Aylmerton Nature Diary

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Sunday 28th December

Decided to give the new Bird Club preparations a rest this afternoon and go for a walk. Very nice weather with bright sunshine and reasonably warm – still very wet under foot. Along the track from the church, three Bullfinch – two males and a female, were feeding in the hedge at the edge of the church yard. Despite showing well at a distance they defied all attempts to get a photograph – they are proving to be very difficult subject matter. Other than Great Spotted Woodpecker and Nuthatch in the oaks, little of interest going down to Felbrigg Lake. The water-levels in the meadow continue to rise and now stretch back beyond the pond and the field boundary. Lots of gulls using it in preference to the lake itself. On the lake, Gadwall numbers have reached forty but there was no sign of the three Goldeneye which have been around for the past few weeks. I flushed half a dozen Snipe from the rough grazing below the dam and there was a Water Rail in the ditch there as well. Heading back home via the lake I also disturbed three Woodcock from their ‘bracken beds’ and saw a Buzzard.  Didn’t connect with any flocks, so hence very few ‘small birds’ to report and no interesting photographs either – must try harder!


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Boxing Day

Nothing like an afternoon stroke around Felbrigg Park to blow out the Christmas cobwebs – made more enjoyable by the company of my youngest son Jake and youngest grandson, Noah. We saw very little, except an obliging Nuthatch at Park Farm, until that is we got to the track between Keeper’s Lodge and the lake. A Marsh Tit was in it’s usual spot by the kissing gate, in the distance a Great Spot was calling and then a burst of activity to our right as a Woodcock, being pursued by a Buzzard, flew through the canopy and was eventually lost to view somewhere near the Weaver’s Way. This is my first Woodcock of the winter, though I know Pete & Sue Morrison flushed one at the beginning of November. As we approached the lake a Little Egret flapped over the rough grazing field towards Scarrow Beck and the resident Little Owl was hunched up on a branch in it’s usual ivy covered tree. On Felbrigg Lake itself the three Goldeneye remain with a dozen Tufted Duck, twenty or so Gadwall and the usual Mallards and single Coot. However, the Mute Swan ‘family from hell’ appear to have lost one of their ‘polish’ youngsters – certainly there were only seven birds present, with no sign of any on the flooded water meadow. On our way back up the lane a flock of about forty Linnet were gathered in the tall ash tree. Not a bad haul on rather a dark, cold and damp afternoon.


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‘Deader than a dead thing’


Great Spotted Woodpecker, knocking hell out of a ‘dead’ oak tree, Felbrigg Park

Managed to get out for a walk this afternoon – very wet under foot and rather gloomy. As a consequence, hardly any small birds about – pretty dead in fact. The Great Spotted Woodpecker was again in evidence amongst the oaks on the path to the lake. There were precious few wildfowl on the water meadow as I approached and even less by the time the dog-walking couple had run their dogs right through the area and walked as far as the sluice before turning back! It was pleasing to see the Barn Owl out hunting in the early afternoon, presumably as a consequence of the rather wet night we had. On the lake, pretty much the same ducks as the other day but female/immature Goldeneye numbers were back to three. As I walked up the Weaver’s Way, towards Felbrigg church, a Little Egret flew over head and I heard a distant Fieldfare. A pair of Egyptian Geese were grazing in the field next to the church. I got home before dusk – it seems incredible that we are only a few days away from the winter solstice!

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Sunday 14th December

Took a leisurely walk around the parish this afternoon – a few things of interest in the two hours I was out. Today’s birding ‘hot-spot’ was between the back gate to the park and the footbridge – Great Spotted Woodpecker sharing the same oak stump with two Nuthatch, a mixed tit flock including a single Marsh and, nearby, three Bullfinch. Levels on the water meadow continue to rise but bizarrely the number of birds continues to fall – only five Teal and a dozen Moorhen. On Felbrigg Lake seven Tufted Duck, 17 Gadwall and lone female Goldeneye and Wigeon. ‘Nil of note’ in the rough grazing field below the dam – just a single Meadow Pipit and a Hare. I walked slowly through the woods at Common Plantation, partly to see if I could repeat the spectacular sighting of Tawny Owl from the other day – no such luck, but also to see if I could find Woodcock,  which so far have evaded me this winter – again no luck. Pete & Sue Morrison had one at the beginning of November in the park, so I can’t imagine where they’re hiding (away from the guns of course!). Around the maize shelter-belt towards the cross there was an impressive flock of 50-60 Linnets and up to four Common Buzzard circling over Gresham. A couple of Skylarks were feeding in the weedy margins of the loke as I returned to the village. As we enter the birding lull over Christmas and New Year my mind has begun to contemplate what interesting things lie ahead in 2015 – time to squeeze in a couple more new species before then though I hope!

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Wednesday 10th December

It’s been nearly three weeks since I’ve managed to get round the parish, largely due to a two week birding trip to Goa and a couple of other local commitments. (You can see some of the fantastic birds we saw in India by clicking this link to my travel blog).

When I last walked round we were still enjoying the unseasonal warmth of a late autumn, today winter is well and truly upon us. There are no leaves left on the trees, only Ivy berries remain after the feeding flocks of winter thrushes have stripped the hawthorn and brambles clean and birdlife has been reduced down to the seasonal norm – just a few small tit flocks in evidence and the occasional Robin, Blackbird and Chaffinch. I did see a Bullfinch down the lane and there was a Treecreeper in the oaks on the way to the lake. Water levels on the meadow are high but birds seem to be few and far between – only a dozen Teal and a handful of Moorhen. I bumped into Lee at the lake who told me that Teal numbers last week reached an impressive 87 and Snipe numbers were up to 14. On the lake itself there were ten or so Gadwall, a handful of Tufted Duck and, surprisingly, three female Goldeneye. A Green Woodpecker flew over-head as I turned for home.

I’d just joined the track from Keeper’s Cottage, through Common Plantation, when I became immediately aware of a familiar shape atop a low tree stump. I didn’t even need to raise my binoculars I was so close – a fantastic roosting Tawny Owl! It casually squinted at me as I passed by and then resumed it’s slumbers. Tawny Owls are surprisingly difficult to see – if you do come across them in the daytime they’re usually roosting high up and close to a main trunk, often obscured by foliage. To see one like this, out in the open and at head height is a real treat – wow!