Friday, 17 September 2021

Nocmig update

Its been a while since I pulled together my last full 'nocmig' update, mid-May in fact (Local is where its at). So, before autumn migration gets into full swing I thought I'd better take stock.

Since 15th May I've been steadily putting my parabolic microphone out most nights, OK I took a little break during most of June but started again in earnest at the end of that month in anticipation of returning waders and have pretty much stuck at it since then. In fact, I recorded a total of 61 nights out of 95 nights, so if I don't count June that's about 64% of the time.

The above bar chart is probably the easiest way to tell you what I've been seeing. Waders feature prominently as you'd expect. Oystercatcher being the most frequent, but I suspect they are local birds. Common Sandpiper has been the next most frequent with 13 occurences and most of these in the second 2 weeks of August. I especially like this recording, accompanied by a local soccer match.


Curlews moved through in late June and early July and the first Whimbrel appeared in late July but were more frequent in the second half of August.


Dunlin started appearing again in mid-September and so far I've recorded them on 5 nights. In July and August it was pretty easy to find Green Sandpipers in some local wader spots (Potter Heigham, Hickling and Buckenham Marshes for example) but to my surprise I only recorded them once on nocmig. But, a nice vocal individual at that.


The much hoped for Wood Sandpiper never materialised and they've mostly gone through by now. 

However, there were a few surprises such as this Common Ringed Plover (scarcer it seems in Norwich than Little Ringed Plover).


and my first Gadwall went over one night in early September.


 Plus I had Sandwich Tern on two ocassions in mid-August.


What is so far my nocmig highlight of the year was this Tree Pipit which passed over the garden at 2.18am on Monday 13th September.


Soon we will be in the business end of the autumn for passerine migration. What can I expect? Well, Redwing of course, next month their 'tseep' calls will begin to fill the night sky. Song thrush too and Fieldfare if I'm lucky. I guess there's an outside chance of a returning Ring Ouzel to add to the two birds I got in the spring and if I vizmig after dawn I should start get some winter finches such as Brambling, Chaffinch, Siskin and Lesser Redpoll, I'll keep all fingers crossed for Hawfinch. If that fails at least the local Tawny Owls should continue to get more vocal as we head into November.

Sunday, 5 September 2021

The Phil More's Corner Podcast - Series 2 Episode 10

Our little Podcast has reached its 21st epsiode and what better way to mark this milestone than by sitting down to chat with one of the finest out there, none other than Yoav Perlman. He tells us about his formative years birding in Israel, we reminisce on his time studying and birding in the UK and some of his favourite memories from those days. We talk about his blog, his photography and his collaboration and deep friendship with the late Martin Garner. There's also his 'Big Year' and of course the excellent 'Champions of the Flyway'.  An episode not to be missed.

Thursday, 5 August 2021

The Phil More's Corner Podcast - Series 2 Episode 9

Back to what we know best as we talk sound recording, nocmig and lots more with author, expert sound recordist and ecologist Stanilas Wroza.

Monday, 2 August 2021

Best Western

I only ever seem to visit RSPB Snettisham to twitch rare birds. I shouldn't need a rare bird as a reason to visit as its a very fine reserve. I've a good record there too - 100% sucessful. Broad-billed Sandpiper in 2015, Snowy Owl and Semipalmated Sandpiper in 2018 and now Western Sandpiper. I've yet to dip and have probably just cursed myself with those very words. 

Myself, Nick and John Geeson drove up to meet the incoming tide on the afternoon of Friday 23rd July, the day after it was found. On arrival I have to say, that despite many birders, I wasn't feeling too optimistic that it'd be re-found. There were thousands of Dunlin out on the mud and I mean thousands, constantly moving, jittery and very mobile. A lovely spectacle to watch as the flocks wheeled and turned in the air but how on earth was anyone going to dig a Western Sandpiper out of that lot. Well, turns out someone did and I enjoyed decent if not slightly distant views.

                                        Western Sandpiper - Snettisham, Norfolk - 23rd July 2021

There were better photos of course, these are just for the record. You can at least see the size difference between it and the adjacent Dunlin and Sanderling. Once the bird had been pinned down and seen well, it was just nice to carry on scanning through the flocks of waders, reminded me of birding back in Cork. Red Knot (many), Sanderling, Ringed Plover, Curlew, Whimbrel and a breeding plumage Curlew Sandpiper. Plus plenty of both adult and juvenile Common, Little and Sandwich Terns. I didn't see the Roseate Tern (or Terns) but no matter.

This was my first Western Sandpiper away from the Americas. I've seen ones in Panama in 2009, feeding out on the mud at Costa del Este in Panama City and a year later, a single bird on a small pool on Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos, Ecuador. I even managed a photo of that one - it was June so I guess it was a non-breeding bird first summer bird.

                                        Western Sandpiper, Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos, Ecuador - June 2010

Of course, there's another reason to remember this most recent visit to Snettisham. Once the bird had been seen, it all got a bit social, lots of birders milling around chatting and catching up. Even by Norfolk standards, there was a "bit o' craic". As we left the throng and started our long trudge back to the car I turned around to wait for Nick and took this quick shot.


He won't mind me saying this I hope, but its good to see a smile on his face again, signing off on possibly his last Norfolk twitch before starting a new chapter down in Cornwall. If you've read his blog you'll possibly know he's had a recent health scare An unexpected journey. However, things are certainly looking brighter now and it was good to see him in high spirits once again.

Thursday, 29 July 2021

The Phil More's Corner Podcast - Series 2 Episode 8

We were very excited to have the opportunity to sit down and chat with one of the finest bird artists out there. Hans Larsson tells us how his interest in birds and drawing first began. He talks about his collaborations with Klaus Malling Olsen illustrating the identification guides to Terns, Skuas and Jaegers and Gulls of Europe, North America and Asia and more recently on the much anticipated "Seabirds - The New Identification Guide"  with Peter Harrison and Martin Perrow.

Thursday, 15 July 2021

The Phil More's Corner Podcast - Series 2 Episode 7

In any other episode stories of Least Terns, Short-billed Dowitchers, European Rollers and Pacific Golden Plovers would be enough to occupy us completely and that's without our ramblings on Tayto Park and the Patagonia Picnic Table Effect. 
However, this episode is really about about Sean's two stonking nocmig records. First of all he digs out a Baillon's Crake in Wicklow (Ireland's 5th record if accepted) and a week later he outdoes himself when he comes across a Semi-Palmated Plover down on the Mizen Peninsula - the lad is on fire!!

Monday, 5 July 2021

June / July Catch-up

Time for another catch-up post. We are bang slap in the middle of the birding doldrums but there have been birds to see and some good ones at that.

I'll start with the crowd-pleasing Roller found on the 23rd June at Lackford Lakes, Suffolk and then re-found not far away at Icklingham. Had I got bins in the car with me I would have gone from work that same evening but I was more prepared the next day and twitched it after work on 24th June. There were some stunning images obtained of the bird during its 5 day stay (I think), I failed miserably to get anything other than record shots. I could easily have returned for seconds but I thought better of repeating a walk along the edge of the hair raising A1101 road (until a safer route had been figured out, you needed to park 300 meters or so away and then walk back up along the narrow A1101 road to  where the bird was.....not for the faint hearted).


                                                                    Roller, Icklingham, Suffolk - 24th June 2021

Tuesday the 29th June was a significant day for other reasons - after over 8 years, my time at Baxter Healthcare came to conclusion. I was given a very nice send off, finished on good terms with great memories and now have 3 weeks off before I venture into the fascinating world of cell and gene therapy. Which means that until then I have some time for birding!

News broke last Saturday 3rd July of an adult Pacific Golden Plover showing well on Bishop's  / Brendan's Marsh at Hickling NWT. I was otherwise engaged that afternoon but in the evening when everyone else was watching the England game, Nick and I headed to Hickling. I have dipped on a few Pacific Golden Plovers (PGPs) in the past. And I dipped again!! Five minutes before we arrived it had been showing well and then took flight, it didn't seem to have left the area according to other birders but we never saw it. But it was a very pleasant evening otherwise with Common Cranes, Bittern, Wood and Green Sandpipers, double figures of Ruff, Little Ringed Plover and two Black-winged Stilts.

                                            Black-winged Stilt, Hickling, Norfolk - 3rd July 2021

All was not lost though, I got a second bite of the cherry when a PGP was found on the Serpentine at Cley on Monday evening (same bird I guess?). I headed up on Tuesday morning and the bird was showing very nicely. PGP was a lifer for me, its cousin, American Golden Plover, occurs more frequently in Ireland (I've seen 3 or 4 of those and I've even managed to find one myself (An almost expensive finds tick)). So, it was nice to finally see a PGP and a fine adult breeding plumage bird at that!

                                                Pacific Golden Plover, Cley, Norfolk - 5th July 2021

A Roseate Tern amongst Sandwich Tern on Arnold's Marsh was a nice bonus and a very good Norfolk bird too!

I'm still keeping an eye on my local patch too. Obviously much quieter than April and May had been but warblers are still singing albeit not with the same vigour as earlier. A walk around the area on Sunday morning produced singing Blackcaps, Common Whitethroat (3), Lesser Whitethroat, Chiffchaff, Reed Warbler (2) and Sedge Warbler (3). 

Nocmigging as you'd expect has been quiet. Since mid-May due to wet weather and migration dropping off, I only put my parabola out on 17 out of 50 nights (34%). The highlight was a Common Cuckoo, calling twice at 2.45am on the morning of the 29th May. I didn't pick it up at first, I saw the Blackbird alarm call whilst scanning through the sonogram, despite recognsing what that is and it being nothing unusual at all, I decided for some reason to listen and slap bang it the middle of the Blackbird alarm call there was a Cuckoo. Score!


Otherwise its been quiet although Curlew passage started at the end of June (I had Curlew on three nights) and if the number of returning waders on Hickling last Saturday is anything to go by I should be getting Green Sands coming through soon and if I am super-lucky perhaps, just perhaps a Wood Sandpiper isn't totally out of the question!