Saturday 24 April 2021

Nocmig Mega and Many Birds

Well. What a day. Burton Bradstock seawatch, followed by nocmig analysis, followed by afternoon walk at West Bex, followed by Cogden seawatch. I would love to write loads, but need some sleep before another early alarm call, so...

I go through a nocmig spectrogram in 28-second bites. Mostly I skip through them extremely quickly, because 99% carry nothing of interest. I'd got to almost midnight, then this...

Well, I didn't know what it was going to be...other than loud!

It was this...

Yes, that's a very close flock of Dunlin. Easily the loudest I've recorded, and my first this year. So you can guess I was already buzzing from that, but another hour's-worth of recording produced the following bunch of squiggles, and after playing it just once I was on cloud nine!

As it appeared on the screen...

...and stretched out a bit.

I'll tell you now: it's a Stone-curlew! Exactly one year, one day, 23 hours and 41 minutes after my gob-smacking first one last spring, another of these wonderful creatures flies over my nocmig tackle and gives vent to some strangled yodelling! You couldn't make it up!

Unless some prankster knows where I live, of course...

Anyway, what a coincidence, eh? Especially when you factor in Thursday's Cogden bird, which incidentally occured on exactly the same date as my 2020 nocmig bird: April 22nd!

This is what it sounds like...

Already I have used way too many exclamation marks in this post, so I'll try to keep the rest of it measured and calm. Suffice to say that the birding has been supremely acceptable, with many so-called 'common' migrants to get excited about. Here are several pics...

Whimbrel from this morning's seawatch

Almost every Gannet I've seen recently has been a white one, so this brown job got papped 'just in case'. I do not have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the world's gannets and boobies and whatnot, and these days you simply never know what might fly past, do you?

One of a pair of gorgeous Yellow Wagtails at Bex. My first this year.

Small Copper. Another 'first this year'.

Lesser Whitethroat. One of two. Again, my first this year.

Wheatear. Not my first this year.

In the background, a couple of orchids. There is no public access, but I'll bet they're Green-winged.


A pipit.

Just occasionally I tie myself in stupid knots over the identification of a relatively easy bird. Maybe it's an age thing. Or just incompetence. Whatever. This pipit for example. I flushed the bird off a path and it flew - silently - to this perch. As you can see, it is horribly backlit. I managed just a couple of photos before it flew - silently again of course - into the middle of a field of crops. It wasn't very close, but binocular views told me it was a Tree Pipit. The flank streaks looked very thin, and I thought I could detect the makings of an Olive-backed Pipit type ear covert spot. So I get home, load the pics on to the laptop, and immediately start fretting. Are those flank streaks actually fine enough? The bill looks pretty robust, but is it robust enough? And where's the ear covert spot? I don't see it! And of course the hind toe is hidden! The other photo...

Anyway, I settled on Tree Pipit eventually, but if anyone wants to sort me out...?

So, I've been birding forty-odd years, and look at me! Hopefully one or two readers will find it reassuring that someone with so much experience is sometimes really useless!

A lovely (but uncooperative) female Redstart. I can do Redstarts.

Right, that's about it I think. I would love to include a list of birds seen today, but time is against me...

Good night.

Sunset from the Cogden seawatch spot.


  1. Not surprised you need a sleep after that Gav.

    As for...Unless some prankster knows where I live, of course...?

    This I feel could be grounds for mischief making among Nocmig aficionados, or others with no standards on this score.
    Let me think now. Where do I find a flight call of a Pallas's Gull?

    1. Mischief on a grand scale, Ric! The sort of thing I would definitely have been up for in years past! And it has happened too...

      Last a year a north-east based birder/nocmigged was pranked by his 'mates'. Unsure what the amazing wader song on his nocmig recording actually was, he sent it to an expert abroad. The expert's diagnosis? 'Lovely recording. It's the song of a Pacific Golden Plover. And what is especially notable is that I recognised it because it's my own recording, made a few years ago!' As they say in old movies: the game was well and truly up! 😄

      I just hope it never happens to me. But how will I know... ?

  2. Entertaining throughout - as usual.

    1. Thanks Dave. Blame it on the birds. They've been very kind to me so far this year.

  3. Great Post Gav. Why am I not surprised about your Stone Curlew? You live on the south coast so every UK breeder has to pass there at some point, so why not your garden? You have some great photos there too, loving the Whimbrel...Oh, yes that is a Tree pipit.

    1. Thanks for the kind words Stewart, and for the moral support re Tree Pipit! No idea why I sometimes have these shaky moments with quite straightforward birds...

      Stone-curlew is very scarce in Dorset, with just 4 records in 2019 (one nocmig) and none in 2018 for example. Just a few miles west, in Devon, it is a proper rarity. However, my guess is that if every Dorset (and Devon) birder who goes out and bashes a local patch by day also deployed some nocmig kit by night, the status of Stone-curlew - and perhaps many species - would be very different. Food for thought.