Godalming area birds

Godalming area birds

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Noc-mig Mega

Only 4 sessions and 32 hours in, and the noc-mig set up has reeled in a big one – Common Scoter no less, with 2 birds recorded calling as they flew over Allden’s Hill at 09:52 on Monday 10th. As mentioned in my noc-mig post a couple of weeks back, this species was the main instigator in me getting involved with the increasingly popular sound recording technique, and naturally I’m over the moon to have such a species here.

Common Scoter spectrogram
It may seem a bit far-fetched for so many Common Scoters to be recorded flying over various inland locations at night. However, the reality is over 100,000 birds winter off the UK coast alone (with the wintering population extending down the east Atlantic all the way to the Mediterranean), and when these birds return their northern breeding grounds why would they not move overland, in suitable conditions?

These numbers have been reflected in ‘falls’ on a couple of days during the last few weeks. When on BirdGuides duty on 25th March it had happened in style, and I tweeted about the staggering grounded, inland numbers – 103 no less. A similar, smaller fall occurred over the bank holiday weekend, and again last Sunday – it seems drizzle and mist/fog is best for pushing this sea duck down and ultimately to land.

For a much more detailed insight into overland Scoters, I can’t recommend reading this post by The Sound Approach enough – a really inspiring piece, and if anyone reading this has thought about investing in noc-mig gear but hasn’t yet, do it! It’s so fascinating.

Other nights have produced interesting stuff, including a Snipe, 3 owl species and plenty of Moorhens. On the night of the Scoter, interestingly, 6 Mandarins were recorded, along with a Little Grebe. The Scoter call can be heard here, and the spectrogram attached is really the hard proof that this was indeed the species in question – indeed it matches up with Matt’s flyover Scoter spectro nicely.
Drake Common Scoter (Wikipedia).

The call sounds slightly deeper, and did have me a little hesitant at first. However, this is likely for two reasons. Firstly, the birds were probably distant, but also, I’d wrapped the microphone in cling-film that night to keep it dry, and everything sounded deeper. The first bird is exceptionally faint, but can just about be made out at the very start of the clip (weirdly best heard through just a left earphone), and then the other bird calls 3 times. At least two, but it could well have been a flock.

So, a much, much needed patch boost during what’s quickly become my most dire spring here on record. I genuinely can’t remember the last enjoyable, eventful session I had, and I haven’t had a sunny patch day since February! Rain has dominated, with this week mist and fog ruining hoped-for dawn sessions.

Common Scoter becomes the 153rd species recorded in the Thorncombe Street area, and the 94th bird of 2018.