1. What & Why?

Our Dodotronic Hi-Sound Parabola, pointing to the sky, at dusk, ready to record any passing nocturnal migrants. Photo: Seán Ronayne

NocMig refers to the process of passively-recording nocturnal migrant birds, with a wide possible variety of sound-recording devices/setups, from very cheap and simple, to expensive and complex. Although passive-recording has been covered in the previous section, we decided that the complexities of NocMig deserve a space of their own.

Fortunately for us, many bird species call as they migrate at night, presumably to maintain contact between others of their kind, and ensure they are following a safe and/or accurate path. These vocalisations are popularly referred to as Nocturnal Flight Calls or simply NFCs, which is the term we will use hereinafter.

In Northern Europe, the most famous example of a nocturnally vocal migrant is Redwing (Turdus iliacus). This northern thrush migrates south in vast numbers in autumn, as they escape the extreme winter weather of their breeding territories. They do this in search of milder conditions and a steady supply of food to see them through until spring, when they will migrate north, once again. Most people will have heard this NFC in late autumn whilst walking home in the dark, as birds pass overhead, sometimes in their thousands.

A typical Redwing (Turdus iliacus) NFC (above and below). Photo: Seán Ronayne

However, it is not only Redwing that call at night. No matter where you live, if you take up NocMig you are guaranteed to add totally unexpected species to your garden list. NocMig is full of surprises and has the potential to throw up anything.

For those of you not accustomed to NocMig, you might be surprised to learn that Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) – a species of well-vegetated, freshwater wetlands is one of the most commonly detected NFCs by “NocMiggers” throughout Ireland, the UK and indeed many other parts of Europe, even over habitat-devoid, urban locations.

A typical Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) NFC recorded in a highly suburban habitat, Spring 2020

Another eye-opening NocMig discovery is that of the overland migration of Common Scoter (Melanitta nigra) through the UK and Ireland. The regular overland spring passage of this normally highly pelagic duck came as a big surprise to many. Would this have been discovered without the widespread practice of NocMig in the UK? Probably not! To read more about this amazing discovery, click here and here.

NocMig in a European context is still in its infancy, relatively speaking. There has been a great deal of work done by the likes of the Sound Approach Team, in particular, to popularise NocMig, but there is still plenty to learn and discover, not only in a European context but in local contexts too. Are you curious to know what’s moving over your garden at night? You should be! NocMig is really exciting stuff, so let us take you through the basics to get you up and running. Follow through with our methods, tips and tricks and end it with a fun, interactive NocMig exercise, to get yourself NocMig-ready.

Continue to —————> Part 2: Equipment