Sunday, December 6, 2020

Nocmig Update, Nov 2020 - Filey

Just when you thought it was safe to close the study window.....
Four figures of November Nocmig Pink-feet, in dozens of flocks....  

After a great autumn so far, the expectancy was for nocturnal migration to tail off somewhat in November, on account of a drop in species abundance and diversity, and also suitable and/or encouraging conditions. For the latter, running the home recorder takes almost zero effort, but the North Cliff recorder involves more faff for often much-decreased returns; thus, most of November's focus was on the sky above our little corner of the town, with a few notable exceptions.


Filey Town 
The hopes, then, were for some significant Scandinavian thrush arrivals (if conditions conspired), perhaps a few more Pink-footed Geese, and a smattering of late autumn shorebirds; anything else would be a bonus, especially after such a productive first autumn (and spring). The month started out placidly enough, with a few nights of just a handful of thrushes, and then kicked in with a very large Pink-foot flock on 4th and further large flocks on the 5th, when a flock of Barnacle Geese and a Whooper Swan co-starred; further additions over these nights included Golden Plover, Dunlin, and Common and Black-headed Gulls.

Night of a thousand Blackbirds.... 

... and many a wheezy Fieldfare 

 Two nights later, and the 8th was an absolute blinder. At least twenty species (so much for reduced diversity...), from various ducks to a whole heap of waders (including e.g. four Grey Plovers, 59+ Dunlins, Snipe, Curlews and more), to the hoped-for major late-season major thrush arrival: 1041 Blackbird, 956 Redwing, 12 Song Thrush and 56 Fieldfare registrations were doubtless a fraction of the masses actually arriving (particularly re: Fieldfares, which clearly call a great less in nocmig than their congeners), but made for a busy and very productive sono....
The following night (9th) continued the theme, with similarly impressive species abundance and variety, with additional large flocks of Pink-feet, plus Water Rail, Skylark, and tallies of 989 Blackbirds and 504 Redwings among others. A few night's relative calm (handfuls of thrushes and waders) was again seriously disrupted on 13th, with the calls of a much rarer, much less anticipated Arctic Anser species - a large flock of White-fronted Geese, no less, along with multiple flocks of Pink-feet, two flocks of Common Scoters, (yet another) Whooper Swan and much more within another bumper night for variety and numbers.
White-fronts - much scarcer by day!  

Getting definitive White-fronted Geese calls on the sono was a particular pleasure, not least because the Anser geese are especially hard to ID unless you get good, clear, unmistakable recordings, and also because the ongoing influx of scarcer winter geese into southern and eastern England gave us extra impetus to check thoroughly.


Strong winds and stormy nights continued to dominate through mid-month - messy, bar-code-like sonograms, and poor migrating conditions - and yet, the birds kept moving; small numbers of thrushes were a given, as were odd, hardy waders, but once again, it was the geese that stole the show. Multiple flocks (and three figures) of Pink-feet dominated the night skies on 17th, followed by another flock of White-fronts on 18th - fewer, but lower, nearer and clearer - as well as more Whooper Swans.... 


 ... which would've been quite enough, but an even more unexpected nocmig prize honked hoarsely over the rootops on 21st - a small flock of Tundra Bean Geese. Again, with the variation of calls inherent in the Anser family's NFCs, it needed checking carefully (including with those who're much more familar and adept in this area), but Beans they were, completing a totally unexpected goose species bonanza in just a few late autumn days of Filey nocmigging. Wonderful.
Beans means highs


A few nights of relative calm followed (if yet more large, noisy skeins of Pink-feet can be described as such), but then the conditions calmed, too, both here and on the other side of the North Sea - encouraging further large pulses of thrushes and other late autumn migrants. Blackbirds were particularly numerous in the last days of the month, with three figures on most nights, peaking at 417 on 27th. 

And yet there was still more to come: two flocks of Common Scoters among more waders, thrushes and Pinks on 28th, an then a wonderfully busy sono the following night (29th) included my third flock of White-fronted Geese for the month, no fewer than 14 (!) flocks of Pink-footed Geese, Common Scoters, yet more Whooper Swans, thrushes and waders - a fittingly busy end to a month that greatly exceeded all expectations.  

Filey North Cliff
As mentioned, convenience, opportunity and suitable conditions (or rather a lack thereof) meant that I ran the North Cliff recorder far more sparingly; recordings were confined to two runs of several nights apiece, at the beginning and then the end of the month. Both were very productive, and after a similarly quiet start to the month with a few thrushes and the odd wader, the goose bonanza soon paid out, big time....
To say Pink-feet were numerous during this month's nocmig, both here and over the town, would be an understatement, and we're logging far, far more than we'd hoped for; and that's just the (inevitably extremely low) estimates made on the basis of calling birds (imagine the actual numbers involved). After the above night (White-front, 10 flocks of Pinks, Whooper), the next evening had a further ten flocks of Pinks, more Whoopers and plenty of other bits, and then the next (7th) was pleasingly varied, including at least six Bramblings:
The night of the 8th - one of huge thrush arrivals over the town (see above) - was fascinating, and reflected one of the reasons I've been running the two recorders simultaneously when possible. The North Cliff recorder, 1.3km north of my study recorder, has its obvious strengths and advantages of course, as explored on these pages before - but on this particular evening, those strengths clearly lay in the mean streets of Filey Town...

... or, perhaps more specifically, in the combination of drizzle, thick mist, and artificial electric light, creating a target 'island' for the masses of arriving thrushes in aim for, in the absence of any other visual clues. To compare, here's the totals from the North Cliff (see also the small print:)

The final run of recordings up on the North Cliff, from 26th to 29th inclusive, showed classic late autumn migrants - Blackbirds, Redwings, Snipe (below), Wigeon, Dunlin, etc - were all still very much on the move, as well as adding yet more flocks of Pink-feet, and to close out the month, a further two flocks of White-fronted Geese on the final recording.
What a month.....!