Saturday 25 April 2020

Sonic Boom!

In the early hours of yesterday morning, Joe Stockwell recorded a Nightjar flying over his house in Rodwell, Weymouth. That's quite a few miles E of Bridport, but it gives an indication of what is possible during a night's nocmigging. On the recording there are a couple of calls - the typical 'k'vik' type noise that you might hear after dark on a mozzie-infested southern heath in early summer - plus some pukka 'churring'. Amazing. The recording is quiet, but very evocative, and several times yesterday I held my phone right up to my ear and played it, slightly envious.

So anyway, last night I settled into my comfy fishing chair under a cloudy sky, hopeful of a bit of nocmig action in the overcast conditions. All was calm and quiet...

Yesterday was a tea night. No booze, just a mug of black Chai and some gingernuts. Dunked and sucked gingernuts. I mentioned recently that I now keep a running log of nocmig happenings on my phone. If I hear something, it goes in the log; if I go indoors, it goes in the log; etc. It has proved very handy already. The first few entries for 24th April read thus...

20:58 Played Stone-curlew twice! [Hopefully it's obvious why I keep track of bird calls I'm playing out loud!]
21:14 Whimbrel?
21:29 Nightjar?
21:39 Played Joe's Nightjar recording
21:40 - 21:43 indoors
22:03 Played Joe's Nightjar recording again
and so on...

Yep. At 21:29 I'm sitting there, relishing the silence, and clearly hear three distinct 'k'vik' calls; two close together, a brief pause, then another. They sound almost overhead, and I can easily make out that hoarse, frog-in-the-throat quality.

To be honest I was in slight shock, and probably sat there with my mouth open. Had I not listened to a Nightjar recording several times in the previous few hours I am pretty sure it would have been a case of 'Ooh, what was that? I know it...I'm sure I know it...I've definitely heard it before...but what the heck is it?!'

In the event, it was 'Aaaagghh!! That has got to be a Nightjar!!'

But then silence again. That was it, all over in a few seconds. And without my newly-purchased nocmig kit, that really would have been it. No way could I have claimed a Nightjar over my garden at night, based on three calls.

So, very, very early this morning - before my Saturday walk - I was in the cabin, zeroing in on one specific bit of the night's spectrogram...

And there it was, a group of three blips, pretty strong ones too. I played it back. And again. There was hardly any need to check it on Xeno Canto, but I did anyway. Actually, slight disbelief was the reason I suppose. And then finally I noticed something which initially had passed me by. I could hear, between the second and third call, a very, very faint snatch of 'churring'. And it is just about detectable on the spectrogram...

'Churring' quite hard to see. Or hear. Just trust me.

Here's what it sounded like...

Also last night, the Whimbrel I heard, plus another I didn't. Also Turnstone, Ringed Plover, two very faint Barn Owl shrieks and a possible Tree Pipit, all on the recording only. Turnstone and Tree Pipit would be new for the garden. Nocmig is such an eye-opener.

This morning's walk was uneventful, but there are clearly a few more regular warblers on territory, with Blackcaps and Whitethroats more evident, and four singing Lesser Whitethroats. Plus 8 Wheatears...

This afternoon I finally got Sand Martin for the BWKM0 list, and a couple of Swifts. With the Nightjar I have made it to the giddy heights of 49. What will be number 50?

I think it's going to be a clear sky tonight. I'm not expecting much from the naked nocmig effort, and may retire a bit earlier than normal. But I don't care. Stone-curlew and Nightjar! Oof! I can rest on those laurels, quite happily.

Also, tonight is a booze night. Very definitely, tonight is a booze night. There is beer, and a fresh bottle of single malt. Bring it on...


  1. I am so engrossed in your night time activities. What will no 50 be? My money is either an albatross or a dodo. Well, something exciting anyway.

    Good luck.

    1. Cheers Dave. 😊 It'll probably be something quite prosaic, like Song Thrush, or Greenfinch. Actually, I've just checked my list, and Dunnock isn't on there! How????????

  2. It is incredible. Reading this blog provokes lustful thoughts. Last night I got Coot (again), Moorhen (again), and Dog.

    1. I need Coot. 😊
      I'm not sure why there remains some stubborn refusal to acknowledge nocmig as a legitimate enterprise. Fringe, yes, but definitely worthy. Because it is such a buzz!! A massively unanticipated buzz at that!

  3. Coot is an absolute MEGA for Skye. If I do start this noc-migging malarkey and pick up one of those going over, I may just throw myself off the nearest cliff. Or get thrown off by the bird recorder.

    1. Nocmig is teaching me a lot of things I didn't know. Perhaps Coot regularly boodle about the Skye Sky at Night (sorry!) and are awaiting discovery.

  4. Gav, noc-mig satisfies the traditional parameters accepted by science.
    It's almost simple in it's application inasmuch as 'something only exists if it can be proven to exist'.
    And how much more proof is required than a recording?

    The question of whether or not a 'something' counts, is a social construct based on an accepted standard. One which maybe needs to be raised a notch or two?

    Certainly the potential for even scarcer birds has now been realised. And of course, some of those night calls may be so distinctive, that not only on hearing them would you almost choke on your tea and biscuits. You would invariably wake the neighbours with a celebratory 'yessss!' as you made a bee line for a drink of something else capable of warming the insides.

    I fancy a RTP myself.

    Btw, good walk. phew!

    1. Ric, it seems the sudden upsurge in nocmig effort is lifting the lid on hitherto unknown stuff, and disturbing the status quo. That takes some dealing with I guess, and I sympathise with birders who are finding it hard to do that.

      Living in W Dorset, the nocmig bird I ought to lust after is Ortolan Bunting, but that won't be until autumn. For now, Coot would be great!