Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Over the past few evenings this cock Pheasant has taken to roosting in our Hawthorn hedge. He does make me smile because he sits up there thinking we can't see him, we feel almost obliged to play along and pretend that we've not noticed him!!

Roosting Pheasent

The mornings, pre work, are gradually getting lighter so mid week observations should start to become more regular as spring starts to gather a'pace.
Saw three Barn Owls this morning on my 11 mile drive to work.

Sunday, January 29, 2006


Very little of note down my local birding patch this morning except for another appearance by presumably the same Merlin. I decided to go a little further up the coast to Salthouse where some rather confiding Snow Buntings were present along the shingle bank and were proving very photogenic until my battery rather prematurely died on me!

Snow Buntings at Salthouse

Snow Bunting

Snow Bunting in the Sunshine!

Had a walk along the southern side of the parish boundary this afternoon and checked the winter cover crops planted for the game birds. No hoped for Brambling (which I have seen here before) though 25 Chaffinch and 8 Yellowhammer were present. The hundreds of Wood pigeons we have here at the moment were a bit jumpy, and sure enough a Peregrine appeared over the fields and started soaring to gain height before moving off west. Our second sighting this year.

Yellowhammer at Aylmerton

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Cold Saturday

Went over to Felbrigg Park first thing this morning. It was bright, crisp and bitterly cold with a biting north easterly breeze ( I'm not a great fan of winter!). Anyway there were plenty of birds around with lots of Redwings and Fieldfares, several drumming Great spotted Woodpeckers and some noisy Egyptian Geese. Best of all though was the hoped for appearance of a Hawfinch. Initially it showed only briefly before disappearing for half an hour, it then returned and was present for longer though still being characteristically awkward. At one point it was joined by a second bird in flight though that one seemed to depart back into woodland. Managed to get a distant record shot.


Apparently yesterday afternoon a Little Egret was present at Felbrigg Lake, this is the first record at this location that I've heard of, although I have seen one in the parish.

Back home and the big news is the hatching of our Angle Shades, as usual a cracking looking creature, but I fear that release in this cold weather may not be to its liking.

Its a boy!...or a girl!

Noticed quite a few oak galls on the trees along the edge of the pond. I think these are caused by tiny wasps so as to house their larve, several had small 'drill' holes.

Oak Gall

Usual birds present around the garden.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Over exposed Bird?

No, not a reference to any number of Big Brother contestants, but this male Pheasant photographed from the garden. Rather a handsome looking creature, however from his point of view maybe not so good, as in the Pheasant world apparently it is the redder you are the more dominant you are when it comes to breeding. This may explain why more than once Pheasant's have taken a particular dis-liking to postmen arriving in big pheasant provoking Royal Mail vans!!

Pheasant with plumage variation

As we live on the edge of a shooting syndicate we also get partridges in and around the garden. So far we have only had a single sighting of a pair of Grey's a couple of years ago but Red legs often visit to feed on the lawns. These are part of a covey of 17 that are currently hiding 'up our end' that have so far survived the season unscathed, as the beaters do not work this end on shoot days. Just have to hope that none of them read this blog!

Red legged Partridges

Found this caterpillar at the weekend hanging in a spiders web in the summer house. Think I got to it before it was delt with by its captor, its thought to be one of the Yellow Underwing moth species. Thanks to Dean (www.mostlymacro.blogspot.com) for help with ID.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Bit of a Wizard...

Went over to my local birding patch this morning near Sheringham. The weather was a bit grey but there was little wind. A brief seawatch from the cliff top produced:
Red throated Diver 60E
Fulmar 3
Wigeon 3W
Common Scoter 21 W
Lesser black backed Gull 4
Guillimot 3
One of the latter was in full breeding plumage

Also a male Stonechat had obviously just come off roost along one of the hedgerows, initially preening then a couple of display flights, he gradually became bolder and bolder!

Male Stonechat

As I came away, chuffed with my Stonechat shots, I looked back and saw a split second image of a falcon stooping out of sight. Using a bit of field craft (sneaking!) I worked my way back to see this fabulous Merlin in a dead tree as it began to preen.


I slowly moved forward, stopping every few yards to rattle off a couple more shots...

I think this is a second calender year bird (born last spring) because of the ochre coloured blobs on a couple of the scapulars (feathers on the back) and the heavily barred tail. It is quite difficult to sex merlins at this age, in this shot it appears much greyer than the bird actually seemed.
These dead trees must be a Merlin's equivilent of a penthouse because I took the picture below of a male, just before Christmas, in the next tree along!

Adult male Merlin

Back at home this afternoon had a walk along the village pond and fished out three plastic bottles, two crisp packets a tin can and a sofa cushion! I still can't understand why people seem to go out of their way to spoil the very enviroment they are living in- wierd!
Planted some holly trees along the back fence and found another Angle Shades caterpillar, but I left this one to fend for itself. The Great spotted Woodpeckers are drumming- spring is around the corner!

Saturday, January 21, 2006


Usual mix of birds today with the fields still holding Golden Plover (150), Lapwing (50) and Woodpigeon (1500). Spent most of the day tidying the garden and found another pupae so its now in with the Angle Shades. This latest one had an untidy silk cocoon and is slightly smaller and duller than AS, so it will be interesting to see what emerges.
The Aylmerton parish boundary runs down the centre of nearby Felbrigg Park lake which I visited today. It was fairly quiet with nothing outstanding:
Gray lag Goose 70
Bar headed Goose 1
Pink footed Goose1
Egyptian Goose 4
Tufted Duck 4
Dabchick 1
Mallard 40
Coot 6
Also watched a Stoat here running around a holly bush for no apparent reason, but was too fast to catch a shot

Felbrigg Lake

There were a couple of anglers here and one landed a this huge 17lb Pike whilst I was there so I think the local wildfowl should watch their feet! I was impressed with how swiftly they recorded the fish and released back to the lake looking no worse for its experiance.

" Vot is your name?!!"

Back in Aylmerton I checked the village pond, the bulrushes seem to be coming on and the Moorhen appear to be gathering nesting material already! Also got a shot of this fungi, Coriolus versicolor or Many zoned Polypore on an old stump next to the pond. Thanks to Dean Stables for the ID (and not for the first time!). Dean's blog @ www.mostlymacro.blogspot was the inspiration for mine, and it is certainly well worth a visit.

Many zoned Polypore

Thursday, January 19, 2006

In the garden

Very mild this evening, though with just a hint of a fresh breeze (we are rather exposed here), anyway decided to stick the moth lamp on for a couple of hours and trapped this Mottled Umber in the early evening. Another commonly occuring moth in the mid winter months, this is again a first for me, though I was disappointed when I did not record it toward the end of last year. An interesting point about most of these winter occuring moths is that the females are wingless, so all the flying ones are males.

Mottled Umber

Not to be out done, the Barn Owl was hunting a little earlier tonight and I managed to catch it on video again, quartering the meadows. Will have to try and dgiscope it one evening.

Barn Owl

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Barn Owl

Norfolk is one of the UK strongholds for Barn Owl. During the course of my working week I may see up to 4-7 different individuals through out the county, especially during the winter months.
This is our local bird just after dusk using a fence perch in the nearby meadow.

Barn Owl (video grab)

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Grey Day, Good Birds...

Took a trip along the North Norfolk coast today where birds were almost everywhere, great to see! First to Stiffkey, where a Little Bunting has been in residence most of the winter. The bird ranges over a wide area but we saw it after a short time with some Reed Buntings in a patch of hawthorn. It showed well but alas the light was not great, though did manage a couple of record shots

Little Bunting

With a Reed Bunting

Whilst here we also saw 2 Marsh Harriers, a Peregrine's failed attempt at taking a Lapwing, Merlin, several Dabchick and hundreds of Brent geese .

Briefly the sun did appear just as a Reed Bunting popped up infront of us on some sueda, the differrence good light makes is obvious to see.

Reed Bunting (female)

We then went on to Wells area where we briefly stopped at Holkham Park for the recently seen Hawfinch but did not connect, before moving inland near Wighton. Here we got great flight views of a first winter Rough legged Buzzard, showing a broad white based tail and frequently hovering and 'hanging' in the air, at one point it was joined by a Common Buzzard.

Heading back home we dropped in at the reserve at Cley, nothing rare but again good numbers of birds with plenty of Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler and Pintail, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Ruff, a dozen or so Avocets, 2 Marsh Harrier and a Stonechat

Golden Plover, Lapwing and Avocet

Back in Aylmerton I was informed that I had just missed 12 Long tailed Tits trying to feed on the same nut feeder! Did manage to see a female Bullfinch and our Barn Owl once again over the meadow

Saturday, January 14, 2006

A fairly quiet day, with 9 Pink footed geese flying east the only birds of note.
Lapwing 50
Golden Plover 30
Great spotted Woodpecker 1
Chaffinch 10
Kestral 1
Woodpigeon 300

The Village Pond

The village pond has had somewhat of a transformation since we first arrived in 1999. It is essentially a 'pit' which collects run off from the road but is also fed by a small spring. When we moved here it was becoming overgrown with sallow (great for moths I should think) and had more vegetation than water. It has been dredged deeper in recent years and has had all the sallow removed, and although looks tidier, I think there is less wildlife attracted to it. Saying that though it does look bare this time of year and there has been a few clumps of bulrush introduced so hopefully these should create attractive areas for dragonflies later in the year.

Subsequently we often get Moorhens in the garden, and in previous winters have had up to 25 on the meadows

Moorhen, a first winter bird (born last spring) with a Blackbird

Moorhen (adult)

Thursday, January 12, 2006

First Light

With crystal clear skies before dawn the light was better than the recent gloomy starts so subsequently I had fine veiws of a Woodcock flying past the garden, presumably searching for softer ground after a fairly heavy frost. This takes this years garden tally to 51 species with the highlights so far being a Merlin on the 2nd and the Peregrine. On the moth front we've got 2 !

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Caterpillar Countdown

In early December I found this caterpillar on my lawn and transferred it to the ubiquitous jam jar...

...It now looks like this
And I have it on good authority that it should emerge as an Angle Shade moth like this.

Monday, January 09, 2006

First of the year

Pale brindled Beauty

Managed to get home from work just before dusk this evening to the sight of the local Barn Owl quartering the cattle meadow opposite the house, ghosting silently up and down hunting for prey. Caught the first moth of the year at light tonight, a fine Pale brindled Beauty. A 'lifer' for me ( didnt start 'doing' moths until last October!) this is a common moth and is one of the earliest to be on the wing.

Sunday, January 08, 2006


Had a cracking Peregrine soaring quite low over the fields behind the house at lunch time sending the local gulls and pigeons into a panic before it drifted off west. Our 4th record but the first in winter

Previously....at Aylmerton

I v'e lived in Aylmerton for nearly seven years now, and from day one I kept a bird record, with Hobby overhead when we moved in (And more painfully a Black Stork unknowingly soaring over the fields behind the house the same day!) Since then I have noted 124 bird species from my garden (plus redpoll sp.) with the most recent being Common Teal on October 8th. The more notable sightings include Woodlark, Ring Ouzel, Waxwing, Snow Bunting, Firecrest and Mediterranean Gull, but best of all are the raptors. From March through to early June an annual movement of raptors occurs in varying numbers. Highlights of previous springs include 12 Marsh Harriers and 4 Hen Harriers in a day, several sightings of Red Kite, Osprey, Rough legged Buzzard, Peregrine and Merlin and even Black Kite! Although the raptors are eagerly anticipated, I have now started to take an interest in butterflies, dragonflies and Moths so I can even record wildlife after dark! Although in no way as knowledgable about insects as I maybe birds, insect highlights already include Small Red eyed Damsellefly, Mervielle de Jour moth and a fantastic Camberwell Beauty butterfly! So it really is all here on the doorstep and hopefully this year is going to be another wildlife filled one!

Mistle Thrush

Taken during the recent spell of bad weather, the light wasn't great for this shot but a nice one to get started with!

Wildlife Aylmerton

A small parish in North Norfolk, Wildlife Aylmerton has been set up to share records and sightings of all things wild, but mostly those that FLY!