Saturday, August 1, 2020

Nocmig Update - July 2020

Eurasian Bittern, picked up migrating (very low!) over the North Cliff recorder at 0225hrs overnight 22nd/23rd July - recording below. A less-than-annual species in the Filey area and just the kind of #nocmig gold you hope for but never expect..... [photo from Israel a few months back]
Month four of my local nocmig (nocturnal migration recording) adventure draws to a close and it's been fascinating as usual, not least because I chose to mix it up and run a second recorder, only a little more than a kilometre away, but far from the madding Larid crowd. I say chose - I was planning to experiment elsewhere nearby, but the gulls forced my hand and likely did me a favour in the process; as they and their chicks reached new levels of audio hell (and the likelihood of finding any other species on the sono rapidly diminished), it was time to change the backdrop by mid-month.

And it's been very productive - but first, a quick summary of those hard-won minor victories during the first twelve days of July from the study window.... there was nothing new or especially notable to add (to be expected), but Curlews were on the move in the best numbers yet, with 13 in total (including six on the 1st and four on the 4th), plus Lapwing, Common Gull, Coot, Moorhen and Water Rail vocalising over the town's rooftops, and salvaged from ever-decreasing windows of opportunity within the gull wall of sound. With the noise still at critical levels - and some young still to fledge - as I write, it may be another week or two before any attempt at resumption is worthwhile.

Common Gull - one of several non-breeding gull species recorded migrating over the chimneys under darkness. Recording below, over the house on the night of the 7th. 

So, onto the new site, which is to the north of the town and close to the North Cliff here in Filey. It's a relatively quiet time of year to embark on pastures new, but its very close proximity to the coast (as a potential migratory flightline) and, mercifully, its almost complete lack of sonic gull graffiti across the sonogram was more than enough impetus to give it a whirl. The practicalities of dropping it off and picking it up - as opposed to just pressing record and jamming it in the window crack, for example - mean I'll not be running it every night, but, as long as it's productive and I can justify the effort, it'll hopefully be in action a few nights a week at least.

Indeed, so far, I've managed almost every night since the first test run on the 10th, inspired not only by a new burst of enthusiasm but also by encouraging results. With a much reduced selection of possibilities on the table, July was always going to be about waders, with anything else a bonus; so it was great to score heavily on both counts. The biggest pleasure of all, however, is opening the file and seeing a mostly plain, pale grey sonogram of the previous night's recording (instead of the bad-acid-trip-in-monochrome of the local gulls), where isolating potentially interesting shapes as I scroll through is so much easier and less intensive.

As expected, waders have dominated proceedings over these first twenty nights, with twelve species recorded so far. The most numerous have been: Curlew, with an impressive total of 37 for the month; Oystercatcher, a fairly predictable presence, with a minimum of 22 birds registered;Dunlin, surprisingly up in third place with 21; and Whimbrel (see recording above of a very low pass on the 28th), with ten in total so far.

Woop! Woop! It's the sound of.... 
Other shorebirds have included (in descending order of occurence): Redshank (13), Golden PloverKnot and Little Ringed Plover (four apiece), Ringed Plover (three), and singles of Turnstone, Grey Plover and Common Sandpiper. Wildfowl have been represented by Common Scoters (two), Greylags and a Mallard, while three Water Rails and four Moorhens also put in fly-bys.

Redshank - thirteen were recorded over the first three weeks on North Cliff, including the bird below. Note distinctively Nessie-like sono.... 
A single Sandwich Tern and both Great Black-backed and Black-headed Gulls also registered, as did two Grey Herons, but a much rarer cousin of the latter stole the show for these first three weeks recording up on North Cliff - a low and remarkably clear Eurasian Bittern, croaking loudly in the early hours of 23rd July (see recording at the beginning of the post); a species that doesn't even occur annually in the Filey area, and exactly the kind of nocmig prize that makes the effort more than worthwhile.

Aside from (clearly local) corvids and various passerines either in the dawn chorus or, in the case of both Whitethroats and Long-tailed Tits, occasionally in the dead of night, (probable) landbird nocturnal migration has been limited to two flyover Robins, which may or may not be local birds dispersing. However, with August just beginning, I'm hopeful the time of the year and the location of the recorder will pick up odd passerines genuinely on the move as the month wears on - watch this space for more updates.....