Monday, April 20, 2020

It's A Hard Nocmig

A Common Sandpiper in the flesh.... 
 
So, we're four weeks into the (partial) lockdown, and the skies outside are clear and blue, the wind is a brisk easterly roaring in off the North Sea, and the pressure is high - the perfect ingredients for a lockdown on vismig, nocmig, and indeed anymig....


... and a spectrogrammed apparition of one as it migrated over the house at 2304hrs last night

Not that I'd be spoilt enough to complain; I can access peace, birds, nature and breath-taking views on my daily circuits from the house, and for that I'm eternally grateful. But with the brakes pretty much slammed on re: migration and high pressure set to dominate for some days to come, it seems like a good opportunity to reflect on that new element of my local birding that many of us around the country, and no doubt the world, are experimenting with - Nocmig.

A Redwing migrating in daylight....
 
I started almost three weeks ago at the beginning of April (see here for a quick recap of what Nocmig is, and my DIY set-up) and have managed to record every night since - this despite tech issues, battery fails, human error, and various other limitations I'm slowly getting to grips with - and have, to my surprise, scored every night.


... and the evocative tsseeps of a night migrant a couple of nights ago

Trapping a little sound-recorder into the gap of a window pointing out into the alley and pressing record is pretty much as basic as it gets, and I'm looking into ways of improving my situation, but if you're thinking about giving it a go, hopefully it's some encouragement: If I can make it work, you probably can...

A Common Scoter navigating the waves on the Brigg....
 
As mentioned in that first post, I have serious limitations here which basically put me off any previous attempts, the biggest being physical contraints - I have no garden, I live in a 100% urban setting in the middle of town, and we're surrounded by what is effectively a sonic fortress of tall, terraced buildings.


... and a flock navigating the chimney pots of central Filey earlier this month

This means the 'reach' of my recorder is limited to a small piece of sky above my study window, and there's no parabolic capabilities (although I'm working on that); it also means the absence of any suitable habitat (and light/sound pollution) act as deterrents for migrants that can easily body-swerve the centre of town a few hundred metres in either direction.

A migrant Whimbrel at a local wetland....
 
Additionally, I have to contend with the ambient noise of an urban setting (as evidenced by the razor-sharp quality audio of humans arguing, laughing, coughing, urinating etc, as well as cats humping, dogs barking, and a wonderful spectrum of other sounds straight off a BBC Radiophonic Workshop LP). Last - but by no means least, trust me - is the, er, mixed blessing of living smack-bang in the middle of an increasingly amorous and vocal Herring Gull colony.


... and a migrant over the house last night

Red-listed they may be, but when they effectively write off 50-60% of an overnight recording, even I start to lose a little sympathy with them; worse still, they have an amazing variety of calls, which cover all frequencies, shapes and sizes on the spectrogram. 'Nemesis' doesn't even come close.....

Herring Gulls = bastards
 
But there are several upsides, too. Firstly, my location - I may be deep in the concrete and clay of an urban setting, but I'm also just a couple of hundred metres from the North Sea; the potential for picking up birds using the coast as a flightline, or picking up species coming in off before they gain height, is exciting. and while it's only speculation, this may already explain the number of Redwings and Common Scoter flocks that have skirted the chimney pots on many nights so far.

Aha! A Redwing sneaks through among the audiohell of Herring Gulls
 
And, it's only spring - this may be a toe-dipping prelude to a full-on deep-dive later in the year, and it may take me somewhat longer to scroll through the nightly spectrograms than the gull-limited 45 minutes at present. Even in present conditions, which are as discouraging as you can get here (strong wind straight onto the exposed recorder from the east, wind carrying a lot of extra ambient wave noise from the sea, high pressure, clear skies etc), I still had Common Sandpiper, Gadwall and Whimbrel migrating over my house last night.

Meadow Pipit  - a diurnal migrant, and a surprising addition to the #Nocmig list this week
 
Fantastic! Early days, but it's exciting stuff, and has the capacity to get much better still....

(*I may have already used that title for our local Nocmig Whatsapp group, but as regular readers are aware I know better than to let a good pun go to waste....)