Champions of the Flyway!

Saturday, April 4, 2020

New Adventures In Lo-Fi

Common Scoters on the move off the Brigg - but that's by day....
Thirteen days into what will no doubt be a lengthy (partial) lockdown and it's all about making the most of wildlife under the restrictions - by appreciating existing pleasures fully and also finding new ways to explore aspects of birding and nature that were previously untapped. Of the latter, especially now we're into the spring proper, there's the nocturnal migration of birds, or Nocmig.

A Common Scoter in the bay - not skirting chimney pots on Rutland Street
But how? Put simply, by recording the noises they make as they pass overhead: point recorder skywards, press record, download and analyse afterwards, identify species and numbers. Of course it's a bit more complicated than that (especially the identifying part), but that's essentially it, and anyone can do it; and as you might expect, many more people are, with so much more time on their hands and limitations as they are. If we can't go to them, then let them come to us.

The study, including a window not only to my limited sliver of housebound vismig, but also with a suitably gripping gap in the top section...
I've been meaning to get into Nocmig for an age, but a lack of a practical venue for a recorder - we have no garden, are surrounded by multi-storeys of bricks and mortar on all sides, and have a very limited sliver of sky available to us - was enough to dissuade me thus far. But through a combination of reasons, I've finally taken the dive (or rather, dipped my toe in) - not least because, as mentioned above, just like everyone else, I'm hoping to make the best of the situation and find new ways make the most of our limitations.

...where the recorder....
The final straw came on the evening of 31st March (a few nights ago) when, while brushing my teeth, I heard a low, loud flock of Common Scoters migrating over the house at around 2300hrs - magical! - and with reports of a big nocturnal overland movement of these wonderful seaducks underway, it got me thinking as to how I might yet fashion a Nocmigging opportunity from these humble surrounds..... the answer - well, a short-term stop-gap answer at least, was this: dust off old Olympus hand-held sound recorder, cocoon it in bubble wrap, jam it in the opening at the top of the partially-opened study window on the first floor, press record, and hope for the best.

.... points out into the alley and into the night...
That was several nights ago now, and despite the vaguely comedy DIY method, it works - in fact, it's kind of thrilling already. Of two nights I've gone through, both have featured multiple flocks of scoters, including some so low you can hear there wing-beats as clear as day - as well as multiple migrating Redwings, Song Thrush, Fieldfare, and several mystery calls (there'll be a lot of the latter, trust me....).

.... and is already producing exciting results, including this spectogram of a flock of very low Common Scoters
I'm looking at ways to make the recording process more successful and effective - at least within the limitations of sticking a mic out of my study window in the back alley - but it's a start, and hopefully there'll be plenty more eulogising about this new little adventure to come soon.