Aylmerton Nature Diary

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The Last Post…


Common Buzzard with ‘wrap around’ white under tail coverts – giving a passing impression of Rough-legged.

This is indeed my last post on AylmertonNatureDiary for 2015 and also my last for some time as we’re about to depart on another birding adventure, the events of which you can follow on TrevorOnTour. In the meantime I’m hoping that Jake, my youngest son, will fill this ‘blog spot’ with his occasional birding forays around Felbrigg.

For my final walk this morning the weather was again unseasonably warm, reflected in unusually spring-like behaviour of the birds. Stock Dove and Nuthatch were ‘singing’ from the shelter belt and the Barn Owl was hunting over the water meadow. I stood at the top sluice for 15 minutes or so, listening to the occasional ‘clicking’ call of the Cetti’s Warbler, which seems now to be over-wintering. There were a couple Siskin and a pair of Marsh Tit around the screen and another by the back gate. On the lake itself, the usual variety of wildfowl including Mallard, Teal, Tufted, Gadwall and the female Goldeneye. The pair of Egyptian Geese were engaged in courtship behaviour, perching and calling from the dead tree by the dam wall. A dark phase Common Buzzard was flying around the edge of the Deer Park – it’s white under-tail coverts giving a poor imitation of a Rough-legged Buzzard! On the way back up the lane the usual pair of Bullfinch were present, along with a Linnet.

If the long-range weather pundits are to be believed this unseasonable spell is due to come to a halt by the end of January, bringing some proper winter weather! It’ll be interesting to see how the seasons have progressed by the time I return….

Bye for now.

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Wednesday 23rd December


Seasons Greetings from Felbrigg Park!

It was 9 deg. in the Park before lunch, with a moderate south westerly breeze, but it felt much warmer – more like late April. There were a few mixed feeding flocks as I made my way down to and around the Lake, including a couple of Bullfinch. First surprise was a pair of Egyptian Geese and then I noticed that the female/immature Goldeneye was still present. There were hundreds of bathing gulls, mostly Black-headed and Common with just a handful of Herring. In the Alders, beside the screen, there were several Siskin, three Marsh Tit and a Nuthatch. As I made my way back through the Deer Park I came across another mixed flock, with more Marsh Tit and gorgeous Goldcrest. In the rough grazing meadow at the bottom of The Street there was another Marsh Tit, noisily calling, and half way up the lane I encountered three more Bullfinch. Just as I reached home, a male Sparrowhawk drifted across The Street – a nice end to a nice walk and my last before Christmas.

So with that in mind, Seasons Greetings to one and all and I look forward to bringing you more wildlife blogging in 2016!

Not everyone’s favourite goose, but these Greylags looked superb in the low winter sun


Perhaps not as good though as the pair of Egyptian Geese


Marsh Tit were everywhere this morning!


Finally, this little gem – Goldcrest!



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Saturday 19th December


Just a few of the 60+ Siskin, feeding in Alders around Felbrigg Lake

The weather this afternoon has been incredibly mild – 15 deg. with a pleasant southerly wind! All the more surprising then to find a Goldeneye on Felbrigg Lake, after several weeks of absence – an occurrence you might associate more with hard weather movement. Other wildfowl have remained pretty static though. There was also an impressive flock of 60 or so Siskin busy in the Alders by the screen. I looked for Redpoll but failed to find any. The only other birds of interest were three Buzzards over the park and a few skeins of Pink-feet flying to roost at dusk.

It’s been a very good week for birds in Norfolk mind you, some of my personal highlights have included: Pallid & Hen Harrier, Peregrine, Velvet Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, Red-necked Grebe, Black Brant, Cattle Egret, Grey Phalarope, Snow Bunting, Water Pipit, Mealy Redpoll and of course, the Red-rumped Swallow! For more details and a few photos click here.

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Wednesday 16th December

Today was the last event of the NENBC 2015 calendar – the Felbrigg mid-week walk. Despite the fact that it was raining when I got up at 6.00, by the time the walk started, 18 members had decided to venture out. Actually the weather wasn’t too bad – it did stop raining and it was unseasonably mild for mid December. There were no particular highlights but we did see over forty different species, including Woodcock and Lesser Redpoll . Unfortunately the cafe wasn’t open so, after a very pleasant two hour walk around the Park, we dispersed – some more quickly than others, following the news of the discovery of a Grey Phalarope at Cley!

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Saturday 12th December


Part of a mixed flock of Siskin & Redpoll, feeding in Alder, Felbrigg

First time in the park for over a week, owing to the fact that we’ve been in the Algarve on a short birding trip – for a brief account and a few photos, follow this link.

There were the usual assortment of hedgerow birds down the lane, including a couple of Bullfinch. Just inside the back gate a dark-looking Barn Owl flew up from a perch and landed on one of the old wooden tree guards. We watched it fly from low perch to low perch before it headed across the water meadow and up into an Ash tree. There was  the usual gathering of dabbling ducks on the water meadow but nothing new here, or on the Lake. From the top sluice path we could hear Siskin and then we saw a small flock feeding in the nearby Alders – we went to take a closer look. There were nearly fifty birds, including a handful of Lesser Redpoll. We spent the next half hour checking for Woodcock in their usual winter haunts, but to no avail. There was little to detain us on our journey home.



Friday 4th December

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Cattle Egret, Aylmerton

I’d got a pre-arranged early morning meeting with Richard from the National Trust, to talk to him about our proposed repeat of the ’97 Felbrigg Breeding Bird Survey. It was still pretty dark as I walked down The Street towards the Wood Yard, where he has his office. I’d just got to the edge of the village when a heron sp. flew over the road, from the direction of the rough grazing meadow. Looking at the bird in silhouette it appeared rather too small and compact for Grey Heron, giving more the impression of a Bittern perhaps! I dived through the gap in the hedge, just in case, and watched the bird drop down into the cow field, between the allotments and Saw Mill Cottage. By this time I could see that it was an egret sp and a probable Cattle!! It was still only half light and although the profile of the bird was right – with heavy jowls, short bill, rounded head, and the behaviour was right – feeding at the heels of a black cow, I still couldn’t see the bill. I quickly phoned Jake to get him to bring my scope and texted/called a few of the locals. Jake arrived and through the scope we could clearly see the yellow bill – bingo! The bird fed for the next few minutes before finally being spooked by the agitations of the accompanying gull flock. It took off and did a long low loop over towards Felbrigg Park, turned round when it got near to the Smithy and flew back along the wood, up Scarrow Beck and was finally lost from view, heading towards Aylmerton church. The bird, which has been looked for for most of the day, has yet to put in another appearance. A ‘first’ for the parish and Felbrigg Park and only the second record  in the NENBC area – the last being at Alby & Gunton in 1995 . The amazing ‘purple patch’ continues!

A couple more record shots, taken at 1/5th on 6,400 ISO!



Post Script: Further to helpful comments from James E., there was another previous record of Cattle Egret in the NENBC area, in 2009 at Matlaske. This one then becomes the third.

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Tuesday 1st December

Rather dreek in the Park this morning – didn’t stop raining until I was on my way home! First bird I saw was a Barn Owl, which flew across the water meadow to land just a few metres away from me, at it’s roost hole. It watched me for a bit before disappearing into it’s hole. It must have had a pretty difficult night’s hunting. At the Lake there were the usual wildfowl but five Mandarin were nice – two pairs and the young male. The number of Canada Goose has doubled from two to four. A mixed tit flock by the viewing screen contained both Marsh Tit and Siskin. There was a pair of Bullfinch along the ‘hippo’ hedge and another pair up The Street. The dark phase Buzzard flew from cover on the edge of the deer park.