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Welcome to Nightmigrants.com

Since late April 2006, on favorable (and some unfavorable) nights for avian migration, I have been recording the night sky over my house in Gaithersburg, MD searching for bird calls. On this website, you will find calls I have recorded at night, including some from the "dawn chorus" plus info on the equipment and techniques used to make the recordings.  If your interested in recording nocturnal flight calls (NFCs) yourself, the place to start is Old Bird.org.  Much of the information presented on my website is based on knowledge I gained from Old Bird. The Night Flight Call List (NFC-L), is another great source of info regarding nocturnal migration.

I got interested in birding in the late 1990s, but it was not until May of 2003 that I really became aware of the phenomenon of night migration. In a post to MDOsprey (the Maryland birding listserve), Paul O’Brien (a local MD birder) described sitting on the deck in his Rockville yard late in the evening (in May) and listening to dozens of thrushes (Veery, Wood, Swainson’s, Gray-cheeked, and even Bicknell's) as they passed overhead in the night sky. Another MD birder, Matt Hafner posted to MDOsprey that on one May night in 2005, he was able to identify the calls of more than a dozen species in a little over an hour as they passed over his house located north of Baltimore.  I found it fascinating to think that many of the same birds I had trouble finding in the field during the day were probably flying directly over my house at night in the spring and fall on the way to or from their breeding grounds.

An Internet search for night migration came up with a website called Old Bird.org, run by Bill Evans. Old Bird, Inc. is dedicated to study and identification of nocturnal migrating birds. The site contains detailed “do-it-yourself” instructions on how to record and identify night-migrating birds. It carries detailed plans for building your own microphone, free downloadable software for analyzing and sorting flight calls, and an order form for a CD guide, Flight Calls of Migratory Birds, authored by Bill Evans and Michael O'Brien.

In late 2005, I purchased a parabolic microphone called DetectEar 2000 and a Sony MiniDisc (Hi-MD) Recorder to make some birdsong recordings in the field. I also hoped that this set-up might work to record night migrants.  I tried it for the first time in late April 2006, putting the recorder out on my deck after 11 PM (reduced traffic and jet noise) on a calm, dry night with winds from the south. The next morning, I downloaded the sound files into my computer and used the software from the Old Bird website to search for flight call notes. Amazingly, even in the noisy environment of suburban Gaithersburg, I was able to record some 30 or 40 calls in a 6-hour period. I was hooked!  I have moved on to newer equipment since 2006 but continue recording on favorable nights March through early June and again from September through early December.  So far, I have collected almost 50 identifiable calls and with continued recording hope to find more and/or improve the quality of recordings I already have.

I find recording night migrants to be a very enjoyable extension of my birding hobby. I have learn some new things and added some great birds to my yard list--and, as I have told my wife, I can even enjoy birding while I'm sleeping!



05/23/07 -
Website published today! 


3/15/08 - Finally have most of the species I have recorded over my house added. Warbler and thrush sections now up to date.


1/17/09 - Update from 2008 recording season in progress. New species added included Least Sandpiper, Greater Yellowlegs, Eastern Screech-Owl and American Goldfinch.


10/07/11 - Some new species added. Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Spotted Sandpiper, and Bicknell's Thrush.