Champions of the Flyway!

Saturday, January 2, 2021

2020 - The Year In Nocmig (Part One)

Common Scoter  - the species that kickstarted my nocmig here in the town back in April 

Well, that was fun. Nocturnal migration recording - Nocmig - has been a wonderful part of 2020, in many different ways: as a distraction in trying times, as a (steep) learning curve for new birding skills and knowledge, as a new method of understanding and appreciating local bird migration, as a valuable data-gathering exercise, and ultimately, as a glittery little mystery treasure trove to open every morning....

(Headphones recommended for playing the following audio clips)


At the end of March, with an indefinite lockdown beginning, birding opportunities narrowing, and crucially, Common Scoters audibly beeping outide my bathroom window in the night sky, the reasons for not trying it previously - a lack of garden, a lack of time, a lack of a quiet enough recording location, and a lack of professional gear - were suddenly outweighed by a 'screw it, it's got to be worth a shot' approach that turned out to be one of the better turning points of Spring 2020.


Common Sandpiper - a regular spring migrant over the house

I've written (and spoken) widely about my novice experiences in nocmig here and elsewhere over recent months, and rather than rehashing existing content, this annual summary will be a little more succinct, with the option of reading about each month in more depth via links below each header. 

As regular readers will know, for the first few months it was all about the recorder jammed into the gap in my study window and pointed out into the alley here in downtown Filey; by July, I'd expanded my set-up by running a second recorder regularly up on the North Cliff here in Filey, about 1.3km to the north of the house. (By August, I had three on the go simultaneously, as described in part two, to follow soon....)

Full summary of Filey Town results here

Highlights - Hundreds of Common Scoters - the species that kick-started it all, and that gave the impetus to persist; nine wader species, including four Little Ringed Plovers, the first Greenshank and Grey Plover; two Blackcaps (at the time, an unexpected thrill over these urban rooftops!); lots of wildfowl including Gadwall, Wigeon and Pochard; numerous rails (especially Moorhens and Coots); lots of returning Scandinavian thrushes, including three figures of Redwings.

Most abundant - Common Scoters (288), Redwing (168), Oystercatcher (38), Common Sandpiper (13) 

Most regularly recorded - Redwing (57%), Common Scoter (43%), Oystercatcher (37%), Blackbird & Moorhen (both 30%) 
Full summary of Filey Town results here

Highlights - Two Quails (10th & 25th); a wider variety of waders, including the first Sanderlings, Knot and Turnstones; the first terns (Sandwich and Arctic); long-distance passerines, including two Lesser Whitethroats, Spotted Flycatcher and Yellow Wagtail; first (wholly unexpected) record of a Barn Owl short-cutting through the heart of town!

Most abundant - Oystercatcher (59), Moorhen (24), Whimbrel (14), Dunlin (12) 
Most regularly recorded - Oystercatcher (68%), Moorhen (48%), Little Ringed Plover & Grey Heron (both 23%)


Full summary of Filey Town here
Highlights - Plenty of rails (numerous Moorhens, plus Water Rails and Coot), Little Grebes, another Spotted Flycatcher, (presumably returning) Common Scoter (but the Herring Gull colony noise was increasingly overwhelming....)

Most abundant - Moorhen (30), Oystercatcher (19), Grey Heron (11), Curlew (8)
Most regularly recorded - Moorhen (40%), Oystercatcher (37%), Grey Heron (27%), Curlew (13%)


Full summary of Filey North Cliff and Town here 

Highlights - Recording began from the 10th on the North Cliff here in Filey, which was instantly productive and hugely varied: highlights included a Bittern (23rd), twelve wader species (including four Little Ringed Plovers, lots of Curlew and Whimbrel, Turnstones, Knot, Grey and Golden Plovers), three Water Rails, Common Scoters and much more - a wealth of variety and abundance! 

The Filey Town recorder was temporarily mothballed on 12th due to the almost total audio wipeout from the Herring Gull colony, but still clocked plenty of Curlews, Moorhens and a few other species before then. 

Most abundant (North Cliff) - Curlew (35), Dunlin (21), Oystercatcher (20), Redshank (13)

Most regularly recorded (North Cliff) - Curlew & Oystercatcher (both 60%), Dunlin (40%), Redshank (35%)


A hugely entertaining first 'half' of the year, and autumn would prove to be arguably even more surprising and productive... 

Part Two (covering August to December) follows soon