Aylmerton Nature Diary

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Saturday 31st January


 Female ‘redhead’ Smew, Felbrigg Lake

I was away in Norwich all day yesterday, so when the news came through of a Smew on the lake at Felbrigg I was gutted! Fortunately the bird, a female ‘redhead’, was still present when I got down there for dawn this morning. Smew are a scarce winter visitor to the UK from the boreal forests of the far north of Europe & Russia – a rare bird in Norfolk and only reported at Felbrigg on a couple of previous occasions. It was in the company of an assortment of other ducks including 77 Gadwall, 29 Tufted Duck & two Goldeneye, on a small unfrozen patch of water on the eastern edge of the lake. However, RBA carried the inevitable message that the bird had departed by mid morning, along with the Goldeneye. There were a couple of Snipe feeding in the margins of Scarrow Beck, and a Buzzard was in the woods towards the Metton road. A Marsh Tit and Nuthatch were at the ‘feeding station’ on the gate at the back of Keeper’s Lodge and in the woods between the Lodge and the Weaver’s Way were four Woodcock and another interesting very pale Buzzard with white upper tail coverts.

Off topic – the inaugural indoor meeting of the newly created North East Norfolk Bird Club, at the village hall on Thursday night, went exceptionally well with 85 people in attendance to hear Moss Taylor’s entertaining and informative talk on ’40 years birding around Sheringham’.


Marsh Tit on the ‘feeding station’


Immature male and female Goldeneye, Felbrigg Lake

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Tuesday 27th January


Snowdrops behind Felbrigg Hall

A lovely, almost warm, afternoon for a walk around the parish. In the newly ploughed field, beside Lion’s Mouth, a flock of 25 Stock Dove were feeding – that’s a pretty good number I think. In the woods behind the Hall the first Snowdrops are in bloom – could Spring really be on it’s way? There were certainly a few woodland birds singing as I made my way through to the Walled Garden, but there was nothing particularly interesting around the old farm yard. A couple of Snipe and a dozen Teal were on the water meadow and there was the usual assortment of wildfowl on the lake. As I crossed the dam a fisherman landed what to me was an enormous Pike – he claimed it was only a tiddler! Tried to find Woodcock in their usual spot but without success. A slow walk up Mill Lane produced nothing much until I entered an over-grown wooded area someway off the track, here I disturbed four Woodcock, three Teal and a couple of Muntjac. As I was returning home down the Loke a distant raptor caught my eye. I watched it for a bit before concluding that it must be a female Marsh Harrier – closer analysis of the photos later confirmed the id. A nice and unexpected end to a very pleasant walk.


A ‘tiddler’ 

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Thursday 22nd January

The stubble fields along Church Lane have now been ploughed and, as a consequence, were pretty bird free. A small mobile tit flock was in the bushes by Sexton’s Lodge car park and a dark-looking Buzzard flew out of the trees being harried by Crows. The water meadow remains frozen and nearly bird less but there was an obliging Water Rail in the reeds below the upper sluice and the Barn Owl was hunting through the oaks leading down to the lake. The lake itself had more to offer with usual selection of wildfowl present, including the three ‘resident’ Goldeneye, but Gadwall numbers have topped the fifty mark and Coot have dramatically increased – to three! As I walked back along School Road towards the cross I could see the Linnet flock on the over-head wires. I estimate around sixty but they are difficult to count accurately as they keep dropping to the ground to feed. Spent time until dusk along Mill Lane and the Loke looking for the Short-eared Owl which Tim reported seeing a few nights ago – presumably the same bird as before Christmas. No luck though.

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New Bird Club for Norfolk


If you’re viewing this blog chances are that you’ve got a level of interest in the wildlife of Norfolk – in which case you might like to know about the creation of a brand new Bird Club, here in this bird-rich corner of Norfolk!

The North East Norfolk Bird Club (NENBC), serving the local birding communities of Melton, Briston, Holt, Sheringham, Cromer, North Walsham and Aylsham, contains within its designated recording area some of the county’s premier birding locations, together with acres of under-watched or undiscovered habitat and has played host to over 350 species. With a full programme of indoor meetings, outdoor bird walks and other social events, our aim is to bring together those people with a love and concern for birds in our area, to share knowledge and information, encourage participation in exploring our rich wildlife heritage and promote awareness of our threatened natural environment. We aim to be a sociable, inclusive and informative club, which plays a vital role in the local birding community.
If you are interested in becoming part of Norfolk’s newest birding initiative, visit our website for details or come along to our inaugural Indoor Meeting with Moss Taylor.

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Sunday 18th January


Robin, on a frosty post, Felbrigg Park – 18th January 2015

A cold, frosty and foggy start to the day. Nothing much of interest along the lane from the church to Sexton’s Lodge. It wasn’t until I reached the trees at the back of the Orangery that I encountered my first ‘mixed flock’ – Great, Blue & Coal Tit, Chaffinch, Robin and Bullfinch – four females feeding in a bramble bush. Stock Dove, Jay and Nuthatch had been calling in the woods on the way there. At the water meadow, which was pretty much frozen solid, there were eleven Snipe feeding at the edge and the half dozen Teal had been forced to retreat upstream. The lake was nearly frozen over, with most of the duck confined to a small area of ice-free water in the middle. Same stuff mainly, including the three Goldeneye – the immature male is developing adult plumage by the day, and four new Mute Swans which have joined the remaining six of last year’s family party. I disturbed a Little Egret and Grey Heron as I walked down the side of Scarrow Beck, below the dam, and there were a couple more Snipe feeding in the rushy margins. On the way back home I put up three Woodcock from the beech leaf-litter beside the path between Keeper’s and the Weaver’s Way.

Seven of the group of eleven Snipe, Felbrigg Park


Little Egret, Scarrow Beck


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Wednesday 14th January


Part of todays ‘bakers dozen’ of Tufted Duck, Felbrigg Lake

There was still some frozen slush in the hedgerows when I set off this morning around the patch. I’d hoped that yesterdays inclement weather might have brought something new in, but that was not to be the case. Skeins of Pink-feet were flying overhead as I walked down the lane to the back gate. There were the usual dozen Teal and Moorhen on the water meadow but no sign of Snipe or Water Rail. On Felbrigg Lake the usual assortment of wildfowl, with around 40 Gadwall, 13 Tufted Duck, the regular three Goldeneye – one immature male and two females, a lone Coot and a single Cormorant. Three Marsh Tit were busy along the path by the lake and two Great Spotted Woodpecker were chasing each other through the trees – could spring really be on it’s way! A distant Fieldfare was ‘chacking’ over towards Park Farm and further along School Road a Buzzard drifted over-head. Half way along the path between Mill Lane and the Loke a small partridge flew low over the fields – I was able to get a decent view through binoculars to confirm that it was the scarcer Grey variety – a ‘first’ for 2015. Several Skylarks were feeding in the fields, uttering the occasional snatch of song as they flew around, together with a couple of Meadow Pipit and two Song Thrush. Evidently the cold weather of recent days has not been harsh or sustained enough to make a difference to our wintering wildlife.

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Thursday 8th January

Took a long walk through Felbrigg Great Wood yesterday and saw virtually nothing – just a lone Redwing and a pair of Blue Tit on the ‘heath’. Very little else on my circuitous route home – nine Pied Wagtail feeding in the sheep field by the church, a few Herring Gull in with the Common Gulls, the usual ducks on the lake, a handful of Snipe on the water meadow, Buzzard near the back gate and Bullfinch & Linnet at the bottom of The Street. Where has all the wildlife gone!

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Sunday 4th January




One of a pair of Little Owl, Felbrigg Park, 4th January 2015

Added a couple of new species to my Year List, in a brief walk round the parish this afternoon. A Mistle Thrush was on the beet field up the Loke and there was a small covey of Red-legged Partridge over towards Mill Lane. Two Little Owl were sunning themselves in the ivy-covered tree below the dam at Felbrigg Lake. There was the usual assortment of wildfowl on the lake, including half a dozen Tufted Duck and the regular three Goldeneye. On the water meadow ten Snipe were busy feeding, a Water Rail was out in the open, near the old pond and the female Wigeon was amongst the Mallard. Five Pink-feet did several ‘fly-bys’ but didn’t land in the end. It became very chilly as the sun started to dip below the horizon.

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Fifty before Breakfast


Egyptian Goose, Felbrigg Park, 1st January 2015

Up before dawn to get the New Year bird list off to a good start! First bird of 2015 was a ‘chucking’ Blackbird in the garden opposite. By the time I got back home for breakfast, two and a half hours later, I’d added another 51 species – the highlights of which included Barn Owl, Egyptian Geese, Goldeneye, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Woodcock, Buzzard, Fieldfare & Snipe. A brief walk, later in the morning, escorting my grandson on his new bike added Sparrowhawk and Linnet.