Sunday, December 22, 2019

Dodotronic Field Test II: Sounds of the Catalan Pyrenees

Continuing on from my full-day test of the Dodotronic Hi-Sound Stereo, in the steppes, on the Friday of the long weekend here, on the Sunday, I decided to head north to the Pyrenees for a different suite of species. The weather was perfect. It was totally calm, not too cold and there weren't too many people around, when I arrived at Coll de Pal. I had a little unfinished business here, having dipped  Snowfinch on the previous two visits, so it was a good excuse to return. Little did I know I would dip yet again.

Coll de Pal - a great location for a range of Pyrenean specialities.
I decided to stop near some pine trees first, to see if I could record Coal and Crested Tits, and I wasn't disappointed. It wasn't a big ask though, to be fair. Upon stepping out of the car I could immediately hear both species. The stage was set - the purity of the silence, only interrupted by bird song was amazing. This first audio sets the scene pretty well - no noise; just me, my machine and the birds. It starts off with a Coal Tit, which eventually tapers into a Chaffinch in flight which lands and begins to call. In the background are several other Pyrenean winter species including Fieldfare and Crossbill.

As I was surrounded by several target species I spent some time here and one by one I recorded each species until my arm grew tired or I was satisfied with what I had obtained. Next are the stationary "pink-pink" calls of a perched Chaffinch, a very familiar call from back home. 

Before long, I had a very close Crested Tit in front of me. A typical species in pinewoods in these parts with a very distinctive call, consisting of several "see - see - see" notes, followed by a rapid thrill. This, for me is an evocative species and  I really like the call. As a result I've wanted a nice recording of it for a while. With my old setup I never got anything worth keeping so I was very happy with the following - recorded from a bird just a few feet away from me! 

This area was full of the calls of Crossbills, Crested Tits, Fieldfare, Coal Tits and more. A few weeks prior there were up to 3 Ring Ouzel here but it appeared they had since moved on.

As I was watching and recording birds in the pines trees, there were also lots of birds passing overhead, making small internal movements within the area. These included both Goldfinches, Mistle Thrush and lots of Crossbills. Mistle Thrush is a scarce bird in the delta so this proved to be a good opportunity to get a recording of the raucous, almost offensive rattle of a bird which flew over my head. 

Goldfinch is a common bird here but I didn't have a nice recording of its melodic song or call so I took advantage of the silence there obtaining the following as a bird obligingly flew right overhead:

Next I focused on Crossbills. They are quite common at altitude in the Pyrenees and I was bumping into feeding groups and hearing flyovers regularly. I've always found subspecies and cryptic birds rather appealing. Crossbills are an interesting species in that regard because of the fact that there are multiple call types, depending on the region. Some say they are separate species but I find it hard to believe and think that these call types are just regional dialects. Then again, I haven't poured over any literature nor do I have experience with these different call types.

As you can see, the area is a well-known site for Crossbill sightings.

Perhaps, in some time I will be in a better position to form a more objectified opinion for myself. For now though, I thought it was interesting, on a personal level to start becoming better acquainted with excitement calls, flight calls, chitter calls etc., and so I spent nearly 30 minutes listening and recording some really obliging birds. Comparing and contrasting the calls, all birds I encountered seem to fall into the N12 call-type bracket which is the expected call-type for the region.

Excitement calls from birds recorded on the day - conforming to the N12 call-type.

Flight calls also confirming to N12

Threat calls from two males fighting mid-air      

The following clip depicts two males giving excitement calls from the top of a conifer, before alighting and fighting in mid-air at 26s, giving threat calls.

Here are some flight calls given by some birds in the same area:

After some time I decided to go a little further up, above the treeline, to search for the 170 Snowfinch that were reported an hour earlier. Despite hours of searching, of course, I didn't see them, because the species doesn't actually exist!!

Higher up there is a lot of snow cover. The Snowfinches usually feed a little further down the road here in an area with some exposed grass along the roadside, where they feed on seeds.

What I did have up there though were some really nice views and listens to both Raven and Alpine Chough and I got some really nice recordings of both. Raven is a bird with a surprisingly diverse vocal range and they can make some really interesting sounds and so I plan to spend some time recording this species when possible. The first recording I took of the species happened here when two birds flew over my head. The following recording features one of these birds wing-beats as it passed directly over, occasionally giving a single, short, disyllabic, metallic-sounding call

A little bit later, I heard one of these birds give a very different sounding "toc-toc-toc-toc" call. I assume it must be a social call of some sort but I've never knowingly heard it before.

Of course the Alpine Choughs were one of the big stars of the day. They appeared over the peak at one point in an impressive flock wheeling down out of the sky making a hell of a racket. Their vocalisations are unlike any other corvid, being much higher pitched, and beautifully melodic.

Recording Alpine Choughs, at Coll de Pal

Again I was left highly impressed with the performance of the Dodotronic. I was in the field for 7 hours with it in my hand and I never once felt it weighing me down. The acoustics of the site on the day were amazing and it allowed me to see the setup perform in optimum conditions. I think the last audio above reflects the recording quality of this setup as well as the amazing acoustics of the site on the day. So if anyone out there is thinking of taking up sound recording and would like the best quality possible, without spending a fortune then go ahead and buy yourself a Dodtronic parabolic setup. You will absolutely not regret it!

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Dodotronic: premium-grade audio at an affordable price

For those of you that read my previous post on "noc-migging: my story so far" you will know that this year saw a revolution in the way I listen to birds after hearing an inspiring talk by Magnus Robb and taking up noc-migging from my urban balcony, near Barcelona, adding a wide array of unexpected and scarce species to my apartment list including Yellow-browed Warbler, Hawfinch, Brambling, Rock Bunting, Common Crane, etc.

Three calls from a Yellow-browed Warbler, recorded flying over my balcony on 22/10/19
I used a very humble setup consisting of just a pot and my trusty Olympus LS-12 recorder. It worked amazingly well but after some time I decided I wanted a higher quality of recording and wanted to have better technology that allowed me to record during the day also. A parabolic reflector was surely the answer but I just couldn't afford the famous Telinga brand which retails at about 700 euro. After some research I found out about a much more affordable brand called Dodotronic, based out of Italy. This was going for 450 euro (here), so 250 euro cheaper. That's a lot of money saved! There is a very good review here which more than convinced me to try it out. Aside from the review itself, the author also includes a link to his Xeno-Canto page where he has a wide array of recordings taken with a Dodotronic setup, and they are just astounding! 

The beginnings of my sound recording adventures. An Olympus LS-12 in a pot, with some cling film on the top!

So, based on the excellent price, the great review and the stunning samples on the above Xeno-Canto page, I decided to try the Dodotronic for myself and I have to say: I am absolutely in love with it. The recordings are so clear and the reach of the parabola is incredible. I ordered it on a Thursday and it arrived before lunch on the Monday - what a service! Before this, my correspondence with the owner of the company was extremely rapid, unlike other companies I have dealt with in the past. This was very reassuring to know, having had some real communications issues with other companies in the past when I had technical issues with other electrical devices.

My new noc-mig setup. Currently noc-mig is rather quiet and will be until the spring!

The setup of the device was very straightforward. I was amazed at how lightweight the whole thing was. This is important if you plan to use it for extended periods in the field. I have used it from dawn to dusk on two occasions with zero discomfort or cramps during or at the end of the day.

I was tied for time on the Monday but managed to get out to my local reserve in windy conditions. Despite the wind and the distant drone of the main motorway leading into Barcelona, I was absolutely blown away by the quality of the sound the Dodotronic was producing. Below is a sample from my first day of use: featuring two White Wagtails having a dispute. I was totally blown away by the fact that my new setup detected both the wing-beats and sounds of the birds landing on vegetation.

As a side note: because I have been focused on sound recording and testing out my new equipment, I didn't take many photos in the field and some of the photos were taken at a different time and/or location. Furthermore, all of the audios featured here were recorded with the above-listed Dodotronic setup.

White Wagtail, Delta Llobregat, Spring 2019

The quality of the recordings were impeccable but I needed to find somewhere with zero noise pollution to get the full impression of what my new Dodotronic was capable of. Luckily, the weekend of December the 6th was a long weekend here in Catalunya, so, on the Friday I drove inland to the Spanish steppes before working my way back slowly throughout the day into Catalunya. The steppes in winter, whilst not as productive as they are in the Spring and early Summer, are still full of interesting species to see and hear. My first targets were Black-bellied and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse and of course their fine supporting cast of Calandra Lark, Lesser Short-toed Lark, Thekla Lark, etc.

The steppes in Spring, whilst mostly influenced by man nowadays, are a spectacle to see and hear.

I arrived to my first destination just after sunrise and upon stepping out of the car the first thing I noticed was the silence - a far cry from the urban jungle of Barcelona. I leaned against the car and immediately began to record whatever passed overhead. One of the first birds I heard were Linnets and thus, below is one of the first noise-free recordings I took with my new setup. You can hear a machine in the background but it isn't bad. The clarity and volume of the Linnet is amazing.

Without a doubt, the most common vocalists here were Calandra Larks, who evidently sing right through the winter, as this was not the first time this winter I had heard the singing here. Again another extremely clear, noise-free recording. I was really beginning to enjoy using the machine at this point.

A Calandra Lark sitting upon its perch, taking a break between songs in the Catalan steppes, Spring 2019

Among the flocks of Calandra Larks were the ever melodic Skylarks, which come from the north to spend to winter here. I had several close passes by different birds which gave their typical call, reminding me of the many Autumns I have spent seeking our rarities on Irish headlands, where this species is a common diurnal, vocal migrant.

Before long, I soon detected one of the main target birds - Black-bellied Sandgrouse. Amazingly, I couldn't see it, but the I could hear it calling through my earphones, which were tapped into my Dodotronic setup. I essentially used it as a bird detector and was able to follow it in flight using the earphones, and, despite not seeing it, thus assuming it was somewhat distant, I was extremely pleased with the following recording:

Soon after picking up the Black-bellied Sandgrouse I began to hear distant Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, through the earphones. With some careful listening and driving I eventually pinned them down nearly 1km away! That was really impressive to me - the reach of the Dodotronic. I was successfully using it throughout the day as a means of locating Sandgrouse which weren't audible to the "naked ear".

A lone Pin-tailed Sandgrouse photographed earlier in the year in Catalunya. Often more camouflaged than one would expect!

The quality of recordings the Dodotronic produces are just supreme and I found myself deleting very few, at the end of the day, which meant it took me several days to edit everything. Here are some of my favourite remaining audios from the steppes that day.

First up is another very familiar autumn sound from back home, and a species which is restricted to winter is these parts - the Meadow Pipit. There were lots of birds feeding and making small internal flights among the steppes, and this bird obligingly passed over my head, calling all the while.

Corn Buntings are very plentiful here and they kindly provided me with close performances of their song and flight calls. The song has been compared to a set of jangling keys which isn't a bad description. The call, shown below is a series of very sharp metallic sounding "bit" notes.

Corn Bunting feeding on "corn" - the Catalan steppes, Spring 2019

Delighted with connecting with my two main targets - the two sandgrouse species, as well as lots of other nice steppe birds, I decided to head back to Catalunya, more specifically to Utxesa, which is the biggest reed-bed site in the region. I had two targets here: Bearded Tit and Sinensis Cormorant (just because I think it's an amazing sounding call).

Sinensis Cormorant, Delta del Llobregat, Spring 2019

Arriving at Utxesa approximately an hour later, the first vocal bird I encountered, singing from a tree at the edge of the reed-bed was this vocally stunning Common Starling. The detail and clarity in the audio produced by the Dodotronic is really apparent here. I especially love the clicking sounds towards the end. My old setup would never have produced anything, anywhere near as audibly pleasing as this.

It didn't take too much effort to pick up the Bearded Tits, and I soon heard them calling from the main parking area. I carefully made my way down the track and got relatively close to them. I never actually saw them, despite them sounding rather close, which is not unusual for the species, it seems. It's a call I'm quite fond of, having heard it first some years ago back in Wexford, where the species has re-colonised Ireland in a small pocket.

As I was recording the Bearded Tits, I couldn't help laughing at this rather comical call of a Carrion Crow behind me.

Continuing along the track that hugs the perimeter of the reed-bed I was drawn to a call I have recently become familiar with - the whistling "psee-ee" call of a female-type Marsh Harrier that was soaring overhead, with three other birds. It's a nice call and one I associate with any substantial reed-bed here in winter. I first heard this call last winter when a bird was being mobbed by a Common Buzzard. I was surprised at how gentle the call sounded, despite coming from such a big predatory bird.

A Marsh Harrier hunting over my local patch - Delta del Llobregat, Winter 2018/19

As I rounded a corner I noticed a large tree across the water which had about 40 Sinensis Cormorants roosting. They were a little ways away and I wasn't sure if I could get a nice recording from the side of the lake I was standing. Nevertheless, I decided to fire up the Dodotronic, pointing it at the tree on record, waiting for a new bird to fly in an elicit a vocal response from an already settled bird.

It took about 10 minutes before this happened, but it did and the results were surprisingly satisfying. I read about calling cormorants just recently in "Catching the Bug" by Mark Constantine, Nick Hopper and the Sound Approach team. The calls sounded so prehistoric, and even more interesting was the fact that they identified a subtle difference between calls of sinenis and carbo'.

At the end of each call phrase birds often give a series of "rolled Rs", and these are given faster in sinensis. I heard these calls several times ( a good example can be heard approx' 6 seconds into the first of the 2 recordings), and they matched up to the examples given in the book - interesting! These cormorants weren't close, so the quality of the audio is another testament to the quality of the Dodotronic. I'm really happy with it.

A cormorant wind-drying at Delta del Llobregat, Winter 2018/19

As I was watching the Cormorants I noticed a Great White Egret feeding at the waters edge just below the cormorant roost tree. I thought for a second and realised I had no idea what a Great White Egret sounded like and concluded that they mustn't call too often. With time on my hands, and a rather curious mind, I set the Dodotronic to work and pointed it at the egret hoping for something to happen to make it call.

After a few minutes, luck played its part and a Cormorant suddenly landed, right where the egret was fishing. The sudden commotion spooked the egret, and with that it flew giving a very low, barely audible grumbling call. It wasn't what I expected it. Looking at its size and similarity in build to Grey Heron, I guess I was expecting a call similar to that species. But thinking of the calls of Little Egret, it makes sense that they should call like this.

A Great White Egret stalking fish at Delta del Llobregat, Winter 2018/19

Having achieved what I had set out the do at this site, and feeling rather chuffed as well as being highly impressed with the performance of my new Dodotronic, I decided to continue to the next site - Montoliu Dump. This spot is excellent for Red Kites, Griffon Vultures, White Storks and more, all taking advantage, both directly and indirectly, of the refuse-waste there. This place is a spectacle of numbers, with Storks usually exceeding the 1000 mark, with hundreds of raptors.

A group of Griffon Vultures rest close to the perimeter of the dump, in-between feeds. Spring 2019

The first three recordings are of corvids which also take advantage of the easy meal available there. First up is Jackdaw - a species which is somewhat scarce in Delta del Llobregat, but is rather abundant here.

Magpies squabbled and fed on scraps from tree-top perches at the dump perimeter.

Last but not least, some Red-billed Chough flew overhead calling, giving me a great opportunity to record the species. It's still a little strange seeing this species so readily inland, as years of observing them back home in Ireland has led my mind to believe they are a strictly coastal species, seen particularly in the wild southern and western Atlantic coasts. Of course this isn't solely the case as they are commonplace in the Pyrenees and I have also had them in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. I came across an  inland sites in Ireland a few years back also.

A Red-billed Chough feeding at Ballynamona Strand, Co. Cork. This coastal spot is where I traditionally expected the species, until I began birding on the continent.

Standing at the edge of the dump I watched some 40+ Red Kites feeding and floating around. They occasionally called, but I was unlucky and they were either too distant, amongst the screaming hoards of Starlings & Jackdaws, or I simply just missed the moment. Whilst trying in vain, I was suddenly drawn to a call coming from the conifers, just the other side of the fence I was standing alongside. It was a loud call and reminded me of Iberian Green Woodpecker. I focused the Dodotronic on it and began to record.

It called insistently and the more it called the less I was convinced it was a woodpecker at all. It was surely a raptor, based on the tone and presentation, plus the habitat was all wrong for a woodpecker. It was coming from a stand of stunted, sorry-looking conifers at the edge of the tip - presumably half poisoned from whatever leeches from the overpoweringly smelly dump.

Iberian Green Woodpecker with its typically reduced black mask. Delta del Llobregat, Spring 2019

After some minutes I slowly edged to the left trying to peer from one tree to another, hoping to catch a glimpse of the culprit, when I flushed a Marsh Harrier! It happened so fast I didn't have time to age or sex it, I just know it was a female-type. The first part of the audio below plays the initial woodpecker-like call, which I can only assume is an alarm call. I can't find a corresponding example on xeno-canto. At approx 50 seconds in, it changes to a much more raptor-like call, which has a similar corresponding example here.

Marsh Harrier, Delta del Llobregat, Spring 2019

From here, the sun was setting and so I decided to see if I could record some Eagle Owls (at an undisclosed location due to sensitivity). I arrived an hour early and decided to go for a little walk. The last time I was here I had several Hawfinch and a Brambling as well as lots of other vocal passerines. There were no Hawfinch or Brambling but the wintering Blackcaps were extremely vocal and I recorded a whole range of call types from the species.

My last stop for the day!
First up is the typically harsh "check" calls given by the species. This call was given in rather rapid succession, having been alarmed by me as I walked by. It was given, in typical fashion; from dense undergrowth, with a stream also audible in the background. The area has a dense population of wintering Blackcaps presumably because of the combination of the shelter offered by the valley and undergrowth, and the stream which keeps the vegetation lush, allowing for lots of berries to survive in an otherwise rather arid region.

The next audio feature the "check" call along with a more nasal "shree" call. This nasal call is one which I am familiar with, given occasionally by birds back home in Ireland, but much less frequently than the first call type.

Further down the stream I heard calls from what sounded like a rather alarmed Blackcap. It sounded like the second call type from the above, but given in much faster succession, repeatedly. It was loud and sounded like an old car that someone was having problems starting. I don't recall hearing this back home before, but it is presumably a variation of the "check" alarm call from the first of the three audios.

An over-wintering Blackcap at my parent's feeder back home in Cork, Winter 2018/19

The owl did eventually show but called only very faintly, just as the only tractor in the area decided to drive past... slowly! Oh well - I'll save that mission for another night. Anyway, it was a fantastic day for testing out my new Dodotronic and I can say without a doubt that this is an amazing piece of kit for anyone wanting to take sound recording a little bit more seriously, and not wanting to break the bank. I've never owned a Telinga so I cant compare directly, but, the sound recordings I have taken with the Dodotronic are extremely impressive and I couldn't imagine how they could possibly be any better (this isn't a boast but merely a nod to the quality of the equipment), especially not for an extra 250 euro!

A superior piece of kit which is kind on the pocket - what more could you want!

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Noc-migging: My story so far

My journey into noc-migging began in September of this year after hearing a fantastic talk given by Magnus Robb at the Ebro Delta Birding Festival. Upon returning home (to El Prat de Llobregat, near Barcelona) I immediately began recording from my balcony and I've been hooked ever since. I've been so surprised at what has turned up because my location is 100% urban and I never see many birds where I live, even though I'm just 10 minutes from Llobregat Delta.

To cut things short this is just a brief summary of what I have recorded from the beginning up until the time of writing. Everything has been recorded with my very simple but really effective setup of an Olympus LS-12 (I would highly recommend it to any would-be noc-miggers), secured in a measuring jug with some cling film and elastic band! The batteries keep my setup running all night and into the morning and the cling film keeps it safe from the rain, without affecting the sound too much at all. I collect it at around 9am and analyse the data using Audacity when I have a free hour.

Fig. 1. Olympus LS-12 in it's measuring jug and cling-film casing

Fig. 2. My balcony. Not exactly a bird sanctuary at first glance - yet what flies overhead may surprise you.

Before I continue, I suggest you read this with some earphones as some of the calls, particularly the earlier ones are quite faint. 

To my surprise on the first night, on the 23rd of September, I recorded my first migrants, in the form of some Black-crowned Night Herons. These of course, as well as most following nocmig birds were most welcome apartment ticks. This recording is not the best as I was still toying with settings and editing techniques in Audacity. I recorded another group on the 8th of October.

The next night I drew a blank and I thought the Night Herons were just a fluke, but the next night I scored again with a Tree Pipit! This was most unexpected and it was a pleasure to hear this as it is one of my favourite calls! I recorded a second on the 26th of September.

Fig. 3. A typical Tree Pipit call sonogram. 24/09/19

The Tree Pipit really urged me on as I now knew my setup was capable of detecting small passerines. This was further backed up on the night of the 25th, when to my amazement my recorder had picked up a nocmig Firecrest, calling over at 3am. This was quite exciting because Magnus had spoken of the scarcity of this species as a Nocmig recording, so I was very happy. This was again another apartment tick. I went on to record others on Oct' 23rd, Nov' 2nd & Nov' 6th.

Fig. 4. My first nocmig firecrest. 25/09/19

The next nocmig bird came in the form of two migrant Blackbirds. This is one of the few species I had seen from my apartment before but it was a welcome nocmig tick!

Fig. 5. The typical modulating call of 2 migrant Blackbirds.

On the 8th of October I added two apartment ticks one of which was most unexpected: Grey Heron &; Common Moorhen. Grey Heron was nice but I had never pictured Moorhens as a vocal nocturnal migrant. I never thought I would encounter the species here either as there is no suitable habitat for several kilometers. It was here I began to realise just how surprising this technique could prove to be. 

Fig. 6. Calls from a nocturnal migrant Grey Heron. 08/10/19

Fig. 7. Calls from a migrating Moorhern. 08/10/19

Another surprise came on the night of October 10th, when a Redwing called once over my apartment in the early hours. This is a difficult species to connect with in the delta and at that time I had only ever connected with one bird, the previous November. So to have one over my house was great!

Fig. 8. Redwing, Cal Tet, Delta Llobregat. November 2018

Much to my surprise, I had another Redwing the next night, and the next and the next and to the point where I have only missed the species one or two nights up until the time of writing. My highest count in a single night was 91 birds which was truly surprising. This scarce patch species doesn't seem so scarce now! Without the whole nocmig process I would never have known this. It just seems that, for whatever reason not many of these birds stop off in the delta, on their southbound journey. Where are they going though? There is a wintering population in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, so perhaps there!

In the coming nights, Song Thrushes also began to feature on a nightly basis and are still coming now, at the time of writing. My high count of that species was 628 on the night of the 23rd of October. With so many birds coming per minute this is a conservative estimate. It's possible there were many more birds but at times it was difficult to tell if I was double counting so if there was any doubt I left birds out, rather than the opposite. 

Fig. 9. The distinctive sonograms of the Redwing's "tseeep" call and the "tsip" call of a Song Thrush.

To give you an idea of how busy some nights were I have included some samples of nocturnal thrush migration from Oct' 30th & Nov' 6th below: 

On the 15th of October an expected arrival came in the form of the first Black Redstart of the winter. This was more of a morning record rather than an actual nocmig record but it's all welcome! This bird or another has remained up until the time of writing, with a minimum of three wintering on our street corner. They usually start calling at about 6:30 every morning and it's allowed for some nice incidental recordings. 

Fig. 10. Two dry chack calls, followed by a the more typical stationary "hueet" call of a Black Redstart. 16/11/19

After this morning record, I decided to start checking the data from the first hours of light as well as the night time and this resulted in another apartment tick in the form of a Grey Wagtail the next day. 

Fig. 11. Migrant Grey Wagtail flight call. 16/10/19

The following night, the 17th saw the first of yet another wintering species - a Robin. This was a true nocmig record once again, occurring at 1am. Nocmig robins became a regular feature up until November when birds had settled and established winter territories, with one permanent territory occurring in the garden below our apartment. This bird sings at all hours, often at 3 in the morning.

Fig. 12. Calls from a migrating Robin. 17/10/19

My first ever wader came on the 20th of October in the form of a Common Sandpiper and oddly this was followed the next night by a Green Sandpiper! Both were new for my apartment. 

Fig. 13. Nocmig Common Sandpiper. 20/10/10

Fig. 14. Nocmig Green Sandpiper. 20/10/19

The next apartment tick was the biggest shocker of all. The wind had been howling from the east for a few days with rain and on the night of the 22nd, things were at a peak. All previous nights with rain were pretty poor but I decided to put the recorder out anyway as I had nothing to lose. When I started editing the data in the morning I was almost immediately met with a familiar looking sonogram - YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER. At 21:56 on the 22nd of October, a Yellow-browed Warbler flew low down over my apartment, calling three times. This was by far the highlight so far since my beginnings and I'm sure it won't be the last surprise, either. 

Fig. 15. The typical v-shaped sonogram of a Yellow-browed Warbler, from my apartment. 22/10/19

It was a bit of an anti-climax after the Yellow-browed Warbler until I struck lucky again with another fantastic and unexpected apartment tick at 3am on the 25th - Brambling! I didnt recognise the sonogram at all and when I put my earphones in and pressed play it was a great moment - what an unmistakable call!

Fig. 16. Nocmig Brambling. 25/10/19

It didn't end there though. Just an hour later my apartment stuck again with a very clear Hawfinch with another bird at 6am. The following night another 2-3 birds flew over very close giving two distinct call types.

Fig. 17.  Nocmig Hawfinch. 25/10/19

Fig. 18. A group of nocmig Hawfinch giving two call types. 26/10/19

On the 2nd of November, the next surprise came, when a Little Grebe flew over calling at midnight. This is a bird that seemed even more unlikely than a Yellow-browed Warbler before I started noc-migging, but this new hobby is opening up a whole new world and I'm beginning to realise that just about anything is possible. 

Fig. 19. Nocmig Little Grebe. 02/11/19

As Autumn faded away and Winter continued to creep up, a variety of expected species began to turn up at my doorstep, including Skylark, Siskin, Dunnock and Reed Bunting, in no particular order. All of these were recorded in the first hours of light, but Skylark was also recorded several times in the middle of the night too. 

Fig. 20. Nomig Skylark. 06/11/19

Fig. 21. Early morning Siskin. 07/11/19

Fig. 22. Early morning migrant Dunnock. 09/11/19

Fig. 23. Early morning Reed Bunting. 18/11/19

On the 6th of November another good bird flew over - a Fieldfare - a species I have yet to see here in the delta. The recording is just about audible, however, and is not worth sharing here. Again, on the morning of  the 8th of November at 4am a big surprise came in the form of a nocmig Mistle Thrush. This species doesn't call very much at night so I was lucky. Even luckier, I had another the following night! This is another difficult bird to see in the area and I've have only ever had one once before - earlier this autumn as a daytime flyover.

Fig. 24. Redwing (left) and Mistle Thrush nocmig calls. 08/11/19

Another surprise was a early morning flyover Yellowhammer (a scarce species here) on the 11th

Fig. 25. Early morning migrant Yellowhammer. 11/11/19

On the 16th, I added yet another bunting to the apartment, with a fine, clear Cirl Bunting.

Fig. 26. Early morning migrant Cirl Bunting. 16/11/19

That's it for now. I must say I am really enjoying this new found aspect of my birding and I'm learning so much. It turns your normal ideals of birding upside down. I would never have imagined these birds were flying over my apartment. Also, no matter how comfortable you feel in the field, this will absolutely throw you out of that comfort zone and challenge you head on. There is no context with these calls and of course you don't see anything, except for the sonogram.So it forces you to really listen and understand which inevitably can only fine tune your birding skills.

Then there are the unexpected birds that have been passing over your head all this time. For example, last year I was delighted to find a Redwing on patch. It was a good bird. This year I've recorded a total of 420 between Oct' 10th and Nov' 20th, not to mention the Yellow-browed Warbler, 3 Brambling and 11 Hawfinch among the 40 or so species recorded so far. Amazingly, in the same time frame I recorded 1934 Song Thrushes, as well as 96 Robins & 70 Blackbirds. From here on in I'll be continuing to record at night, every night, unless I can't for some reason, so keep watching this space.


I have to thank Magnus Robb for his talk and for his help and correspondence over the last few weeks. My friends Harry Hussey & Gary Woodburn have both been of great help with some of the trickier identifications, as well as everyone over on the newly formed CAT Nocmig WhatsApp group!