Aylmerton Nature Diary

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Part of the flock of c2000 Pink-feet, Aylmerton, 20th November

Took a long walk around the parish this morning – my last for some time. Several Goldcrest in a garden Leylandii, on my way down The Street. Plenty of woodland birds in evidence in the park – Great Spotted and Green Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Stockdove and Jays. Most of the ‘dabbling ducks’ for some reason had moved from the Lake up to the water meadow. Two Egyptian Geese were also present and another pair were flying around by the house. On Felbrigg Lake itself, three Tufted Duck, six Gadwall and the pair of Goldeneye. In the rough grazing below the dam I flushed half a dozen Snipe as I walked through. Several Marsh Tit were in their usual spot behind Keeper’s Cottage. As I walked up towards the cross I heard a Yellowhammer in one of the roadside trees but I quickly became distracted by the distinctive noise of Pink-feet Geese – hundreds appearing to land somewhere to the west of the church. I walked up Mill Lane and across the fields, noticing that virtually all the hedges in this part of the parish have been severely trimmed – losing most of their berries in the process! By this time the noise of the geese was near deafening, as they continued to arrive in their hundreds to feed in the recently harvested beet field, north of the Loke. A quick scan with my binoculars and I estimated there must be something between 1500 and 2000 birds! I also spotted a single Barnacle Goose in amongst them. I decided to return home to collect my telescope and go through the flock properly – you never know what else you might find in these big flocks. As it happened an hour of systematic scanning failed to produce anything other than the already located Barnacle and a semi-albino Pink Foot. Oh well, still nice to see and hear so many geese actually feeding in the parish rather than just flying over.

More Pink-feet arriving


Sadly, the only other species present in the flock was a solitary Barnacle Goose – a good candidate for a genuinely wild bird

IMG_9229 DSC09946

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Tuesday 18th November


Water Rail, taken in January 2014, Felbrigg Park

Had a good walk round the park this afternoon, despite the rather gloomy weather. On the way down the lane the Barn Owl was busy hunting over the rough pasture field – saw ‘her’ catch and devour a mouse. In the park a Common Buzzard was being harassed by Crows, the Egyptian Geese were making a racket near the house and there was a surprisingly obliging Water Rail, feeding out in the open at the top pond. Wildfowl numbers are increasing – there were 28 Teal on the water meadows and 13 Gadwall, a pair of Goldeneye, male Tufted Duck, as well as the usual stuff, on the Lake. Coot numbers have doubled to two! IMG_9214 Male Goldeneye, amongst growing numbers of wildfowl, on Felbrigg Lake, 18th November

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Saturday 15th November

Took a long stroll around the parish this morning, with four friends. Saw 51 species in just over two hours – nothing particularly unusual but the female Goldeneye was still on the lake along with seven Gadwall and 13 Teal. Three Roe Deer were grazing in the last field before the village. There were plenty of the commoner species all over.

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Thursday 13th November


Female Goldeneye, ‘Brown Head’, with Tufted Duck, Felbrigg Lake, 13th November 2014

Managed to get out late afternoon for a walk around the Lake, up to the Cross, along Mill Lane then back down the Loke, before it got dark. I was particularly pleased to see a Goldeneye on Felbrigg Lake, albeit a female – not the male reported by Lee a couple of days ago. Also five Gadwall and a pair of Tufted Duck. On my way home I saw the Short-eared Owl again, hunting along the hedges of the field opposite Running Free Farm. Present for it’s third day at least.

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Barn Owl makes the set!


Barn Owl, Aylmerton, 12th November 2014

Yesterday, whilst trying to re-locate the Short-eared Owl for Tim & Dawn, we heard a Tawny Owl calling somewhere down in the village. In the morning I’d disturbed a Little Owl along the path to Felbrigg Lake. So this morning I set off to find Barn Owl to make it four owl species in 24 hours! I had intended to go into the park to watch the water meadows – a favourite hunting ground for Barn Owl but, just as I got to the back gate, my eye was caught by a small white object near the hedge of the rough grazing field opposite. I lifted my binoculars and sure enough it was a Barn Owl enjoying a last meal of a mouse before retiring for the day. Gradually I was able to get closer to it until it was a ‘frame filler’! Just a pity the early morning light was rather dim.

On my way back I took a quick detour up The Close to see if the Short-eared was still about and surprisingly it was. I watched it briefly come across the field from the Holt direction and drop down out of view below the line of the beet field. Despite searching it couldn’t be relocated.

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Short-eared Owl


Short-eared Owl, Aylmerton, 11 November 2014

The bird information services this afternoon were tracking a Common Crane as it flew along the coast. By the time it was reported flying east of Cley I decided that I’d better go and stand on the concrete pad, just west of the village, in the vague hope of seeing it fly along the Cromer Ridge – I still need it for a ‘parish tick’. I’d been there about fifteen minutes when I became aware of a large brown shape gliding down the beet field towards the houses on Church Road. Despite the half-light, I recognised it as a Long/Short-eared Owl. It followed the hedge line towards the church and was lost to view in the oaks at the back of the pond. I later saw it work it’s way up the far hedge, parallel to the main road, where I lost it again. Ten minutes later it repeated the manoeuvre but this time turned right, over the Loke and across the field opposite Running Free Farm. It was only when I got home and looked at the couple of photos I managed to get in the failing light that I could confirm the identification of Short-eared Owl – albeit to my eye, a rather dark looking bird. A completely unexpected bird and a ‘parish tick’!

Several more fuzzy shots taken in the half-light




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Tuesday 11th November


Sunrise over Felbrigg Park

Following a tip-off from a friend in the village about a Goldeneye on Felbrigg Lake yesterday afternoon, I was up at dawn to see if I could catch up with it. Despite the lovely sunrise and there being plenty of stuff around, there was no sign unfortunately of the bird in question. I did however disturb a Little Owl from the oaks near the house (a different bird from the ones near the dam I think). The four new Mute Swans (three adults and a juvenile) which arrived a week or so ago are still not being allowed on the main lake, by the ‘family from hell’, so spend their time on the water meadow, where there were also a dozen Teal. There were two pairs of Gadwall and three Canada Geese on The Lake. Great and Green Woodpecker calling, Marsh Tit in the woods and several flocks of Pink-feet flighting to their feeding grounds. I disturbed a Snipe from the rough grazing below the dam, a Common Buzzard was over Common Plantation and there were the usual Bullfinch in the hedge on the way home.

Three Canada Geese which have recently taken up residence


Slightly ‘off topic’, yesterday there was a fantastic pod of Pilot Whales off the North Norfolk coast – see my other blog for photos and story: http://www.TrevorOnTour.me

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Friday 7th November


Our dearly departed friend – Whooper Swan, Felbrigg

After a busy week and poor weather, finally managed to get out around the patch – well to Felbrigg Park at least. Nothing of interest down the lane but a pair of Bullfinch – is it just me or do they seem to be staging something of a recovery, I’m seeing them practically every time I’m around the parish and further afield too. On the way back up the lane there was a small tit flock, with a Chiffchaff calling amongst them. On the water meadow above the Lake I watched a Grey Heron catch and despatch a large rodent – too far off to identify it properly but it could have been a Water Vole. I counted nine Teal here and there was a lone male Wigeon and two Little Grebe, by way of interest, on the Lake itself. The adult and young Mute Swan, which arrived the last weekend have been pushed off the Lake onto the small pond above the water meadow, by the resident male. It was his continuos aggressive behaviour at the beginning of the year which finally put paid to our long-staying Whooper Swan. At the dam end I notice that the National Trust have replaced the old sluice gate which should allow them to regulate water levels on the Lake and, presumably on the water meadow, better now. On the return walk through the woods had good views of Marsh Tit and there was a small group of Siskin buzzing around – first time I’ve seen these for several weeks.

The new sluice at Felbrigg Lake


Male Wigeon on the Lake


Grab shot of Marsh Tit, showing the tiny white spot at the base of the bill, the ‘new’ id feature


Rainbow over the Great Wood


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Sunday 2nd November


‘Stranger danger’, one of the newly arrived Mute Swans, bullied by the resident male on to the bank 

As I’d spent all day yesterday on my bike, visiting more historic Norfolk churches ( you can see the progress I’m making at http://www.TrevorOnTour.me – churches ) I decided to go for a quick walk this morning, between the rain showers. Not a lot happening on my way down the lane – no sign of the winter thrush flocks that have been such a feature of the last couple of weeks, just a few Blackbirds which may well have been local birds. At the Lake, Teal numbers have increased to 13 and the family of eight Mute Swans had been joined by another four birds, which were being constantly harried by the resident male. A mixed ‘tit flock’ of about forty birds containing Blue, Great, Coal and Long-tailed and Goldcrest was busy feeding in the bushes by the dam. A small skein of Pink-feet flew inland, over the park and two Egyptian Geese were present on the wet meadow.

One of two Egyptian Geese, flying over the wet meadow