Champions of the Flyway!

Saturday, December 24, 2022

2022 - the Year in Nocmig: Flamborough (part one)

Common Scoter - 84 flocks migrated under the cover of darkness on the night of 28th March, between the Irish and North Seas and low over the recorder in Flamborough village. Full story here


In tandem with my nocmig sites in the Filey area, I've been recording at Flamborough since 2020, with increasingly fascinating results (see, for example, here and here). A quiet garden in the village (thanks mom!) is a near ideal location, and I chop and change between an mp3 recorder and an Audiomoth, depending on circumstances; thankfully, almost complete coverage during migration seasons is possible, with plenty of recording outside of the main windows, too, depending on conditions.

Headphones recommended for listening to the clips below 


A 30-second clip of an incredible Common Scoter migration over Flamborough on 28th March. Listen for the high beeps of males, the lower beeps of females, and the whistling of wingbeats as they fly low over the village 

The first half of the year (as summarised here) included scarcities such as (yet) another Bittern, and better still, a Stone-curlew - only Flamborough's fourth ever, and first since 2014 - and also featured sixteen species of wader, Spotted Flycatchers, Ring Ouzel and many other migrants; but the huge, unprecedented Common Scoter movements, followed by a massive Redwing passage, at the end of March were arguably the most rewarding stories of the period. 

It was another good spring for Turnstone passage over the village

A windy and therefore quiet first half of March improved for much of the latter half of the month, with small numbers of Coots, Moorhens, Water Rails, Song Thrushes, Blackbirds, Black-headed and Common Gulls, Curlews, Oystercatchers, Teal, Wigeon and Little Grebes all clocking in on multiple nights, the first Snipe, Golden and Grey Plovers mid-month, and the odd Robin and Skylark providing additional passerine interest.


It was the last week of the month, however, which really made the effort worthwhile. 'New' species in those final days of the month included Little Ringed Plover, Bar-tailed Godwits, Gadwall, Dunlin and Redshank, and the commoner migrants all became more numerous - but it was two species in particular that stole the show...
An unprecedented night of Common Scoter migration on 28th March.... 

Late March is the (hotly anticipated) peak time for overland Common Scoter migration, as those wintering in the Irish Sea respond to the collective urge to return to Scandinavia and beyond for the breeding season. The numbers we pick up on nocmig vary according to conditions, timing, and the exact route the birds take - all of which conspired perfectly to produce an unprecedented, almost constant stream of Scoters over the village recorder through the night of 28th-29th.
84 flocks, producing a total of 4839 visible calls, poured over between 2330 and 0320 that night; amazing. I could wax lyrically about this beautiful phenomenon endlessly here, but to save you the repetition, for a full summary of that night - and to listen and enjoy the spectacle - head here instead: Mass Common Scoter exodus over Flamborough, 28th March '22
   .... followed by a record spring passage of Redwings the following night

Redwings were not to be outdone, however, and were consistently numerous in the latter half of the month. Many (most) nights saw registrations into double figures, and plenty of nights saw triple figures - including 411 on 23rd, 399 on 24th, 131 on 25th, 212 on 26th, 347 on 27th, and 485 on 28th; exceptional numbers for spring and again unprecedented on my nocmig studies so far here.


 A fourth (!) Flamborough nocmig Bittern (after three last year) - this one on 10th April

But it was the night of the 29th that really blew the doors off (see above), with what was effectively a constant, hypnotic cycle of tssips from dusk til dawn - a total of 2256 registrations. Again I could drone on further here, but if you'd like to hear / read more about it, head over here instead: Huge Redwing migration over Flamborough, 29th March '22 


A flock of Whimbrels heading over on 1st May 

After the record-breaking counts of Common Scoters and Redwings in March, both species continued to register regularly well into April. Scoters featured on a total of seven nights (28 flocks overall), peaking with nine flocks on 5th, six on 3rd and five on 13th - a total of 141 flocks in just three weeks (between 23rd March and 13th April)! Redwings were also on the move regularly and often in good numbers, with plenty of double-figure and several triple-figure counts, peaking with 352 on 4th. In total, no fewer than 5451 Redwing registrations were recorded over the garden in spring '22 - a fraction of the number actually migrating, but an impressive fraction nonetheless!
Black-tailed Godwit - a reliable feature of Flamborough spring nocmig 

After no fewer than three last spring, I was secretly hoping for another Bittern in the darkness over the village this year, and happily, I got one (at 0035hrs on the morning of 11th). Many nights featured a handful of 'regulation' spring species on the move - Golden Plovers, Oystercatchers, Teal, Snipe, Moorhens, Black-headed Gulls - as well as multiple showings of e.g. Coots, Curlews, Lapwings, Common Gulls, Wigeon, Grey Herons, Ringed Plovers and Water Rails

Passerines were dominated by thrushes - the pick of which was a Ring Ouzel on 13th - while shorebirds included Turnstones, both godwits and (fantastically) a flock of Common Sandpipers - 91 calls from at least four, maybe (many) more, birds - picked up by the recorder on 26th (listen below).


Not to be outdone, May also provided both quality and quantity, the former most notably in the shape of a Stone-curlew migrating low over the recorder on the night of the 17th - the first observatory record since 2014 and only the fourth ever (and amazingly not my first nocmig record, after picking one up over Filey early last spring - see here). 

Other waders including plenty of Whimbrels, Knot, Turnstone and Dunlins, there were plenty more rallid registrations (including Water Rails), another flock of Common Scoters (on 5th) and a good cast of passerines which included Spotted Flycatcher and a late-ish Redwing on 3rd.


By contrast, June was especially (and predictably) quiet, with another Spotted Flycatcher and just a handful of other common registrations before I took a break mid-month.


Redwings, followed by Common Scoters and the village church bells - listen out for the loud, lower honks of the females 

 Quite a spring!