Aylmerton Nature Diary

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Monday 31st December – the last post

Owl Barn

Barn Owl – unfortunately not photographed at Felbrigg in 2018

My last post of 2019. Looking back over the past year, one of the most notable changes in my local patch birding has been the steady decline in Barn Owl sightings. I’ve seen fewer this year than in any previous ‘AND’ year and none since 18th July. Lets hope for an upturn in their fortunes in 2019.

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Sunday 30th December


Peregrine, chasing Wood Pigeons over Common Plantation, Felbrigg, yesterday

I had to check on the feeders at Sustead Common yesterday, so we walked down and back through the park. The weather was surprisingly mild, reaching 13 deg. by mid-afternoon. Water-levels on the meadows continue to rise, attracting more and more ducks. There were lots of Teal (not enough time to stop and count them) with a few Wigeon, Mallard and Gadwall mixed in. On the lake – where the levels remain low due to the construction work – there were ten Tufted Duck and the two male Shoveler of interest. There were a couple of Marsh Tit in the western shelter-belt. On the way to Sustead we had a Grey Wagtail near the Field Study Centre. The feeders continue to be popular at The Common but the emptying rate is beginning to slow, at last. In the Alders by the beck there was a flock of a dozen or so Siskin, but no sign of the Redpoll reported here a few days ago. On the way back home we watched a group of five Buzzard circling over Common Plantation. Jake spotted another raptor chasing the Wood Pigeons – it was a juvenile Peregrine. Presumably the same bird which has been seen in the park a few times over the past month and possibly roosting on Cromer church tower?

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Saturday 29th December

I’ve had a sleepless night – I knew there was something wrong. This morning, as soon as it was acceptable to creep past our sleeping Christmas guests in the lounge, I checked my map of the NENBC area, only to confirm my nightmare – that yesterday’s reported Dipper is a couple of hundred yards outside the Club recording area:( and, even if it stays in it’s current general location i.e. around the lock basin and river bank, south of the Happisburgh Road bridge, it’s just not possible to see it from within the area. Gnash and double gnash!!


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Friday 28th December


Black-bellied Dipper (not!) in the NENBC recording area – Cubbit’s Mill, North Walsham

You just never know what’s going to turn up locally. The first messages about a Black-bellied Dipper at North Walsham started coming through whilst I was at the doctors. A quick lunch and we travelled, en famille, to the location at Cubbit’s Mill. The bird was  obligingly sitting on the river-bank, fifty yards south of the bridge. This is only the second Dipper I’ve seen in Norfolk. On the opposite side of the road was an equally obliging Kingfisher and, when we went back with Phil for a second look, a Grey Wagtail on the same stretch of river! A walk around Pigney’s Wood in between times produced a second Kingfisher, but little else. Still no complaints from me!

and a Kingfisher for good measure!


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Thursday 27th December

I did manage a quick walk around the park yesterday, just as it was getting dark, to blow the cob-webs away. Very little of note in the damp and dark conditions. Five Tufted, two Wigeon and a couple of Shoveler were the main interest. Too dim to take any pictures – even if there was anything to photograph!

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Sunday 23rd December


Raft of eleven Tufted Duck – Felbrigg Lake

Already we’re past the winter solstice and looking forward to lengthening days once more. I did manage to fit in a morning walk around Felbrigg yesterday between various jobs. The weather was splendid, with clear bright skies and sunshine – in marked contrast to the last couple of wet & and overcast days. There were very few small birds in evidence – just an odd roving tit flock in the western shelter-belt, including my first Marsh Tit for a while. Down on the rough grazing below the dam I could only find half a dozen Goldfinch and three Meadow Pipit, with no sign of the Stonechat – which may have finally moved on now – or any Snipe. The wildfowl on the water meadow and lake provided most interest. Teal numbers are steadily increasing – I counted 236 – with five Wigeon, three Shoveler still, and a raft of 11 Tufted Duck. Several skeins of Pink-feet flew over, heading east. In the lane coming home Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Greenfinch & Bullfinch.

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Thursday 20th December


On the way home the local Starlings were getting ready for the festive TV highlights!

Yesterday was our final NENBC outdoor event of the year – the Felbrigg Park mid-week walk. The dozen or so participants clocked-up nearly forty species during a couple of hours of rather mixed weather. There were no real surprises but a nice selection of wildfowl, including a few Tufted Duck, Wigeon and Shoveler amongst a lot of Gadwall, Teal and Mallard. Siskin and Bullfinch were of note and, at the other end of the food-chain, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Buzzard were all observed. No birding today – too busy preparing for tonight’s Bird Club AGM and Christmas Quiz!

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Monday 17th December

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Some of the 170+ Teal which arrived at Felbrigg, just at the end of yesterday’s WeBS Count

Yesterday was ‘duck count’ day at Felbrigg, followed by the NENBC annual visit to Holkham. It was no surprise to find that there was little change on the wildfowl front from recent visits. The ‘stranger’ Mute Swans were still on the water meadows, by the time I arrived, but there was very little else – partly due to a considerable area being iced over. On the lake itself, diversity and numbers were pretty much the same, with Mallard and Gadwall still around the seventy mark each, four Tufted Duck, a couple of Shoveler – but very few Teal. Water Rails were squealing from Boathouse Bay and the reed-bed. I was just crossing the top sluice on my way back home when, out of nowhere, 170 Teal descended from the sky and landed on to the water meadow – no idea where they appeared from.

The Bird Club meeting started in the Holkham village car-park at 10.00 but, in a break from tradition, we went to the beach first followed, after lunch, by a walk around the park. We amassed a list of over sixty species – highlights included: Grey Partridge, Shore Lark, Snow Bunting, Long-tailed Duck, Slavonian Grebe, Great Northern Diver and, amongst a good variety of woodland species, Brambling. Not a bad day, enjoyed in sunshine and windless conditions.

Snow Bunting – salt marsh, Holkham Bay – one of the highlights of the NENBC walk



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Saturday 15th December


iPhone photo of two Peregrines on and around Cromer church yesterday

No local patch birding over the last few days I’m afraid, due to Christmas decoration – not the tinsel and bauble kind – but painting! A couple of recent bird-related sightings though  have caught my eye. I’d just come out of the Co-op in Cromer yesterday when I heard the distinctive penetrating call of a raptor. I looked up and there, sat on the pinnacle above me, was a noisy Peregrine calling to another – possibly adult male? – as it slowly circled the church tower. I posted the report, which quickly sparked a flurry of responses about the possibility of approaching the church authorities with the proposition of erecting a nest-box – a la Norwich Cathedral. If it were possible, and it didn’t disturb the balance of local wildlife too much (it would certainly keep the town population of pigeons under control!), it would provide quite a summer spectacle for the tourists and local people alike. Any comments for or against would be welcome. Peregrines are of course efficient killing machines – but at least they do it for a reason. On my way back from the timber yard yesterday I passed ‘through’ the local shoot near Hanworth. It was only mid-morning still but already their bag was substantial. It’s a pretty miserable prospect for these beautiful creatures – being flattened by a car (they completely lack any kind of wildness and thus road-sense) or being blasted out of the sky with a twelve bore.