Aylmerton Nature Diary


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Sunday 28th February

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Barn Owl hunting over the water meadow

There were no swans at all on the lake this afternoon, neither Mute nor Whooper. There were hardly any ducks either, just a dozen Tufted, a few Gadwall and the male Pochard. I spent half an hour by the reed bed and was delight to hear, and then briefly glimpse, the Cetti’s Warbler. At least one Water Rail was squealing nearby and the Barn Owl was quartering the water meadow. A Little Egret dropped in on Scarrow Beck, below the Dam. Not a bad afternoon.


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Friday 26th February

I had an early morning meeting with Richard at the National Trust Estate Office at the bottom of The Street. As I got to the end of the houses I heard a bugling-like call, somewhere in the sky above me. I looked up to see first one, and then two, Whooper Swan, flying towards me low over the rough grazing meadow. They followed the line of Scarrow Beck before I lost sight of them over the village. I assumed that they were yesterday’s birds and that they must have roosted on Felbrigg Lake overnight.

Surmising that they might return to roost, I took a turn around the lake late afternoon. Sure enough when I arrived at the viewing screen, there they both were. The surprising thing was that there was no sign of the Mute Swan family, who had given them such a hard time the day before. Nonetheless they were still pretty skittish and kept swimming to the furthest point of the lake, away from me. I was also delighted to see the pair of Mandarin roosting on an old tree stump on the western edge of the lake.

 


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Thursday 25th February

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Whooper Swan, Felbrigg Lake

After the cold night I thought I’d take a walk down to Felbrigg Lake – I’m glad I did. There were a good number of Teal on the Water Meadow – I counted around 60 and the male Wigeon was still present, along with a couple of Snipe. As I approached the Lake, along the eastern edge, I was pleased to see some swans, having missed them on my first visit of 2016, a couple of days ago. There was quite a bit of noise and chasing going on and I quickly realised two species were involved – the regular family party of six Mute Swan and two visitors. I could clearly see yellow bills and it didn’t take long to establish that they were Whooper Swan, the larger of the two ‘winter swans’. They continued to get hassled by the male Mute before finally flying off north, at about 10.00. This is my first record since the long-staying individual of a few years ago. Other wildfowl interest came in the form of a male Pochard and, in amongst the dozen or so Tufteds, the returning Aythya┬áhybrid, probably a TuftedxFerruginous.

Probable TuftedxFerruginous hybrid

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Sunday 21st February

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Four Pochard – The Lake, Felbrigg Park

Took my first walk of 2016 around the parish and Felbrigg Park this afternoon, having spent the last eight weeks visiting family in Australia and birding in northern Thailand. My thanks go to Jake, my youngest son, for managing to make a couple of wildlife posting to this site before full-time employment got in the way of things!

Felbrigg is very wet under foot at the moment but there were plenty of birds about. In a two hour walk I was pleased to find 45 species, including Marsh Tit, Wigeon, Pochard and Barn Owl.

However, I was less pleased to find that one of the best woodland areas on the Felbrigg estate for wintering Woodcock was surrounded by what I assume were shooting markers. I’m not sure what the National Trust position is on shooting this species (which is, as I understand it, still perfectly legal from 1st October to 31st January… if completely insane!) but I’ll ask my contact at the Trust next time I see him.

Marker, adjacent to wintering Woodcock site – Felbrigg

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I also came across this advert on the internet for a company specialising in  hunting Woodcock:

Welcome to Woodcock Hunting – We are a small company specialising in helping hunters track down the elusive and wily Woodcock. I am your host, Bob Glynn.

The Woodcock is small and fast and breaks very late when disturbed. At short range they challenge your reactions, at medium range then they challenge your accuracy and aim. They are without doubt, worth the challenge, and will put a smile on your face.

Here’s that smile…

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and here’s the bag!

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Back soon

I can’t believe it’s been seven weeks since we left Aylmerton for Australia. We’re now in Thailand on a birding tour of the north of the country (see TrevorOnTour.me for the occasional post) but looking forward to returning to Norfolk and resuming birding my regular walks around the parish and Felbrigg Park. Regular posts will start again next week.