mandalay in Myanmar, a little east of the Irrawaddy River.

flappy as at 17 may 2018
The most recent transmissions from Flappy’s tag, received on 17 May 2018, put her around 100km north of Mandaly and 30km east of the Irrawaddy River.

19 May 2018

We’ve received no signals from Flappy for a few days…  we’re hoping it’s nothing to worry about and that she’s simply feeding under the canopy, hence the signal from her tag is not reaching the satellites.  Time will tell.

14 May 2018

There’s no rest for Flappy..  She’s flown straight over Bangladesh and is now in Myanmar!  That’s her 60th and 61st border crossings since being fitted with a tag in May 2016.  The map below shows her current spring migration in solid pink with her autumn track in solid red alongside 2016 and 2017 tracks.

13 May 2018

Flappy is flying.. she’s now in India, in the northeast State of Bihar, just north of the mighty Ganges.   She’s flown >4,500km in just over 4 days…  remarkable.  However, she’s a little behind some of her fellow Common Cuckoos – the first one have arrived with one in Yuanmingyuan (Old Summer Palace) yesterday and two at Yeyahu today.

Note the signal from central India is erroneous.  

11 May @ 1500 China time
Further signals have been received that show the previous signal putting Flappy in India was erroneous..  this happens sometimes, despite the data showing a high confidence level.  The new signals show a much more feasible trajectory and speed.  Flappy is just off the coast of Pakistan, close to Karachi.  That’s a distance of a distance of >800km at a speed of c60kph…  much more realistic than 250kph!
11 May @ 0900 China time
Well, this is just incredible.  Flappy is in India!  After going to bed last night with Flappy off the coast of Oman, imagine my surprise when I checked this morning and saw that Flappy was in India!  We have received only one signal, so we should be a little cautious, but the position has high confidence.  Looking at the two most recent signals – from 2018-05-10 15:07:49 (European time) off Oman and 2018-05-10 23:26:22 in India, it would mean she’s travelled more than 2,000km in just over 8 hours.  That would be an incredible speed of just under 250kph which sounds impossible..  let’s wait for further signals!
10 May @ 2100 China time
After several hours of silence (probably due to low battery charge), we’ve just received a signal from Flappy’s tag.  She’s off the east coast of Oman….  which means she’s flown around 1200km in the last 36 hours, an average speed of around 33kph.  If she continues on her current trajectory and at her current speed, she’ll make landfall in Pakistan (about 1,000km away) early on Saturday morning….  keep flapping!
9 May 2018 @ 1200 China time
It looks as if Flappy is going for it!  Overnight, she’s flown at least 500km northeast and, as of 0600 this morning China time, she’s just 40km from the northeast tip of Somalia.. and the Arabian Sea.  Check back regularly for updates!
flappy as at 9 may 1200flappy as at 9 may 1200 - 2
7 May 2018
Flappy is in Somalia!  She’s flown 600km NE from her previous position in Kenya (her 56th border crossing since being fitted with a tag) and is now poised to make her crossing of the Arabian Sea.
2 May 2018
Flappy is in the northern hemisphere!  After flying c300km NNE, she’s now in Wajir, Kenya having crossed the Equator.  On this date in 2017 she was around 300km NE of this position, in Somalia.  Weather permitting, we can expect Flappy to cross the Arabian Sea in the next week or so and the next two to three weeks promises to be quite a ride..!
22 April 2018
Flappy has flown 300km NNE and is now in Kenya.  She’s on her way!
16 April 2018
After mentioning Kilimanjaro in the most recent post from 10 April, Flappy has made a beeline towards the majestic mountain and is now only 100km away in northeastern Tanzania.
10 April 2018
Flappy has moved a further 600km northeast and is now in Tanzania, less than 400km away from the scene below…  Photo by Mzoo Shekomba.
31 March 2018
Flappy has started her return to east Asia.. she’s flown 400km N to northern Zambia.  In so doing, she has skimmed through southeast Democratic Republic of Congo, crossing her 52nd and 53rd borders and visiting her 16th country since being fitted with a tag.  A well-travelled Cuckoo!
20 March 2018
It’s still winter for Flappy and she remains deep in Africa.  Zambia is still her temporary home but she has edged very close to the border with DRC.  Will she cross so that DRC becomes her 16th country visited since being fitted with her tag?
flappy as at 20 march 2018
22 February 2018
Flappy has flown more than 500km northwest and is now in Zambia.  This is her 51st border crossing and the 15th country she’s visited since being fitted with her tag.
5 February 2018
After spending the depths of the northern winter in northern Mozambique, less than 100km east of the border with Zimbabwe, Flappy has flown around 100km north.  Is this just a small movement to take advantage of local conditions or the start of her northern migration?   It’s likely the former; last year, she didn’t begin to fly north with any purpose until mid-April..!
29 December 2017
A 50km flight ESE and Flappy is now close to the mighty Zambezi River in northern Mozambique, almost certainly sharing the area with hippos, lions and leopards!
24 December 2017
A short move east-southeast has seen Flappy cross into the state of Sofala in northern Mozambique.  Not a bad place to spend the festive period.  Merry Christmas, Flappy!
21 December 2017
She’s still not settled for Christmas!  Another 1,000km SSW and Flappy has crossed into northern Mozambique before crossing into Malawi and then back into western Mozambique!  That’s her 48th, 49th and 50th border crossings since being fitted with her tag.  The map below shows her movements over the last 10 days – more than 1,800km from Kenya to the state of Manica in western Mozambique.
17 December 2017
Flappy has moved on again and, after another 800km SSW, she’s crossed into Tanzania and will be mixing with lions, hippos and wildebeest.  That’s her 47th border crossing involving 14 countries since being fitted with her tag.
The map below, from NOAA, of recent rainfall, shows that Flappy has moved to a wetter area, perfect for the emergence of her favourite food – juicy caterpillars!
rainfall africa 10 days
14 December 2017
Flappy is in the southern hemisphere!  She’s flown around 400km southwest , crossing the Equator, and is now near the Tana River in southern Kenya.
14 November 2017
After three weeks in Ethiopia, Flappy has moved on, heading 750km SW, crossing through western Somalia and is now in eastern Kenya. She’s following a remarkably similar trajectory to that of autumn 2016.
22 October 2017

Flappy is in Africa!!  She’s crossed the Arabian Sea and is now in Ethiopia, having flown another 650km since making landfall in Somalia.  That’s more than 3,300km non-stop from India.  What a bird!

Interestingly, this year she’s taken a more southerly, and longer, route across the Arabian Sea.  Last year she took a more northerly route into Oman before hopping across to Somalia.  We’ll analyse her route in a bit more detail to see whether there were any weather-related factors that influenced her journey.  Either way, it’s an incredible journey and we’re delighted and relieved that she’s made it to Africa, her second autumn migration since being fitted with a tag in Beijing in May 2016.

20 October 2017
After a month close to Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh, Flappy is heading to Africa!  She’s currently over the Arabian Sea, on a heading to Yemen or Somalia…  the winds look good, so hopefully she will make landfall sometime tomorrow morning…  keep flapping, Flappy!
17 September 2017
Flappy is following a remarkably similar route to 2016.  She’s now just north of the city of Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh, around 20km from where she spent a month in September and October 2016.  We expect her to remain in this area for several weeks before making her dash to the coast and a crossing of the Arabian Sea.
Flappy as at 17 Sep 2017
7 September 2017
Another 500km east-northeast and Flappy is in Uttar Pradesh, just south of the border with Nepal.  She’s showing remarkable consistency in her migration route; last September she followed a very similar route and spent some time in Uttar Pradesh before heading to the coast for her ocean crossing.
3 September 2017
Flappy is in Nepal!  She’s skimmed across northern Bangladesh, and the Indian states of West Bengal and Bihar before entering eastern Nepal, a journey of more around 600km.  That’s 41 border crossings involving 14 countries since being fitted with her tag.  She’s following a remarkably similar track to last year. On this day in 2016 she was close to the India/Bangladesh border, near the town of Shilong, around 450km to the east.
1 September 2017
Another 1,000km and Flappy is now in Assam, India, having crossed Myanmar in one go.  On her current trajectory, it looks as if she will cross Bangladesh and into Meghalaya.  Will she visit Nepal as she did last year?
30 August 2017
Flappy is still flapping and, after another 600km, is now in Yunnan Province, southwest China.  She’s less than 100km from Vietnam and around 350km from the Myanmar border.
27 August 2017
Flappy is in Guizhou!  She’s flown 130km SW from Hunan and is now in a heavily forested area in a remote part of Guizhou Province.
25 August 2017
Another 750km and Flappy is now in western Hunan Province, close to the border with Guizhou.  She’s on track to reach Myanmar in the first few days of September as she did last year.
21 August 2017
Flappy is continuing south in Mainland China.  She’s now on the border of Henan and Hubei Provinces, having already flown more than 1,600km from her breeding grounds in Mongolia.
18 August 2017
Flappy is on the move again.  At around 1630 local time we picked up two signals on the border of Hebei, Shandong and Henan, around 300km SSE of her previous location.  The signals indicate she could still be moving….
15 August 2017
Flappy is still in Hebei Province, around 200km southwest of Beijing and around 10km southwest of the small town of Quyang.  It looks to be the perfect place to prepare for her forthcoming arduous journey to Africa – there has been recent rain and hot temperatures, ideal conditions for the emergence of a Cuckoo’s favourite food – soft-bodied invertebrates, especially caterpillars.  Remarkably, she stopped at this same spot in August 2016!  Although she will make local movements within this area, the positions sent by her tag on this day in 2016 and 2017 are just 700m apart! Last year, she remained in this area until, on 1 September, we picked up her signal in Myanmar, more than 2,400km away.  It’ll be fascinating to compare the timing and route taken in 2017.
Flappy’s location early August.. around 200km SW of Beijing.
Flappy’s locations on 15 August 2016 and 15 August 2017, remarkably just 700m apart.
26 July 2017
Flappy is on her way south!  On 19 July signals from her tag were picked up in Shanxi Province, west of Beijing and by 21st she was in Hebei Province, a journey of more than 1000km from her breeding area in northern Inner Mongolia.  It’ll be very interesting to compare her journey with that of autumn 2016.
10 July 2017
So far this summer, Flappy has been loyal to a small area on the edge of the taiga forest in northern Mongolia.  She’s probably laid several eggs in the nests of her hosts which, from the habitat, could be species such as Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler, Common Stonechat or Yellow-breasted Bunting.  The maps below show her location and local movements over the last seven days.  Last year, she began to migrate south in mid-July, so we can expect her to begin her autumn migration in the next week or so.  Watch this space!
This map shows Flappy’s summering location in northern Mongolia, close to the border with Russia and just 500km SE of Lake Baikal.
This map shows Flappy’s local movements in the last seven days.  The distance between the most northerly and most southerly positions is only 25km.
3 June 2017
Welcome home, Flappy! She’s made it back to her breeding grounds in the Onon-Balj Basin National Park in Mongolia, close to the border with Russia.  The last leg, around 1,000km, from northern Hebei across the Gobi Desert, was completed in just over 2 days.  Since being fitted with a tag in Beijing on 24 May 2016 she has flown more than 32,000km to Mozambique and back.  Simply awe-inspiring.
Flappy’s incredible journey, May 2016 to June 2017. Her outward track is in red and her return track in pink. A total distance of more than 32,000km.
2 June 2017
After a few days rest in northern Hebei, Flappy is off again.  She’s flown more than 300km NW into Inner Mongolia, heading across the Gobi Desert on her way to Mongolia.
29 May 2017
Flappy has skipped Beijing and is now in northern Hebei, close to the border with Inner Mongolia!  In a snub to the capital, she’s flown 400km north to the hills of northern Hebei.  She now has the small matter of crossing the Gobi Desert to reach her breeding grounds of northern Mongolia.  Go Flappy!
27 May 2017
Almost there!  Flappy is in Hebei Province, just 100km south of Beijing.  She’s flown around 1,000km from Hubei Province and is now just a short flap from the capital.  Will she stop in Beijing, as she did last year?  Or will she go straight to Mongolia, where she spent the summer?
25 May 2017
Flappy has moved another 300km ENE and is now in Hubei Province, central China.  It will be interesting to see whether she stops in Beijing on her way to Mongolia… and, if so, where?
21 May 2017
Flappy has flown another 1,000km NE and is now in Chongqing!   Will she stop by Cuihu Wetland in Beijing, where she was fitted with her tag last year?
16 May 2017
A 600km move east, modest by Flappy’s standards, means she is now in China!  That’s more than 7,000km in 7 days.  And she is now less than 200km from Meng’s most recent position!
15 May 2017
OK, I am lost for words.  Flappy is clearly a machine.  She has just flown another 2,000km from northern India to Myanmar.  That’s 6,500km in 6 days.
13 May 0400 UK time
Flappy is ridiculous.  After making landfall in Pakistan, she’s carried on heading NE across the Thar Desert and into Uttar Pradhesh, India.  That’s nearly 4,500km in 3.5 days!  That journey must have been fuelled by a lot of caterpillars!  Again, with only one transmission, we can’t be sure whether she’s stopped for a rest or is still going…  watch this space!
12 May 2017 @ 1000 UK time
She’s made it!  Flappy is in Pakistan.  What a journey!  She’s travelled more than 3,000km from her previous position in Ethiopia, including crossing the Arabian Sea.
We have only a single transmission from Pakistan so we can’t be certain whether she has stopped for a rest or is continuing on; that will be clear when we receive the next signal.  I hope she’s found some nice juicy caterpillars on arrival – she still has more than 6,000km to go to reach her breeding grounds…
12 May 2017 @ 0030 UK time
Flappy is still going…  She’s flown through the night and, locally, it’s 0330am.  She is now 2,700km from her previous position in Ethiopia.  If she holds her course, she should make landfall in Pakistan sometime today.  Only 350km to go.  Keep going, Flappy!
11 May 2017 @ 1807 UK time
Another fix from Flappy.. she’s turned a little east and appears to be leaving the comfort of the coast for the open ocean.  It’s 2107 local time so she’s heading into the night..
11 May 2017 @ 1656 UK time
Flappy is hugging the Omani coast as she heads NE.  The winds look good, so fingers crossed for a successful crossing…  will she head out across the ocean to make landfall in Pakistan or India? Or will she head back to the coast for the night?
11 May 2017
Flappy is over the Arabian Sea!  A transmission from her tag from 1105 UK time today shows she’s around 1,600km NE of her previous position in Ethiopia, around 85km from the coast of Oman and around 1,500km from India.. Keep going!!
9 May 2017
Flappy is continuing to move northeast and is now in Ethiopia.  When will she make her move across the Arabian Sea?
5 May 2017
As Meng has made it across the Arabian Sea to India, Flappy – seemingly more cautious – has edged north around 400km in Somalia.  Will she take a more northerly route, involving a shorter sea crossing, as she did in the autumn?
Flappy as at 5 May 2017
Flappy is edging north..
1 May 2017
Flappy has crossed the Equator and is now in Somalia, having flown around 400km northeast.  She’s around 300km west of Mogadishu.  Where will she cross the Arabian Sea?  Will she move further north to shorten the crossing?  Or will she make a flap for it from Somalia?
20 April 2017
Flappy is motoring!  She’s flown another 700km NNE and is now in Kenya, less than 100km from Meng!
19 April 2017
Finally!  Flappy is on the move…  She’s heading northeast and has flown around 1,300km to Tanzania.  She’s less than 500km from MENG, who is also well on the way back north..  So relieved to see Flappy make a move..  after a few weeks of very few signals, all from the same location in Mozambique, we were getting a little worried.. but this move shows that all is ok.
27 February 2017
Flappy is still in northern Mozambique, having spent more than a month in the states of Zambezia and Manica.  She’s around 500km north of Meng.  When will she begin to head north?
15 January 2017
Flappy has moved another 450km south-southwest and is now in the state of Zambezia, still in Mozambique.  In so doing, she crossed into and out of Malawi, her 19th and 20th border crossings since being fitted with her tag in Beijing! Will she add Zimbabwe to her country list?
10 January 2017
Flappy is still heading south.  Overnight she has moved another 250km south-southeast within the Mozambiquan state of Niassa.
4 January 2017
A new year, a new country!  Flappy is still moving south, more than 450km and crossing her 18th border.  Now in northern Mozambique.
20 December 2016
Over the weekend of 17/18 December, Flappy has headed further south, crossing her 17th border, and is now in the state of Iringa in central Tanzania.  Is this where she will spend Christmas?
25 November 2016
After a week resting in Somalia, Flappy is on the move again!  She’s headed more than 300km to the south-southwest, crossing her 16th border, and the Equator, and is now in eastern Kenya.
17 November 2016
Flappy has moved another 100km, this time to the southeast, which means she has just made her 15th border crossing and is back in Somalia.
16 November 2016
Flappy has flown more than 600km to the southwest, crossing her 14th border since being tagged, and is now in northeastern Kenya!
11 November 2016
No significant movements from Flappy in the last few days – seems she is recovering from her marathon sea crossing by feeding up in Ethiopia.  Her crossing from Somalia to Ethiopia was her 13th border crossing involving 11 countries since she was tagged in May 2016 (China – Mongolia – China – Myanmar – India – Bangladesh – India – Nepal – India – Pakistan – Oman – Yemen – Somalia – Ethiopia).
6 November 2016
A couple of new signals show Flappy’s position yesterday, on the north coast of Somalia, to be accurate.  And this afternoon we picked up a new, accurate signal that shows Flappy has crossed into Ethiopia!  She is now less than 500km from Skybomb!
5 November 2016
We’ve picked up a couple of signals from Flappy’s tag that put her on the northern Somali coast.. They’re not the best quality so may not be entirely accurate but they’re certainly plausible.  If she has transited Yemen to Somalia, she has so far crossed 12 borders on her autumn migration!
4 November 2016
Flappy has crossed the Arabian Sea!  The most recent signal puts her at the northern edge of Masirah Island, off the Omani coast.  We’re not sure whether she has stopped here or just picked up as she was passing through…  hopefully today we will receive her latest position.  It’s another phenomenal journey.. more than 2,000km non-stop from her previous position in central northern India.  Go Flappy!
Update @ 2030 Beijing time: Flappy’s signal has been picked up 600km deeper into Oman, just 60km from the Yemen border…!  This area can’t be good for cuckoos so, presumably, she will continue for a while yet to the eastern Rift Valley in Ethiopia?
3 November 2016
Flappy is over the Arabian Sea!  She’s heading to Africa on a more northerly trajectory than Skybomb and, all being well, will make landfall in Oman very soon!
1 November 2016
Typical of Flappy’s character, she is not to be outdone by Skybomb and, hot on his heels, it looks as if Flappy is heading to the coast.  Last night she flew more than 300km southwest on a heading towards Gujarat.  Watch this space!
17 October 2016
Remarkably, Flappy has continued to backtrack and is now back in Uttar Pradesh, close to where she spent the second half of September and early October.  That’s a ‘retreat’ of over 1,000km!  Whilst this might sound strange, Chris Hewson at BTO commented:
“I wouldn’t say it’s a bad sign but maybe not a good one either.  It does suggest she wasn’t able to continue the way she intended for some reason.  She has come back to very close to her previous position, but not to precisely the same spot, which is interesting.  The screenshot below shows that she has actually settled right on the edge of the area that hasn’t been rained on recently – a little to the south and she would have been in more moist conditions.
But the habitat she is in looks good – wooded areas close to a large river near the town of Sunderpur.
So I wouldn’t be overly worried.”
16 October 2016
Flappy has returned to Jaipur! After heading to the border with Pakistan, she has now made a u-turn and flown back more than 500km to an area a little south of Jaipur.  The experience of tracking cuckoos in the UK tells us that this kind of about turn is not unusual.  It may indicate that the area Flappy had flown to was unsuitable and so she has returned to the closest area she knows.
12 October 2016
Flappy has moved again, heading southwest, and is now on the border with Pakistan.  If she continues on this heading she will soon make her 10th international border crossing since being fitted with her tag.
10 October 2016
After a prolonged stopover in Uttar Pradesh, Flappy is on the move again and is now close to Jaipur in Rajasthan.  It’s a move of 350+ km to the southwest.  Is she heading to the coast to prepare for a sea crossing?
12 September 2016
Flappy has made a short move west-southwest and is now 200km east of Delhi in Uttar Pradesh, northern India.  After a consistent bearing of 290 degrees for around 1,700km, does this move signal a change in direction or is she simply responding to local conditions?  Time will tell.
Meanwhile, the staff at Cuihu Wetland, the place Flappy was fitted with a tag, have written article about Flappy.  See here (in Chinese).
10 September 2016
Flappy continues her west-northwest trajectory along the foothills of the Himalayas.  She has now travelled on a bearing of roughly 290 degrees for around 1700km from Myanmar.  Will she make a break across the Thar desert to the coast?  Or will she continue on this course into Punjab and then take the green ‘corridor’ southwest into Pakistan, following the Indus to the Arabian Sea?
flappy-as-at-10-september-2016-2  flappy-as-at-10-sep-2016
8 September 2016
Flappy has crossed her 9th international border since being tagged (involving China, Mongolia, Russia, Myanmar and India) and is now in Nepal, following the contours of the foothills of the Himalayas.  Could her destination be Africa?  If so, which route will she take?  A sea crossing similar to the Amur Falcon?  Or a more overland route via Iran and the Persian Gulf?
5 September 2016
After a brief stop in Meghalaya, Flappy has continued in a west-northwesterly direction for around 800km, briefly crossing into Bangladesh, and is now on the India/Nepal border, around 120km southwest of Kathmandu!
Flappy as at 5 Sep 3 Flappy as at 5 Sep 2016
3 September 2016
Flappy’s stay in Myanmar was brief.  She has continued on her migration, taking a route into India, south of Nagaland. She is now just north of the border between India and Bangladesh, close to the town of Shilling in the state of Meghalaya.
Flappy as at 3 Sep 2016
Flappy as at 3 Sep 2016 2
A closer view of Flappy’s route, showing her now in the Indian state of Meghalaya, just north of the border with Bangladesh.
1 September 2016
After spending a few weeks in Hebei Province, and after a few days of “radio silence”, we suspected Flappy may be moving again.  That suspicion was confirmed last night when her transmitter was picked up by satellites, showing she is almost 2,400km from her last known position and is now in Myanmar!!!  This suggests that SE Asia is probably not her destination. Where will she end up?  Will she stay in Myanmar?  Or continue on to India or, dare we say it, Africa?
Flappy as at 1 Sep 2016
1 August 2016

Flappy is now in Hebei Province, southwest of Beijing!  She has crossed the Mongolian desert and is now situated about 15km southwest of the small town of Quyang.  She’s on her way!

Flappy as at 1 August 2016

July 2016
“Flappy McFlapperson” was the first Beijing Cuckoo to be given a tag.  She was tagged at Cuihu Urban Wetland Park in the northwest of the city and named by pupils at Dulwich International School.  Flappy was clearly still migrating when she was tagged as she continued north through Hebei Province and Inner Mongolia before crossing the border into Mongolia.  From there she headed towards Russia and settled down near the Mongolian/Russian border for the summer (see below).
Flappy’s summer location.  Photo by dnemek on Panoramio (via Google Earth).

In mid-July, Flappy began to move south but after heading part way across the Gobi Desert, she made an about-turn and headed back to her original position.  This kind of about-turn is not unusual in cuckoos and it is expected that she will begin her migration proper in the next few days.

Flappy 16 July 2016